America’s Religious Blind Spot: Scientology
By John Feehery
Jesus Christ and L.Ron Hubbard have pretty much the same status under our tax code. Christ, a simple carpenter and Jewish rabbi, founded the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and the other Christian religions that sprang from them. Hubbard, a former science fiction writer and entrepreneur, founded Scientology.
Scientology is back in the news with the news that Tom Cruise and his wife, Katie Holmes, are breaking up. Apparently, Holmes didn’t want their daughter, Suri, to be further introduced into the bizarre world of Scientology.
Rupert Murdoch stepped into the fray when he tweeted (quite rightly, in my estimation): “Scientology back in news. Very weird cult, but big, big money involved with Tom Cruise either No. 2 or 3 in hierarchy,” and then, “Watch Katie Holmes and Scientology story develop. Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people .”
Scientology’s rise says a lot about America.
The American people are pretty open-minded about religion. From the very beginnings of the Republic, people from across the globe came to America to practice whatever religion they wanted to practice.
Certainly, discrimination was a very real part of the American experience. Catholics faced intense discrimination. So did the Jews. Interestingly, Muslims didn’t face nearly that kind of discrimination until later in American history.
But religious entrepreneurship has also been part of the culture of this country. Itinerant preachers spread the Gospel from the very beginnings, starting with Jonathan Edwards. Because of the diffuse nature of the dominant Protestant faiths, all kinds of holy salesman (and some not so holy) crossed the country, searching for converts and more than a few coins.
Religious revivalism has been a constant theme in our national history. Great religious movements helped inspire movement across the country.
Joseph Smith founded the quintessential American religion, Mormonism, amid a religious revival in the burned-over district in upstate New York, from which sprung the Second Great Awakening.
That revival also helped to inspire millions of followers to the Baptist and Methodists branches of the Protestant faith. Christians, by and large, didn’t care much for the new religion founded by Mr. Smith, and he and his followers were forced to move westward, in a hurry, to escape the blood-hungry masses who hated them.
Mormonism is still pretty controversial in certain quarters. But compared to Scientology, Mormonism looks like the mainline Anglican Church.
Scientology is not just a cult. It is a fraudulent organization that preys on those who are susceptible to its bizarre message to defraud those folks of their life savings.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Hollywood is chock full of Scientologists. So many of these movie stars have such a warped perspective of reality, and the culture they promote that pollutes the minds of our society is utterly lacking in any kind of coherent ethical philosophy. That we allow Hollywood to produce this crap without any kind of adult supervision consistently astounds me.
The problem, of course, is that the cultural relativism produced by the Hollywood set is all too easy to accept and to accommodate. Hey, it’s not bothering me. Why should we care what religion these nutballs practice?.
Well, at some point, it reaches the point of absurdity. For example, Satanists just complained that they were victims of a hate crime because somebody took down their yard sign that said “Vote Satan.” It is a sad day in a America when a citizen can’t take a firm stand against Satan.
The IRS needs to be given some greater guidance here. Not every religion is created equal. Satan worship does not deserve protection under the First Amendment. Neither does Scientology. Rupert Murdoch is right. It’s a creepy and probably evil religion. Just ask Katie Holmes.