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About the Church of Scientology®

Estimates of its membership numbers

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Sponsored link.

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Current status:

Data provided by the Church of Scientology indicates that there are now over 7,300 Scientology groups, missions 1 and churches 2 in 163 countries around the world. Also, 87,000 Scientology Volunteer Ministers, 3 help in their communities and are particularly active in times of disaster.

The actual membership of the Church of Scientology is difficult to assess. In fact, the size of all religious groups is frequently impossible to estimate for a variety of reasons:

bulletSome groups, like the Roman Catholic Church, count all those who have been baptized into the church, even if they have not stepped foot in one of their churches in decades.
bulletSome faith groups measure only active, registered members.
bulletOthers count all registered members even if they have been inactive for years,
bulletSome include adherents and frequent visitors; others do not.
bulletSome count only adults.
bulletSome, like the Church of Christ, Scientist and the Church of Satan do not release their membership numbers.
bulletSome religions, like Wicca, are extremely decentralized. No agency keeps track of the number of Wiccan groups and solitary practitioners.
bulletSome denominations are believed to inflate their membership numbers.
bulletSome faith groups, like Neopagan traditions, have been so heavily oppressed in the past that many individual members are still reluctant to reveal their faith over the phone to public opinion pollsters. Thus, accurate data cannot be obtained through polling.
bulletSome people do not identify themselves as from a single religious group. For example, a person might consider themselves simultaneously an Atheist, Humanist, free-thinker, and Unitarian Universalist. Their response would depend upon the specific question asked.

The number of Scientologists is difficult to estimate for two additional reasons:

bulletMany Scientologists merge their existing religious beliefs with Scientology beliefs and techniques. When asked about their religion, some may identify as Christians, Jews, Muslims, or followers of another religion, while others might identify themselves as Scientologists. Polling numbers thus underestimate the actual number of people who use Scientology in their daily life -- probably by a large margin.
bulletSome internal estimates of the number of people involved in Church of Scientology are believed to include everyone who has had any involvement with Scientology -- perhaps by taking a Scientology course, or attending a religious service.

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Some estimates of the Church of Scientology membership numbers:

bulletFrom the Church of Scientology: "Scientology®: A reference work presented by the Church of Scientology International" states:

"Today its more than 6,000 churches, missions, related organizations, groups and activities span the globe and minister the religion to more than eight million people in 159 countries in over 66 languages." 4

The number of people to whom the Church of Scientology has ministered includes the number of active Scientologists, as well as many other individuals.

Some anti-Scientology individuals and web sites have stated that the eight million figure is the total world membership claimed by the Church of Scientology. The value is often carelessly quoted in the media and in books. 5 In reality, that number is believed to include everyone who has ever made significant contact with the Church. This would include clergy and other employees, active Scientology members, currently inactive members, as well as many who have had at least a minor meaningful involvement with the church, perhaps by taking a Scientology course, attending a lecture, going to a service, etc. Not included are attendees at Scientology social betterment groups in the fields of education, drug and criminal rehabilitation, and moral rejuvenation.

The Scientology Today website has a section titled: "Demographic and Statistical Facts about Scientology." 7 It gives an amazing amount of information on its organization and membership. They state:

bulletIn 1997, 642,596 persons entered a Scientology church or mission for the first time, participated in a service, obtained a book, or heard a lecture. This is a substantial increase over the 493,685 persons counted in 1990.
bulletThe number of countries where Scientology is active, the number of community action and social reform groups, the number of missions and organizations, the number of staff, number of auditing hours, student points achieved, circulation of their three main magazines, Internet site visitors and hits, book sales, etc.
bulletDemographic information about Scientologists worldwide -- their background, attitudes, lifestyles, income, etc.
bulletHowever, they do not appear to reveal the number of active members.
bulletFrom Adherents.com: This is an independent web site that specializes in publishing "adherent statistics and religious geography citations ... for over 4,200 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith groups..." etc.

When comparing the main religions of the world, they estimate that Scientology has 500,000 members and ranks 22nd in size. However, they caution that:

"Sizes shown are approximate estimates, and are here mainly for the purpose of ordering the groups, not providing a definitive number. This list is sociological/statistical in perspective." 5

In their section on Scientology, they state:

"There are not 8 million people who, if taking a survey, would name Scientology as their religious preference. One might generously estimate up to one million worldwide, but the actual number who would fit this criterion is probably under a half million. Adding up organizationally-reported membership on a state-by-state, country-by-country basis would yield a current membership figure of about 750,000, according to a church critic. As with all religions, the complete body of adherents represent a spectrum of participation, including fully active members as well as non-attending or disengaged sympathizers."

"Realistically, a figure lower than 750,000 seems be more reasonable for this page's listing. Some documents suggest that even the tabulation of 750,000 based on country-by-country/state-by-state organizationally-provided data is quite out of date. Internal documents suggest 100,000 active members -- which would easily yield an estimate of a total of 600,000 or more, including one-time members, lapsed members, and strong supporters. ..."

"If one eliminated from the total number of Christians in the world all those who are counted as Christians only because they identify themselves as such in a survey or census, even though they never actually attend Christian services, study Christian literature, or make behavioral changes based on Christian teachings beyond general societal norms, one might obtain a similar downgrade in actual number of effective adherents." 5

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Sponsored links:

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Estimates of the numbers of Scientologists in English speaking countries:

bulletUSA: The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York sampled American adults randomly by telephone and asked them: "What is your religion, if any?" ARIS pollsters concluded that Scientology is the seventh largest non-Christian religion in the U.S. It is exceeded in membership only by Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, Hindus and followers of Native American Spirituality.

ARIS estimated that there were 55,000 American Scientology adults in 2001, an increase from 45,000 in 1990. A linear extrapolation would suggest that there will be about 61,000 Scientologists in 2008. However, these values are undoubtedly an underestimate. They include only those individuals whose primary religious self-identification is as a Scientologist. There are many more American adults who consider themselves Christians, who have integrated Scientology beliefs and practices into their life, and who would respond "Christian" to the pollster. So too, with many Jews, Muslims and others who are simultaneously using Scientology beliefs and practices.
bulletOther countries: Wikipedia lists numbers of adults in predominately English speaking countries who state that they are Scientologists during various government censuses :
bulletIn Australia: 2,507 Scientologists out of a population of about 20.5 million in 2006.
bulletIn Canada: 1,525 out of about 31.0 million people in 2001
bulletIn New Zealand: 282 Scientologists out of about 3.7 million people in 2001.
bulletIn the UK: 1,781 Scientologists out of a total of 52 million adults responding to the optional census question on religion in 2001. 8,9

Again, these would be underestimates for the same reason as is the ARIS poll value.

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References used:

  1. "Welcome to the Scientology Missions International Website," at: http://www.smi.org/ Data retrieved on 2008-FEB-02.
  2. "Find a Church of Scientology from around the world," at: http://www.churchofscientology.com/
  3. "Scientology Volunteer Ministers" at: http://www.volunteerministers.org/
  4. "Scientology®: A reference work presented by the Church of Scientology International," at: http://www.bonafidescientology.org/
  5. "Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents," at: http://www.adherents.com/
  6. "Self Described Religious Identification of U.S. Adult Population 1990-2001: Other Religious Groups," American Religious Identification Survey 2001, at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/
  7. "Demographic and Statistical Facts about Scientology," Scientology Today, at: http://www.scientologytoday.org/
  8. "Church of Scientology, Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Scientology
  9. James R. Lewis,"New Religion Adherents: An Overview of Anglophone Census and Survey Data". Marburg Journal of Religion, 9 (1), 2004-SEP, at: http://web.uni-marburg.de/ This is a PDF file.

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Site navigation: Home page > World religions > Scientology > here

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Scientology, Dianetics and The Bridge are trademarks and service marks owned by Religious Technology Center.
Essay copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2008-FEB-02
Latest update: 2008-FEB-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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