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Scientology - a Public Religion, a Mystery Religion, or No Religion at All - Johannes Aagaard

For a long time various scholars and experts have produced statements to the question: Is Scientology a religion - yes or no?

The reason is that Scientology wants to become recognized as a public religion / religio publica. At first the motivation behind this was an attempt to get the organization Scientology outside of the control of the mental/health authorities. But added was the desire to get tax exemption, which in the US results in big financial gains.

Scientology tried for many years to get such a recognition in the US, but in vain. That Scientology recently got the wanted recognition and the advantages connected with this recognition is an international riddle, which is still not explored and explained.

The US model, however; is very different from the European model.

The European tradition does not accept equality of religion as a necessary part of freedom of religion. The European tradition does not accept everything as religion. After a long and careful research and evaluation the German states have reached the conclusion that Scientology is not a religion, but a financial operation, a firm, and has to relate to the public as such.

We have to realize, however, that the US influence has influenced many states of Europe, not least in Eastern Europe, where the European tradition has been weakened under Communist rule. Such states tend to copy the US model, since it is the simplest.

Clarification is much needed. The simplistic solutions may end in a destructive confusion.
Distinguendum Est - It is Necessary to Distinguish

The first distinction to be made is the difference between a fides bona and a bona fide religion. A tides bona means a good faith and that implies a true faith. That is of course a rather exclusive definition. No individual will go for less than a fides bona. And a religio or fides falsa must be rejected.

But to be in bona tide, i.e. to be in good faith is possible, even if the faith is not good at all. In society it is necessary to acknowledge religion when it is in good faith. Both believers in good and in bad faiths may be in good faith. But this is not always the case.

On the basis of this distinction one can understand that it is not enough to behave as a religion to be acknowledged as a religion. It is not enough to look like a religion to be accepted as a religion. A group of human beings who pretend to be a religion, when a TV camera turns up, is not by necessity a genuine religion, but may be a fake.

Some experts do in fact give in on this point. If you understand sociology of religion as the study of the external reality of a religion and the behaviour of the believers, then the distinction between genuine and fake religion is hardly possible as a sociological project.

And if you understand the study of religion as the analysis of any text written down by any person in any state of mind, but with religious undertones, then this scholar is not an able guide to find the way to genuine religion. Such a scholar will normally abstain from making distinctions between truth and lies in religion. And if that is not the case, the scholarly nature of such scholarship will have to be questioned.

In order to qualify as a genuine religion the main points will be the doctrinal core and the creeds of the relevant religion. These basic texts will of course be absolutely necessary when a religion asks for public recognition.
The Special Problem of Scientology as a Public Religion

The Scientology organization has created a special problem for itself in connection with the process of recognition by the public. It does in fact ask the public to recognise Scientology as a public religion, but Scientology will not make its basic creeds public. Scientology both wants to be an esoteric and private society and a public religion.

That is hardly possible in any orderly state.

Scientology normally maintains that Dianetics and Scientology are two separate and different organizations. In fact the two organizations are two sides of the same coin. But when it comes to the training of the Scientology officers there is a very basic difference. Scientology proper is the OT training courses. OT means Operating Thetan, which again can be translated as Active Spirit. There are 8 such courses which take the aspirant from level 1 to level 8.

There are some essential variations, e.g. between the "processing route" and "the training route", but in fact the OT 1-8 is the Scientology Highway to perfection. Real Scientologists have to use that super highway in order to get the OT powers, which are the goal and meaning of Scientology.

According to the latest Flag pricelist the admission to this training costs between 365,000 and 380,000 US dollarsbut it can be much more, if the aspirant wants to do the training very well.

Scientology maintains in its many attempts to get public recognition worldwide that its OT program has no connection with its desire to gain public recognition, and they keep the OT program secret. When it suits them, they maintain that there is nothing new in the OT courses, which is not found in their public publications already. Such a statement is hard to believe if one considers the costs which the aspirants are willing to pay for the OT training.

There are even outside experts who confirm that no extra insights are found in the OT texts. The same experts, however, admit that they have not seen the texts! Similar experts maintain that esoteric teaching is not essential when you evaluate and interpret public religion. That proposition can easily be taken ab absurdum. Satanists will have a right to conceal their bloody sacrifices when they apply for public recognition. Their sacred vandalism of cemeteries and churches will then belong to their secret and private sphere, not relevant to the public.

Real scholars have learned and teach that it is essential to find "the necessary and sufficient sources" when you deal with a problem or a theme. This rule is bluntly neglected if the OT material is not included.

If an expert will maintain that one can evaluate the religious specificity of Scientology without the OT texts, then such a person is open for the accusation for corruption. Such a proposition is so unfounded that academic integrity is at stake.

Dianectics is on its way to Scientology, but it is not yet Scientology. Scientology comes into being only by means of the OT texts and their practice. The 8 levels represent the ladder by which real scientologists reach that level which is the Scientology "wisdom". To maintain that OT texts are not essential for the understanding of Scientology is as farfetched as maintaining that The New Testament is not essential for the understanding of Christianity.

The conclusion is clear: No decision can be taken by the public concerning public recognition of Scientology until all OT texts are made available for the public and for public research.

Scientology can of course function without public recognition. It can function as a private and esoteric religion. Then the public bas no right to its OT courses, but then Scientology bas no right to public recognition.
Public Confidence as the Basis for Public Recognition

But there is more to be said. Public recognition also presupposes public confidence.

Public recognition is more than public registration. Any religion or religious group has the right to be registered as an association. Possibly also the duty.

But if such registration implies any form of privileges given by the state or any other public authority, then public confidence is necessary. Without public confidence no single privilege, that is a necessary rule.

The public authority can only give privileges to such persons or groups or organizations which have a clean past without any criminality or questionable history.

It can never be a right - and least of all a human right to be given privileges. To receive tax-exemption in any form is a privilege. If the state delegates any part of its powers to an association, for instance the right to perform weddings with civil consequences - not just blessings - then it is a privilege.

The state thus has both a right and a duty to distinguish between those persons and organizations who deserve public confidence and therefore can act on behalf of the public with the necessary privileges and those persons or organizations who have not qualified for such rights and privileges. To make such distinctions is not at all discrimination, but belongs to the mandate of all public authority.