Saturday, April 3, 2010

Religion in general and one "religion" in particular.

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.


Sherry Peyton said...

I agree with you in theory, but just exactly who gets to set the standards and what would they be? That's always the rub to reform.

Utah Savage said...

I agree with you completely, but then I live in the theocracy called Utah. I think Mormonism is a cult too.

One of the scammiest of "religions" is The Family of the infamous CStreet whorehouse where members of Congress get cheap rent with benefits, including the coverup of their bizarre sexual behavior.

namastenancy said...

Amen, Amen and A f&*(ck men...I had a friend who got involved with Scientology and they drained her bank account. She had a nervous breakdown and committed suicide - apparently, she'd put in a call to one of the leaders who was supposed to be her guide and he hung up on her. This was years and years ago, before any revelations about the cult were widely known but I knew they were creeps right from the beginning.
I am sure that some smart lawyer could clarify the difference between religion and cult. They aren't the only rapacious cult here - all should be regulated for conduct and legality

no_slappz said...

Is it news that all religions are hoaxes?

Why is it that people will question the legitimacy of Scientology while believing the body of someone claiming to be the son of God disappeared roughly on this day around 2000 years ago?

Which belief is nuttier? In short, we can conclude that schizophrenia accounts for the founding of both Christianity and Islam. Muhammad was another unbound nut who experienced more than his fair share of visions.

Meanwhile, what is it with the Catholic Church -- which is clearly the willing employer of pedophiles?

If a US corporation had an equivalent occurence of sexual abuse of minors occurring at the hands of its employees, the business would have shut down faster than Enron.

The veil is falling off the Church. Nevertheless, willfully credulous believers seem incapable of admitting that criminal sexual activity is part of the experience of priests, cardinals, and now, the Pope.

But, rather than zero in on the real threat of "religion", most critics of religion want to go after Scientology, which, as far as I can tell, is merely a scam to bilk needy people out of their money.

I have to give L Ron Hubbard credit for succeeding with this crazy organization. It is a hoax, but its most important contribution to mankind is how it proves the "real" religions are even greater offenders.

It would be most interesting to hear a high-ranking Catholic priest, bishop, cardinal, or the Pope share views on Scientology. Let them tell the world why Scientology is a hoax and Catholicism is the real deal.

Matty Boy said...

I'll agree with one of your points, no_slappz. No other organization on Earth could survive a widespread international pedophilia scandal with hundreds if not more instances and a nearly equal number of cover-ups going all the way to the very top of the organization. In this, the Catholic Church stands alone. There is no credible defense, and only an organizational bloodbath can restore anything close to credibility.

I don't have what it takes to be a member of a flock, but likewise I am not comfortable telling people like my friend Padre Mickey or a great scholar and all around nice guy like Donald Knuth that they must lay down their faith and follow me on the path of uncertainty and doubt.

no_slappz said...

matty boy,

As the Bible and Koran prove, most people love a good story filled with epic adventures and frightening scenes more than they love a dry set of rules about living a decent life.

In other words, the only way to sell religion to the masses is through the emotions. Fear seems to lead the list.

Of course this gambit works best on kids who, at the age religion is forced on them, lack the intellectual defenses that prevent the rooting of irrational ideas in their impressionable heads.

Based on your excursion in and out of the church, it seems your age and resulting adult skepticism were all it took to reject the whole preposterous hoax organized religion sells.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is sinking lower and lower. It's beginning to look like the mafia. Now it's been said it is not possible to interrogate the Pope because as a resident of Vatican City he is not subject to any terrestrial legal authority.

Moreover, the Catholic Church has always stood firm against homosexuality, except when it leaks out than an extraordinary number of its employees engage in gay sex and sex with minors. Then the Catholic system goes to work aiding and abetting the offenders within. The hypocrisy runs from the bottom all the way to the top.

As said, "We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us."

If the Catholic Church were honest, it would out itself. Given the realities, I would bet that more than half of the members of the Church hierarchy are practicing homosexuals. Those who are not practicing are closeted.

Who else would so joyfully wear those costumes? The hats, the robes, the staffs, the elf shoes?

Hilarious. But even though the Catholic clergy is populated by the homosexuals the Church says it abhors while it repeats mythical tales about some prankster whose body purportedly disappeared 2,000 years ago, the Catholic Church is taken seriously while Scientology is called a hoax.