Scientologists, never far from the headlines, are once again in the news this week after the 'Church' of Scientology opened a £4.2m headquarters in Birmingham, and the ex-wife of Elvis Presley denied she had left the religious sect.
In the Moseley suburb of Birmingham, the organisation opened its HQ in an extravagant ceremony at the Grade II listed Pitmaston House, which was bought in 2007 by the group, founded by science fiction author L Ron Hubbard. The building will supposedly house a training centre and a chapel.
Meanwhile, publicists for 72-year-old Priscilla Presley said yesterday that she remains a member of the Church - which counts the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta as members – after a source told The Mail on Sunday that Priscilla said she's 'had enough' of it.
Here are six things Christians should know about Scientology.
1. The two 'faiths' are mutually exclusive
According to one former member, despite what the 'Church' claims, in practice you cannot be a Christian and a Scientologist. 'I remember listening to an advanced teaching where Hubbard said Jesus was just a hologram projected onto the earth to trick people into following a lie,' said the former member.
2. Scientology's founder was opposed to Jesus
In A Piece of Blue Sky, the author Jon Atack writes, 'In confidential materials, Hubbard attacked Christianity as an "implant," and said that Christ was a fiction.'
The former member wrote of Scientologists' attitudes: 'Their definition of Jesus changes as you move up in the system and goes from good teacher in the basic teachings to a fraud in more advanced lectures.'
3. A different view of life and mankind
In the basic tenets of Scientology, 'man is basically good', experiences multiple lifetimes (reincarnation) and increasingly develops control over his or her own life.
4. Disdain for all people outside the sect
Where Christianity emphasises the dignity of every human person, Scientology looks with disdain on non-Scientologists.
Hubbard usedthe term 'wog' to describe anyone who is supposedly not clever enough to be a Scientologist, and those in the group still use the term today.
5. Higher value on celebrities
Scientology is always looking to recruit high-profile celebrities, who it appears to value over ordinary people. As the former Scientologist writes: 'When I worked on staff at the Celebrity Centre there was always a huge push to draw in celebrities, or "opinion leaders" as they were called, because they could draw so many more new recruits into the organization simply because anything they did was deemed "cool" by their followers and copied.
'The more a celebrity gets sucked in, the more dirt the Church has on them from notes from counseling sessions. That is used as blackmail to keep them from ever becoming antagonistic towards the mission and goals of the "Church." The threat of personal, intimate, potentially embarrassing facts about the celebrity being made known to the public is an effective weapon to keep these opinion leaders positive towards the organization and silent about their concerns.'
6. Emphasis on the individual – not on God
Unlike the three monotheistic faiths, God is not central to the Scientology 'religion'. In Scientology, according to the 1998 book, Sects, Cults, and Spiritual Communities, 'vastly more emphasis is given to the godlike nature of the person and to the workings of the human mind than to the nature of God'.