The 2011 UK Census provides the best possible estimate of the number of Scientologists in the UK, and a reasonable guide to the likely numbers in developed countries outside of the US.
It revealed that there were fewer than 2,418 Scientologists in England and Wales – an area which then had a population of 63.2 million people. This means that, in 2011, only one person in every 26,137 was a Scientologist.
That there are so few Scientologists in England (the home of Saint Hill Manor, where the founder of Scientology developed many of its doctrines and practices) is interesting n itself.
However, the full census data reveals more. By cross-referencing the results, the number of male and female Scientologists and their age profile can be seen
The law requires every household to complete a form, on pain of a £1,000 fine The response rate is typically ~95%
In 2001 people were asked about their religious beliefs for the first time (the law had to be changed not only to enable the question to be posed, but also to make the answer voluntary).
This was felt to be necessary after waves of immigration gave rise to an unprecedented increase in religious diversity. Tick boxes were provided for the largest religious groupings, and also a section enabling people to ‘write in’ their minority faith.
The Census forms (as you can see) are easy to complete. They are available on paper or online in a bewildering range of languages, and people who still find them difficult are personally supported by ‘enumerators’ who are employed for the duration. Completing a census form is typically regarded as an easy, but irritating chore.
The most recent census was in 2011, and the “What is your religion?” question was substantially the same as that used in 2001 (see image above). Only 8% of respondents declined to answer the religion question.
Census Data: Number of Scientologists in the UK
- Download and open the file in a spreadsheet program (e.g. Excel or Calc – which comes with the free software suite, Libre Office)
- Select the tab ‘KS210EW_Numbers’ at the bottom of the spreadsheet
- Scroll the date to the right until you find the column detailing “Scientology”.
If you are familiar with the regions of the UK, you can now scroll down to see how many Scientologists there were in any particular area in 2011.
In the city of Plymouth, where I live, there were a grand total of 26 (yes: only twenty-six) Scientologists. You can understand why this makes me sceptical about the prospect of the relatively massive Plymouth Ideal Org (details here and here) ever being opened.
Is it True That There are More Jedi Than Scientologists in the UK?
This campaign proved successful because appealed to the British sense of the ridiculous (it was a joke). It resulted in 176,632 supposed Jedi knights being recorded.
In the previous (2001) Census even the official statisticians got into the spirit of the thing. In an apparent tribute to master Yoda’s eccentric grammar, this spreadsheet was entitled Census 2001 Summary theme figures and rankings – 390,000 Jedi There Are (Excel sheet 40Kb)
A popular magazine for followers of the ‘Heavy Metal’ music genre also persuaded sufficient people (6,242) to state their religion as ‘Heavy Metal’. They, too, earned a category in the statistics. Both Jedi Knights and Heavy Metal Worshippers outnumber Scientologist.
Both of these spoof religions appear in the spreadsheet referred to above, but in the ‘No Religion’ category because they were plainly not sincerely held faiths in the traditional sense. Unfortunately for Scientologists there is equally convincing documentary evidence that their founder, L Ron Hubbard, taught that Scientology was an exact science, and only incorporated it as a religion for tax avoidance purposes. For example he wrote:
Scientology 1970 is being planned on a religious organization basis
throughout the world. This will not upset in any way the usual
activities of any organization. It is entirely a matter for accountants
Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter (HCOPL) 29 Oct. 1962, “Religion”
Should Scientology have been placed in the ‘No Religion’ category too, as it’s status as a religion was not taken seriously by its own founder?
Is This Figure Reliable?
L Ron Hubbard displayed a certain disregard for secular law, which he incorporated into the doctrine and practices of Scientology. However, Scientology has no influence over the Office of National Statistics and, even if it did, the Church might be expected to try to inflate membership figures.
The response rate for the 2011 census is reliably estimated at better than 94% and only 8% of those respondents declined to answer the religion question. Consequently, the figure of 2,418 Scientologists in England in Wales is as reliable as this kind of survey is ever likely to get.
There are only two reasons to believe that it might be slightly inflated:
- The census figures are based on the number of people who write “Scientology” into the text area of the form – so members of the Church of Scientology and Independent Scientologists were both counted as ‘Scientologists’.
- The law requires everyone who is the country on census day to submit a census form. The figure may therefore include all Scientologists who were visiting Saint Hill Manor to take ‘advanced’ courses.
Scientology: The Next Generation
The age profile of UK Scientologists is set down in this spreadsheet To view it, download and open as before, select the tab ‘CT0116’ and scroll down to find Scientology. The figures are:
Total: All ages 2,418
0-4 …….. 38
5-9 …….. 32
10-14 ….. 65
15-19 ….. 194
20-24 …. 382
25-29 …. 276
30-34 …. 253
35-39 …. 200
40-44 …. 217
45-49 …. 214
50-54 …. 141
55-59 …. 146
65-69 …. 52
70-74 …. 23
75-79 …. 24
80-84 …. 13
85-85+ .. 13
However, in this paper Professor Stephen Kent has found that Children born into high-control groups such as Scientology typically abandon their parent’s faith as soon as they are old enough. The age of majority in the UK is 18, so these figures do not bode well for the future of the Church.
The same spreadsheet reveals the numbers of male and female Scientologists. Scroll further to the right, and you will see that there are 1,510 men and 908 women. This is the reverse of the normal situation in UK religions, which typically have more female than male members.
If anyone digs deeper into the official data and comes up with more spreadsheets (I would like to see one that combines religion and educational achievement) please contact me, and I will add it to this post.