I still hold that Scientology is the archetype example of a cult and is still very important to study from that aspect. It is the secular aspect of it that also provides a good subject of study. After seeing it in detail it is easy to see the cultic aspects of one's own group that he thinks is unique in its claims.

I mean, you can't study the cult one is involved in,-- because he is involved in it. And as far as he can tell, there might be some aspects of it that are good. After all why else would he have gotten involved in it? That makes it very important to study Scientology as a pristine example of a cult, and how it recruits and develops, even when it is based on a ridiculous idea.

Elazar Menachem Shach the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovitch explained what is the essence of idolatry. It is  the thought, "This can help." At least as a necessary condition, but maybe not sufficient.  That comes directly from the Talmud itself. An idol that fell and broke is nullified because people say if it could not save itself how could it save me. We see from that the essence of idolatry is the thought "This can save." [That is unless the "this" is God.]

And what we learn from Professor Huemer Why are people irrational about politics?  is that people can choose to believe irrational things because of the desire for sex, or to fit into a group where they expect to get sex, etc.
This all boils down to the vacuum of knowledge. That is what idolatry and a cult is. The statue is a vacuum of knowledge. It is like something hollow that one can put into it all his imaginations and delusions and he wants to do that because he wants to fit into the group that is following that vacuum of knowledge.

Appendix: Torah differs from idolatry in that the central thought is that God can help. Idolatry is that some other being or mitzvah can help.