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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Probably my last Scientology post

Posted by c. wagner on November 20, 2009

For a relatively small church (or relatively large cult), Scientology takes a lot of bashing. Not that the organization doesn’t deserve it, of course. But, you know, I should be able to find something else to whine about on this blog. Bigger fish to fry and all that. So, I’m going to get all the Scientology stuff out of my system at once.

I just finished two books on Scientology–Inside Scientology by Robert Kaufman and A Piece of Blue Sky by Jon Atack. Here are some of the highlights of what I came across.

James Stewart has been put in a Condition of Doubt for having [epileptic] seizures in public thus invalidating Scientology. If there is any reoccurrence of these either consciously and unconsciously on his part he will be placed in a Condition of Enemy.

Stewart’s real crime, having had a seizure, was telling the hospital that he was a Scientologist, thus supposedly giving Scientology a bad name. [Blue Sky, page 184]

Getting out of the Condition of Enemy generally involves heavy manual labor and a high level of shunning. Yup. That’s nice and compassionate. Just what you’d like from your religion. Of course, since illness is a sign of improper application of Scientology principles, maybe Mr. Stewart deserved what he got. … Ummmm, no.

[Scientology agents infiltrated the Coast Guard, DEA, and IRS.] This was not a matter of a small persecuted religion infiltrating government agencies to expose immoral actions committed by those agencies. In reality, it was a matter of protecting Hubbard from any inconvenience, let alone any litigation. [Blue Sky, page 210]

And while they were infiltrating, they were also stealing documents about ongoing investigations and about people who challenged Scientology. Pretty sure the ends don’t justify those means.

Hubbard alleged the psychiatrist [sic, mine], “who have been on the [time] track a long time and are the sole cause of decline in this universe” had invented sex as a means of entrapment eons ago. As a result of Hubbard’s diatribe, some Scientologists stopped having sexual intercourse with their spouses. [Blue Sky, page 288]

Ooookay. The part about sex as a means of entrapment sounds an awful lot like what’s taught in some other, more mainstream, religions. So maybe I can give them a pass here. Speaking of sounding familiar:

Ron claimed that every word he ever wrote held just as good today as when he wrote it: nothing he ever said needed changing. [Inside, page 179]

Huh. Where have I heard that before?

And another familiar thought:

Most of the Scientologists were culturally green, interested only in Hubbard’s pronouncements. Many were reactionary, almost Fascistic, in their political views. The attitude of this breed was that the poor and oppressed of the world, the dwellers in mud villages and ghettos, were suffering solely from their own inadequacies; they were dominated by their reactive minds and were getting exactly what they deserved. [Inside, page 31]

Sounds like the crud that’s preached from some megachurch pulpits these days. Whatever the source, blaming the victim is always cruel.

For six months, Gulliver had been a top executive in the Commodore’s Messenger Organization U.K. which controlled all other Scientology organizations in Britain. He rated himself one of the top four executives in CMO U.K. He was fourteen years old. [Blue Sky, page 322]

Yowza. I barely trust a seventeen-year-old to feed my cats. There’s no way I would trust one to run my religion. This is just a bad idea. As well as probably qualifying as child abuse.

And speaking of child abuse:

At one meal, I noticed a little boy eating at a small table off to the side. At first I thought he was alone; then I recognized him as one of the children of an American couple who were on SBC and acked everything said to them in the approved way, with sonorous “Okays” and “thank-yous.” His mother had found in an S&D that he was suppressive to her (perhaps she hadn’t wanted him in the first place), and she had had to disconnect from him; and so they sat at separate tables. Now and then she ran over and gave him a love-pat because, as she maintained, “I can really only half-disconnect from him.” He was the saddest little boy I ever saw, his pinched, bewildered features in complete contrast to those of his sunny little sister, who always sat with her parents. [Inside, page 97]

There are no words. I could just spit.

On a lighter note:

Having decided in 1952 that most science fiction is actually a recounting of real past-life experience, Hubbard’s own preoccupations as a science fiction writer became the cosmology of his religion. [Blue Sky, page 375]

So much for the predictive nature of science fiction. It’s actually history, not futurism. I never would have guessed.

Okay. I think I’m “clear” of this now. Thank goodness.

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Embraced by the numinous

Posted by c. wagner on November 19, 2009

Yesterday, I spent a mostly enjoyable two hours watching a video called The Four Horsemen–a conversation between Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens (I could have done without Hitchens’ closing statement as it tripped off one of my phobias.). I was very surprised by some of what I heard. For four guys infamous as flaming, militant, intolerant atheists, they said a lot of things I’ve also heard from my more spiritual friends. Here’s a bit from Dan Dennett:

Yes, it’s a sad fact that people, in a sense, won’t trust their own valuing of their numinous experiences. They think it isn’t really as good as it seems, unless it’s from God, and some kind of a proof of religion. No, it’s just as wonderful as it seems. It’s just as important. It is the best moment in your life. And it’s the moment when you forget yourself and become better than you ever thought you could be in some way. And see, in all humbleness, the wonderfulness of nature. That’s it! And that’s wonderful. But, it doesn’t add anything to say, golly, that has to have been given to me by somebody even more wonderful.

He describes the same feeling of oneness, of communion with a greater whole, of transcendence that I’ve seen advanced as a benefit of believing in God. But he takes God out of the equation without devaluing the experience. A beautiful observation and point.

Of course, there were also the expected statements about the harm done be religion and belief in the paranormal. You know, the sort of stuff you expect from the Four Horsemen of Atheism. Only, they’re generally more polite than you would think. I recommended watching it.

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Churches, germs, and technology

Posted by c. wagner on November 12, 2009

Who says that the Catholic church frowns on innovation?

A number of churches are installing a little device from an Italian inventor, in the hopes of cutting down on the spread of disease.

It functions like an automatic soap dispenser in public lavatories – a churchgoer waves his or her hand under a sensor and the machine spurts out holy water.

That’s right. A touchless holy water dispenser. And they’re being installed to stop the spread of disease that would be passed on by the old-fashioned communal bowls or sponges of the blessed fluid.

No word on where the Vatican stands on these changes.

Read the article from the Telegraph.

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Texas execution and the Bible

Posted by c. wagner on November 10, 2009

Texas (“Famous for Executions”) killed another man November 5. I’m not bringing this up because there was evidence the guy was innocent (haven’t heard of any) or because I have a serious problem with the death penalty (I do), but because of how jurors arrived at his sentence. The jury consulted the Bible to choose the sentence for the convicted murderer.

And what passage out of all of the Bible did the jurors close in on? Not the bit about “turning the other cheek”. Not the bit about “forgiving seven times 70 times”. Not the bit about casting the first stone. Nooooo. They picked Numbers chapter 35, verse 16:

And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

That’s right. They chose the death penalty, not necessarily because of the nastiness of the crime (a shooting during a burglary), but because a line of the Bible said it was the fitting penalty for killing someone with “an instrument of iron”, like a gun.

One of the jurors was interviewed later by a Danish reporter.

He told the journalist he believed “the Bible is truth from page 1 to the last page”, and that if civil law and biblical law were in conflict, the latter should prevail. He said that if he had been told he could not consult the Bible, “I would have left the courtroom”.

I’m officially terrified. Where is my separation of church and state? Why didn’t this get thrown out on appeal? Is there a loophole here that I don’t know about?

I’m also glad that I don’t live in Texas. Of course, I was already glad about that.

Read the article from Amnesty International.

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How hard do you have to work to offend more people than Christopher Hitchens?

Posted by c. wagner on November 6, 2009

Christopher Hitchens offends a lot of people. A lot. A whole lot. The man has about as much subtlety as a chainsaw and a deep hatred for organized religion. He’s not going to be winning many popularity contests.

Last fall, he toured the country with a Christian pastor debating whether Christianity is a force for good in the world.

The pastor’s name is Douglas Wilson. He may offend even more people than Christopher Hitchens, if you dig into his background. More offensive than Christopher Hitchens. Really.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, devoted a long article to the man in 2004. They summarize Wilson’s teachings.

In his voluminous and often tedious writings, Wilson lays out an array of hard-right beliefs, many of them related to family and sexual matters. Overall, he told congregants last year, his goal is “the overthrow of unbelief and secularism.”

The world as Wilson sees it is divided not by race but by religion — biblical Christians versus all others. As he says in one of his books, “[I]f neither parent believes in Jesus Christ, then the children are foul — unclean.”

“Government schools” are godless propaganda factories teaching secularism, rationalism, and worse. Wilson’s congregants are instructed to send their children to private Christian schools (like the one he started) or to home-school them.

Woman “was created to be dependent and responsive to a man,” Wilson writes. Feminists seek “to rob women of their beauty in submission.” Women should only be allowed to date or “court” with their father’s permission — and then, if they are Christian, only with other Christians.

If a woman is raped, the rapist should pay the father a bride price and then, if the father approves, marry his victim.

Homosexuals, Wilson says, are “sodomites,” “people with foul sexual habits.” But the biblical punishment for homosexuality is not necessarily death, Wilson says in trying to distance himself from [Christian] Reconstruction [a religious, white-supremacy ideology]. Exile is another possibility.

Cursing one’s parents is “deserving of punishment by death,” Wilson adds. “Parental failure is not a defense.” And Christian parents, by the way, “need not be afraid to lay it on” when spanking, he says.

Indeed, “godly discipline” would include spanking 2-year-old children for such “sins” as whining.

It also doesn’t flatter the man in that he and a co-author

have together probably done more than any others to construct the theology now animating much of the neo-Confederate movement.

That’s right, Wilson wants to bring back an imaginary, pre-Civil War South, where all the plantation owners were “orthodox” Christians and slaves were happy being slaves.

You know, I think I’d rather live in Hitchens’ world without a god and religion than in Wilson’s world where I could be exiled or executed for having a girlfriend and where racism is enforced by law.

Read about Douglas  Wilson at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Read about the movie being made of the debates between Hitchens and Wilson.

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Candy can be bad for the soul?

Posted by c. wagner on November 3, 2009

Okay. I’ve heard some wacky stuff before, but this has to be up near the top. I’ll just let it speak for itself.

“[M]ost of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches,” Daniels [a columnist on the Christian Broadcasting Network website] wrote. “I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.”

Sweet baby gouda. The worst thing I’ve gotten out of Halloween candy is a stomachache. Wait. Maybe that was a demon. Maybe I should have been exorcised. This may explain something.

To be fair, these are only two sentences out of a long column ranting about the pagan roots of Halloween and the threat demons pose to “good Christians”.

Read more from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Read the original article from Google’s cache.

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It’s more complex than I thought?

Posted by c. wagner on November 2, 2009

I always like finding things that expand my understanding. A recent blog post on the history of the American creationist movement did just that. Like so many things in history, the story is more complex than it looks before you study it. Which is pretty much par for the course with anything involving people.

Read PZ Myers summarize Ronald Numbers’ history of the creationist movement in the United States.

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Can a convention trump the Constitution?

Posted by c. wagner on October 29, 2009

A new convention is making the rounds at the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Put forward by Pakistan

It proposes “legal prohibition of publication of material that negatively stereotypes, insults or uses offensive language” on matters regarded by religious followers as “sacred or inherent to their dignity as human beings.”

Whoa. Hold the phone. Who is going to define this? Even more important, who can this be used against? Is Richard Dawkins going to be jailed for saying people who believe in a god are deluded? Are creationists going to be locked up for declaring their god built the world in 6 days? Where would this proposal draw the line?

“Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called antidefamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion. I strongly disagree,” said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week.

Now that’s a statement I can get behind. I may not agree with your religion, I may even try to convert you to my way of thinking, but I definitely don’t want to put you in jail or otherwise punish you. As long as you feel the same way, I have no problem with you and your beliefs.

Here’s hoping the UN agrees with me.

Read the article at the Christian Science Monitor.

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