Scientology has earned cult status for many outsiders, but Slate’s Mark Oppenheimer argues it's no more bizarre than any mainstream faith. He says the peculiarities of the celebrity-friendly religion abound, but that they're reflected right back in the wacky ideas of more accepted theologies—say, by the Book of Mormon or Intelligent Design.
As to spaceship-volcano-thetan creation myths, Oppenheimer takes the word of Scientologists over the word of ex-Scientologists that such science fiction isn’t central to the religion. And rumors of authoritarianism don’t impress him either. He chalks up the abundant backlash to Freud’s “narcissism of small differences: we’re made most uncomfortable by that which is most like us.” (Read more Scientology stories.)