Scientology, Church of

Scientology, Church of, philosophical religion founded by L(afayette) Ron(ald) Hubbard, 1911–86, b. Tilden, Nebr. Hubbard's book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950) first set forth the basis of his philosophy, offering an alternative path to overcoming physical and mental stress. The church believes that a person's spirit can be cleared of past painful experiences through a process called "auditing," freeing the person of the burdens that interfere with happiness and self-realization. The first church was established in Los Angeles in 1954. A prolific author, Hubbard wrote many works on Scientology and is also noted for his science-fiction novels and short stories.

Scientology has been regarded with suspicion by many during its history. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association questioned the tenets of Scientology during the 1950s, and in the 1960s the governments of England, Australia, and the United States opened investigations into church activities, particularly for suspected practices of tax evasion. The church's status as a religion was, however, ultimately established in those and other countries, but elsewhere it has been regarded as a sect. It has continued to face governmental challenges, perhaps most notably in Germany, where it has been accused of being antidemocratic and unconstitutional and where its members have experienced personal discrimination, and in France, where it has been convicted of fraud. Some, including some former members, view the church as an elaborate cult, a charge the church and some religious scholars deny. In 1996 there were more than 3,000 churches, missions, and groups worldwide, with headquarters in Los Angeles.

See J. Reitman, Inside Scientology (2011); H. B. Urban, The Church of Scientology (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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