Volume 5, Issue 2, 2014
Deconstructing the Scientology ‘Monster’ of Popular Imagination
Opinion surveys and media representations demonstrate the unpopularity of the Church of Scientology and its members, which is out of proportion to the group’s size or influence. Members have been persecuted and shunned in the United States and Europe. Monster theory, a form of critical theory that proposes that our monsters describe and circumscribe us, is used as a framework to evaluate the irrational side of this unpopularity. Monster theory identifies hybridity and boundary-crossing as hallmarks of monstrosity. While not arguing that members of these groups are in fact monsters, it is proposed that both hallmarks are found in New Religions Movements (NRMs) in general, but in Scientology to a greater degree. Scientology transgresses not only the borders of established religion, but also science, medicine, and psychiatry, foundation of the modern legal system and the secular state. While actual legal transgressions by the group’s leadership are acknowledged, it is argued that these are largely in the past and that residual antipathy has more to do with the group’s perceived “monstrosity” than with actual acts.