I've been thinking about religion a lot recently, and not just about the negative stories that are all over the place right now. There is always the temptation to blame the media, but the arrest of an armed Christian militia in Michigan is legitimate news, as is the story of the acts of child abuse in the Catholic church, the work done by people at the very top of the Catholic hierarchy to cover up the abuse and the stone stupid statements made by the Catholic apologists, both here in the U.S. and coming out of Rome.
Let me be less controversial. Let's talk about Scientology.
Okay. That was a bad joke.
I saw this article from the Associated Press about people who left low paying jobs at Sea Organization, the inner circle of Scientology. One man says he was paid $29,000 for fifteen years work and is suing for millions in back pay. The spokespeople for Scientology claim the man is a whiner and a poor worker and a troublemaker.
Why do people get involved in organized religions and why are other people completely resistant to the charms? I expect it's a matter of both nature and nurture, and in my case, both nature and nurture worked against me becoming religious. I tried for a few years about twenty years ago, but I didn't leave the Episcopal Church because of strong emotions of disgust or some dramatic crisis of faith. I was pretty sure from what I saw that other people were really getting something useful out of the experience and I was getting next to nothing.
Being from a religious family makes a difference, just as being raised in a non-religious household was a big part of my upbringing. Some people will stay with the family through thick and thin and others will rebel, with that rebellion sometimes taking the form of leaving the church. Beyond the family link, there is the desire to know the unknowable, or at least to make some effort to acknowledge the mysteries of the universe. For me, the statement "I don't know" is enough for some of the big questions, but for others, they are comforted by the idea that God knows what they don't.
And then there's Scientology, a complete mystery to me. There doesn't seem to be much of the family tie part to the cult, though I'm sure there are people now being raised Scientologist. The religion was founded one year before I was born, so for a religion, it is very, very young. I didn't get involved with the New Age stuff much, but my sister Karla did and she changed her last name from Hubbard so that she wouldn't have anyone thinking she was related to L. Ron Hubbard, which we aren't.
There are religions I don't like much, like Catholicism and Mormonism, but I know both Catholics and Mormons who are good, decent people. On the other hand, if I find out someone is a Scientologist, I can only assume that person is a sap or a villain. This thing is a scam and it's been that way since the beginning and not even a well-disguised scam. Steven Weinberg, the Nobel Laureate in Physics has the quote "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil - that takes religion." I don't see the good in them. Everyone I have seen from the top of that organization just looks like standard corporate scum or worse. Here in the U.S., Scientology gets the protection given to religions. In Germany, they are considered a cult and have no legal protections. It's easy to mock and distrust the Germans, given their history of religious intolerance in the 20th Century, but that does not change the fact that they are absolutely 100% right in this instance and that the U.S. is making a terrible mistake giving these sociopathic thieves a license to steal.
I don't want to get rid of the freedom of worship clause from the U.S. Constitution, but I do want a better definition of what a religion is. Just as the government has the right to regulate charities, it should have the right to say what religious organizations can and cannot do, with the penalty of taxes and fines when these tax-free entities overstep those bounds.