Scientology and Self-
and Soteriology as
Resource and Strategy
Dorthe Refslund Christensen
Many religious groups, whether we choose to refer to them as New Age or new religions or new religiosity, seem to be organized around ideas and practices that aim at organizing the self of the individual practitioner.1 Here, religious individuals blend with many secularly oriented individuals following individual practices for self-development. Scientology is no exception. Although it may be said—and many have pointed to this fact—that the social and soteriological organization of Scientology is rigid and—apparently—without space for individual interpretation and decision making, it might be more correct to say that Scientology, as a religion and religious organization, offers a mythological and ritual framework that leaves a big open space within which individuals can develop their own narratives of their lives and selves, and that this open space seems very suited to meet the challenges of postmodern, Western culture. In this chapter I will argue that a rigid soteriological organization does not necessarily lead to uniformity in the representations made by the individuals engaged in that particular system.
In order to establish the cultural setting for today’s religious practitioner I draw on sociologist Anthony Giddens (1990, 1991, 1992) and his idea of self-reflectiveness as one of the most fundamental issues of our times, the concepts religion as a chain of memories and memories in bits offered by sociologist of religion Danièle Hervieu-Léger (1998, 2001) to account for the function of incorporating religious bits and pieces into the postmodern production of identity and self-narrativity, and cultural analyst John Storey (2003a) to explain the interrelatedness of identity and culture. Furthermore,