A funny rant about religion grouping turned into an essay blasting Scientology.
|So I decided to go and update my details on Myspace, since I've been a member for four days now and haven't done much more than pick out a background, get a profile song, and befriend the one person on here I already knew and for whom I joined, since I like keeping in touch. I went through the "Details" page and checked the boxes:
Drink? Weeeeell, only sometimes, and with people, but that counts for a yes.
Body type? Ummm . . . Average? Can I call myself average if the ratio of ass to overall body size is so greatly different for myself than for other white girls of the same relative weight and height? Hell, I'll just put Average; I look average enough in that photo.
Religion? Let's see what they've got: Atheist, Agnostic, Catholic . . . wait, why do Catholics, Mormons, and Protestants get their own private options, but the rest of the Christian faith is lumped together under "Christian - Other"? As if Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Pentacostals were not only less important, but also enough alike that there's no point in distinguishing them. That . . . that's just stupd! I mean, there are definite differences between Catholics and Protestants, and it's fine to acknowledge this, but what about the differences between the Greek Orthodox tradition and Baptists? What about the break between Pentacostalism and . . . anything! Especially since Buddhism is given one option in the drop-down menu, and there are huge differences between Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, namely that the former see the Buddha as a human being who is dead and will remain as such, and the latter see him as an incarnation of wisdom that will continue to be reborn in the form of new Buddhas. Oh, and don't get me started on that Tibetan Buddhism BS that Madonna made so popular. Gotama himself would probably piss on the Tibetan Book of the Dead for all it's pseudo-Buddhist mysticism. That's crap.
But the thing that inspired this rant was what I found when I tried to something along the lines of "Neo-pagan" in the list. Yeah, they've got "Wiccan" as an option, but it's a bad option: Wicca, depending on the practitioner, can either refer to a highly structured and complicated form of witchcraft, a la the Gardnerian tradition that led to the revival of druidic and paganistic faiths in the 1940s, OR to the bland and tradition-lacking nature-based "spirituality" that has become so watered-down in an attempt to make it as non-threatening and politically correct to the outsider as possible that there's almost no room left for actual pagan traditional beliefs to step in. It's just a little annoying to see, as in the case of the lumped Christian denominations, every variety of Earth-based faith thrown together, regardless of which one worships the Goddess, God, both, the All, or the Self (in the case of Satanists, whom I would argue are pretty witchy in tradition even if they don't believe in deities), and put under an umbrella term that has become so diluted through popular culture and misuse that it has been rendered virtually meaningless.
Especially when you see that Scientology made the list. Scientology, what the fuck! Unless the People's Temple, Heaven's Gate, and Raelians get a spot of their own on the drop-down menu, Scientology has no place there. Or you could just create another umbrella menu option: Alien-Based Religions that Advocate Separation from Society and the Handing Over of All of One's Finances to the Leader of the Church. Okay, okay, the People's Temple had nothing to do with aliens. It can have its own option, then. But still, I know I'm probably going to get crap about dissing another religion, especially since I'm a member of a religion that gets put down by angry Christian guys all the time, but I can't justify the application of the word "religion" to Scientology.
Yeah, there are assloads of people who follow it, but there are assloads of people who drink too much, or speed, or enter into subpar relationships out of a desire to validate one's sense of sexy or just because it's easier than being alone. Popular doesn't mean right. And yeah, I know that many of the major world religions started out as cults: after all, a cult is simply a group of people who turn their attention away from the established religion(s) of their region and instead follow the teachings of a lone individual who believes he or she has the answers to the problems of salvation, happiness, morality, feeding the hungry children of the world, what have you. BUT! Buddha never charged an entrance fee when he got the attention of Hindus. Joseph Smith didn't make the faithful line up outside the church and pay in order to get in and hear the sermon. Catholics don't demand a fee for use of the confessional, Mohammed didn't save tenets of his faith for the "initiated," and Jesus didn't ask interested Jews to hand over their life's savings so he could build a private ranch for the "faithful" to be safe and cut off from their non-converted families.
Yes, Scientology members are strongly encouraged to cut themselves off from friends and family who don't follow the Church. We don't hear about it because, for the most part, Scientologists don't talk about it. Of course, the only information comes from people leaving the Church, and from the bank accounts of those unfortunate enough to have died (mysteriously in some cases). But the whole "pay as you pray" thing and the hierarchy of who can hear what doctrine is fairly common knowledge these days, at least in Europe. We in the US are so taken by the fact that Tom Cruise and Will Smith are members that we don't question the authority of Scientology as much as we might if only intelligent, decent, non-celebrity people became members. "Will Smith is a Scientologist, and HE'S not crazy!" Neither are most of the people who join "alternative religious movements." They are smart people who feel disillusioned with the usual explanations for life and so forth, and who deeply desire to be part of something special. Celebrities are already at least somewhat special to North Atlantic eyes, and many of them are highly intelligent or think a little bit differently than the average man on the street, and intelligence leads to wondering what else might be out there. There's nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of alternative religions that are just fine. But, they don't charge you money to worship.
THAT'S something that really pisses me off. If you have the answer to morality and happiness and living a good life, what the fuck are you doing only sharing it with those people who have something to offer? Number one, you're a religion, or so you say; religions teach us how to be good people and lead good lives. Wouldn't a good person understand the importance of sharing with those who have naught? Or even better, wouldn't they like to share their happiness-making secrets? Fuck, you're supposed be teaching us what to do to live good lives, but you can't even figure it out for yourself! Number two, it's just messed up to charge people for religious services. When you do that, you automatically reduce the number of people who will be able to hear your sermons and see the light for themselves. People who would have gone to learn about your faith decide that they'd rather use their hundred dollars to buy food and gas, and thus remain unhappy, assuming that your sermons actually have any grain of truth to them. I can understand the implementation of the collection plate; the church needs to get its money from somewhere so it can remain heated and renovated, and so that the nice men reading Bible passages and answering your questions about Original Sin can eat and thus not pass out in the confessional due to a tragically low hemoglobin count. But you pay what you can afford (unless you choose to pay far less, which is up to you and you will burn in Hell if such a place exists AND the Catholics are right about thr angry God watching over us all), and everybody gets a seat no matter whether they pay or not.
Religious knowledge should be free, forward, and presented in a manner that is easily understood. There's simply no point to faith if you're not allowed to think enough to choose to be faithful; I mean, pretty much every religion currently extant mandates that you have to want to be good in order to attain salvation. Salvation is important for a lot of people, and wrapping it up in dogma (Jews, Christians, and Gardenarians), mysticism (Tibetan Buddhists, Christians again, Jews again, plenty of Neo-pagan groups), politics (everyone to some extent), and obscurity (Scientologists and any Christian church from about AD 500-1750) just makes people confused and miserable. If you're really a nice person with a good and just faith, make it accessible for all. That's the only truly moral thing to do if you truly do have the answers. If you don't, then hell, why not shake down every poor schmuck in the world who's looking for something special, eh? You fucking manipulative bastards . . .