Though Scientology is widely known for attracting Hollywood stars, in Boston it's reaching out to a decidedly more humble crowd: college students.Located just east of the Boston University campus and paradoxically next to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology fraternity is the Boston Church of Scientology at 448 Beacon St., operating seven days a week with racks of introductory DVDs warmly placed next to its open doors.In recent years, many students walking down Commonwealth Avenue have received flyers from the Church of Scientology as the church attempts to expand and bring in more members, raising questions about whether it's reaching out to students specifically.These flyers advertise a self-confidence course that the church offers based on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.After paying a fee of $30, the course boasts to teach students "the true source of security in life" and "the exact steps to become more competent in whatever you do," according to a pamphlet describing the course.The church printed 10,000 of these flyers to be distributed across Boston.But Chris Garrison, a minister of Scientology, insists that the church is not targeting students."We are reaching out to people from all over," he said. "Boston is just full of college students."Nonetheless, college students may be particularly susceptible to the teachings of Scientology, said Patrice Oppliger, an assistant professor of mass communication in the College of Communication.College students may find Scientology's self-branding as a self-help religion especially appealing, Oppliger said.Students are "a population that might have trouble adjusting to life away from their hometown, family or old friends," she said.They are also attractive to organizations that wish to have an effect on the wider community, said Nancy Ammerman, a professor of the sociology of religion in the School of Theology."You are at a stage where lots of life decisions are being made, and when you leave here, the decisions you make are likely to influence both your own lives and the communities you will lead in the future," Ammerman said.
Unlike some other new movements, Scientology has managed to continue to rise in popularity.
"I heard a lot of things about Scientology, many of which are bad," said one recent attendee of a Sunday Scientology service, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences who wished to remain anonymous. "I went so I can experience for myself and form my own opinions."
Didn't Nancy MAny say in her book My Billion Year Contract Memior of a former Scientologist http://www.amazon.com/My-Billion-Year-Contract-Scientologist/dp/0578039222 that she was a Boston college student when she was lured in to the cult? Yes, I beliebve so
So this is not at all surprising to see them preying on the young and vulnerable in Boston.
But Chris Garrison, a minister of Scientology, insists that the church is not targeting students.
Much of this negative attention, however, may stem from the fact that Scientology is a relatively new religion, Ammerman said."New movements are often controversial," Ammerman said. "Its beliefs are quite different from the beliefs of other, more established, religious groups.""When groups offer beliefs that are so significantly different, that tends to magnify the negative response to them. It often means that they are dubbed ‘cults' by the rest of society," she added.
It disturbs me to hear scientology being discussed by academics as a "New Religious Movement." Whether or not it is a religion and/or a cult is not the issue. I have come to think of the words "religion","cult", and "beliefs", in relation to scientology, as a "thought stopping" mechanism, whether intended that way or not, much like the same mechanism used by cults to keep people from examining the actual issues. When one gets mired down in that discussion, cult/religion, one leaves behind discussion of abuse, fraud, and insincere motivations (and a whole host of other complaints people have with the "Church" of Scientology).
Susan reacted with They are kind of creepy and don't fit in very well in Boston.October 26, 2010 02:55 PM