Scientology is a system of beliefs and practices created by American pulp fiction author L. Ron Hubbard in 1952 as a self-help philosophy. By 1960 Hubbard had redefined it as a "religion by its basic tenets". The Church of Scientology, by far the largest organization promoting the belief system of Scientology, is sometimes referred to simply as "Scientology".
The Church of Scientology presents itself as a religious non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of the human spirit and providing counseling and rehabilitation programs. Church spokespeople claim that Hubbard's teachings (called "technology" or "tech" in Scientology terminology) have saved them from addictions, arthritis, depression, learning disabilities, mental illness, cancer, homosexuality and other perceived problems.
The controversial organization has attracted much criticism and distrust throughout the world because of its closed nature and strong-arm tactics in handling critics. Lawmakers, including national governing bodies of several countries, have characterized the Church as an unscrupulous commercial organization, citing harassment of critics and exploitation of its members.Scientology's principles have been characterized as pseudoscientific by scientists, medical doctors and psychotherapeutic practitioners. Because of these factors, Scientology has frequently been perceived as a cult and a pseudoreligion.
There are approximately 55,000 Scientology adherents in the United States according to a survey published by the U.S. Census bureau. The worldwide number of adherents is disputed. The Church of Scientology claims between 9 million and 10 million followers. Adherents.com suggests there may be 500,000 adherents worldwide while other groups say the number is likely to be less than 100,000 tota
Scientology's doctrines were established by Hubbard over a period of about 34 years, beginning in 1952 and continuing until his death in January 1986. Most of the basic principles of the Church were set out during the 1950s and 1960s. Scientology followed on the heels of Dianetics, an earlier system of self-improvement techniques laid out by Hubbard in his 1950 book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. By the mid-1950s, Hubbard had relegated Dianetics to a subfield of Scientology.  The Church says that Scientology is concerned with "the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others and all of life," but they say that Dianetics is only concerned about getting rid of the reactive mind. Scientology also covers topics such as ethics and morality (The Way to Happiness), drug and chemical residues as they relate to spiritual wellbeing (the Purification Rundown), communication, marriage, raising children, dealing with work-related problems, educational matters (study technology), and the very nature of life (The Dynamics).
Scientology practices are structured in a certain form of series or levels, because Hubbard believed that rehabilitation takes place on a step-by-step basis; for example, that the negative effects of drugs should be addressed before other issues can be addressed. According to Hubbard, these steps lead to the more advanced strata of Scientology's more esoteric knowledge. This is described as a passage along "the Bridge to Total Freedom", or simply "the Bridge," in which each step of the Bridge promises a little more personal freedom in the area specified by the Bridge's definition.