Faith

Scientologists Blast Accusations That They're a Cult

The entrance to the headquarters of the controversial Scientology church in Los Angeles, USA, March 1998. (Photo by: Jerzy Dabrowski/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Under the title “PJ Media Told: Religions Must Join Force, Not Attack Brethren,” Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination (STAND) wrote me an open letter denouncing this article about the purported growth of Scientology. Loving a good squabble, I have decided to wade back into the fray and explain how STAND’s open letter to me is based on the inaccurate premise that we are “brethren.” Theological purity is important.

The open letter begins with a sharp rebuke and a not-so-subtle accusation that my character is lacking:

Mr. Ellis,

It amazes me that you are staff at your church and yet find time to speak ill of people of another religion and in highly bigoted and uninformed terms. That you speak so disparagingly of others of faith I believe reflects worse on you than on those you malign.

Having reread my article (which, frankly, I had forgotten I had even written until I accidentally stumbled upon the letter), I’m assuming that STAND’s ire was stoked by my comparison of their beloved religion with pyramid schemes like Amway. Rereading what I assume is the offending paragraph, I freely and happily admit that it drips with snark and offense. However, I stand by my snark and offense that oozes out of these words:

To be clear, I’m not convinced that Scientology should be classified a religion and not a cult. I’ve always thought of it as a pyramid scheme with eternal rewards in place of a pink Cadillac. How it could be growing is beyond me. I mean, I know that I immediately lock the doors, pull the shades, and turn off the lights whenever I see a neighbor approaching with an Amway flipchart. However,  since movie stars seem especially susceptible to Scientology, the religious cult has taken on an aura of glamour for some people. Never underestimate the selling ability of a pretty face, I guess.

While I’m willing to double-down on the appropriateness of the above paragraph, STAND disagrees, obviously.

Asserting that Scientologists “work hard to create a better society for everyone, regardless of their religion, belief, ethnicity or origin [emphasis kept],” STAND provides a list of reasons why I should speak approvingly of the cult religion. According to the open letter, Scientologists engage in things like “drug abuse prevention, drug rehabilitation, literacy, criminal reform, morality, human rights, disaster relief and interfaith cooperation.”

STAND concludes the defense of Scientology against my “ridicule,” “scorn,” and “bigotry” by claiming that “Scientologists are devoted to helping others and engage in far more community betterment projects than the average individual. This is woven into the very fabric of our religious beliefs.”

To that, I say, good for Scientology.

And since I have neither the time nor the desire to research the veracity of STAND’s claims, I’ll operate under the assumption that those claims are true. Frankly, my lack of time and desire to research Scientology’s societal benevolence is irrelevant to the discussion at hand anyway. You see, when I wrote, “I’m not convinced that Scientology should be classified a religion and not a cult,” I was thinking about their beliefs and not their actions.

According to the creed published on their own website, Scientologists believe, among other things, “That Man is basically good” and “that the spirit alone may save or heal the body.”

I don’t have the space to quote Scientology’s creed in full (you can read it by clicking the link provided above). However, the two lines that I’ve extracted serve as an honest stand-in for the whole for why their creed is diametrically opposed to Christianity.

Inside its pages, the Bible teaches over and over that humans are fallen; man is not basically good. Quoting one well-known verse out of a possible many that teach the truth of man’s basic sinfulness, Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The Bible reveals that the fundamental problem for all humanity is sin. And sin separates all humanity from the Creator. And since the problem is sin and all humans are sinners, the solution must be found outside of humanity and human striving. Contrary to what Scientologists believe, salvation can never be provided by the human spirit. In fact, trusting in ourselves is sin.

The inability of humans to save ourselves is why Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God provided the solution to sin and a way for people to be reconciled back to Him.

Jesus, the second person of the Trinity referred to as God the Son, humbled himself, came to earth, lived a life of perfect obedience to God the Father, died on the cross for the sins of those who place their faith in him, and rose from the dead three days later, vindicating his claim to be the Son of God. Those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus have his perfect obedience accounted to them, the punishment owed their sins covered by Jesus’ death on the cross, and are adopted into God’s family and given new life.

It doesn’t take a trained theologian to recognize that Scientology’s beliefs contradict what the Christian Bible teaches. This is why I unequivocally state that Scientology is a false religion. What’s more, if my previous article is correct and Scientology is growing, their growth means that more and more people are being seduced by a false religion.

The letter addressed to me opened by pointing out that I am on staff at my church. Well, the fact that I am on staff at my church is one of the reasons why I feel compelled to call false religions, including Scientology, out. The eternal state of my fellow humans is not a game for me. I stand by my claim that Scientology is a false religion and I would appreciate it if STAND would cease to refer to me and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as brethren. Christians and Scientologists are not brethren.