Scientology: Cult or Mirror to all Faiths?

What is the difference between Jack the Ripper and the Suffolk Strangler? Apart from that we actually know Steve Wright is the latter and he was caught, what separates them?

Jack the Ripper rejoices in a whole tourism and franchise industry centred on him. He has films, television programmes, documentaries, books, cups, ashtrays, t-shirts and tours. How does one serial killer become so profitable? Why are there no Suffolk tours or films starring Johnny Depp?

Of course, timing would seem the obvious answer: with no living immediate relatives of Jack the Ripper; we feel it is safe to exploit his legend. It is just too soon to do the same for Steve Wright.

For Jack the Ripper read “recognised” religion. For Suffolk Strangler read Scientology. Recently, the fear of offending members of various “communities” may have jumped the shark when lawyers advising the Metropolitan Police decided that the word “cult” on signs protesting Scientology could be considered offensive. A protester was ordered to relinquish a sign, he refused, and he was handed a summons.

It seems this is one step closer to the UK finally allowing Scientology the status of a religion. Both atheists and the faithful seem determined to prevent this; we are supposed to feel this is another crazy bureaucratic decision, political correctness gone mad, and an offence against proper religions. However, even though the belief and practices of Scientology are sheer lunacy, you cannot help but find some irony in the current debate as to whether it is a religion or a cult.

It would be perfect if the intention of science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard had been to start a joke on the faith-based masses; however, it appears that he and his followers genuinely believe this stuff about aliens.

As objectionable as their beliefs may be to logic and reason, are they any more so than existing religious thought and belief? Are the underhand controversies Scientology has embroiled itself in any worse than we have seen and continue to see from recognised religions?

The mere existence of this group and its ever-expanding popularity hold up a mirror to the whole issue of religion. The hypocrisy of major religions defending their own status yet attempting to repudiate Scientology is among the finest pieces of real-life comedy in action.

The question is, who decides when a belief gains religion status? Many European states are hand-in-glove with many major religions and seek advice on social policy from religious leaders, yet they seem to have a set of rules to deny Scientology the same status. How? What are these rules?

Is it the numbers of believers that matter in how important a religion or belief is? There are over 100 million Liverpool Football Club fans across the world. Every one of them will tell you “next season is our year”. Like Armageddon, The Second Coming, The Rapture, the 100 million fans (including myself) are still waiting.

Based on numbers and an irrational belief in a scientifically implausible event, Liverpool Football Club Supporters could well get the same protection against offence and jokes as every other religion. Best remember that when standing on the famous listening to away supporters offend our faith with hate-filled chants about never winning a thing. Next time a satirical cartoon appears portraying Liverpool fans in a negative light, we will be looking for some direct action.

Is the reappearance of alien super-beings really so implausible a belief compared to a supreme being that managed to create everything in the space of six days or the title ambitions of football fans? An all-loving and all-powerful supreme being, furthermore, that does not seem to have enough love or power to stop huge earthquakes or tornadoes.

If numbers of people who hold the belief is not the marker for validity, what else is there? The easiest suggestion is that the inherent moral value of the belief plays a significant part. This would seem logical, but who determines “moral value”?

Using dianetics and positive thought to cure an illness does not sound like the kind of advice you’d give to parents. I am sure there’s only so much a parent can do with happy thoughts when little Johnny breaks a leg by falling off his bicycle.

How does this differ from the power of prayer though? Surely, it is the same thing as dianetics? The only difference is, instead of being positive about it in the hope of a cure, you are going cap-in-hand to a god asking for his help. As Christianity retreats even further into the anti-scientific Dark Ages trying to fight off scientific theory from all angles, we hear of cases where children die because their parents chose to pray for a cure rather than get medical help. Apparently this benevolent God did not check his voicemails.

Are the beliefs of Scientology any less moral than the homophobic, misogynistic, anti-union, pro-violence, anti-tolerant nature and belief of most other accepted religions? On the face of it, the answer is no.

The Belgian Government brought charges against Scientology; it claims that the Church of Scientology is an unscrupulous commercial enterprise that harasses its critics and brutally exploits its members, calling it a “criminal organisation”.

It certainly has had its moments. However, does a bit of espionage during “Operation Snow White” really compare to some of the actions of recognised religious groups? Does it compare to collusion with Nazis, war, suppression, terrorism? Does a bit of wire-tapping and breaking and entering compare to bombing abortion clinics or tube trains?

Critics hold the practice of disconnection as another example of malpractice, but again, writing a stern letter to your loved ones about how you are upset that they don’t believe in that stuff about aliens doesn’t even compare to tactics by other major religions. The letter may be upsetting for the parents, but it’s not really on the same level as having to seek the help of Amnesty International after “coming out” to your religious parents. And with Channel Four recently winning their case, it can hardly be claimed that Scientologists are the only ones practicing a bit of brainwashing.

At each twist and turn, there is a defence for Scientology as a religion and not a cult. This is not in defence of Scientology in itself, but its existence raises some serious questions about the protection and influence of all other faiths in our society. In fact, it seems that the only reason Scientology is denied religion status is because it isn’t extreme enough. Maybe it needs the blood of a few thousand more people on its hands before it can achieve that.

For what reasons exactly are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam afforded their status as a religions, yet not Scientology? Scientology is a joke, but a good one. One of those jokes that leaves you creased with laughter until some time later when its true suggestion sinks in and you realise the joke was on you.

My proposal is that we all take up banners stating that Scientology is a religion, not to support the practice, but to show all other religions up for what they are. No better or worse than the bizarre, money-making ruminations of a science fiction writer.

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