Promises, and Problematics
Douglas E. Cowan
When at last we have our way, man’s inhumanity to man will have
ended. We have the answers. Authority belongs to those who can do
the job. And Scientology will inherit tomorrow as surely as the sun
—Church of Scientology, “Scientology’s Future”
This chapter began, as I suspect many do, in a bar.
A number of years ago, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, three colleagues and I were sitting over drinks with a representative of the Church of Scientology, and at one point she asked, “Why don’t academics write more about Scientology?” With neither hesitation nor consultation, we all answered virtually in the same breath, “Because you threaten to sue us if we say things you don’t like!” Although that may have overstated the case a wee bit, the point was clear: Among academics there is the perception, at least, that research into the Church of Scientology does not come without costs, and that for many scholars those costs appear simply prohibitive. Media stories about the difficulties encountered by journalists who write about the Church, clear if relatively isolated incidences of attempted interference in the academic process, and watercooler conversations about different experiences colleagues have had all contribute to this perception. And this is extremely unfortunate, because the Church of Scientology is an important new religious movement for a number of reasons, and one that is deserving of the kind of careful social scientific investigation that has been conducted in other groups.