A Brief History
On February 18, 1954 Los Angeles, California hosted the establishment of a new religion, a controversial organization some refer to as a cult.
Digging deeper, we find The Church of Scientology founded in December of 1953 and its first church opened two months later in Los Angeles.
Founder L. Ron Hubbard (more formally, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard) was a science-fiction writer and a self-help proponent of his system he called Dianetics. Hubbard’s best known science-fiction story is Battlefield Earth which was also made into a movie by the same name in 2000, starring church member John Travolta.
Prior to succeeding with Dianetics and science fiction, Hubbard served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. According to church documents, he served in combat all over the world, was severely wounded and highly decorated, having commanded a flotilla as “commodore.”
Navy records, however, indicate otherwise, with Hubbard only briefly going to Australia and spending the rest of the war in the continental United States. Having briefly commanded a small vessel twice, Hubbard was relieved of command both times, one of the times for accidentally leaving U.S. waters and shelling an occupied Mexican island for “practice!” If that is not cracked enough, Hubbard also claimed he once lowered the American flag on his ship and tied her up at a Japanese port and was not noticed by the Japanese while he walked around for a few days!
Scientology accounts claim Hubbard was a great explorer, war hero, and nuclear physicist among other things, and that he wrote the screenplay for the movie Stagecoach. Critics, however, believe these assertions to be false. There is enough literature out there for you to be able to decide for yourself. (We do not take sides.)
Scientology counts famous actors John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Gloria Swanson among its adherents and has gone as far as to initiate “Project Celebrity” to recruit famous people into the church.
Controversial from the start, Scientology has had and still has strident critics, with many countries refusing its boats and ships entry and refusing to recognize Scientology as a religion. France even indicted Hubbard for fraud. The United States officially recognizes Scientology as a “religion” for legal and tax purposes.
Hubbard died of a stroke in 1986, but Scientology lives on. There are numerous books about L. Ron Hubbard and about Scientology, and as we do not have the room here to discuss the beliefs, teachings and controversies, interested persons should consult the reading list.
Question for students (and subscribers): We welcome your opinions on Scientology in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Christian, Roger, dir. Battlefield Earth. Warner Home Video, 2001. DVD
Hill, Jenna Miscavige and Lisa Pulitzer. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2013.
Reitman, Janet. Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion. Mariner Books, 2013.
Wright, Lawrence. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Vintage, 2013.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of L. Ron Hubbard in Los Angeles, California, is in the public domain, because it was published in the United States between 1925 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed. Unless its author has been dead for the required period, it is copyrighted in the countries or areas that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works, such as Canada (50 pma), Mainland China (50 pma, not Hong Kong or Macao), Germany (70 pma), Mexico (100 pma), Switzerland (70 pma), and other countries with individual treaties. See Commons:Hirtle chart for further explanation.