In an exceedingly odd piece, Mark Oppenheimer explains that Scientology can't be a dangerous cult because "everything of which Scientology is accused is an exaggerated form of what more 'normal' religions do." I suppose this is technically true - requiring that people pay large sums for spiritual enlightenment is, in some sense, an exaggerated version of tithing; coercion and blackmail are, in some sense, an exaggerated form of the social pressure that can keep people in a religious fold - but it doesn't seem like much of an answer to the accusations, since if they're true it's precisely the "exaggerations" that are the problem.
In-depth journalistic investigations of Scientology are relatively rare, for reasons that doubtless have nothing to do with the Church's taste for harassment and libel lawsuits, but if you read this Time Magazine piece, from the early 1990s, and come away convinced that what makes people uncomfortable about Scientology is how similar it is to Christianity and Judaism ("We need to hate Scientology," Oppenheimer writes, "lest we hate ourselves") ... well, I've got some stress tests I'd like to interest you in.
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