Tuesday, February 08, 2011

the baby of religions

I read a really interesting article in the New Yorker today. I found it not interesting not so much because of the content or topic of the article itself, but because the topic could have easily been replaced with another topic and still been true.

Here, let me show you--

If you read the following, what would you think the author is talking about?
[His] material must be and is applied precisely as written," Davis said. "It's never altered. It's never changed. And there probably is no more heretical or more horrific transgression that you could have in the [X] religion than to alter the [writings]
Everything in square brackets has been changed to keep you from knowing which religion it is that the author was discussing.

Later, there are interviews with people who are adherents to the religion. In it, they talk about how ascribing to the faith has helped them overcome problems--depression, drug addiction, find jobs etc. The author, who does not seem particularly friendly to this faith, takes them mostly at their word.

The article is about Scientology. What I found myself continually feeling was a sense of deja vu having heard all these things before--but from other religious practitioners. From Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Muslims, Bahia's--each of them has claimed to me at one point or another that if it weren't for their particular faith, they would have fallen to vice X or Y and their lives are forever changed for the better.

I have never questioned them at their word, nor do I now. What this article made me realize, however, is that none of these people (nor I, for that matter), had ever questioned how their religion as a whole affected humanity, not them as individuals. The people in this article don't either.

My point? Well, I'm not entirely sure I have one. I have a lot of friends who are religious, of various faiths, and I guess this blog post would be a question to them--have you ever questioned if your faith has been a force for good in the world, or does the answer even matter?

If Scientology helps person X, as an individual, to get his life back on track, stay off drugs, pay off bills...leap tall buildings, then would it matter if, as a whole, Scientology as a religion takes money from practitioners and funnels it to the leadership? (I am not implying this is the case, it's a hypothetical.)

For those of you who ARE religious (I will pose a Catholic hypothetical), would it matter to you as an individual for whom Catholicism has helped you to get your life on track if, simultaneously, it contributes to a culture that keeps women as a second sex and stigmatizes homosexuality to the point of violence?

In reading this article, those were the questions I asked myself as the parallels kept mounting. Re-writing of history (Catholicism: We never condemned Galileo or killed anyone during the Crusades. Mormonism: John Smith was never a water auger. The list goes on, but these are just two examples). The disbelief by practitioners in clear, tangible evidence that could possible cause the slightest doubt in a small tenet of belief (see Catholic devotion to the Shroud of Turin, an obvious hoax that is not even canonical or Church approved, but which most every Catholic will defend because to cast doubt would begin to pull a single thread of the fabric of belief).

All these things, and so many more, seemed to parallel any Church. The difference between Scientology and other faiths is simply that it is newer, and thus less accepted. Hell, it is even beginning to schism like other Church as members try to get back to the "true teachings" of Hubbard--how often have we heard THAT claim made by so many in every branch of every faith?

This post is not in any way intended to disparage any religion, but only to express my own reaction to this article which got me thinking less about Scientology and far more about religion in general. I would be interested to read your reactions, particularly those of you who are of a faith tradition. I would imagine other atheists would feel similarly to me. Obviously this doesn't mean DON'T respond if you share my beliefs, I'm always interested in yours as well.


Anonymous Dan Porter said...

Adam, I have written a fairly long response at http://shroudofturin.wordpress.com/

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Dan Porter said...

Adam, I have written another response at http://shroudofturin.wordpress.com/

1:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home