What Is Scientology?
Scientology is a religious belief based on the work of science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. Scientologists believe that the human body contains an immortal spirit, called a thetan, that has had a multitude of past lives and may have even lived as aliens at some point.
It also promotes the idea of the ‘reactive mind’, which is an unconscious division of the mind that exists alongside the conscious, ‘analytical’ mind. The reactive mind absorbs suffering and trauma, creating ‘engrams’ that negatively affect the analytical mind and influence judgement.
Through a process known as auditing, Scientology claims to be able to neutralise these engrams and free the mind of bad judgement. The goal of auditing is to help elevate Scientologists to a status known as ‘Clear,’ in which practitioners are no longer affected by engrams.
Why Is There So Much Controversy Surrounding Scientology?
Scientology is well-known for its many controversial beliefs and practices. Not least of which is its systematic opposition to psychiatry.
Scientology is also notable for having carried out one of the largest mass infiltrations of the US government in history, in a conspiracy known as Operation Snow White. In the Operation, as many as 5,000 Scientologists entered government offices, embassies, and private organisations in more than 30 countries, destroying documents that could cast the Church in an unfavourable light.
The fact that Scientology seems to take money from its members is also up for controversy. For example, the practice of auditing can cost as much as $USD 800 ($AUD 1179) an hour, according to former members.
And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Scientology controversy.
Why Are There So Many Celebrity Scientologists?
Since its founding, Scientology has made a huge push to recruit actors, politicians, and other celebrities.
Hugh B. Urban, religious studies professor at Ohio State University, explained why he believed so many celebrities are attracted to Scientology: “It's very individualistic. It celebrates your individual identity as ultimately divine. It claims to give you ultimate power over your own mind, self, destiny, so I think it fits well with an actor personality...Scientology is a religion that says it's OK to be wealthy, it's ok to famous, in fact, that's a sign of your spiritual development. So it kind of is a spiritual validation for that kind of lifestyle.”
7 Of The Biggest Celebrity Scientologists
As one of the most famous celebrity Scientologists, action star Tom Cruise has been very outspoken about his support of the Church. He famously appeared in a video in which he claimed Scientology can help cure drug addiction and was bizarrely quoted as saying:
“Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident it's not like anyone else. As you drive past you know you have to do something about it because you know you're the only one who can help.”
He’s even lobbied in Europe for the Church to be officially recognised as a religion, and in 2004 he became the sole recipient of the Scientology Freedom Medal of Valor – an award created just for him.
Tom entered Scientology through his first wife, Mimi Rogers, whose father had been involved with the Church since its early days in the 1950s; Tom actually credits Scientology for helping him overcome his dyslexia. Tom tried to encourage the practice of Scientology in his later wives, Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes, but ultimately they ended up distancing themselves from both Tom and the church.
People were a bit confused when Elizabeth Moss was cast in The Handmaid’s Tale. The TV series is about religious oppression – so you can see how the show’s depiction of fictional theocracy might not be flattering to the Church of Scientology.
Elizabeth has consistently responded to her fans and critics with a denial of their misconceptions about Scientology, saying “The Handmaid’s Tale lines up so perfectly parallel with my own beliefs in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the things that this country was actually built on.”
She also underlined her broad tolerance for other beliefs and the general concept of spirituality saying “Religious freedom and tolerance and understanding the truth and equal rights for every race, religion, and creed are extremely important to me.”
JAG star Catherine Bell has been a pretty outspoken supporter of Scientology, even having appeared in a music video by the Church. In a 2002 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, she credited Scientology for helping her improve her confidence as an actress and finding meaning in her acting. In a 2007 interview with a Scientology magazine called Source, Catherine also said, “I actually booked JAG the day after my Introductory Auditing where I handled my fears in auditioning as an actor.”
Orange is the New Black actress Laura Prepon has been a Scientologist since 1999. According to her, the show’s LGBT narratives don’t contradict with Scientology’s tenets. “I’ve been a Scientologist since 1999 and I’ve never come across any piece of info that’s negative or derogatory towards the LGBT community,” she said in an interview with Fusion.
In an interview with Scientology entertainment magazine Celebrity, Laura said various positive things about the Church, such as how auditing relaxes her, how she is now able to “[have] no irrational counter-emotion or reaction and just [go] into solution mode” whenever she is faced with a crisis.
“I will forever be grateful to Scientology for supporting me for two years solid, I mean Monday through Sunday. They didn't take a day off, working through different angles of the techniques to get through grief and loss, and to make me feel that finally I could get through a day,” he said in a 2014 interview with BBC.
From Star Trek II to Cheers, Kirstie Alley’s career has been pretty successful. However, her life wasn’t always that way – she struggled with cocaine addiction in the 1970s, before overcoming it thanks to the Scientology rehab program, Narconon. She joined the Church in 1979 after her addiction ended and has been a staunch proponent since.
Her promotion of the Church has been met with some controversy. Just recently on August 13, she made a tweet linking the latest batch of mass shootings in the United States to psychiatric drugs. It’s no secret that Scientology has a dim view of modern psychiatry, and Kirstie’s followers believe that her stance was influenced by the group.
Kate Ceberano has been a Scientologist since birth, and comes from a large Scientology family. She had this to say of her faith: “I’m proud to have parents and grandparents who are Scientologists. I love being an individual and expressing myself and Scientology has enabled me to do that.”
In 2018, she even sent her child to a Scientology boarding school with a curriculum based on the Church’s Study Technology method.