Now there’s a question that has been being asked for 50 years or so.  And while there are no easy answers to the question there are technical answers. Technically, in the eyes of the IRS here in America, Scientology is a church.  It’s been that way for about 40 years now. And if you look at all the stationary, the corporate filings, the ministerial garb and promotional materials it appears, on the surface, to function much like what we here in the Western World imagine a church functions like.

Yet if you look at how the organizations operate on a day-to-day basis Scientology is a church only in the loosest sense.

For those of us who were around prior to the official proclamation by L. Ron Hubbard that Scientology would now put on church clothes and start acting like a church the idea of being religious, for us,  had always been an ill-fitting suit. I’m not religious. And for the most part almost none of the thousands of Scientologists I have been acquainted with or the hundreds I have had friendships or working relationships with were religious either. We didn’t pray. We didn’t submit to any God. We didn’t take vows of poverty (unless we joined Org staff or the Sea Org), our functions as staff or Scientologists weren’t reverent or ritualized in the sense that we ever felt the source of our salvation or potential spiritual freedom was bestowed by a supreme being. And so we didn’t honor or bow down to a deity.

But we had to become a church for the simple reason that being anything else would mean the end of Scientology. And the end of auditing.

So Hubbard morphed us.  Arnie Lerma has one of the better web sites out there among the array of anti or ex web sites. His struggle against the RTC version of Scientology is both ethical and emotional. All you have to do is read his story, particularly the bit about how he was treated when it was discovered, via confidential session reports, that he was mere days away from marrying one of Hubbard’s daughters. Here’s Arnie’s location in electronic space:

Lerma’s Net Home

Having been around for a while, Arnie’s site is extensive. There are gems and veins of gold hidden away in the various pages and links he provides. And while it’s not updated daily (or even weekly sometimes), it’s probably the best place to go on the internet for references and exposès on the more nefarious goings ons over the years. He documents clearly the events, years apart, that set the path and then cast it into concrete that Scientology had to be a church rather than a business. Here’s an interesting one, direct from Hubbard’s prolific pen:

Realize that Hubbard wrote these words in 1954,  the same year he incorporated the Church of Scientology of California and one year after he founded the Church of Scientology in New Jersey.


Whatever you, as a past or present Scientologist, may believe about the churchiness of Scientology, it’s plain to see that the founder of  Scientology did not see it as a church. Becoming a church was the solution to two problems:

1. Taxes

2. Auditing

Taxes because, like all businesspeople, Hubbard wanted to keep more of the money his business made for himself. I’m no different. Well, except I never named my retail store or my restaurant a church in order to scam my nation. The auditing thing is a little more subtle. In fact, except for myself and maybe one or two people I’ve known over the years I’ve never had a conversation about how Hubbard used the false identity as a church to retain the right for his students and staff to audit.

Auditing was at risk because even the casual student of the history of Scientology knows that Hubbard’s first pitched battle for legitimacy was with the AMA and the APA. The doctors because, well, because they’re doctors and concerned. The psychiatrists because they took a look at what Hubbard was doing and determined that it was either a scam or not safe in the hands of untrained therapists. The move was on in the early 50’s to shut down Dianetics and require that anyone doing Dianetic therapy had to have a license. Which meant they had to go to college and get a degree. Which meant that the control over whether Dianetics or Scientology could legally be delivered would rest in the hands of the very groups who felt it was either a scam or a threat.

So Hubbard solved it by creating this  →

Alan Walters and Dean Stokes. Holy practitioners of the scriptures of Scientology.

Every time I see that picture of Alan and Dean I crack up. Neither of these two could have been in any way mistaken for actual Men of The Cloth. Yet, according to the C of S, they were. Thinking back to the 70’s, when this photo was taken, we all knew the whole church thing was a load of crap. Alan laughed about it and carried on with his plans of world domination and amassing of money and Dean… well… Dean is just Dean. I never really had a sense of what Dean was all about except that he smoked a whole lot more than I did.

I bought a clerical shirt and white collar and wore it exactly once. When my best friend died and the memorial was held at Celebrity Center in Hollywood I wore the damned thing. I felt like an impostor. And I was.  The whole church-thing was – and is today – a big circus. It’s a show. It’s deceptive. I know it. You do too. You may not admit it, but you know damned well that churches don’t do the things Scientology does. And those that do conduct themselves in the manner the Church of Scientology has eventually end up in the news… and in criminal court.

Hubbard was a smart guy though. He knew a real church had to have a spiritual leader… or recognizable master. And Hubbard was, if anything, not lacking in the ego department. Think about this if you will… why else would there be busts and huge wall-sized pictures of Hubbard in every Org and Mission on the planet? Why is it so, so important that Ron be treated… even in death… like a savior? The only possible reason for building an image of Hubbard as not only the “Source” of Scientology, but as the spiritual deity of it is to create a atmosphere of blind acceptance of anything attributed to him.

Blind obedience.

And now, since the guy has been dead for 25 or so years it’s just a matter of editing his books, changing a few things here and there to suit modern times and much larger financial goals…  and what we have is a written and spoken Bible of Scientology comprised of a score of books and several thousand hours of taped lectures. So we have a bible and we have a cross.

The cross, by the way, has been around since the 50’s and while I do think it’s little more than pretty imagery, Hubbard actually attached some decent significance to it in the description of how it represents the 8 Dynamics of Scientology. The story goes that he was excavating some ruins in Arizona … Spanish I imagine… and discovered the cross in the sandstone.

Yeah. Right. If you’ve ever read Mission into Time then you might just be a wee bit skeptical about this story.  I’m more inclined to go along with the story that credits the cross to the Ordo Templi Orientis. Crowley was a seriously occult dude and Hubbard did, after all, marry the sister-in-law of his American Pope –  Jack Parsons.

None of this stuff… not the lies, not the purposeful creation of a Godlike status for L. Ron Hubbard, not the tax scams or uncomfortable clothes means that practicing Scientology is without merit. Like anything that is unprovable and entirely subjective, Scientology auditing has value that is determined solely by the person willing to pay the money and hold the cans.

What the deception does though is it creates a facade of religious legitimacy that is a very effective shield in modern society. It also spreads the “ether” through malleable groups of people faster than the Bird Flu can rip through a chicken farm.


For the most part, Missions prior to 1982 ignored the whole church facade unless we needed it. So we, as Mission Holders, were effectively… in on the sham. For a couple hundred bucks we filed the non-profit corporate papers with the state. Then we added the cool-looking cross to some stationary… I had regular stationary that said something like ‘Scientology of Fresno” and then official stationary that said “Church of Scientology of Fresno”. The latter I used when corresponding to anyone who gave a shit about appearances in the Orgs and to the State Tax board, the former we used for everything else. We had Sunday Services… sort of. When I knew there was a Sea Org mission coming or we had a wedding scheduled or something we put a Sunday Service on the calendar.

Other than that, we operated as an efficient training and counseling business with the added bonus of not having to mess with taxes. Just write a weekly check to the Mission Office for 10% of the gross income and carry on as if we weren’t actually a church. Which we weren’t… actually a church, I mean. It was deceptive.

Oh, and it also made getting married a lot easier and kept me and my crew of staff and public from feeling out of place in real churches. When I got married in 1977… uh, wait… 1978 (sorry Cindy)… it was easy. I called my friend Allen Kapular who was a fake minister of the fake Church of Scientology, he drove over to my place with his multiple cartons of filtered cigarettes and his portable oxygen tank (I shit you not) and we all went outside and he hitched us up. Didn’t cost me a dime. Except the extra booze I had to buy  for Allen.

Me, the incredibly patient and beautiful Cindy and Allen. The portable oxygen tank was just out of camera range.

Take a look at that picture above. What kind of church has ministers who chain smoke so much that they can’t even put their cigarette down for the freaking wedding photos!!!! And yes, Allen died of lung cancer. But he had a damned good time up to that point.

Your opinion, of course, may differ from mine about whether Scientology is deceiving anyone by pretending to be something it isn’t. In fact, you might be right and I might be wrong. I mean, how many decades does a group of people who think they are a church have to think they are a church until they actually are a church? It’s like acting isn’t it? A good actor “thinks” like the character he or she is portraying. They get into the role. They imagine they are a sniper or a cop or a betrayed wife, a cuckolded husband or a scheming cattle rancher and they soon begin to do less acting and more of the natural things their character would do.  Right?

It makes for great theater.

  1. dispotikos says:

    thank you very much for your insights. Lived the very same experience, but years later in 1980. In Italy. Missionaires from the GO came down as hawks to ‘put the religious image’ in Pope Joannes’s country… totaly disagreed to that but had to bow down to ‘the authority’…but, being italians, we gave it a shrug and when they left, it was back to the usual… yes they left some crosses here and there, I did the Minister’s Course and we had a semblance of a Sunday Service…but honest to God I knew from LRH policies why we were supposed to ‘be’ a Church’.twas only deceptive for legal and taxes…that’s all. Added my 2cents from faraway to corroborate your insightful post. Nice and usefulk reading. Thank you 🙂 Dispotikos

    • ensifer says:

      You are very welcome.

      I understand that some people embrace the concept of Scientology as a religion. Which is perfectly fine by me. But like you, it always felt forced and unnatural for me. I just wanted to get on with the job of having fun, selling auditing and training and buying fast motorcycles!


  2. Dilettante says:

    Why not a religion? Does the classification lend legitamacy? The fact is Scientology addresses matters of the mind as a means for some to pursue their spiritual quest. Some of the dealings do seek to improve one’s condition. There have been legitimate religions guilty of far worse than Scientology and they continue to thrive. What is so holy about the word church that Scientology doesn’t measure up? Maybe I don’t mind the religiuos aspect because I want to see a reform. Or is it that I am afraid to say families torn apart, fortunes wasted and lives ruined were in the name of a fad? I CRINGE when LRH gets credit for all of the good stuff. The truth may be he was an awesome collaborater and the positive aspects somehow survived despite his input. David, you sure do provoke-keep it up!

    • ensifer says:

      You’re right D… and so am I. Heh.

      Hubbard was a master at selling repackaged observations and insights. Reading his own written words – an irrefutable testimony that he never considered his efforts to be a religion – it’s fairly easy to see that adopting the role of religion was a device to secure the subject and shield it.

      In Scientology parlance what he did was force us all to engage in a Be-Do-Have cycle to alter the beast into a form that was more protected from assault and that had instant legitimacy in the eyes of “most” casual observers. It worked. If someone decides they are a minister, acts like a minister, eventually…. they are a minister! And once the authorizing government bodies say, “These people are ministers”… they actually are ministers.

      Except maybe in France… and apparently Australia… and maybe other places soon.

      You’re welcome here anytime… keep me honest!


  3. el lobo solitario says:

    That picture of Alan Charles Walters* in minister’s garb is hilarious. Although it did bring back a mini tsunami of unpleasantries connected with ACW.
    If ever an individual was un-suited, for even the pretense of religiousity, there he is in full battle regalia. That picture should be Exhibit A for the government’s case in any proceedings to rescind chuch status.

    *note: never trust a man with two first names

    • ensifer says:

      Ha! El Lobo huh? A “mini tsunami of unpleasantries” is an awesome line.

      Alan was a complex individual, of that there is zero doubt. I was involved with him one way or the other from 1966 all the way up until I left in 1982. There were times when I wanted to shoot him in the head for just being a complete, utter, selfish fuckwit… and then there were times when I was amazed at the stuff he would pull off. The guy had balls, that’s for sure.

      Overall, I got more from him than he got from me. And I think perhaps I’m one of the few people who can actually say that. He was a devious one eh?

      Come back anytime Lone Wolf! Your input is appreciated.

      • el lobo solitario says:

        Ensifer…agreed. Alan did have major testicles with an ego to boot. In fact Elephanitis size cajones. I just didn’t like to be one of the guys pushing the wheel barrow carrying his inflated nutsack…hahahaha. Sorry, just laughing at my own imagery.
        As far as ACW goes let’s just say RIP.

  4. I’m sorry but I would have to argue toward the merits of Scientology being more of a religion than many here are Earth. Did I like the religious connotation? No. Am I a worshipping type? No. Do I believe in the traditional God? Not exactly. Through the process of auditing I was able to find a past that I had long since forgotten and achieve a certainty that I was not just a piece of meat and had actually had been around for quite a while and had many hitherto misplaced or self-suppressed abilities.

    I also realized, exactly what you think, is what you will get, in life. This is covered in the first three axioms.

    Some days I am better at this than others, but this is more real to me, than my name.

  5. dispotikos says:

    Thank you Ensifer… only thing is that I was and I am more on fast cars… 🙂 you know italians…Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and some Alfa Romeos too for the fun of it. Guess what, back in those days me and the ‘CO’ Italy of the time were buying used sportscars for next to nothing and re-sell them after we had enjoyed a couple of months of riding! Fast and fun ! And we could even produce at the same time!!! ain’t that fantastic! If I look over these days I find that the lighter the organization was, the better it was expanding and Italy then, produced just about 80% of worldwide div 6 stats in terms of new people coming in and books sold to beginners. it was a bit like the 50s you mentioned in terms of spirit and flippancy. Downside was that we did not have translated materials except a few things and a few auditors…learning English was paramount in order to study the theory and practice of Scn. last word on the religious nature of Scn: the definition of religion can be applied to Scn and by extension even the original meaning of church ( greek ekklesia: assembly, gathering of people) but these words have changed in centuries and Scn just dressed it up to fit the need. I see it as an applied philosophy, stemming from Axioms to further theories on interaction between Life and the physical universe with a practical application. Simpler said then done…but that’s how I see it after 35 years with the subject. been too wordy…sorry!