An Analysis and Comparison
Bryan Wilson, Ph.D.
VIII. Indicia of Religion Applied to Scientology
VII.I. The Elimination of Cultural Bias
There are various distinct difficulties in appraising new religious movements. One is that there are, in most societies, unspoken assumptions concerning religion that put a premium on antiquity and tradition. Religious usage and expression is frequently legitimized by specific reference to tradition. Innovation in matters of religion is not easily promoted or accepted. A second problem is the strong normative stance of orthodoxy (particularly in the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition) which proscribes deviations and which uses a heavily pejorative language to describe them ("sect", "cult", "nonconformity", "dissent", etc.). A third problem is alluded to in foregoing paragraphs, namely, that it is peculiarly difficult for those acculturated in one society and brought up in one religious tradition to understand the belief-system of others, to empathize with their religious aspirations, and to acknowledge the legitimacy of their means of expression. Religious ideas encapsulate certain cultural biases and blinker vision. But, in seeking to interpret a movement like Scientology, it is indispensable that these obstacles be recognized and transcended. This does not imply that to understand a set of religious ideas one must accept them as true, but a certain rapport must be established if the convictions of those of other faiths are to be given appropriate respect.