The Instigator
Pro (for)
5 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Resolved: Scientology is a proper religion based on conventional definition of what a religion is.

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/28/2016 Category: Religion
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 537 times Debate No: 98495
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (1)




R1: Acceptance
R2: Argument
R3: Rebuttal
R4: Closing statement(limited new argument allowed)

I will be taking the position that Scientology under modern definitions fits the criteria of a religion. This is NOT about whether or not you believe that Scientology is good or bad, or that the Church of Scientology has or has not done bad things. Only whether or not it meets the standard and governmental definitions of a religion.


I think that Scientology is in no way a proper religion. This round is just introduction, and as such I will provide a counter-interpretation with definitions so that the debate is more focused.
My definition of a Religion- a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.
Proper - marked by suitability, rightness, or appropriateness

This sets up the question of whether or not Scientology (and not independent Scientology, that is a different institution) is appropriately a personal set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices. If I prove that it is not one of these I win. If the Pro successfully defends all aspects of the resolution then he wins.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Con for accepting this debate. Of importance to note is I specifically am referring to Scientology generally as a religion and not the specific organizations that make up the religion.(i.e. Church of Scientology, Ron's Org(and independent group) etc..) I can still defend the Church of Scientology in the context of governmental and common definitions of religion and will do that here.

re"li"gion (Defintion - Google Dictionary)
1) The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

2) A particular system of faith or worship

3) A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

It should be noted that not all of these elements are required to fit the definition of religion but I will address how each relate to Scientology.

C1: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods

Scientologists are theists, they believe in a God. The creed of the Church of Scientology references the laws of God and many rites and practices in Scientology recognize God.(1) Scientology further recognizes superhuman or supernatural controlling powers as evidenced by materials contained throughout Scientology including spiritual level Operating Theatan III "The Wall of Fire" or as many would say "The Xenu Story" (2) I make no comments about the merits of the theology of Scientology but only point to it as evidence that it meets this criteria for being a religion.

C2: A Particular System of Worship

Scientology clear has a system of worships and search for spiritual enlightenment and/or salvation. L. Ron Hubbard the founder of Scientology laid out what is called the "Bridge to Total Freedom" (1) which lays out exacting steps and levels a Scientologist must take toward enlightenment or salvation. Scientology practices such as courses, auditing, and Sunday services also point to a organized particular system of worship of their spiritual ideas.

C3: A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

Individual Scientologists be they practicing in the Church of Scientology organization or in the church organization can be observed placing significant importance on their religious activities. This manifests especially in the the amount of time they dedicate to it.

C4: The Church of Scientology meets the criteria the US Internal Revenue Service generally uses along with court decisions to determine what is a church.

a) Distinct legal existence

The Church of Scientology is goverened by generally by legally recognized non profit corporations known as the Religious Technology Center inc and the Church of Scientology International inc(CSI) along with other legally recognized entities such as the Church of Spiritual Technology(CST) (3)

b) Recognized creed and form of worship

The church has a creed that it makes available publically as well as in gneral form or worship and operation (1)

c) Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government

As I stated before the church has an ecclesiastical government managed by RTC, CSI, CST, and what they call a watchdog committee that coordinates activities among those organizations. Under those entities there are also local and regional church governing bodies.

d) Formal code of doctrine and discipline

Scientology has a formal doctrine that is codified in other 4000 written works by Mr. Hubbard. There are also policy pronouncements of church rules and discipline.

e) Distinct religious history

Scientology has a distinct written history traced back to the early 1950s (1)

f) Membership not associated with any other church or denomination

Scientology is not directly affiliated with other religons, churches, or denominations.

g) Organization of ordained ministers

Scientology has a Chaplin organization that provides services in every organization, auditors would also be considers ministers (1)

h) Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study

Auditors must complete a course of study prescribed on the "training" side of the "Bridge to total freedom" in order to audit others.

i) Literature of its own

Scientology consists of hundreds of book an lectures by Mr. Hubbard.

j) Established places of worship

The Church of Scientology and independent organizations have places where they meet and practice that a widely known and most of which are open to the public.

k) Regular congregations

The Church of Scientology has regular events and meetings of the members

l) Regular religious services

Churches of Scientology and independent organizations are available and/or open for regular services including sunday meetings, scheduled auditing, and course study.

m) Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young

Sunday school is not part of Scientology practice but local organzations do have services for young people.

n) Schools for the preparation of its members

The Church of Scientology though its charities supports Delphi Schools Inc which operates Delphi Academy schools in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Campbell, California, San Diego, Santa Monica, California, as well as Milton, Massachusetts, Lombard, Illinois, and Clearwater, Florida. These are private schools open to the public and Scientologists and use L. Ron Hubbard's developed teaching methods to educate children. (4)

As you can see, regardless of what you think of the theology or operations of the Church of Scientology and other organizations of Scientology or your general personal opinion, the religion and its tenets qualify under both a general and governmental standard of what constitutes a religion.

I look forward to Con's arguments.




Ok, let's start off by clearing something up. The Pro stated " Of importance to note is I specifically am referring to Scientology generally as a religion and not the specific organizations that make up the religion.(i.e. Church of Scientology, Ron's Org(and independent group) etc..) I can still defend the Church of Scientology in the context of governmental and common definitions of religion and will do that here."

Now for the big question, are we or are we not talking about Independent Scientology or the official church of Scientology. The Pro address the issue by basically saying, I am not talking about the official church but then says he will defend the official churches status as a religion. I apologize if I come off as rude but I would like your side of the debate to be cleared up because your points have different meanings if we are talking about Independent Scientology or the official church of Scientology.

Secondly, remember that we are debating whether Scientology is a proper religion (emphasis on proper). A cult is not a proper religion as a proper, or suitable, religion keeps its members by positive motivation in this life, while a cult uses negative motivation in this life to keep members.
Now for the debate,

C1 The Official Church is a Cult, Not a Church
Independent Scientology is more akin to a motivational way of thinking, almost like a way to help out your life through a series of philosophies. It is a grass-roots movement created because many Scientologists believe that the official church has lost its "religion" status because of the actions of David Miscavige, the new de-facto dictator of the organisation have shifted to a religious cult, not a religion[1]. They cite 31 reasons why the official church is corrupt. If you do not want to click on the link, I will quickly explain the most important ones. David Miscavige has instituted Reverse (Black) Dianetics, created the IAS (The IAS is a slush fund that is filled by David extorting the members of the church by saying that a great calamity will occur if they don't pay up) using confidential confessionals to shame dissenting members, and using the "disconnection system" to hold members from leaving the cult on threat of their loved ones never acknowledging them again.

A cult keeps it's members by fear or hate and official Scientology does the same. Therefore official Scientology is not a proper religion.

C2- The Unofficial church.
First off, If a religion is not organised, then it is not suitable and therefore can never be a proper religion.
Secondly, unorganized Scientology cannot have many of the characteristic that a proper religion has. For example, a set doctrine and interpretation of said doctrine, organised meetings, proper confessionals, case pay, or the proper teachers to teach the doctrine. Each one of these issues individual would destroy Scientologist's chance to be considered a part of a proper religion. This is why independent Scientology is more like a motivational presentation rather then a proper religion.

Looking forward to rebuttals next round!
Debate Round No. 2


We are talking about both, as to say we are talking about Scientology generally. In the previous round it is made clear how both forms fit the definition of a religion. The debate is framed as to whether or not Scientology fits the definition of a religion. You refer to the word "proper" as if it has some addition definition other than the one given by dictionaries. Note the definition of proper below.

Please note that any capitalized words are for emphasis and not intended to be rude.


1. truly what something is said or regarded to be; genuine.

2. of the required type; suitable or appropriate.
(Google Dictionary)
Using either #1 or #2 above is an accepted use of the word and my use of the word proper refers to #2.

R1: The Official Church is a Cult, Not a Church

It should be of note that the the debate is on Scientology being a religion and not a church but I did open the door in using the IRS criteria which uses the word "church" rather than religion. I believe I adequately defended how the official church fits those criteria and await a response by Con to those specific claims.

We should give a definition for cult. From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of cult
1: formal religious veneration : worship
2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
5a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad
b : the object of such devotion
c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

The use of the word cult under many circumstance in which people criticize a particular sect(Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses etc..) tends to circle around #3 and maybe #4 above. However, all definitions above can be used really to describe most any religious faith or denomination thus the word loses any real meaning. The cry of "Cult!" is often used by critics of particular religions to demean a religion or belief system that is out of the mainstream.

It is important to note that such accusations which may or may not be true such as "David Miscavige beats his staff!" cannot be used in the true sense of the definition above to refer to the Church of Scientology as a cult.

Con states "A cult keeps it's members by fear or hate and official Scientology does the same. Therefore official Scientology is not a proper religion." However, we see again in the above definition of cult that does not appear.

Furthermore, using the definition above the use of the word cult can be descriptive of groups or faiths that ALSO fit the formal definition of a religion which is the question of this debate. A group can be a properly defined religion AND be unorthodox and/or make claims about dogma curing disease. Thus making it a religion AND a cult rather than a religion OR a cult. Thus, the argument that the Church of Scientology official organization is a cult and not a religion is not a proper argument. The terms cult and religion are not mutually exclusive.

R2: "The Unofficial Church"

Independent Scientology also sometimes referred to a "free-zone Scientology" does have organizations structures and polity to it as well as having many people who are unorganized. Ron's Org Committee is one such organization, there is also The International Association of Professional Independent Scientologists, FreeZone Earth, and many others. The nature of Scientology is such that it necessitates people gathering together for study, training, and auditing. On that point Con is correct and as such independent Scientology organizations have been formed many of which seek to bleed members out of the official church because of the issues that the official church seems to have.

I would ask pro to refute how Scientology independent or via the official do not meet either the dictionary definition for religion and/or the IRS definition of a church. I feel that I have made the sufficient case that Scientology generally regardless of feelings on its theology or controversy surround the church organization qualifies as a religion and church under those conventional definitions.

I thank my opponent and look forward to the next round.



Overview arguments.
1. I argue that the resolution is just calling for me to disprove the official church of Scientology.
2. The resolution is calling for the pro to prove that Scientology is a suitable (proper) religion. We both agree on this per our definitions.

Now to refute my opponents case.

His C1 is true, they believe in a deity, but it doesn't prove that Scientology is a proper religion.

His C2 is only true for the official church, the unorganized side of the religion cannot fulfill the requirements he out lines with this contention. This contentions solidifies my 1st overview argument. It also show, by his own criterion that Independent Scientology is not a proper religion.

His C3 has the same refutation as his C1.

His C4 is just wrong, Scientology hast lost it's tax exempt status this year.

Even the United States Supreme Court found that Scientology is a "criminal operation with a sole purpose of making money"(The IRS Criminal Investigation Division)[1].

Now to defend my case,

C1- The Official Church is not a Church
In this point I am arguing that because the Official Church is a particular type of cult, that is a criminal cult.
As you stated many proper religions have been considered a cult, but no criminal cults have been considered a proper religion. A suitable religion obeys they law and is given take exempt status. The official church is not suitable because it violated these principles.

C2 - When a religion is split, it is no longer one entity. Just like how Protestants and Catholics split. You cannot be referring to them as the same, because they are different. We don't say "is the Church of Christianity a proper religion?" That would be preposterous because Christianity is split. When this debate is no longer about the official church of Scientology it ceases to be a debate. You would have had to define the specific entities in your resolution if you wanted the debate to be about that.

In conclusion, Scientology is not a proper religion because the official church is a criminal cult and the Independent forms are too young to receive tax exempt status. This directly violates the proper, part of the resolution. On this alone the negative case rests, Scientology violates the proposed resolution. It is not a suitable Religion.

[1] The mother of all evidence-
(If you read any article as part of the con side, read this one).

Looking forward to the Pro arguments and final statements.
Debate Round No. 3


Thank you to Con for their reply. In this debate, I have shown based on common definitions that Scientology qualifies as a religion.

Con argues that the Church of Scientology is a "criminal cult" but provides no definition for that term. Con at no point provided evidence of criminal activity within the Church of Scientology. Although allegations of crimes committed by individuals in the organization may exist in the public domain Con did not bring those evidences into this debate and thus should not be considered. Con argues that a suitable religion obeys the law and is given tax exempt status, yet Con doesn't provide evidence for this claim. Also in the definitions of religion or church provided in this debate none specifically say anything about obedience to law.

Con claims that The Church of Scientology lost its tax exempt status this year. That claim is false. There were erroneous articles circling the internet last year from satire and entertainment websites claiming this and they are false. Con sources which is a known fake news site.

The church is still tax exempt

To conclude, I had the burden of proof to show that Scientology meets the proper conventional definitions of a religion and have done so. I have refuted Con's claim successfully. Con provided no evidence of their claims of a "criminal cult" which is not related to the topic and sourced satire news to claim that the church is no longer tax exempt.

I have also shown in my proofs that independent Scientology is organized and does meet the minimal definition for a religion under the common dictionary definition. My meeting of my burden of proof means points should be awarded to me. Thank you for you attention and thank you again to my opponent.


Let's go over main points.

First off, the pro tries to shove my entire argument under the rug by says that I did not provide a definition of criminal cult.
A criminal cult is obvious, just use the definition my opponent brought up of a cult, and add the words "broke the law."
Easy and simple. Trying to discredit an entire case on something that small, is grasping at straws.
Also, he said I had no evidence, but go back to my round 2 speech evidence, which he dropped, which shows the criminal cult actions.

Addressing the bad evidence argument. (Theory Incoming)
Debate is a way to find the truth, and as such I feel I should address this. He never addresses the argument that scientolgy is a criminal cult, and just takes one of my two sources as says that it is bad. One source was wrong, and this is what my opponents argues as a Pro voting issue. That would take away form the education of this debate. In doing this he never addresses the principle behind it, which allows for the Pro not to have to prove his side, which is always wrong in debate. He also dropped the reasoning from my C1, which makes this point invalid. I have proven through my evidence in round 2 of this same thing. In conclution, He only attacked one of two sources, so the other source stands dropped.

As my opponent brought up three new sources in his last speech, I feel as if it is alright for me to bring up one piece of evidence (not a new argument) as well.

Scientology is a Criminal Cult
"Under the supervision of Hubbard's third wife, Mary Sue, Scientologists reportedly infiltrated the Department of Justice and the IRS to uncover information on Hubbard. In Watergate"like fashion, they broke into offices at night and copied mountains of documents. At one point, an electronic bugging device was hidden inside an IRS conference room the day before a meeting about Scientology. Critics say those actions fell under a church doctrine that Hubbard had called the Fair Game policy. Hubbard wrote that church enemies may "be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. [They] may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." The apparent conspiracy was uncovered in 1977, and Mrs. Hubbard and ten others were eventually sentenced to prison."

This is irrefutable evidence of criminal action being taken in the name of Scientology with no repercussions set out by the official church. If my opponent finds flaw with this piece of evidence, he can comment about it.

As Scientology is a criminal cult, and used criminal means to get its tax exempt tax status.

That violates the suitable/proper part of the resolution, and as such is the main neg voting issue. By definition I have show that a suitable religion cannot be criminal. At the point where Scientology endorses or engages in criminal activity to meet it's ends, it violates the proposed criterion set forth by both sides of the debate, the suitable one.

Lastly, disregard my opponents point about Independent Scientology because he never 1, addresses my round 3 arguments at all, or 2, show how Independent Scientology meets the criterion he sets himself, or 3, addresses how Independent Scientology is Scientology. He would have had to make that distinction in his resolution if he wanted the debate to be about that.

In conclusion, the con has proven, with evidence, how the official church is a criminal cult and or engaged in criminal activity, and as such cannot be a proper religion. Also, Independent Scientology has been a side line issue for today's debate. I have show 3 reason why Independent Scientology is either not a proper religion or not what the resolution is advocating for.

I thank the Pro for such a good debate and a great topic.
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by FollowerofChrist1955 1 year ago
You should attend this debate:
Atheism- A lost reality! A hopeless, helpless cause!
Posted by dsjpk5 1 year ago
Excellent vote as usual by Ragnar. Good to see you're back!
Posted by tommylibertarian1 1 year ago
Part of the trouble with this was we didn't really have agreement on definitions which always will lead to some hang ups and misunderstandings.
Posted by Ragnar 1 year ago
---RFD (2 of 2)---
Pro managed to prove the church of scientology has tax exempt status, which con hinged a good deal of his case on their lack of said status proves they're not a proper religion but rather a criminal organization.

Con's attempted Final Round Blitzkrieg may have proven that members of the group are criminals, but not that the general membership are. When trying to prove not a "proper religion" but rather a 'criminal cult,' you need to support it, perhaps a link in R2 showing some abuses from high up in the group? That would have strengthened the assertions there into some real arguments.

A note on sources: Pro's sources in the final round were all directly tied to refuting and flipping a source, it's kind of grasping at straws to pull more sources denying there was anything wrong with the first. ... Not to mention, conceding the debate with the new source that cannot be responded to; from it's conclusion "Scientology is a controversial new religion. I have sought to show in this chapter that according to court-sanctioned guidelines and IRS criteria in the United States, Scientology is a religion, if not according to substantive definitions used by the American courts, at least by functional definitions. Scientology provides its adherents with purpose and the ultimate meaning of life, which is the essence of religion."
Posted by Ragnar 1 year ago
---RFD (1 of 1)---
This debate pretty well shows why definitions in R1 are important ( On definitions, the whole "proper" religion argument was missing the key piece of any example of a "proper" religion. It had some nice hitting points, but it still felt like semantics (I do get the fact that if they're entirely a cult they're not a "proper religion," even if normally a religion can be wholly a cult).

Early on pro outlined the basics of what religions are defined as, and how one certain group seems to meet that. Con disagreed...

Con almost had this, but he lost momentum with the point he made "'is the Church of Christianity a proper religion?'" This hurt his case by bringing attention back to the precise resolution, which he was strawmanning. A decent chunk of his case went out with that since the resolution was not precisely about the Church of Scientology, but rather Scientology in general (R1 acceptance included that this debate isn't if we like said "church" or not, or if they've done bad things).

The IRS point had some good weight, but con relied on people who read headlines instead of sources, since the article concluded with "UPDATE 4/28/16: The Church of Scientology has regained their tax-exempt status within the United States. Contact your local Representative to complain and have it removed." His own source contradicted his case, even before pro caught that it was a fabricated one. Con went into some really dark territory with claiming "He only attacked one of two sources, so the other source stands dropped." He had only provided one source, but attempted to persuade the audience he had more... WTF?
Posted by tommylibertarian1 1 year ago
Other source, From the IRS regarding churches
Posted by dsjpk5 1 year ago
What's the definition?
Posted by Frederik 1 year ago
After I saw the South Park episode on it I thought "Yup, just like all other religions" :P
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 1 year ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.