Stranger things: 4 facts about Scientology
As a diverse and populated city, Houston is home to many religions — from the mainstream to the downright weird.
It’s no surprise that the Church of Scientology, which became an official U.S. religion in 1993 by receiving tax-exempt status, set up an establishment on Fondren Road for curious Houstonians.
We reached out to the Houston mission with request for an interview or comment but have not heard back. In the meantime, here’s four things you probably didn’t know about Scientology.
It’s still a small religion
Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a sci-fi writer who holds the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of books written and published by one person.
In 1950, he published “Dianetics,” which describes the process of talking out feelings and experiences to achieve a status known as “clear.” Although discredited by psychologists and therapists, the book was popular with the general public, and Hubbard began charging people to become trained as “auditors,” or people who listen to another.
Those concepts and trainings expanded into the religion known as Scientology, which decades later has only roughly 25,000 members in the U.S., according to the American Religious Identification Survey. This is despite the church’s claims that it is experiencing “explosive growth” and claims to have 8 million members worldwide.
They believe we’re all Thetans
According to the Church of Scientology, each human body is controlled by an eternal being called a Thetan, which passes from body to body forever.
Once Hubbard’s book “Dianetics” grew popular, he expanded beyond “clear” and said people could achieve a higher level of themselves known as an “Operating Thetan.” The process, which involves paying for courses and auditing sessions, is called “The Bridge to Total Freedom.”
Former Scientologists say the auditing sessions feel therapeutic at first, but as you climb higher into the levels of the religion, you become susceptible to some of Scientology’s stranger and more rigid ideologies.
Scientologists believe in God, but they aren’t Christian
Despite numerous Christian parallels, such as a cross-like symbol, Sunday services, ministers and being a “church,” the Church of Scientology isn’t Christian.
They don’t follow the Bible or any other books except the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, which have been revised numerous times since the religion’s inception. Instead, spokespeople for the religion say their Supreme Being can be from any other religion.
Scientologists liken themselves to Buddhists: It’s not what you believe — it’s what you do that makes you a member.
Only high-level officials believe in Xenu, the alien who founded Earth
The Church of Scientology has never publicly acknowledged its origin story because it is supposed to be unlocked once reaching the third tier of Operating Thetan, or “OT 3.”
Tom Cruise, who has said he is the third highest-ranking Scientologist, reached this level a few years ago.
They believe that 75 million years ago, Xenu, the leader of a Galactic Confederacy of dozens of planets, including Earth, tricked billions of his alien citizens, then froze and detonated all the creatures. The souls of those murdered aliens, or Thetans, are said to inhabit all humans on Earth today.