Red Brick Daily
It’s a jarring sight: an 11-story building on Kaohsiung’s Qixian 2nd Road lit up with lights, symbols and banners proudly proclaiming, “SCIENTOLOGY.”
Many wouldn’t think southern Taiwan fertile ground for the odd science-fiction / pseudo-religious teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, but here it is.
In fact, as a long article in the August 2016 issue of Atlantic Magazine reports, all of Taiwan is seeing a boom in Scientology conversions and the island is considered by the church as an excellent stepping stone in its long-cherish goal of becoming big in China, reportedly due to Hubbard being impressed after visiting the Great Wall as a child and later insinuations he was some type of reincarnation of Buddha.
The Kaohsiung center does resemble Buddhist or Taoists places of worship in some ways, with interior decoration featuring Buddhist symbols alongside pictures of the unconventional faith’s late founder.
Taiwan is a highly tolerant nation when it comes to religion and is home to a slew of unregistered temples, cults, sects and hybrid faiths — including one group whose founder claims to fight demons and travel the world while he sleeps and a woman whose followers believe her to be a reincarnation of BOTH Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ, which makes the island a somewhat logical home for Scientology.
There are no independent figures on membership numbers in Taiwan, but the numbers are definitely higher than you’d expect, and with 15 missions and churches now spread across the country, the group is growing fast.
The Atlantic quoted a local now ex-Scientologist as saying the church is doing in Taiwan essentially what it does everywhere else: “milking” converts for donations and demanding cult-like loyalty from members.
The man, who wasn’t named, says he lost most of his Facebook friends after “coming out” against the faith and regrets wasting untold amounts of money and time buying and studying the products of this secretive “religion.”
Kaohsiung City is not among the church’s critics, with officials praising the church for its anti-drug outreach programs in local schools.
The site of the Kaohsiung center used to be a 100,000 square-foot seedy hotel and opened to much fanfare in December 2013, but is only now starting to receive negative publicity after defectors emerged making many of the same negative claims that have been leveled against Scientology worldwide: in short – it’s a money-hungry cult that is deceitful, secretive and controlling.
We support freedom of religion, and that includes the right to believe pretty much anything … from Jesus walking on water to Moses parting the Red Sea — but we wonder if Taiwanese converts have really investigated the bizarre back-story of this controversial new faith.
*Photo via Scientology.org