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Is the Church of Scientology a Religion?

tom cruise church of scientology
Tom Cruise, speaking at the opening of a Scientology church in Madrid.

Is the Church of Scientology a religion? No, the Evangelical indignantly says. They are a cult. Do you know what they believe, Bruce? Why they believe:

75 million years ago there was an intergalactic ruler called Xenu (Zee – Noo) who had a population problem that made China look pathetic. To get round this little hiccup, Xenu enlisted the help of evil psychiatrists to drug a whole shit ton of aliens, freeze them in ice, and then load them onto space planes that looked suspiciously like a common airliner of the 1950’s – the DC-8 Comet (only painted all shiny like and with space rockets)

The aliens got shipped to earth, where they were dropped in and around volcanoes (just stick with it, it gets better), at which point Xenu detonated a crap load of nukes just in case the volcanoes didnt finish the job.

The alien souls, or “Thetans” (Fay-Tans) soon started drifting upwards, but the wise and mighty Xenu had forseen this, and cunningly built electric fences. Cos y’know, electric fences are good at catching souls?

The Thetans were then brainwashed for a considerable period of time before being set loose, where they roamed about all confused and dazed. Eventually they latched on to early mankind, and are now the source of all our confusion.

Surely, even you,Bruce, can see that Scientology is a whacked out, crazy false religion. Not really. Is the central tenets of Scientology any different from the core beliefs of Christianity? The only difference between the two is that one has been around 60+ years and the other has been around 2,000 years.

In a recent The Daily Beast interview, Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson had this to say about Scientology and religion in general:

I’m curious what your take on Scientology is, because the intergalactic story of Xenu does encroach on your territory a bit.

So, you have people who are certain that a man in a robe transforms a cracker into the literal body of Jesus saying that what goes on in Scientology is crazy? Let’s realize this: What matters is not who says who’s crazy, what matters is we live in a free country. You can believe whatever you want, otherwise it’s not a free country—it’s something else. If we start controlling what people think and why they think it, we have case studies where that became the norm. I don’t care what the tenets are of Scientology. They don’t distract me. I don’t judge them, and I don’t criticize them.

Now, where the rubber hits the road is, since we are a free country where belief systems are constitutionally protected—provided they don’t infringe on the rights of others—then how do you have governance over “all” when you have belief systems for the “some”? It seems to me that the way you govern people is you base governance on things that are objectively true; that are true regardless of your belief system, or no matter what the tenets are of your holy documents. And then they should base it on objective truths that apply to everyone. So the issue comes about not that there are religious people in the world that have one view over another, it’s if you have one view or another based on faith and you want to legislate that in a way that affects everyone. That’s no longer a free democracy. That’s a country where the few who have a belief system that’s not based in objective reality want to control the behavior of everyone else.

The documentary essentially argues that Scientology shouldn’t be granted tax-exempt status as a religion.

But why aren’t they a religion? What is it that makes them a religion and others are religions? If you attend a Seder, there’s an empty chair sitting right there and the door is unlocked because Elijah might walk in. OK. These are educated people who do this. Now, some will say it’s ritual, some will say it could literally happen. But religions, if you analyze them, who is to say that one religion is rational and another isn’t? It looks like the older those thoughts have been around, the likelier it is to be declared a religion. If you’ve been around 1,000 years you’re a religion, and if you’ve been around 100 years, you’re a cult. That’s how people want to divide the kingdom. Religions have edited themselves over the years to fit the times, so I’m not going to sit here and say Scientology is an illegitimate religion and other religions are legitimate religions. They’re all based on belief systems. Look at Mormonism! There are ideas that are as space-exotic within Mormonism as there are within Scientology, and it’s more accepted because it’s a little older than Scientology is, so are we just more accepting of something that’s older?

The line I’m drawing is that there are religions and belief systems, and objective truths. And if we’re going to govern a country, we need to base that governance on objective truths—not your personal belief system.

Tyson sums up my view quite well. Each to their own, but keep it to yourself and keep your damn hands off the government.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Suzanne

    So Bruce, did you watch HBO’s “Going Clear”? It’s almost a perfect primer example of how cult like religious controls and exploits believers. You could set what happened and their methods against just about any IFB or non denom and have the exact same behaviors, rationalizations and abusive crap.

  2. Avatar
    Monty

    I used to always chuckle when I overheard fundies laugh at other religions, such as Jehova’s Witnessess, Mormons, etc. for their odd ways of worshipping. As though eating and drinking the body and blood of your saviour, who you believe died and rose again 3 days later isn’t bizarre in itself.

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