Some have called Scientology a cult of celebrity because of the number of well-known entertainers who ascribe to its teachings. In spite of endorsements regarding the benefits of Scientology from various well-known persons, the organization is often in the center of controversy. Richard Behar, writing in Time magazine, stated that rather than being a religion or a church, Scientology "…is a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner."
The founder of the church, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911–1986), known to Scientologists as "L. Ron," is said to have studied many Eastern philosophies as he journeyed to the various countries of their origins. When injuries suffered during service as a naval officer during World War II (1939–1945) left him crippled and blind, Hubbard claimed that his ability to draw upon mental insights allowed him to cure himself of his disabilities. He called this process Dianetics, and outlined its central elements in an article for the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. Shortly thereafter Hubbard published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.
Dianetics deals with what it terms the Analytical and the Reactive components of the mind. The Reactive mind absorbs and records every nuance of emotional, mental, and physical pain. Hubbard called the impressions or "recordings" made by the Reactive mind during moments of trauma "engrams," and while the conscious, Analytical mind may remain unaware of their presence, they can cause debilitating mental and physical problems and inhibit one's full potential. The Dianetics process enables a person to explore and be "cleared" of such impediments by an "auditor"—a minister of Scientology—clearing the way to a state of freedom from all the constraints of matter, energy, space, and time and a transcendent level of near-perfection.
In August 1952 the Journal of Scientology began publication, and in 1954 the first Church of Scientology was founded in Los Angeles. Increasing demand for more information about Scientology led to the establishment of the Founding Church of Scientology and the first Academy of Scientology in Washington, D.C., in 1955. Today, Scientology claims a worldwide membership of around eight million and more than 3,000 churches.