Thursday 19 September 2019

We stress about Scientology but give other faiths a free pass

Mission Impossible: Protesters outside the official opening of Scientology's European base in Firhouse, Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Mission Impossible: Protesters outside the official opening of Scientology's European base in Firhouse, Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

To the non-religious mind, all forms of faith are vaguely absurd.

It doesn't really matter what form that form of religious expression may take. But if you believe, as science suggests, that we're born, we live and then we die just like every other organic life form on the planet, then the idea of an afterlife, or eternal salvation, or a celestial controller-in-chief simply doesn't stack up.

That's not to say that all religions are inherently dishonest, just that they are all wrong.

The cornerstone of every religion that has ever been created - and religion is a man-made phenomenon, lest we forget - is faith.

Whether it's Christianity, Judaism or Islam, these Abrahamic 'religions of the book' all peddle a succession of folk tales which are obviously either allegorical or simply deranged. But the faithful are expected to believe, or at least pretend to believe, that these are the literal words of whatever God it is they happen to worship.

It's a form of mental gymnastics, I suppose, but one which works for a lot of people and that's a good thing - whatever gets you through the night, and all that.

But even by the fundamentally illogical tenets of all religions, Scientology seems determined to be even more utterly bonkers than the competition.

The money-spinning brainchild of a scam artist who seems to have started whole movement as a jape, it features Thetans, aliens, a being called Xenu, talk of an interstellar war and, fittingly, the whole basis of this spurious drivel seem to have been ripped from the pulpy pages of a bad 1950s science fiction novel - which probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise, seeing as the church's founder, L Ron Hubbard, was a failed sci-fi writer.

But why were people so enraged by the news that this ludicrous bunch of people had opened a new European HQ in the admittedly unlikely environs of Firhouse?

Well, according to former members, Scientology is a cult that is mean to former members. So, a bit like all the other religions which have a rather jaundiced view of apostates.

According to these former members, Scientology exists as a money-making scam to dupe the gullible out of their money. So, a bit like all the other religions which expect tithes and 'voluntary' contributions.

I should probably point out that I went through a flurry of grief from Scientologists a few years ago, which involved constant phone calls and a deluge of propaganda material clogging my postbox. They are certainly not people whose company I will be seeking out any time soon. But I've never had death threats from Scientologists, in the way I've had threats from people of other faiths.

We seem to have reached a rather quirky point in our cultural evolution where we're meant to believe that all religions are equal, but some are more equal than others.

There was little outcry, for example, when students at Balliol College in Oxford recently banned a Christian Students stand at their Freshers' Week because other student leaders proclaimed that Christianity was responsible for 'homophobia and neo-colonialism' and might make 'students of colour' feel uncomfortable - although if they felt that uncomfortable by a bunch of Christian students, maybe they shouldn't attend a college formed by a Christian.

The reason why people feel they can have an easy pop at Christianity is because it is a safe and easy target, and Christians aren't in the habit of people who insult their faith.

Similarly, having a pop at Scientology is the virtue-signalling equivalent of shooting into an open goal.

As one of the posters waved by a protester outside the Scientology 'Victory HQ' proclaimed: 'Keep Tom Cruise out of Firhouse.'

I'm sure that's a sentiment shared by many in Firhouse, if only because there is the undeniable sense that Tom Cruise is the kind of guy who would turn up and never leave.

But not being a fan of the diminutive, couch-jumping oddball is hardly a solid reason to object to their presence.

Ask most people what they think of when they think of Scientology, and they will likely wrinkle their nose in displeasure and then express their firm conviction, as one female protester did the other day, that they should "be banned in this country".

But why should they be banned? What they do is no worse than any other religion and more benign than some.

Either you believe in religious freedom or you don't. Once you start cracking down on unpopular religions/cults (delete according to taste), the next step is cracking down on unpopular books, opinions and political beliefs.

And there is the obvious question - if the Scientologists want to pursue their laughably idiotic beliefs, then how can someone who believes in the literal truth of transubstantiation feel qualified to scoff at them?

Hundreds of people have been killed in Europe and America in the last few years in the name of a violent religious ideology which would drag us back to the Stone Age.

So, we cower like frightened dogs in the face of offending the so-called religion of peace, while directing all our ire towards a pyramid scheme for gullible people.

I'll join the moral panic when we start seeing Scientologist suicide bombers and trucks driven into crowds of pedestrians by men screaming L Ron Hubbard's name.

Until then, it's just another load of man-made nonsense..

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