A recent AOL video featured Janet Reitman, who called herself a contributing editor from Rolling Stones magazine, revealing the “truth about Scientology.” According to Reitman, the big secret is that Scientology is largely commercial.
Only people who pay around $100,000 or who dedicate decades to the religion, Reitman said, are finally introduced to the truth that the faith is built around a intergalactic figure from thousands of years ago, a character from one of founder L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction book.
Thank goodness Reitman has finally pried the cover off the top of this scandal. Oh, wait a minute.
|Moses on Mt. Sinai|
Sure, Scientology sounds a bit strange. However, is it any more absurd than the idea that a person born in human form was really God who then was killed as a sacrifice for the supposed sin of a nonexistent Adam and Eve? Or that a long-dead relative might be reborn as a cow? Scientology fits right in there with that lot.
Besides, the truth of any religion doesn’t matter. People apparently are willing to believe most anything.
As for Scientology’s economic considerations, all religions require financial support. Jews pay dues to synagogues, for example. We’ve all read of individuals who made huge donations to various evangelical preachers, only to complain later. How about the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church? That’s what helped precipitate the Protestant Reformation. Scientology may be more or less greedy than some other faith, but it is hardly unique.
Nor does the fact Scientology has mysteries mean anything. Mysteries are nothing new. Christianity is the last of the mystery religions that once thrived in ancient times. Every culture had them. Beliefs in a god or goddess – Isis, Demeter and others – were augmented by hidden rituals available only to members and designed to create contact with the deity.
|Communion wine and bread|
Christianity still maintains some of the secret rites, such as communion: the eating of bread as the body of Jesus and drinking wine as his body. At one time, that was a hidden rite available only to parishioners. Paralleling similar sacred rituals in competitive faiths, communion was (and is) designed to bring the participant into contact with God. Christian groups once fought over whether or not the bread actually became the body of Jesus or was only representative of the body.
The real question then is why Reitman was allowed to make such a presentation. I can think of a few reasons: maybe it was a slow news day; Rolling Stone needed some publicity; or Reitman has friends at AOL. More likely, Reitman’s comments provided the brief sound bite that helped fill space.
On the other hand, there’s a more sinister possibility. With much of our population now undereducated and willing to swallow any claims without critical review – just think of the absurdities politicians are claiming in apparent sincerity – and, as a result, drawn to the religious partisanship popularized by a variety of media figures, attacks on smaller sects have become more commonplace. For example, anti-Semitism episodes in 2010 increased by more than 100 percent worldwide compared with the previous year, according to a report from the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University.
It’s an isolate-and-destroy approach that characterized Nazi Germany’s approach to ethnic cleansing.
And that may be the real secret.
Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net. He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. He can also be followed on Twitter.
You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1