How Should We
Regard the Religious
Ceremonies of the
Church of Scientology?
It is difficult to write about Scientology because of the controversies that surround this movement. Those who view Scientology as a religion are labeled as apologists or crypto-Scientologists. For many people, the Church of Scientology is just a business with some religious varnish. For others, it is a dangerous religion or a wicked religion that does not deserve attention or interest. As for Scientology, it considers itself a religion and it is highly sensitive to anything written about it with a polemical mindset. If a sociologist focuses on the “false religion/true religion” issue, he/she becomes a party to the debate. Another solution consists in approaching the Church of Scientology with Weber’s phrase in mind: “The question is about what exists, why something exists and not to express an opinion about what is desirable.” This is our perspective. Scientology is a social movement that exists and that needs to be studied as any other “social actor.” Otherwise, it retains its aura of mystery, which suits everybody except sociologists.
I have been studying the Church of Scientology since 1986 because this movement has some healing practices and I am interested in this topic. When I started studying healing churches, I met the spokesman for the Church in Paris and I submitted my proposed
This chapter is dedicated to Bryan Wilson, who read this article, gave some
advice, and encouraged me to publish it.