Sunday, July 8, 2012

All Religions are Cults

Recent criticism that Scientology is more cult than religion have resurfaced due to the split between the golden boy of Scientology, Tom Cruise, and his wife Katy Holmes.

I refer to Scientology as a religion as it conforms with my source definition and understanding of a religion:

religion |riˈlijən|
nounbelief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods• details of belief as taught or discussed• a particular system of faith and worship
• pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance

The definition references origins of the word which cite meanings of "obligation" "bond" "reverence" and in addition from the Latin "religare" to bind.
Mac OS X Dictionary widget*

An Australian TV program today presented a segment asking "is Scientology an evil cult?" (channel 7 morning show). It was segueing from the "TomKat" split to questions of the religion. The "evil cult" question and any answers proffered (I didn't hang around watching to find out what the invited guests thought or discussed) though are pretty irrelevant. Why pick on Scientology at all for critical examination when other religions expect equal forms of irrational devotion. And, what measures are critics using to warrant asking is Scientology an "evil cult"?

The popular myth that Scientology's beliefs and behaviours are "evil" and "cult" like, as apposed to conventional religion/s, perpetuates because it relies upon fear and ignorance (easy to exploit). Those asking these questions miss the biggest implication of all by what they ask which is of course the corollary question that are all religions cult like and dangerous (evil is valid, in its true meaning, but as most imbue this word with mystical religious overtone, which I do not intend, I'll stick with dangerous). Inspirational places of worship be they churches, halls of assembly, mosques, synagogues, etc., are religions' theatres for reinforcing their particular/peculiar form of ignorance. Faith, hope, salvation, specialness, company, community, meaning of existence, understanding, support, love, acceptance, material value, are all exploited by religions as we all desire a balance or wealth of such things, because it is human to do so.  

Without going into a full blown argument which requires a degree in comparative religion lets look at some simple facts and compare in order to contrast Scientology against three of the major acceptable religions of our day.

Scientologists believe humans are vessels for a spiritual thinking-life force from the universe, an alien soul in fact (which suffered horribly in the past and need help and authoritative nurturing to safely remember this). That the human form in any time frame could be one of hundreds or thousands of  physical containers of this alien life-force, but the humans are of course unaware of their alien soul and that they the Thetan containers have a significant role and purpose. The aim is to reveal this (at a price) and gain awareness of the past lives already lived by this immortal(?) "spirit/thetan". As you do learn and become aware, you move up in the order as well. There are a set of rules and lessons to be learnt which allows the faithful (who can pay) to rise. The order or levels determine the awareness of the human/Thetan of his/her divinity (perhaps not the best word but it would seem the spirit of the aim). There is a code of conduct concerning ethical behaviour and that the highest of ethical levels to attain is that of the preservation of the Scientology way and any elements of secrecy which outsiders and/or lesser equipped followers must not know for their own protection. The information could kill you without the appropriate preparations. Scientology on the face of it proffers similar end game consequences for doing good or bad works. It recommends being ethical and moral in your life. It has a prophet and various seers to interpret the messages of the prophet and his interconnection with the universal spirit/controller. It appears to be no less or more sincere, no less or more outlandish in its claims than other religions. Scientology is very secretive (protective of its truths) and publishes very little outside of the fold, my sources are included below and I have to defer to them. 
South Park, Alien souls being frozen for transport, still from "What Scientologist actually believe", clip - link below
Christians believe humanity and everything else was created by God in 7 days. That we are all born with "original sin" (Adam and Eve's unseemly expulsion from the heavenly Eden) which by virtue of being baptised protects us from an instant pathway to Hell upon our sudden infant death should that occur.
Jesus, or God in human form, was born from an immaculate conception, absolved of the malady we must all still bear. When it was all going to pot for his favorite creation, Man, He, that is God, sent his Son to earth to die (pay the price) for our earthly committed sins. Jesus was happily resurrected where his ascent to Heaven assured by his selfless suffering meant we could again follow. Our sins were covered (off set for at least a few more thousand years) and we did not descend into Hell like that other time with the flood and being wiped out. Heaven is a divinely constructed place, an other realm of existence, for supporting the eternal existence of the faithful - therefore only special people, believers, and of those they who are blameless, get in. Hell by contrast is where all the bad people who dismiss God's ways and lack belief go, permanently to burn alongside all the other faithless wraiths. Seems reasonable.
Hieronymus Bosch - Hell, (detail) 1485.
Muslims believe Mohammad their human prophet received the true word of God, that Jesus was a prophet not a Messiah, and Mohammad had the real conversation with God. It was good that later writers wrote down his verses after his death (referencing fragmentary writing on animal bones and palm leaves) and could set everything straight in the Koran. Muslims believe in a bunch of other stuff too which aligns with the Heaven and Hell concepts in Christianity to a point. The believers will claim theirs are the correct series of events in the right order. It is also the case that Islam has it more correct, it claims, with regard to their version of the rules and regulations for humans to follow in order that they arrive in heaven and receive what they are owed in virgins, food, possessions and wealth. This afterlife carrot has serious caché in how a Muslim lives his (her?) earthly existence. The preference that as in life women retain their place as property to bare children and provide the male believers with sexual release pretty much stays true in the Islamic version of heaven, so pretty convenient when you think about it. Every year believers flock to perform the ritual of the Hajj, which includes visiting Mecca and seeking out the "Black Stone" to circle it 7 times. The Wikipedia has it that the Black Stone was initially white when it descended from heaven back in the time of Adam. After exposure to humanity's sins it turned black. The stone was specifically brought from "paradise by the Archangel Gabrielle". Oh and current belief has it that the prophet must never be depicted despite lack of evidence in the Koran that it is a blasphemy to do so and in contradiction of the swath of depictions which do exist by Islamic artists. Interconnects with the anti-idolatry of Judaism (see below).
The Black stone in Holy Mosque
Jews believe the Jewish people were chosen by God to reveal the great secrets of his creation, the universe, and created this covenant in the form of the Torah. Traditionally it is felt the Torah is the literal word of God, with any mistakes attributed to human error by ancient scribes. Jesus was not a or the Messiah who is still to arrive. Traditional Judaism believes not in an apparent afterlife but the "World to come" which is a nice idea where everything is in order and good things happen and nice people live harmoniously. The seven laws of Noah, a covenant again by God with Noah to benefit the children of Noah who survived the "Deluge" (the God ordered one to wipe out most of humanity) has it that one must not consume meat from an animal with life's blood still present. That's not so weird is it? Dietary convention for practicing Jews has it that animals must be drained of blood prior to butchering and eating. "Noahide Laws" are pretty meaningless to the animal gasping for a last breath and inhaling blood. Apparently shocking an animal "injures" it, rendering the slaughter invalid. So to wrap it up the Children of Israel got the ten commandments and the Children of Noah the Noahide Laws informing them of God's expectations on their conduct. No idolatry, which meant destruction of the idols of others and not ever, never, ever dealing with idolaters. No murder, that's a good one unless it conflicts with any of the others. No blasphemy...but corrective action with regards to blasphemy could result in a little mayhem but that is just as God intended.
Florence Baptistery - Scene from the Gates of Paradise - Moses panel - Lorenzo Ghiberti
So in a snapshot are the characteristics of Scientology, the ones critics associate it with being an "evil cult",  the very same characteristic which underpin the foundations and architecture of the prevailing organised religions of our day? I have deliberately used Christianity Islam and Judaism for my comparative mini examination of religion due to the purported conventional, normal, accepted status each of these has today. Each make outlandish claims which fly in the face of logic and reason and make huge imposts upon their believers (and in some cases non-believers alike as their believers beliefs impinge upon the human rights and freedoms of others) but are assumed reasonable and rational systems/organisations to be part of or in association with. Religions are tolerated, even when they are not tolerant, and are viewed somewhat irrationally as being essential to the fabric of life. The religious life is one in my view a life led in shadow and denial. A life incomplete and unrealised as freedom of mind and originality seeks to conform to what the religio-cult requires rather than stay flexible and inquiring. Why is Scientology to be viewed any differently to any of the other religio-cults that are examine here? What of those not mentioned; Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, Astro Soul (a slightly later spin off contemporary of Scientology), or even Voodoo? Are these any less a religion, more cultish, more evil/dangerous?

If we do use Scientology as the template as I have done and based on what each religio-cult claims underpin them, each arguably are as cultish and a little dangerous (evil) as each other. I at least do not see the distinction between the relative facts. Each (including Scientology but with less attempt to hide it perhaps) pray upon human fears and longing for their place in the world, meaning of life, answers to why we exist, cooperation, understanding, acceptance and control over our enemy (perceived or real). Like any organism/organisation seeking to be the most favoured and followed, religions compete for similar ascendancy.  

Each serve one true purpose, to outwit the other, outshine, out-number-the-believers-of-other-culto-religions and ensure the longevity of the cult/religion. It is a competition and the competition is a serious one for the soul, the mind, the body and the bank account of the believer and the believers descendants. 
The tragedy is what is lost in seeking reality in nonsense and comfort in parables and antique morality tales. Human triumphs of logic, reason, knowledge are all diminished, derided and defamed by our slavish cowardly subservience to these religions. They are a wasteland for the mind and the conceptual soul. Fear the promise of a paradise for the price of this concept of mind and soul, it is merely a shop-keeps inducement to buy his wares not his neighbours. 

The dangerous enemy is religion/s. Our saviours are three; logic, reason and knowledge...imagination can only soar.

Some references for this blog:

*Mac OS X Dictionary widget:
New Oxford American Dictionary
Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus
Apple Dictionary
Wikipedia - English

Scientology: - Offers a balanced array of links from official Scientology sources plus alternate view points.

image reference: The Black Stone in Holy Mosque


The Travelled Mind:

New Age:


Anonymous said...

An evil cult isn't an evil cult for what beliefs are but for what its practices are. You put in quite a bit of effort, but unfortunately the main premises is nonsense. Google Scientology child abuse if you want to find out about their practices, and you'll understand why people call them an evil cult.

LeeAnneArt on twitter @leeanneart said...

Anonymous if child abuse by religion is evil and this perfectly fits my danger premise. But a blog is only so long. If this is what you assert is Scientology's evil alone though and it should be a measure lets look at it. Google Christian brothers and child abuse, Google any of the religions I've contrasted for results. As soon as you put a few people in power and over others, where they become uniquely implicitly trusted so that normal checks and balances are seen as not required you will get all forms of abuse, including that of children. Does it make Scientology evil, or religions evil? I'm not willing to paste one alone with the equivalent evil of the others.

About Leeanneart

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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
We are first and foremost human with a responsibility to the humanity within us and not to any faith, political, apolitical, social or societal group, union or faction. We are responsible for our own reputation, and for what deeds we do and what achievements or otherwise in life we enjoy. The rest is nonsense.