07/05/2012 05:10 pm ET | Updated Sep 04, 2012

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Split: Is Scientology to Blame?

After five years of marriage, Katie Holmes plans to divorce Tom Cruise, and she's seeking sole custody of their daughter Suri, 5. Columnists speculate that Holmes', 33, motivation for leaving Cruise, 49, revolves around Cruise's involvement in The Church of Scientology and the Church's influence on their 5-year-old daughter. But one has to wonder the reason for this concern.

Scientology was established by L. Ron Hubbard in 1952. Though it is referred to as a "church," many prefer to think of Scientology as a cult. L. Ron Hubbard, a famous writer of science fiction novels, did not set out to found a church. Its development began with his authoring of Dianetics, a metaphysical literature based on the theory that negative human experiences and emotional scars, or engrams as he called them, were responsible for physical symptoms and illness.

With Dianetics Hubbard proposed a type of emotional cleansing, or audit, through which the emotional wounds of the subject were revisited and erased thus restoring the subject to a state of Clear. Once achieving a state of Clear, the individual faces challenges with a newly acquired demeanor of calm in which he or she reacts reasonably to situations that would've formerly provoked an emotional response. Thus theorizing, through achievement of this state, a Clear individual is in control of their thoughts and is able to think rationally.

Hubbard initially made a lot of money off of this type of "auditing" and his auditing courses. However, after a failed public demonstration of the promises of Dianetics, Hubbard lost public interest and received criticism. Now experiencing financial difficulties, Hubbard had to think of a new plan quickly.

As Dianetics faltered, Hubbard came out with a new theory called the Science of Survival in which he theorized that within a human body was a thetan, an immortal God-like soul trapped inside of a physical body. Becoming trapped in a body, the thetan lost memory of its origins which he theorizes, lie in the creation of the universe as the thetan is considered a God-like being. The concept itself closely parallels the idea of an immortal soul though not entirely. Through Scientology, Hubbard promised to "rehabilitate each person's thetan to restore its original capacities and become once again an 'Operating Thetan.'" Once achieving a state of Clear, an individual could pursue the state of becoming Operating Thetan, however, it would cost them.

New Scientology centers opened up throughout the country. In these centers, auditors provided basic services to customers. More expensive auditing was only permissible at Hubbard's central location. With finances in mind, one of his chief operating managers suggested turning Scientology into a religion. As a church, they would enjoy huge financial benefits. Hubbard's treatments were already costly, reportedly at least $500, and as a religion, Hubbard's organization would become tax exempt.

From there on Scientology grew exponentially. Practicing Scientologists aimed to reach the final state of Cleared Theta Clear, the highest state of being, but to achieve this the person had to first pass through eight different levels of Operating Theta. "It is alleged that people are encouraged to complete very expensive courses and expect wonderful results; when the improvements fail to happen they are told the next course will bring the changes they anticipate." This often turns out to be a costly endeavor.

Is Scientology truly to blame for Tom and Katie's divorce? Is some sort of irreconcilable theological difference the cause? Regardless, Scientology sounds on par with many New Age religious movements and to me, the only crazy thing about it is the amount of money people are willing to give to the church. However, the act of donating large sums of money to a church is not unlike many Christian sects in which it is customary for denominations to enjoy large tax-free donations from their followers. I leave you with one final quote:

"Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." L. Ron Hubbard, 1948 at a writer's convention.