The Church of Scientology, legally established in California in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard, holds to the belief, among other things, that "Man is an immortal, spiritual being. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized -- and those capabilities can be realized."
Over the years, it has attracted such celebrity members as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Lisa Marie Presley.
Hubbard's teachings hold that through a process called auditing -- conscious recall of traumatic events in a person's life -- one can find greater self-understanding and happiness. It therefore rejected psychotherapy. And it was accused of trying to silence critics, some of whom -- in Wikipedia entries and elsewhere -- called it a cult rather than a religion.
Pouw, the church spokeswoman, rejected the cult accusations. "That's a throwback to the 1970s," she said. "That issue was settled long ago."
"Twelve million Scientologists call it a religion, and governments around the world call it a religion," she said. In the United States, it has tax-exempt status as a religious institution.
Pouw said Wikipedia is not a major way the church tries to spread its message. She said people ought to go instead to Scientology's own Web site, Scientology.org.
Rosenthal said Scientology articles are not among the most read articles on Wikipedia -- in April, they were viewed nearly 240,000 times and ranked 318th in traffic on the Web site's English version -- but they tend to be among the most contentious.
"It's really hard for most people to discuss it rationally without turning it into some kind of war," he said. "In this case, that happened to spill on to Wikipedia."