J. Gordon Melton: The Church of Scientology (Studies in Contemporary Religions)

  • Marco Frenschkowsky University of Mainz


J. Gordon Melton is a well-known expert on the smaller religious denominations and groups in the USA. His reference works (such as the famous ”Encyclopedia of American Religions”) form a good starting point for any kind of research into religious pluralism, and are useful tools even in Germany for looking into the background of groups which are active also in the USA. (For an overview of some of his more recent publications with extensive critical commentary see my study ”Lebende Religion dokumentieren: ein lexikographisches Gespräch mit J. Gordon Melton”, Theologische Literaturzeitung 125, 2000, pp. 695-712). Now Melton has written a short introduction to the Church of Scientology which is available as a separate booklet. As his major reference books are quite expensive, this smaller item forming part of a new series of similar introductions is welcome indeed. Melton´s approach is strictly non-apologetic and non-polemical, endeavouring to give a portrait of Scientology that active Scientologists would not have to consider unfair and biased. He has chapters on the birth of Scientology as a new religion, on Dianetics and Scientology as ”religious technologies”, on the organization of the Church of Scientology, and on the much-discussed question ”But is it a religion?”. 64 pages of text, some notes, some illustrations (mostly of buildings and not very useful) and a perhaps unduly select bibliography taken together give a first overview of what Scientology is about. To be read in less than two hours or so, the book is not aimed at the professional scholar of religion but at interested general readers without much prior former knowledge of the subject.