Many anti-Scientologists promote the fact that the Church of Scientology went through a very intentional and detailed overhaul of all its missions and orgs to make Scientology look like more of what people expect a religion to look like. They point to this “religious cloaking” public relations program as proof that Scientology is not a religion.
But this religious cloaking program is no such proof. That an organization mandates certain statuary, costumes, and messaging to be more consistent with their religious message simply shows a desire to present a consistent set of messaging among many organizations and locations. No beliefs or even practices that make Scientology a religion were ever changed during this project.
So what makes any religion a religion?
Social scientists – the people we look to in society who study and catalog such things – point to various parts of a group’s message and beliefs – stories such as a cosmology, rituals devoted to promulgating beliefs and practices, and a belief in a divine or supernatural power of some kind. No matter how the members of the religion behave, or what any government thinks about it, it’s the scriptural subject matter itself that decides whether something is a religion or not.
When you look at the cosmology of Scientology, its rituals such as auditing, training, dissemination, and its clearly religious teachings on the thetan, the mind, and even Xenu – it is inescapable that Scientology is a religion.
So when Leah Remini, after being a Scientologist and calling it her religion for 34 years, comes out and starts saying that Scientology is not a religion – what’s going on here? Was she “brainwashed” that whole time into believing something was her religion when it actually wasn’t? How does that work? 34 years of saying it’s a religion and now, all of a sudden, it’s not?
Or was Leah Remini brainwashed into pick up a new set of anti-Scientology beliefs now, a set of beliefs that deny that Scientology is a religion, after having a set of beliefs for 34 years that argued that it was? This happens all the time with Scientologists who have been screwed over in some way by Scientology, and then come out on to the Internet and get exposed to the ideas of the anti-Cult Movement.
Has this happened to Leah Remini?
While there is not a tight consensus among all social scientists on what exactly a religion is, there is quite a bit of consensus among a majority of social scientists that if anything is a religion, then Scientology is.
My answer to the question I posed in the title is yes, Scientology is a religion. The proof is in its scriptures – its beliefs and practices – not in any “cultic” behavior by David Miscavige or anyone else.
Leah Remini does not have a cogent argument for why Scientology is not a religion. I believe she has simply picked up a new set of Ex/Anti beliefs which oppose and contradict her old Scientology beliefs, and that is why she is saying Scientology is not a religion now.
Since she does not address Scientology’s scriptural beliefs and practices, Leah Remini’s argument that Scientology is not a religion fails.