Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Friday, November 10, 2006

On Diversity of Thought

I'll start this post with what seems to have become almost an obligatory disclaimer in some circles: I am not a Scientologist.

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.



  • Weird - I have seen so many comments about Christianity on the Autism Hub (also a commentary that was called touted from an opinion post from the UK that seemingly mocked some Muslims because some of them don't want to vaccinate) yet no one really complains about that. Now all of a sudden a call for religious tolerance. I guess it just depends on the WHO is being commented against. I think it certainly is important to know however that certain people might be masquarading as a certain religion (like Christian) yet hanging out and supporting a group that some Christians defintely see as incompatable. Also - it is not a matter of nice or not nice but what are the beliefs and to what extent those beliefs are being presented as unbiased medical opinion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:36 AM  

  • Because they combine tactics similar to those used by other cults, and the church's 'founder' was a con man?

    Because they've been tied to the deaths of some of their members, including leaving a mentally disturbed member in a dark room filled with bugs and no water for days?

    Because repeating sections of their religious texts, or reproducing images of it, are met with claims of copyright infringement in court.

    Because they sue anyone - and I do mean anyone, as SouthPark can attest to - into the ground for daring to call them, well, ridiculous. Or even just giving the gist of their religion.

    Their religious techniques are similar to well-known brainwashing techniques. They require members to give a vast majority of their money and goods. They require members to sever connections with the outside world.

    Classical cult conditioning.

    I've got no problem with many alternative religions, and many problems with many well-accepted religions. It's not that their beliefs are strange : compared to some folk like most individuals interesting in therianthropy, they're not too abnormal. But I'd rather make fun of the Christian church and end up with a few mean names thrown my way, than the Hubbardists and get stuck in court.

    By Blogger Josh, at 10:38 AM  

  • Gr... make sure to check names before posting. That should have been Cult Awareness Network, Time magazine, Paulette Cooper for groups that were sued. Bullshit! and SouthPark episodes were canceled or not aired in order to avoid possible lawsuits, but were not sued.

    Sorry about that.

    By Blogger Josh, at 11:09 AM  

  • Anonymous: You're quite right that if someone is presenting their beliefs as unbiased medical opinion, that should be challenged. However, as you point out, their misrepresentations can be challenged without mocking their beliefs. I'm not sure what posts you're referring to on the Autism Hub that insulted Christians or Muslims, but just for the record, I don't agree with insulting anybody because of their religious beliefs.

    Gatt Suru: I agree with you that when religious organizations commit abuses, people should speak up about it, whether the offender is Scientology, a mainstream church (such as the pedophile priest scandal in the Catholic Church), or whoever.

    But there's a big difference between pointing out abuses by a religious group and treating all members of the group as if they are incapable of rational thought, dangerous to society, and walking jokes. In my view, it's just as offensive to treat a "cultist" like that as when any other person is on the receiving end of such treatment.

    By Blogger abfh, at 12:47 PM  

  • I think that, when you start ending up with majority doctrines of the religion/business involving brainwashing or attacking those who don't agree, it starts being necessary to be cautious regarding the group.

    Just because they have an open mind doesn't mean they're good guys/gals. If a mind is kept open enough, it's eventually going to slide out.

    By Blogger Josh, at 3:09 PM  

  • Well the biggest cult going is the Roman Catholic Church, but I would say that I am a Baptist :)

    By Blogger Larry Arnold PhD FRSA, at 4:04 PM  

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