So How Big is the Church of Scientology Really?
I always look forward to hearing from hard-line Scientologists. I look forward to their trenchant arguments, their razor-sharp wit and their compelling facts and statistics. This morning someone calling themselves “Truth” decided to weigh in. Within seven minutes, they had written four posts. One supposes that they had to get their stats up. Some of the gems from his/her posts:
“Yes, this site is entheta. Just bad stuff, bad news, nonsense. Bunch of bitchy girls together,” and “You must be a psychotic to waste time like this,” and “Your thoughts are without any logic, as you try to spread around your lies, automatically, over the blog.” In other words, the usual.
But they did present one “argument,” which goes like this: “David Miscavige is one of greatest leaders in the world. How else could anyone hold and control such a large organization like Scientology?”
I was planning on addressing just this point – the actual size of Scientology. I’ve addressed the topic before, but it bears revisiting. If you have been in Scientology for any length of time, where the Church occupied a lot of your time and effort, it’s easy to still think of Scientology as this huge, omnipresent international organization. And some people fear Scientology because of its “size.”
But what are the facts? Scientology claims “millions” of members. (They used to claim 8 million or 20 million, now they just say “millions.”) I have an advantage here because I used to work for Scientology’s Central Marketing Unit, and had access to all of the actual lists and statistics. I know that event attendance internationally was somewhere in the region of 25,000 to 35,000. The International “Bodies in the Shop” (people actually in the orgs that week for service) was 16,000 to 18,000. IAS was struggling to get 40,000 members. Based on this and a lot of other information I was privy to, I estimate the actual number of Scientologists at a maximum of 40,000. That’s on the high side.
This jibes with the 2008 ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey), which is conducted every 9 years. This is a massive survey, involving over 50,000 subjects. The ARIS study estimates the number of U.S. Scientologists at 25,000. That’s actually less than the number of Bahai reported (84,000) or the number of Sikhs (57,000) or the number of Pagans, Wiccans and Druids (307,000).
How many people is 40,000? Well, it’s about the size of a small town, say, Jefferson City, Missouri, or North Shields in England, or Tikapur in Nepal. What, you’ve never heard of those places? Exactly.
Well, here’s a town of that size you have heard of – San Jacinto, California, the home of Scientology’s International Headquarters. If David Miscavige wants to get some “mass” on the true size of his “empire,” he should get into a pickup truck and drive around San Jacinto.
A friend of mine in New York, when he heard the actual figures of the Church’s size, commented, “that’s not even a good Mets game.” And it’s true. Citi Field in New York holds 45,000.
A Scientology event in LA, where there are more Scientologists than any other area, pulls 5,000 to 7,000 people, including staff. The Dodgers routinely pull 46,000 to their games. In fact, Dodger Stadium is large enough, at 56,000 capacity, to fit every Church of Scientology member in the world, with plenty of room left over for David Miscavige’s ego.
And as to the Tampa Bay area, where Scientology claims 10,000 or 12,000 members, they hold their events at Ruth Eckerd Hall, capacity 2,180. Even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pull in 60,000 to 70,000 fans for their games in Raymond James Stadium.
So before you get overwhelmed by the “size” of the Church of Scientology, look at some actual figures and comparisons.
And before you tell me what a “great leader” David Miscavige is, take a look at the real extent of his rapidly shrinking “empire.”