Sociological Analysis of Scientology

Essay by slongneckerCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2007

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Sam Longnecker


Qualitative Research

"Scientology is the Answer to Life"

This ethnographic study of Scientologists seeks to determine motivations and typologies of those who join the Church of Scientology through discussion of the movement's history, belief, practice, and participant observation and interviews conducted at a Scientology Mission. Among other results, the study identifies three different types of motivation commonly found in recruits of the movement, and finds that Scientology really helps some people. Although the study concludes that perhaps salvation could be found elsewhere for a lower cost.


While most new religious movements that have emerged since the 1950's can be said to be attempts to escape from, or change, many of the undesirable aspects of the modern world, such as its impersonality, materialism, bureaucratization, or some other feature that is often held in a negative light. Unlike those movements, Scientology thoroughly embraces these aspects of the modern world.

Rather than rejecting the norms of society, Scientology provides its followers with knowledge and techniques that ensure success within modern society. Bryan Wilson deems such religious movements as manipulationist� in his sociological analysis of religious sects. He also describes these movements as often bureaucratic, rationalistic, materialistic, impersonal, and individualistic; all of which more or less accurately describe Scientology. In addition, Wilson notes that these movements often incorporate science, or rhetoric, into their beliefs and practices, which Scientology does. While earlier scholarly writings about the movement, such as Wilson's Religious Sects or Wallis' The Road to Total Freedom, classify the movement as a sect, Scientology has been considered an official religion by the United States government since 1993. An essay on Scientology by Wilson, published 20 years after his study of religious sects, concludes that Scientology holds many similarities to well-established religions, such as Catholicism, Judaism, and Buddhism, and is,