Author Topic: [Ask the Scientologist] Is Scientology a cult?  (Read 864 times)

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[Ask the Scientologist] Is Scientology a cult?
« on: December 28, 2011, 18:10 »
Monday, May 26, 2008
Is Scientology a Cult?
By Just Bill

The question as to whether Scientology is a cult or not is the subject of intense debate. Basically, Scientology adamantly insists that it isn't, and many others declare that it is, or that it certainly seems to be.

And, for probably a majority of people, they just don't know and may not even care.

Scientology insists that it is not a cult, primarily because of the negative connotations of the word. The Church of Scientology is very, very careful with its image. It works very hard to present itself as a not-at-all-wacky-very-normal religion.

Critics insist that the Church of Scientology is a cult, because they feel it is an important part of understanding the church, and because it is a key factor in helping people recover from membership in the church.

But why is this open to debate? Isn't there a definition of cult that is authoritative and conclusive?

Yes and no. The definitions for cult range from the benign:

    The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.

through the common:

    Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.

to the extreme:

    A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.

    (All definitions from The American Heritage┬« Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.)

It is this last definition that is intended when talking about the Church of Scientology. But it isn't very helpful. What is meant by "sect", "extremist", "unconventional", "charismatic"? The debate gets bogged down in minutiae.

A better description, specific to that last definition of cult, can be found in Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism by well-respected author Robert Jay Lifton, M.D., who studied the psychology of extremism for decades.

In his book, Lifton outlines the "Eight Criteria for Thought Reform".....

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The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis.
-Dalai Lama