I don’t buy it. It’s possible that certain high profile celebrities may have Scientology ministers in their entourages, but there’s no hard or fast rule on that.
Well… this is hard to answer without getting down into the weeds of what Dianetics purports to be all about, but basically the idea is that there is a portion of the mind (called the Reactive Mind) that is incapable of determining causal relationships between things. This portion of the mind is active all the time, but whenever the conscious mind (called the Analytical Mind) is not active, when we experience trauma, for instance, the Reactive Mind is still there silently recording everything that’s going on in the form of engrams. Later, this can manifest as psychosomatic pain, emotional upset, or spiritual problems when any stimulus that is present in the engram becomes present in the environment.
If you were to, for instance, trip and fall and hit your head and bang your knee while a dog barked in the other room, you may very well experience an otherwise unexplained headache or knee pain every time a dog barks. Words in engrams are particularly troublesome, since the Reactive Mind can only obey the commands, it can’t analyze what is being said in context. If, in our previous example, we add someone in the garage saying “You worthless so-and-so…” to his car, you would experience feelings or worthlessness along with your headache/knee-pain.
In traditional “Book One” Dianetics, the basic engram is almost always birth. As a result, Scientology recommends a practice of silent birth so that this basic engram is less likely to be restimulated later on down the line and thus, will also be easier to clear via Dianetic or Scientology auditing.
Most scholars of new religions who have looked at it have concluded that it is, indeed, a bona fide religion, albeit one that is lacking a lot of the features of older, more traditional religions.
There are definitely leaders. L. Ron Hubbard was, obviously, the unquestioned leader of the religion while he was alive. After his death in 1986, however, Hubbard left behind an incredibly complex and convoluted power structure with several layers of checks and balances that he, purportedly, designed specifically to be nigh-unto-incomprehensible to outsiders and impossible to subvert from within.
However, as often happens with new religious movements, one man was able to slowly, over the next 20 years or so, essentially take over the whole shebang. That man is David Miscavige, Chairman of the Religious Technology Center (the corporation that holds all of Hubbard’s copyrights.) Most of the controversies that you may have heard of recently within Scientology all more or less revolve around Miscavige and his “purges” of Scientology officers that are not absolutely loyal to him.
As far as rituals go. They do, believe it or not, have weddings and even baptisms, but the only ritual that every Scientologist goes through, indeed the ritual that is the heart and soul of Scientology in its entirety, is Auditing. Auditing is a process of spiritual counseling, performed by Scientology ministers, that clears out engrams and enables a person, as a spiritual being, to gradually rise through greater and greater echelons of enlightenment.