Each time it happened that I engaged in a chatting about $cientology, with people not knowing I had been a member,
each time they told me they don't consider it as a religion, they considered it as a scam..a fraud...it doesn't fit their conceptual thought of a traditional religion. They all know it's a money scam.
I guess medias too know as they use ''religion'' only in countries where it is given the ''religious'' status.
I often heard TV and radio media reports saying either ''$cientology cult'' or '' $cientology sect'' even if they use ''church of $cientology'' to identify the corporation or premises.
The perception may vary depending of countries.
I agree that some people have a negative perception about people involved within $cn in the past - It proved to be true when I disclosed my past involvement to a few people. :confused2:
I've talked with friends and neighbors about $cientology. Not one believes $cientology is religious, a religion, or a benevolent church, especially after watching Going Clear. As you mention, the words cult, scam, fraud, and bat shit crazy were said by the folks I talked with.
I think Ex's/Critics have come a long way informing the public $cientology is a cult and more importantly why $cientology is cult.