Dear Catholic Exchange:
Has anyone written articles on Scientology so that I may share the Gnostic or New Age errors regarding its teachings with my children?
Dear Mrs. Spradlin,
Peace in Christ!
For more information on the New Age movement in general, please see our Faith Fact The New Age Movement.
The following is an overview of the basic beliefs of Scientology. Founded by the late L. Ron Hubbard in the 1954, the Church of Scientology is by definition a cult, both regarding its religious beliefs and its behaviors and practices, especially those involving the coercion and isolation of members. Scientology is also anti-Christian in both its beliefs and its practices.
Scientology is based upon L. Ron Hubbard’s controversial book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. During his life, Hubbard led his “new religion” as its founder, prophet, and sole authority. Scientology basically promotes a form of Gnosticism, that salvation comes not through the saving actions of Jesus Christ but through the possession of special knowledge alone. Hubbard’s type of Gnosticism also includes reincarnation. Scientology claims that human beings are, in actuality, “thetans,” gods who have forgotten their god-like state. In the mind of each thetan are implanted “engrams,” which are negative thoughts from past lives that cause irrational or compulsive behavior. The explicit goal of Scientology is to “clear” these engrams from the body so that knowledge of this god-like state can be attained.
The Catholic Church has always taught that we are, by nature, God’s creation and not gods in our own right. The thetan idea has no basis in Scripture, Tradition, or other historical evidence. The First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex.19:3), prohibits idolatry, including self-worship. Man, as a creation of God, is forbidden to worship himself as another god. Christianity also excludes past lives and reincarnation, as St. Paul writes: “It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment…” (10:27, cf. Mt. 25:31-46).
Scientology, while maintaining a front of religious tolerance, disavows Christ and teaches its members that Christ is one of many engrams (negative thoughts) that must be dealt with in order to “clear our consciousness.” Former Scientologists have claimed that cult-like tactics such as isolation from loved ones were common practices. In its May 6, 1991, issue, Time magazine presented an extensive cover story on how Scientologists have exercised power over and extorted money from many of its members. Because the Church of Scientology remains closed to outsiders, all of the claims made against it cannot be proven “beyond a doubt.” Nevertheless, as noted, there is substantial evidence convicting the organization of moral wrongdoing. Programs promoted by Scientology which appear from the outside like some of the countless self-help, feel-good programs are misleading on the surface, gradually incorporating belief in reincarnation and planting doubt regarding the credibility of the Bible and Christianity in general.
You might want to access the Time article at your local public or university library. You may also access other helpful articles on Scientology by using your local library’s Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature.
And finally, (Catholic Answers) provided a good primer on gnosticism in the “Catholic Quick Questions” section of their This Rock magazine (June 1993 issue):
“What is gnosticism?
“Gnosticism, which gets its name from the Greek word gnosis (“knowledge”) was a religious movement beginning, possibly, before the time of Christ and extending into the first few centuries of the Christian era. Gnostics viewed themselves as ‘those who know.’ Their heretical teachings varied from group to group and can’t be pinned down with specificity, but common gnostic beliefs included these:
“Although Christ appeared to be human, his humanity was merely an illusion.
“Christ appeared to die, but did not really die. The Crucifixion was really a crucifiction.
“Christ was not truly God, the second Person of the Trinity. He was merely a created being who was the lowest of the aeons, a group of semi-divine beings between God and man. Each lower aeon was given power by a higher aeon. Christ, the aeon furthest removed from God, created the world because God was too pure to dirty himself with matter.
“Matter is evil, so one can do anything one wants with one’s body, including killing it to release the soul from its imprisonment.
“The God of the Old Testament is evil, as evidenced by the fact that he created the material universe. He is not the same as the God of the New Testament, who is the God of Love, as Jesus and his apostles taught (1 Jn. 4:8, 16).
“People are saved by acquiring secret knowledge (gnosis), which is imparted only to the initiated. Gnosticism was similar in some ways to the modern New Age movement. Like New Agers, gnostics used Christian terminology and symbols, but placed them in an alien religious context that gutted the essential teachings of Christ. It’s unclear when gnosticism began. Many Church Fathers thought gnosticism was founded by Simon Magus, the Samaritan sorcerer who converted to Christianity (Acts 8:9-24). Some contemporary scholars think gnosticism started a few centuries before Christianity and then invaded it from the outside through the conversion to Christianity of Jewish and Gentile gnostics. Other scholars believe gnosticism started as a Christian heresy.
“It seems clear, though, that the apostles themselves had to contend with a form of gnosticism (Col. 2:8, 18, 1 Jn. 4:1-3, Rev. 2:6, 15). Paul said, ‘Avoid profane babbling and the absurdities of so-called knowledge [gnosis]. By professing it some people have deviated from the faith’ (1 Tim. 6:20-21).”
United in the Faith,
Catholics United for the Faith
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Steubenville, OH 43952
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