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1 - Scientology, scripture, and sacred tradition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Mikael Rothstein
Affiliation:
Associate Professor in History of Religions University of Copenhagen
James R. Lewis
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Olav Hammer
Affiliation:
University of Southern Denmark
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Summary

INTRODUCTION: EMIC AND ETIC?

Ever since the foundation of the Church of Scientology (or simply Scientology) in 1954, the honesty and credibility of that organization have been questioned. A remarkable spectrum of allegations has been invoked, and Scientology has developed a strategy of defense and counter-strike. One dimension in that strategy has been to call upon the scholarly community in order to obtain objective assessments. Above everything else, Scientology wishes to be recognized as a genuine or “bona fide” religion. Sometimes, however, the ideological criticism of the anti-cultists coincides with the academic, analytical criticism put forth by the historian of religions. This is, for instance, the case with Scientology's sacred texts: anti-cultists and scholars will agree that the emic evaluation of the texts is historically incorrect. Scientology will always and without hesitation insist that the texts are written by the founder of the religion, L. Ron Hubbard (see below), and that no alterations have been made over the years. This, however, is questionable to say the least. To the anti-cultists and hostile former members of the religion, Scientology's claim is a proof of the organization's malignant nature. To the historian of religions, who understands that religious texts are produced and altered in complicated cultural processes, the fact that Scientology does the very same thing as all other traditions with a textual corpus is not particularly alarming.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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References

Refslund Christensen, Dorthe, “Inventing L. Ron Hubbard: On the Construction and Maintenance of the Hagiographic Mythology of Scientology's Founder,” in Lewis, James R. and Petersen, Jesper Aagaard (eds.), Controversial New Religions (New York: Oxford University Press), 2005, pp. 227–58.Google Scholar
Geertz, Armin W., The Invention of Prophecy: Continuity and Meaning in Hopi Indian Religion (Knebel: Brunebakke Publications, 1992).Google Scholar
Herveiu-Léger, Danièle, Religion as a chain of Memory (London: Polity Press).CrossRef
Rothstein, Mikael, Gud er (stadig) blå (Copenhagen: Aschehoug), 2006.Google Scholar
Rothstein, Mikael“Hagiography and Text in the Aetherius Society: Aspects of the Social Construction of a Religious Leader,” in Rothstein, Mikael and Kranenborg, Reender (eds.), New Religions in a Post-Modern World (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2003), pp. 165–93.Google Scholar
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