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Editor: James R. Lewis
The Handbook of Scientology brings together a collection of fresh studies of the most persistently controversial of all contemporary New Religions. In recent years, increasing scholarly attention has been directed at the Church of Scientology, resulting in a small tsunami of new scholarship. We have finally reached a point in time where a book on Scientology need not restrict itself to basics. Thus, for example, the historical chapters in the present volume are not really aimed at providing elementary facts on Scientology’s background, but, rather, focus on understanding how the Church of Scientology developed over the years. In short, the Handbook of Scientology will provide a wealth of new information on a topic that one might otherwise have thought exhausted.

Author: James R. Lewis

Abstract

For the most part, religiously-motivated actors become interested in archaeological findings when these findings appear to support their religious assumptions, though a small but notable minority seek clues to the ideologies and practices of their presumptive religious ancestors in the archaeological record. This involvement in archaeology can vary tremendously in depth, from trained LDS archaeologists seeking support for The Book of Mormon at Mesoamerican excavation sites, to casual references about Atlantis by ordinary participants in New Age spiritual groups. In many cases, religious appeals to the authority of archaeology to support a specific issue become inextricably bound up with appeals to the authority of tradition, in part because archaeology is brought to bear on past events that are already a part of a given tradition’s sacred narratives.

In: Numen
Author: James R. Lewis

Initially formulated in the 1970s when large numbers of former counterculturists were joining alternative religions, the youth-crisis model of conversion posited that new recruits were predominantly young people whose involvement could be explained as a function of their youth (e.g., as an adolescent developmental crisis). The present study presents statistics on recruits to seven different contemporary new religions that fundamentally challenge this item of conventional wisdom. Six out of seven data sets also embody a striking pattern of gradually increasing age across time for new converts. In addition to uncovering the growing age-at-recruitment pattern — which I designate the E-correlation — I argue that: (1) With the exception of efforts to understand true youth movements such as Internet Satanism, attempts to interpret conversions to contemporary emergent religions as being a function of the imputed youthfulness of recruits is no longer in touch with the reality on the ground. (2) The persistence of the characterization of converts as youthful reflects a failure to build a strong empirical base for such generalizations. Instead, we have relied upon quantitative work carried out over a quarter of a century ago for much of what passes as conventional wisdom in the study of recruitment to alternative religions.

In: Numen
Author: James R. Lewis

The present piece surveys different discussions of “religion” — especially in the legal realm — which have had a bearing on Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard adopted the religion label for practical reasons; in his mind, Scientology was a science, not a religion. However, it is clear that Scientology actually is a religion — at least in the sense of functioning as a religion in the lives of participants — parading as science; instead of, as Hubbard thought, a science parading as religion. This becomes particularly clear upon examination of individuals participating in the so-called “Free Zone” (ex-CoS members who continue to identify as Scientologists), for whom Scientology remains their primary religious identity.

In: Numen
Author: James R. Lewis

When applying the category of “mythology” to a contemporary new religious group like the Church of Scientology (CoS), one has to choose from among several different categories of narratives which could be regarded as mythological. If we set aside the body of tales surrounding L. Ron Hubbard, CoS’s founder (which could arguably be classified as mythology), one of Scientology’s key stories is the so-called Xenu narrative (also referred to as the ot-iii teachings). Although this story is only revealed after one has tread the “Bridge” for some time, it is arguably a foundational myth, which sets the Scientology enterprise into a cosmological framework. While the present article will focus on the Xenu story, it also discusses Hubbard’s self-mythologizing, including his “discovery” of Incident Two (the Xenu narrative) as a hero myth.

In: Numen
In: Numen
In: Handbook of Religion and the Authority of Science
In: Handbook of Contemporary Paganism
In: Handbook of New Age