Scientology: A Religion in South Africa

David Chidester

University of Cape Town

South Africa



 

     Through these religious and educational initiatives, the Church of Scientology has established its place among the religions of South Africa. In recent years, the church has been an active participant in the South African chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace. In drawing up a charter for the rights and responsibilities of religious organisations in South Africa, the WCRP has been supported by the church’s commitment to religious freedom. In a new South Africa, therefore, the Church of Scientology has assumed its position within the country’s rich fabric of religious diversity.

     As the philosopher William James held, every religion has a therapeutic intention. Every religion diagnoses the basic problem of the human condition, whether that problem is identified as sin, ignorance, suffering, alienation, or oppression, and proposes a cure. The Church of Scientology is a therapeutic religion that diagnoses the problem of the human condition and provides specific techniques of spiritual healing and an applied religious philosophy designed to cure that problem.

     Although Scientology is often described as a “new religious movement,” it is not actually new. In South Africa, as we have seen, Scientology has been present for forty years. In the early 1980s, some sociologists and historians of religion predicted the decline of Scientology. They argued that the church would find difficulty in surviving the death of its founder; that its religious “science” would become outdated by changing scientific fashions; and that its spiritual “therapy” would lose “market share” to an expanding competition.43 During the intervening years, however, these predictions of the demise of Scientology have not been confirmed. As a religion that is both old and new, the Church of Scientology has continued to advance religious aspirations that have gained adherents all over the world. the very least, the Church of Scientology merits continued recognition and attention as a religion in Sough Africa.

David Chidester

University of Cape Town

South Africa

Scientology: A Religion in South Africa

 



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