Dynamics of Science and Religion in American History

Thursday, April 21, 2016
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm, Young Research Library - Library Presentation Room 11348

Donald A. Westbrook, Lecturer

See below for additional information.


Free and open to the public. RSVP.


Study of Religion
(310) 206-8799

Additional Information

Scientology as “Spiritual Technology”: Conclusions from Ethnographic Research in the United States

The Church of Scientology is one of the most recognizable American-born new religious movements (NRMs) but perhaps the least understood. Most material on Scientology privileges the perspectives of critical former members, and indeed most of the secondary literature comes in the form of exposés written either by former members or investigative journalists.

While there certainly is merit to the academic study of exit narratives, disaffiliation, disaffection, and splinter groups, the question remains: what do practicing Scientologists themselves have to say about Scientology? When the Church of Scientology is viewed from the standpoint of its own members, how does that perspective inform and modify existing literature on the topic, and what broader methodological issues in religious studies are broached in the process?

This presentation attempts to answer these questions by offering a number of conclusions about the nature and function of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics and Scientology in the lives of practicing Scientologists, based on the presenter’s ethnographic research carried out with support from the Church of Scientology.

These conclusions elucidate Scientology’s liminial and paradoxical status as both “religious” and “scientific.” Or as a recent public relations video from the church put the point, Scientology is a “spiritual technology.”

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