Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

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dande48
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Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by dande48 » 18 May 2018, 06:34

When you think of religions that have a bad rap, none is more prevalent than Scientology. There are a few marks against it, which have elevated it in the minds of many to the status of "cult". Here are just a few of the reasons:
  1. Charges its members exorbitant fees for membership, as well as for initiation into the higher ranks and access to the more "sacred", mind-blowing doctrines of the Church.
  2. An emphasis on "knowing" the doctrines of the Church.
  3. Very difficult to leave. Dissenters are slandered.
  4. Requires members to shun and disaffiliate with those it perceives as "antagonistic" towards the Church.
  5. Heavy into proselytization. Membership often recruited under what many later feel is "false pretense".
  6. Founder created several books with "unusual" beliefs.
  7. Makes claims to the power of healing and cleansing using non-traditional methods.
  8. Makes the membership and investigators feel guilty and insecure, as to establish dependency to the organization. Promises "redemption".
  9. Historically involved in criminal activity, including extraordinary cover-ups of the darker sides of its organization.
  10. Doesn't believe in the Abrahamic God.
  11. Keeps both historical records and financial records under tight wraps.
  12. Church leadership takes a cut of the income, the exact amount which is kept as a heavily guarded secret.
It is officially declared as a tax-exempt religion by the US, South Africa, Sweden, Spain, New Zealand, and Australia. However, it has been denounced as a cult by France and Chile, and an anti-constitutional sect in Germany. I also think most people agree that Scientology is an evil, dangerous cult, as opposed to the LDS, who are for the most part viewed as a "good" religion, with a positive societal impact, albeit one with a few unusual beliefs and practices.

This makes me wonder, what exactly makes some religions a societal good, and others bad? Because I can't think of a single attribute belonging to Scientology, which does not also belong to another religion I consider a force for good. Maybe that's why it still maintains its religious status. Still, Scientology is one of the few religions I can't help but feel we'd all be better without. I'm trying to figure out why. Any thoughts? Are there any beliefs or practices which should make a religion illegal? Is there a line we should draw, between legitimate, helpful religions and those which harm society? Or are religious groups such as Scientology the price we must pay for the freedom of religion?

[Side note: I do not believe or imply that the LDS Church is a cult or should be outlawed. I believe it is, as a whole, a strong force for good, and am grateful for the joy and meaning it brings to so many people. Despite all my complaints, disagreements, and grievances against the Church, I still like it quite a lot, and am happy to be a part of it.]
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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SamBee
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by SamBee » 18 May 2018, 10:06

My big problem with Scientology is not with their doctrine but leaving it. Going inactive in the LDS is a walk in the park in comparison.

Also, Scientology is *much* more expensive than Mormonism.

The LDS do not have the best of images in my country, which is often unfair. This is partly because the media does not distinguish between us and the FLDS etc in the USA in many reports.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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SamBee
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by SamBee » 18 May 2018, 10:11

I do have a little experience of Scientologists. They are very full on. They got hold of my address and I get regular mailings from them i.e. at least once a month.

"Dianetics" is an interesting book with a few good ideas. There are actually one or two good things in Scientology. However, in this case I don't know how the wheat can be separated from the chaff. Scientology makes the LDS (Ziontology) look throroughly tame, although we have some science fiction stuff too - they have Xenu we have Kolob.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Roy
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by Roy » 20 May 2018, 09:45

I do not feel that I know enough about scientology to comment.

I understand that one of the hallmarks of cults is to try to isolate you from non-cult support structures of family and friends.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Heber13
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by Heber13 » 20 May 2018, 10:51

SamBee wrote:
18 May 2018, 10:11
"Dianetics" is an interesting book with a few good ideas. There are actually one or two good things in Scientology. However, in this case I don't know how the wheat can be separated from the chaff. Scientology makes the LDS (Ziontology) look throroughly tame, although we have some science fiction stuff too - they have Xenu we have Kolob.
:thumbup:
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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dande48
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by dande48 » 20 May 2018, 12:09

SamBee wrote:
18 May 2018, 10:11
"Dianetics" is an interesting book with a few good ideas. There are actually one or two good things in Scientology. However, in this case I don't know how the wheat can be separated from the chaff.
How much poop do we allow in our brownies, before we have to start saying, "Those aren't brownies. That's just poop"? Shouldn't there be a line drawn, where you are no longer allowed to sell poop, while claiming it to be brownies? All religious organizations fulfill at least some fundamental spiritual need in their membership, but can often have some pretty high costs. Some of those costs can be pretty damaging.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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SamBee
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by SamBee » 21 May 2018, 02:39

I don't deny that Dande... that's why I was happy enough to buy and read Dianetics but not to go through extremely expensive auditing. (Some auditing can be very helpful as a form of counseling I'm told and can relieve traumas that are repressed.)

There is a rebel Scientology movement called Free Zone which offers some of the services for free.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Zone ... ntology%29

I try to be fair minded in these things and rather than go on about the entire thing being evil, I look to see what people like and don't. My big issue is how they treat people who leave - that is very serious and documented... but if people want to learn how they were trapped in volcanos by aliens, then that's up to them. To me, that's no weirder than the millions of Americans who think they will win the lottery one day, or spend thousands on useless beauty products trying to stop their skin sagging or make their male bald spot disappear.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 22 May 2018, 07:29

dande48 wrote:
18 May 2018, 06:34
This makes me wonder, what exactly makes some religions a societal good, and others bad? Because I can't think of a single attribute belonging to Scientology, which does not also belong to another religion I consider a force for good. Maybe that's why it still maintains its religious status...Are there any beliefs or practices which should make a religion illegal? Is there a line we should draw, between legitimate, helpful religions and those which harm society? Or are religious groups such as Scientology the price we must pay for the freedom of religion?...Side note: I do not believe or imply that the LDS Church is a cult or should be outlawed. I believe it is, as a whole, a strong force for good
I don't think there is any clear dividing line or consistent definition of "cult" that everyone is going to agree with. Personally I think it is more of a sliding scale where some religious groups honestly really are more controlling and harder to leave on average than others. Well, the LDS Church literally tells people what underwear to wear that requires everyday clothing choices to cover shoulders and legs almost down to the knees, what they cannot drink, exactly how much money to donate to the Church, how to spend a significant amount of time (callings, full-time missions), who to marry (should be a "worthy" Church member), etc. Even so, I'm not sure this is necessarily always a bad thing by itself; for example, if some people don't really mind going along with all of this and have no intention of ever leaving then it could feel perfectly comfortable and normal to them.

It is quite often only when people decide they that they don't want to conform anymore or actually try to leave that the fangs and claws really come out. I think that's why many ex-Mormons call the Church a cult because they resent some of the things they were told to do by the Church in hindsight and/or it was especially painful for them to leave the Church. In fact, some of them were actually divorced or at least threatened with divorce largely over not believing in the Church anymore. Likewise I think some Christians call the Church a cult largely due to the aggressive missionary work and because they resent the LDS Church acting like what they already believe is not good enough as if they should all be practicing Mormons instead. In other words, some of this criticism is not coming out of nowhere as much as being an understandable reaction to people's real life experiences with the Church. I'm not sure saying that there are other religious groups that are similar or arguably even worse really helps much when some people have already had negative experiences with the Church.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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dande48
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by dande48 » 22 May 2018, 13:28

DevilsAdvocate wrote:
22 May 2018, 07:29
I don't think there is any clear dividing line or consistent definition of "cult" that everyone is going to agree with.
I think the universal definition is "an ideological group I don't particularly like at this moment." Still, I imagine some concrete lines have to be drawn.
As it currently stands in America, it is stupidly easy to create a legally recognized religion with all the rights and privileges that entails. In any other field, if someone were to make unfounded, fantastical claims, and take people's money for it, they'd be arrested as a con-artist.
DevilsAdvocate wrote:
22 May 2018, 07:29
if some people don't really mind going along with all of this and have no intention of ever leaving then it could feel perfectly comfortable and normal to them. It is quite often only when people decide they that they don't want to conform anymore or actually try to leave that the fangs and claws really come out.
Freedom is the ability to do exactly what I tell you to do.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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SamBee
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by SamBee » 23 May 2018, 05:27

I often hear people say how strict the LDS is. Well it may be when compared with liberal Methodists and Episcopalians. But compared to most Jews we have an easy life - we don't have strict diktats about our diets*, our clothing rules are simple compared to the ultra-Orthodox...

Likewise, with Scientology we have a whole different order of magnitude. For example, pregnant Scientologists have to give birth silently. To become a full blown member, you have to spend $200,000+. You have to cut all contact with "suppressive people" i.e. people who are against Scientologists. If you leave there is active harrassment against you. And so on. These are the bad aspects.

So there are some good points - but it is a much harder road to follow.

* The Word of Wisdom has nothing on Jewish dietary codes which require separate fridges for milk and fish,
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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