Earth & Conservation

Is Scientology A Religion Or A Cult?

Scientology might consider itself as a religion, but some critics suggest that it would be more accurate to call it a commercial enterprise or a cult. So which is it?

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Scientology has evolved to become one of the most controversial modern day religions. Official statements from the Church of Scientology claim it is growing faster than ever, while critics say these figures are grossly overinflated. At the fundamental level, Scientology is being debated over the very notion it's a religion at all-or just a profit-hungry organization.

Around the world, countries continue to debate the legitimacy of Scientology as a religion. In 1993, the U.S. recognized the Church as a tax-exempt religious organization. Countries including Italy, South Africa, and Australia also recognize Scientology on the state level. Other countries, particularly Germany, have denied its religious status.

Critics in Germany and elsewhere maintain that the Church of Scientology is more of a commercial enterprise than a religious organization. According to a 2011 article from Rolling Stone, the Church generates a great deal of revenue through the practice of Auditing-a process that challenges members psychologically to confront areas of anxiety. This can cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, Scientology regularly solicits large donations from members, especially high profile celebrities. In total, it's estimated that the Church of Scientology is worth over $1.2 billion, according to Business Insider.

Amid the controversy, officials in the Church continue to roll out various marketing and PR campaigns to improve Scientology's public perception. More subtle commercials touting Scientology's humanitarian endeavors and social service programs have popped up in primetime TV. Still, while tax documents have revealed the Church's net worth, the institution remains notoriously secretive, forcing outsiders to often speculate at the true impact the Church of Scientology has on the world today.

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Scientologists Granted Tax Exemption by the U.S. (via NY Times)
"The Government said today that it had agreed to grant a tax exemption to the Church of Scientology and more than 150 of its related corporations, ending one of the longest-running tax disputes in American history."

Inside Scientology (via Rolling Stone)
"It is the most controversial religion in America, and the most mysterious. Its followers believe they're on a mission to save the universe - but detractors call it a cult. What's the truth? A 2006 special report that unlocks the faith's complex code"

German ministers try to ban Scientology (via The Guardian)
"Germany paved the way yesterday for a ban on the Church of Scientology, with federal and regional ministers declaring that the US-based organisation contravened the constitution and posed a danger to democratic order."