The Decline of Scientology

Gateshead ideal org

Gateshead (UK) ‘Ideal Org’ in 2011

There is a lot going on in this academic treatise.

Kent analyses the development of Scientology according to the ideas of the Sociologist Rodney Stark. Stark has constructed a theoretical model that tries to explain why new religions succeed or fail .

Kent concludes that, according to Stark’s model,  Scientology in Europe and the US is in decline, and the long-term prognosis is terminal.

Kent is not the only academic to have applied this theory to Scientology.  Religious scholar James R Lewis has also done so in a book simply entitled “Scientology” (which has been widely criticized as an apologist work).

In this paper, Kent also critiques Lewis’ conclusions, both on matters of fact and interpretation.

Kent’s examination of Scientology according to Stark’s model is very revealing. Scientology fails to satisfy almost all of Stark’s conditions for long-term survival, including the need to:

  • Establish a ‘homeland’ early in its development – that is, a society it could dominate
  • Establish continuity with conventional faiths
  • Maintain a medium tension with society – that is, be strict, but not too strict.
  • Maintain good governance and high levels of individual commitment
  • Attract and maintain a normal age and sex structure
  • Occur within a favourable social ecology
  • Maintain a dense network of internal relationships, without becoming isolated
  • Resist Secularization

Kent on the Decline of Scientology
Read Online | Download as .pdf

Stark’s Model of Religious Success/failure
Read Online | Download as .pdf


Detailed References

Kent on the Decline of Scientology

Kent’s argument originated as a lecture, and was published, in a revised form, as a chapter in a book sponsored by the German government.

2011 | Dialog in Konfrontation… und die Wahrheit wird ecuh frei machen | Chapter 11 Stephen A Kent| The Decline of Scientology
Revised version of lecture entitled: The European Versus American Debate over Scientology, and Why Scientology is Dying, delivered at the Conference on Cults, Dialog Center Berlin on July 8, 2009
Read Online | Download as .pdf

Stark’s Model of Religious Success/failure

Stark Rodney | Why Religious Movements Succeed or fail: A Revised General Model
Journal of Contemporary Religion, Volume 11 issue 2 may 1996  pgs 133 – 146
and In Cults and New Religious Movements 2003 pgs 259-70
Read Online | Download as .pdf

Further Reading

Stark also wrote a book “The Future of Religion” with another prominent sociologist, William Simms Bainbridge, which included a chapter about Scientology entitled “Scientology: to be Perfectly Clear“. Follow either of the  links in this paragraph to read that chapter.



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