The Cultural Context
of Scientology

William Sims Bainbridge

I must be clear. I am not myself a Scientologist. As an atheistic Futurist and Transhumanist, I do not share the beliefs of Scientology or of any other religion, but I do agree with Scientology about the possibility of achieving transcendence through technology. Where Scientology seeks to promulgate a spiritual technology, I believe that physical technologies based in computer science and cognitive science would be required. A more sociological way of expressing this is to say that I am a member of the same post-Christian cyberculture as L. Ron Hubbard, but not a member of the Scientology subculture within it. My personal position is relevant for this scholarly essay for two reasons. First, members of the archaic Judeo-Christian-Islamic culture—including some mercenary secular journalists—are so hostile toward Scientology that a special effort must be made to see this novel religion’s real virtues. Second, it is essential for someone familiar with the wider culture to which Scientology belongs to place it in its proper cultural context.

The Science Fiction Subculture

I first learned about Scientology’s precursor, Dianetics, through a 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction that belonged to my maternal grandfather, and a 1951 issue of Marvel Science Stories that I myself bought at a newsstand (at age ten). Mr. Hubbard published articles titled “Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science” in Astounding, and “Homo Superior, Here we Come!” in Marvel. Already by 1951, Mr. Hubbard’s work was controversial, and the issue of Marvel also


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