A leap beyond faith - 2008-02-18
And yet this latest turn against the organization founded in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard has an air of farcical comedy to it. Why? Why aren't civil rights organizations and anti-hate-speech activists pouncing on these protesters? The reason, I suspect, is that most of us do not consider Scientology a religion, at least not a religion that resembles in the slightest the world's major faiths.
One clue to this interpretation can be seen in other protesters' signs: "Religion Is Free, Scientology Is Not" and "Trade Secrets Are For Business, Not Religion." I'm a scientist who studies belief systems for a living, so take it from me: Scientology is unlike any other religion in history. Although the Church of Scientology is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt religion (despite years of litigation by the IRS to collect taxes on its income), no other religion I know of considers theological doctrines and core religious tenets to be intellectual property accessible only for a fee.
Envision converting to Judaism but having to pay to learn the story of Abraham and Isaac, Noah and the flood or Moses and the Ten Commandments. Or imagine joining the Catholic Church but not being told about the crucifixion and the resurrection until you have reached Operating Theological Level III, which takes many years and many tens of thousands of dollars.