Ask a Scientologist – 14 Student Questions Answered about Scientology
A student asked the following questions for a school presentation on the subject of Scientology.
As a preface to my answers to the questions asked, my name is Tad, I’m a father of 3, a second-generation Scientologist, and am a systems engineer for an Internet service provider. I’ve been in and around Scientology nearly my entire life.
My answers to the questions follow!
1)How long have you been in Scientology and what got you started?
I first started taking Scientology courses when I was about 9, and by age 10-11 or so, I did really consider myself a Scientologist – so that’d put it at ~30 years or so that I’ve been involved.
My mother and father became Scientologists a few years before I was born. The bits of Scientology terminology & philosophy thrown around in daily life had my interest, and on my own volition at around age 9 I began taking courses at my closest Church – which was, unfortunately for me, a good 2-hour drive from my house in Maine. At the time, I had seen my parents taking courses at the church, and in many cases, gaining something valuable from it. I naturally asked if I could take a course too, and enrolled onto a course communication course. At the end of that communication course, I honestly felt I had learned something – I had figured out how to communicate better, I figured out that I could get my point across clearly, I understood why people didn’t like being interrupted, and that it was enjoyable for both parties when you’d acknowledge when you understood what they said. I continued my studies after that, picking up things – sometimes tidbits, sometimes much more significant than tidbits, which made it easier to live in the world, and helped explain the things I saw around me. I also gained a firm footing in morality – that there is a moral code that is good to live by, because it makes all human interactions smoother.
If you want to get answers to this same question from a number of other Scientologists, I got around 25 friends to answer the question of how they got involved in Scientology here, which should give you some other perspectives.
2)Why are all the churches in Scientology hierarchy legally separate?
It’s a question that has a complex set of answers. I’ll do my best though.
Each Church of Scientology is its own separate organization with its own board of directors and management, as each church is, itself, responsible for proper delivery of Dianetics & Scientology services to its parishioners. There is a management structure for Scientology churches discussed here on the church website, if you want more details.
The current corporate structure of the church was implemented in 1982 when L. Ron Hubbard donated the trademarks and service marks of Scientology to Religious Technology Center, as part of a massive re-organization of the church. Religious Technology Center (or RTC) was then entrusted with the purity and ethical use of Scientology, and was made a separate entity from the mother church itself (Church of Scientology International) as well as the various churches, missions and groups which would then use Scientology, Dianetics, or other related works of LRH. RTC then specifically grants permission to each individual Church of Scientology to use Scientology materials and services. The whole purpose here is to ensure that the technologies of Dianetics & Scientology are used properly and as originally intended, and are not altered, perverted or otherwise misused.
There is a ton more to the story than that, but hopefully this answers your question.
3)How do your beliefs affect your daily life and relationships?
I’d say the easiest way to quantify this, for me, is that my daily life and interpersonal interactions are (by and large) fairly smooth and stress free, and a lot of that I attribute to work I’ve done in Scientology. Communicating with my family, my wife, extended family members & in-laws, friends, etc is all fairly drama-free, with a distinct lack of grudges, long-running upsets, feuds, etc. As I’ve got 3 kids, this lack of stress is important to me as I’ve often found a direct correlation between home stress and illness, as if kids are around a chaotic household they tend to get sick more often. Luckily, all three of my kids have nearly always been in great health, they’re outdoors a lot and active, and are bright & generally doing well.
But a lot of that I’ve seen incrementally improve both in myself and my wife after services we’ve done at our church. I’ve detailed some of those online here when talking about one service called the Survival Rundown, and another here when talking about a communication course we did together.
4)Where do you spend the majority of your time studying Scientology, at church or elsewhere?
I’d say it’s been about 50/50 at home and at my church. There are a number of courses of study which get done exclusively at a church, because they require supervision in practical application which you can’t just do on your own. However, there are also a number of books & lectures which comprise the basics of the Scientology religion, and those I’ve studied at home, most of the time also doing a mail-in extension course sending in lessons to my local church. I’ve done plenty of study just on my own, but I like the lessons as I get to ensure I’ve gotten all of the main points out of the text and didn’t leave things behind.
5)When money is given to advance in Scientology where does it go?
There’s a short answer and a long answer here. The short answer is that when money is donated to the church, it goes to that church itself to support it, keep the doors open, the lights on, and to pay the staff. A percentage of it also goes to church management.
There’s a pretty extensive white paper here on how church finances work, which is the longer answer.
6)How has auditing positively affected you?
The broad answer to that is that auditing has, by and large, made me more honest with myself and others, more generally happy, more stable, and more tolerant of having more moving parts and individual things going on in my life that I’m actively working on.
In Scientology, each auditing action that is done has its own specific thing that it is addressing, and an end result in mind for that individual. These are specifically arranged in a sequence of action which makes sense, building one upon the next.
For example, there is an auditing action I referred to above called the Survival Rundown which is specifically directed toward getting an individual to operate in the here & now as opposed to having unwanted fixed attention in the past, or on unwanted thoughts & feelings. This action had a deep & profound impact on my ability to focus on a given task and take it to completion, as well as being much more in the here & now when dealing with my family and kids.
There are numerous other specific auditing actions I’ve done, some focused on handling one’s ability to communicate with anyone on any subject, others on being able to recognize the source of life problems and not feel compelled to “have problems”, on being able to be free from the weight of past upsets, and to be able to get out of fixed, unwanted conditions.
On each one, the effects on my own life have been positive and extremely freeing. There are just so many conditions in life that I’ve seen others be entirely convinced are impossible to change, but I’ve seen them change in myself and friends within a few weeks’ time as a result of auditing they did. I think it’s factually pretty amazing.
7)What is your experience with mission trips?
Not sure what you’re asking here. Scientologists don’t really have an analogue to required missionary work like the Mormon church does, though Scientologists do frequently travel on their own bat to do volunteer work. Owing to the fact that I do website work, I’ve done a lot of work over the last 10-15 years to coordinate volunteers going to disaster areas like New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, to India / Thailand / Banda Aceh after the Indian Ocean tsunami, and Japan following the tsunamis there, as well as closer to home when we’ve had flooding and other more minor disasters here. I’ve also been involved in drug education programs and such, to get materials out to schools & seminars to educate kids & adults about drugs.
If you have other more specific questions on this, let me know.
8)I have heard that Scientologists believe in reincarnation. Is this true?
To an extent. It is a key part of the Scientology religion that people are treated as spiritual individuals, as separate from their mind or their body. This video describes such in more detail:
That being said, there is not some specific part of Scientology beliefs or scripture that deals in reincarnation, as in, “make sure you do don’t do xyz or you’ll be reincarnated as a toad”, nor is there a particular focus on such as there is in some Buddhist traditions. The main factor is in the orientation of Scientology application to the individual as a spirit not as his body.
9)Is everything written or spoken by L. Ron Hubbard considered Scripture in Scientology?
It is not. LRH wrote quite a lot, with the basics of the religion comprising 18 different books and literally hundreds of recorded lectures, as well as thousands of pages of church policy and technical material.
But there is a firm dividing line between what comprises the policy of the church and the scripture of Scientology, and what is an individual advice or personal communication aimed only at one individual or to a small group.
It came up even in the very early days of Scientology, where he’d make an offhand comment to somebody while visiting a local church, and then come back years later to find that folks had taken this comment entirely out of context, and assumed it was hard policy from then on, applying to everything all the time. So, there’s even specific policy on what is church policy, and what is merely information, and what’s to be disregarded entirely as not relevant to the church at all.
10)What are some of your core values as a Scientologist?
There’s values, and there’s beliefs, and there’s overlap between the two. I’ve written longer articles about what Scientology is to me, but let me see if I can sum up in a few bullet points, along with some reference material as appropriate that you may find enlightening.
- I believe that I’m a spiritual individual, and am not “my body”. I believe I have a body, but that concepts like love, fear, honor, friendship, and one’s own goals and purposes in life are positively not a part of the body or brain, but are something we create as individuals. This video on the parts of man illustrates this further.
- I believe that it is possible to know about the mind, the spirit, and life. Meaning, I do think that solutions to one’s problems as an individual, a family or group member, are not out of one’s hands, or can only be understood by the infinite, or “transcend the boundaries of human understanding” like old-time philosophers thought. I believe that no matter how hard one’s problems are in life, that something can be done about them, and Scientology contains intensely workable solutions for such.
- I believe that religious choice is an intensely personal thing, and that anyone, studying Scientology, should do so for themselves, should read actual Scientology books for themselves, and should make up their own mind about it. I think that Scientology (or any religious philosophy) cannot be forced on someone, because there is nothing at all more individual and personal than how one feels about himself. Nobody can tell you how you feel about yourself, because nobody else is you. Therefore, a personal, spiritual philosophy can never, ever be jammed down your throat. There is no replacement for quality time, by yourself, in front of a book.
11)Is there a school specifically for people to learn only Scientology that is separate from the traditional school system?
Scientology is a religious philosophy, but it is not and was never intended to be a replacement for a full education. Clearly, if one wanted to become a Scientology practitioner, one would obviously study such at a Church of Scientology and not pursue a theological degree at a traditional school.
That being said, there are schools which use the study technology developed by Mr. Hubbard, as well as a handful of other relevant works, but the bulk of the education is a diverse and complete curriculum including mountains of classical and modern literature, chem, math, history, and hands-on learning. I went to such a school in Oregon called The Delphian School, and it was fantastic.
12)What does the symbol of the cross represent?
It is an eight-pointed cross representing the eight parts, or dynamics, of life through which each individual is striving to survive. These parts are: the urge toward existence as self, as an individual; the urge to survive through creativity, including the family unit and the rearing of children; the urge to survive through a group of individuals or as a group; the urge toward survival through all Mankind and as all Mankind; the urge to survive as life forms and with the help of life forms such as animals, birds, insects, fish and vegetation; the urge to survive of the physical universe, by the physical universe itself and with the help of the physical universe and each one of its component parts; the urge to survive as spiritual beings or the urge for life itself to survive; the urge toward existence as infinity, also identified as the Supreme Being. To be able to live in harmony with respect to each of these spheres of existence is symbolized by the Scientology cross.
As a matter of interest, the cross as a symbol predates Christianity.
13) What is the perspective of Christianity in the Church of Scientology?
The most relevant writing I can point you at here is L. Ron Hubbard’s essay, Religious Influence in Society, which I’d heavily recommend reading in full as it encompasses the spirit with which we view & interact with other religions, inclusive of Christianity.
Specifically, however, I most every Scientologist I know has a deep and profound respect for religious people of all faiths. We may all have different approaches, beliefs and things we hold dear, but for the most part, the great world religions each have a moral code which, by and large, is quite similar religion to religion, and one that is a critical civilizing influence which is in danger of being totally undermined. I think that a destructive element in today’s society over the last 80 years or so has been the introduction of the idea that there’s no such thing as right and wrong, and that morality itself is outmoded. I find that I get along much better with anyone that subscribes to a moral code from their religious upbringing, than with someone who’s got an anything-goes, you-only-live-once attitude.
To further answer your question, I know of a lot of people who remain Christian, but who are also Scientologists. Scientology is all about studying and applying tools for life – things that make sense to you. As such, I know a lot of Christians who have found it quite compatible with their own religious path.
14)What are some common misconceptions of Scientology held by society today?
Well, how common the misconception is really depends on where you get your data. I have heard just about every story imaginable from people on the Internet professing that they know all about what I believe. Some people I’ve run into have been factually pretty mad about what I apparently do. But the truth has been almost uniformly a lot more mundane than the press makes it.
This is one of the reasons I made a website. It’s one of the reasons I also write for other publications, including this one, to get the truth out there of what we’re about.
There’s literally no end to the number of stories folks can make up about what I believe. If someone makes up a claim that I believe in evil alien overlords ruling the Earth or something, there’s no document out there that says definitively and conclusively, “here is proof I don’t believe in aliens”. (BTW I don’t believe in evil alien overlords)
The only things I can do is: (a) repeatedly say and demonstrate what I do believe in, and most critically, (b) convince you to go down to your local library and read an actual Scientology book so you can see what I’m talking about. And if you’re in the mood for that, my best recommendation would be to pick up Scientology: Fundamentals of Thought, as I think it represents the best cross-section of what I actually believe and do.
9 thoughts on “Ask a Scientologist – 14 Student Questions Answered about Scientology”
Good information. Impressed that folks would go to such measures to set things right. Thank you
With all due respect I listened to your video, really listened. I understand you being protective of what you call a religion, I personally believe good work is done by good people in your organization and that is what it should be considered is an organization. The Red Cross, The YMCA, Dr’s without Boarders, etc, etc, etc. Good people doing good work, all organizations, not religions. I’m sure if Scientology would give up it’s misused tax exempt status they would not be receiving such negative focus. Gain a tax exempt status for a non-profit organization like the other organizations that do humanitarian work have. Scientology’s silence is what is making ordinary people take a much closer look at the organization. Speak up and show the folks that Scientology is legally doing good work by good people. Open your records and prove us wrong.
Hi Jeana: thanks for reading, and for watching my video, I appreciate that. To your point, there might be a lack of clarity here on the difference between the charitable community-benefit organizations that the Church supports, and the actual religious activities of Scientology itself.
Yes, Scientologists participate in relief efforts – like my friend here who helped out with the La Tuna Canyon Fires, or another close friend who just got back from her 2nd long stint in a very harrowing Puerto Rico, helping get generators set up, help to clear roads, repair damaged structures and in general deal with the absolutely horrifying state of affairs there. Or like our drug ed efforts, which are – to my knowledge – the most extensive non-government anti-drug program in the world. Those are community activities, but they are NOT the religion itself.
In Christianity, while yes – there are community outreach programs, and schools and similar church-sponsored activities, that is not the religion itself. Christianity itself consists of worship, it consists of church services, and confession, and sermons and of theological study. In Scientology, the religion itself consists of counseling (we call it Auditing), and of study of Scientology courses in an exact manner also prescribed as part of the religion itself. It’s that portion of things, something where the take-away from such is a deeply individual and spiritual experience, has no parallel at all with community-betterment organizations such as the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. It’s a very individual, very personal religious code, philosophy, and collection of related activities which constitute the actual practice of Scientology.
People who have been individually helped, who – after handling their own sources of difficulty and unhappiness – commonly do end up facing their attention outwards to help the community. But that doesn’t mean that every religion is considered only for its community programs. A pastor in a church who helps save a marriage isn’t any less of a help to the community than a social worker who helps get someone off drugs, but they are in their own categories and should be regarded with appropriate differentiation.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment.
I think I am having trouble understanding the personal religious code of Scientology. What is “a personal religious code” could you explain that with a little more detail?
Hi Jeana: I’ll see if I can sum up, and you can let me know if it makes sense.
There are a few aspects to Scientology that I could describe as a “religious code”. One might be a set of fundamental core values I have as Scientologist, which I outlined on the article above.
But more than that, there are a few other very key codes in Scientology which describe both how we approach being a Scientologist, as well as the practice of the religion itself. With respect to how we approach being Scientologists, there is “The Code of a Scientologist” which I linked here. I could expound at length one each point of that code, but I think if you at least give that a read and understand that we do mean every bit of that, and that each of us strive to live that as much as is possible, you’ll understand a lot of where we’re coming from. Linked on the sidebar of that same page are a number of the other key codes of Scientology, such as the Code of Honor, and hopefully that should give you a good idea of the frame of mind with which I’m approaching the subject.
Let me know if that helps! If that opens only more questions, then OK – fire at will. 🙂
Again, thank you for your time. I will read and let you if they are the answers that I am looking for.
Thank you for this very readable, understandable writing. You actually dispelled a few misconceptions about Scientology and you’re church.
Truthfully though, is Scientology a religion? You mentioned you have friends that are both Christian and Scientologiests. I have found multiple religion believe systems have to many conflicts to exist long in a single person. At least as far as practical faith is concerned. Is it more like a school of moral thought? Like Christians doing yoga? Practical, but not really a religion though religiously and spiritually useful. Please I like clarity. Thank you.
A wonderful and very clear introduction. I believe for those who have no idea what Scientology is all about or have instead read some negative propaganda once they have read through here what Tad wrote they will understand or better say they should understand the real and true meaning of Scientology. Tad you have done a fantastic job.
So where do I start? The book? The original –
Do all Scientologists make it to the bridge?
Is it the money one needs? Is there a truth behind us all – living – numerous life’s over? And over without memory but carrying over some traits from each one?