Church of Scientology

Church of Scientology
Online communities

Church of Scientology

In 1953, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology, which he based upon his counseling technique ‘Dianetics’. Followers of this religion believe that human beings are eternal entities but that they have forgotten the origin of life. Which is that all human beings descend from the thetan who lives on in human beings as the human soul (Scientology Nederland, n.d.).

This religion exists at the online-offline nexus. This entails that people who are interested in this religion are able to search for information and knowledge on the beliefs online and are also able to practice certain rituals online, but they can also gather with other believers in the offline world. For example, while the website of the Church of Scientology (for which there are multiple national and regional versions) gives those who are interested a chance to take an online personality test, in order to review the results one must meet with a church representative offline.

Due to the controversial practices of Scientology, there have been many people, including governments and police forces, who deem the church a hoax, and a disgrace to authentic religions. However, if we follow the conceptualizations of various scholars on the definition of religion, there are some arguments on the basis of which it can be argued that it is a real religion.

The online and offline practices of the Church of Scientology are controlled by a central organization which is divided into several sub-organizations (e.g. Sea Org, RPF, RTC, etc.). According to Davidsen (2013), this is an essential quality of organized religion. Moreover, the Church of Scientology helps people from all over the world to connect with each other and to build sociality through the use of the Internet. According to Weiss and Bungert (2019), this is a central characteristic of civic religion. Finally, to be considered a real religion, a belief system must address something that lays beyond our empirical world (transcendence) and this is exactly what the concept of thetan entails (M. Hoondert, personal communication, April 29, 2021).

The Church of Scientology can, then, be seen as a real religion that was founded in the offline world, but has enlarged its influence on the community through online practices. It is, thus, a perfect example of how religions have been influenced by and are of influence on online belief practices.




Davidsen, M.A. (2013). Fiction-based religion: Conceptualising a new category against history-based religion and fandom. In Culture and Religion 14(4), 378-395.

Scientology Nederland. (n.d.). Wat is Scientology? In Scientology Nederland

Weiss, J., & Bungert, H. (2019). The Relevance of the Concept of Civil Religion from a (West) German Perspective. In Religions 10(6), 1-14.