Scientology and Money: A Religious Pyramid Scheme?

The best things in life you just can’t buy, right? Wrong! It turns out you can buy your ticket to complete mind control and endless lives in a perfect universe. At least when you’re a member of Scientology, that is. The Church of Scientology has spent decades perfecting their formula to get the most money out of its devoted followers while fixing a neat tax exemption in the USA. The Pyramid Scheme Religion, or how to gain mind control with just a fracture of a million dollars (if you’re lucky).

Church of Scientology: A Religious Pyramid Scheme

A Pyramid Scheme is an (unlawful) business practice that works through word of mouth and acquisition of members/sales people to move their products. It’s similar to the legal Multi-Level Marketing practices, but it doesn’t actually focus on making money by selling products outside the company, but to push the products among their own ranks and just have as many people join their organization to spend their money. It is pretty much exploitation of their own base of employees/members which they seek to expand aggressively. Some may say Scientology does not fit the bill of a Pyramid Scheme, and they’re right. Unlike a Pyramid Scheme, no member of Scientology gets money, they all get exploited behind the notion of whacky principles, false pride, loyalty, and pure brainwashing.

Can You Put a Price on Religion?

You see, Scientology sells just that, the promise of freeing the mind of negative influences and to become “clear”. Once becoming a member of the Church of Scientology, one is confronted with “The Bridge to Total Freedom”, a series of courses laid out by L. Ron Hubbard to reach the top and be able to perform powerful things with your mind. Like flying, healing or moving objects with your thoughts. Each of these courses can cost you several hundred dollars.

But that’s just what’s needed to progress higher up in the ranks to repair your own mind for the many lives to come. There are more regular contributions to make. Regular Auditing sessions to talk about your deepest traumas and fears, probably the only part of Scientology that does have a somewhat therapeutical value, priced higher than most psychologists for less of an effect. These Auditing sessions cost about $800 per hour, and they are not a rare occasion. Then add expected donations (because you can never give enough for what sucks you dry) and extracurricular activities, and you are in a deep financial hole. But who would fall for that?

Keeping Them At It

The church doesn’t miss a beat to financially exploits its members by forcing them to buy slightly enhanced editions of previously bought books or to buy additional books to give away or donate to a cause.

Like many other sects (let’s get this out of the way, Scientology is not a religion, it is indeed a sect) Scientology has a way of indoctrinating its members and to keep them close. Being it outlandish promises of newfound abilities like flying or moving objects with the mind, the Disconnection of friends and family that are not part of Scientology, and the Fair Game practice that harasses any dropouts heavily.

It’s an intricate web of lies, blackmail, and neverending bills that makes Scientology a rich and flourishing business at the expense of everyone in it.

Scientology and the Fight for Tax Cuts

It’s not a secret that founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics, the book that eventually led to Scientology, and then founded its religion on the notion of making a substantial earning. He’s been funneling funds out of the company until his death in the 80s and fought very hard to keep every single penny of it with tax exemptions granted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the USA by fighting for Scientology’s status as a church. The IRS, in turn, actually tried to enforce taxes from the organization, one billion USD in fact, which far exceeded the money the Church of Scientology owned at the time, which threatened its very existence.

Well, if you find ways and means to financially gut your own followers, you find similar approaches to break even one of the most fierce tax agencies around the world. Turns out Scientology (according to the HBO DOcumentary “Going Clear”) encouraged its members to start individual lawsuits against the IRS which eventually got so large, that the Agency literally gave up the fight in 1993 and granted Scientology tax exemption.

The current leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, actually celebrated the decision with fireworks and spun it in a way, that donations can now fully contribute to achieving Scientology’s mission, aptly titled “The War is Over!”.

Scientology is worth over a billion USD, investing its vast wealth into outreach programmes to recruit new members worldwide, as it would ease the process of being fully recognized as a religion in more countries. What that does though, is further the financial, physical, and psychological pain of more people as it gains new members around the globe.

About Andreas Salmen

Born and raised in Germany, learned a job in IT and Business and ultimately decided that this wasn't exactly where my life was going to end. Left everything behind to become a writing backpacker instead. The world's crumbling away anyway so why not write about it and get a few good Instagram pics on the way, am I right?

All Articles