On Diversity of Thought
And I'm not a follower of Rev. Moon or a member of any other unpopular religious group, either. In fact, I don't belong to any church at all. I find religion interesting in an abstract kind of way, and every once in a while I experience a brief moment when I feel deeply and spiritually connected to the universe, but I've never felt a need to be part of an organized religion.
I spent some time around Scientologists when I was a child, though, because my parents were involved with them for a few years. I remember bumping my knee, when I was about four years old, and being told that I should just stand there until I felt completely calm so that I wouldn't get an engram. When I had a nightmare about the neighbor's dog, my father gave me an auditing session. Scientologists had regular meetings in my family's living room (much to my annoyance, because I got sent to bed while they all ate popcorn).
But I will say this: Even with all the weirdness, I felt very much accepted for who I was. When I was six years old and getting kicked out of one school after another because of some pretty major autistic and hyper behavior, the Scientologists encouraged my parents to keep looking for a better learning environment where I could flourish, rather than giving in to school administrators who wanted me put on Ritalin or worse. (This was before there were Scientology schools, by the way.) They showed a lot more understanding and appreciation of my differences than almost anyone else would have done.
I knew some Moonies when I was in college. They seemed like nice kids, very earnest in their desire to bring about a better world. I read some of their literature (which seemed awfully convoluted, but harmless enough), and once I visited a church center and talked with a guy who had married his wife in one of Rev. Moon's arranged-marriage mass weddings. They were very happy together, he said.
I couldn't understand why these groups were regularly vilified as "cults" by the mass media. Their members just seemed like people to me. I found it very disturbing that they were being snatched off the streets and brutalized by "deprogrammers" in the interest of enforcing social conformity, that their different ways of thinking were being described as a dangerous epidemic that needed to be wiped out, and that they were ridiculed and viciously discriminated against (by otherwise tolerant people) wherever they went.
Just about all the same things that bother me now about society's treatment of autistics...
I am not suggesting that we should all be great friends with the Scientologists and Moonies, and I'm well aware that there has been a lot of dodgy business at the top levels of their organizations (though the same can be said of some mainstream churches, too). But I would like to see more tolerance of religious diversity, more understanding that we are not just talking about monolithic organizations but about individual human beings who have feelings and who deserve to be treated with respect, however strange we may think their beliefs are.