Church of Scientology: Controversy

As demonstrated in a recent article by the Irish Times (, the

Church of Scientology is a very controversial religious group. The article describes the

experience of John Sweeney, a journalist who suffered a great deal while attempting to

investigate the Church of Scientology. He claims to have been harassed extensively by

the Church to the point that he felt ‘hunted.’ The reason for this, he explains, was simply

that he found the religious group to be nonsensical – a sentiment that is shared by many

One of the largest concerns with Scientology is whether or not it should be considered a

true religion. In fact, this is an issue that nearly all new religious movements are faced

with. It is difficult to say which groups should and which should not be considered true

religions, as it is unclear what criteria must be met in order for a group to be considered a

However, when we begin to consider the basic aspects of typical religious groups (e.g.,

they all have a certain set of beliefs, they all partake in certain rituals, they all have

certain rules, etc.), it becomes clear that Scientology does, in fact, appear quite similar to

most. Despite this, many (if not most) people wish to disregard Scientology, claiming that

it is not truly a religion and that it is, all in all, absurd. But if Scientology has much in

common with most accepted religious groups, and only differs primarily in its beliefs,

can we still shunt it aside so easily?

It appears that we cannot. New religious movements such as Scientology must be

considered religious as they appropriately reflect most of the features that are considered

to make up a religion – at least in accordance with the broad academic definition of the

word ‘religion.’ And so, while the beliefs and practices of scientologists may appear

ludicrous to most, and while their actions (such as those directed towards John Sweeney)

may seem inappropriate and controversial, the group still has the right to be considered a

religion, even if most see them as a religion to be frowned upon.


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