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Scientology is a set of beliefs and practices invented by the American author L. Ron Hubbard and an associated movement. It is variously defined as a cult, a business, a religion, a scam, or a new religious movement. Hubbard initially developed a set of ideas called Dianetics, which he represented as a form of therapy. An organization he established in 1950 to promote it went bankrupt, and Hubbard lost the rights to his book Dianetics in 1952. He then recharacterized his ideas as a religion, likely for tax purposes, and renamed them Scientology. By 1954, he had regained the rights to Dianetics and founded the Church of Scientology, the largest organization promoting Scientology. There are practitioners independent of the Church in what is referred to as the
Free Zone. Estimates put the number of Scientologists at under
40,000 worldwide

Leader of Scientology

Essential Scientology beliefs include reincarnation and that traumatic events cause problematic "engrams" in the mind that can be removed only through an activity called "auditing." A fee is charged for each "auditing" session. Once an "auditor" deems an individual free of "engrams," typically after several years, they are given the status of "clear." Scholarship differs on the interpretation of these beliefs: some academics regard them as religious; other scholars regard them as merely a means of extracting money from Scientology recruits. After attaining "clear" status, adherents can participate in the Operating Thetan levels, which require further payments. The Operating Thetan texts are kept secret from most followers; they are revealed only after adherents have typically given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Scientology organization. Despite its efforts to maintain the secrecy of the texts, they are freely available on various websites, including the media organization WikiLeaks. These texts say past lives took place in extraterrestrial cultures. They involve an alien called Xenu, described as a planetary ruler 70 million years ago who brought billions of aliens to Earth and killed them with thermonuclear weapons. Despite being kept secret from most followers, this forms the central mythological framework of Scientology's ostensible soteriology. These aspects have become the subject of widespread ridicule.


Since their formation, Hubbard's groups have generated considerable opposition and controversy in several instances because of their criminal activities. In the 1970s, Hubbard's followers engaged in a program of criminal infiltration of the U.S. government, resulting in several executives of the organization being convicted and imprisoned for multiple offenses by a U.S. Federal Court. Hubbard was convicted in absentia of fraud by a French court in 1978 and sentenced to four years in prison. In 1992, a court in Canada convicted the Scientology organization in Toronto of spying on law enforcement and government agencies and criminal breach of trust, later upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Church of Scientology was convicted of fraud by a French court in 2009, a judgment upheld by the Supreme Court of Cassation in 2013.


The Church of Scientology has been described by government inquiries, international parliamentary bodies, scholars, law lords, and numerous superior court judgments as both a dangerous cult and a manipulative profit-making business. Following extensive litigation in multiple countries, the organization has attained legal recognition as a religious institution in some jurisdictions, including Australia, Italy, and the United States. Germany classifies Scientology groups as an "anti-constitutional sect," while the French government classifies the group as a dangerous cult.

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