Scientology Nightmare

The above image would be the Scientology Cross, the eight points of which represent the eight dynamics of existence. I used this screencap that I took from an episode of South Park instead because the extremely litigious Church of Scientology owns the Scientology Cross. This is the horrifying organization that intimidated and blackmailed the IRS into granting them tax-exempt status.

The Wikipedia article on Scientology is probably as good a place as any to start if you want to learn about it.

When the topic of Scientology is brought up, a lot of people talk about Lord Xenu and thetans and the strange alternate language that Scientologists use. They talk about how the Church of Scientology keeps rigid control over its members, how the Church includes a number of celebrities, how it cheats its members out of a great deal of money, and how it is creepily aggressive in taking down anything that might cast it in a negative life. People may also mention that the Church of Scientology is strongly opposed to psychiatry.

And those are good things to mention. But, let’s just talk about a few of these things.

Any religion is going to have some of its own vocabulary. The further removed from the religion that you are, the weirder that it will sound. Scientology takes this to a new level, with new terminology for everyday conversations. This is, well, deliberate—it helps to drive a wedge between Scientologists and outsiders.

Scientology has some wacky beliefs. By which I mean that Scientology’s beliefs are “out there” even in comparison to literal interpretations of creation narratives from the Abrahamic faiths or the aborigines of Australia or the Epic of Gilgamesh. But this should never be the real focus of criticism of Scientology. It is a subjective argument (again, just about every religion has some wacky beliefs held by at least some of the adherents, if not all). But the beliefs held by Scientologists are the least troubling thing about the Church of Scientology.

Yes, the Church of Scientology exercises a great deal of control over its members. This is not uncommon for organized religions that have a central hierarchy (or for small, fundamentalist groups). The Church of Scientology receiving money from its members in order to continue to be a part of the organization goes beyond tithing and really calls into question the merits of the organization’s tax-exempt status.

Yes, Scientologists are strongly opposed to psychiatry. They believe that it harms the mind and is another “trick” (like religions other than Scientology) that keeps people away from Scientology, which has the answers. And that is more than troubling, because psychiatry helps millions of people and saves lives. But not unique to Scientology—have you ever heard of someone with depression being told by a religious conservative that he or she “needs more Jesus” in his or her life? I have. That’s not the recommendation of mainstream Christians, but it happens.

But before we talk about the things that are easy to bring up—the things that make us laugh—let’s remember that just dismissively saying: “Oh, that’s a cult,” is meaningless (these days, a lot of people use “cult” for any organization that they do not like—and sometimes for things that are not even organizations).

The real problem with Scientology arises when it harms people. My absolute least favorite thing on Earth is the abuse of children (rape being an extremely close second). Scientology does that. I’m not a big fan of anti-gay sentiments, particularly when they come from people and organizations with influence. Scientology does that. No one should be controlled, isolated, or be a victim of violence or brainwashing. Scientology certainly does that.

If you are discussing Scientology, remember that it’s not its newness or its origins that make it a cause for concern. There is more to be said about the Church of Scientology than that Tom Cruise is a crazy, crazy man who says crazy things.

Remember the bad things that the Church of Scientology does that actually matter.

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Happy Holidays: Christmas Cheer And Bitter Divides

photo of christmas pictures
There is not a War On Christmas.

If there were, I would know. I would be at all of the strategy sessions.

Growing up, I was not bothered by all of the classroom festivities that accompanied the holiday season. I mean, what kindergarten student does not enjoy a break from classroom tedium to clumsily assemble gingerbread houses or to make tacky felt ornaments? I mean, my family set up a tree and lights and had presents—basically Christmas. More accurately described as Santamas, perhaps.

What I did not enjoy, particularly in elementary school (where it was extra abundant), was the default assumption that everyone celebrates Christmas. And feeling left out when other people knew songs that were not taught in music class but that classes were occasionally expected to sing towards the end of December. It was not a feeling of jealousy that, for other students, celebrating Christmas involved more than it did in my household. It was a resentment that I was excluded. That events were planned and that, even as an eight-year-old, I was very aware that the presence of myself and other students at my school who did not actually celebrate Christmas was mostly an afterthought. There was a token Hannukah song for any students who might be Jewish, and that was about it for non-Christians.

As an adult, I have no real desire to ruin anyone’s Christmas. What I want is for, in public spaces, as much inclusion as possible. While one could argue—and I would even agree—that having a decorated evergreen tree has almost become a secular symbol at this point (and, at any rate, at least decorating evergreen trees is not exclusively a Christian practice this time of year), a Nativity display on public property certainly is not. It is an exclusively Christian, religious display and it is not appropriate to display that on public land—certainly not on its own. I …

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Christian Journalist Claims Ellen’s Gayness Killed American Idol

Christian journalist Gary McCullough claims that the reason American Idol has seen such low ratings is because Ellen DeGeneres’ lesbianism turns off many viewers. McCullough believes the show’s choice of DeGeneres is part of a larger push to have more gay people on TV, or what he calls a “pro-homosexuality bender.” His theory is that the networks will stay on this “bender” as part of a politically correct agenda, even if it means declining ratings and advertising dollars. He believes this is why American Idol and many other television shows are performing so poorly, but I think there are two real reasons for why TV is becoming irrelevant.

1.  Current TV shows are just really awful. People from the baby boomer generation often talk about how good television was when they were younger and judging from some of the classic shows I have seen, this seems to be true. Even I recall be extremely interested in 1990s television shows (Seinfeld, The Simpsons, etc.), yet now the only show I feel compelled to even attempt to follow is South Park, which is itself a pale imitation of what it once was. I believe that shows tend to “jump the shark” around the middle of season two., the successor to the original Jumptheshark website, lists Ellen’s arrival as only the eighth biggest reason the show jumped, and makes no mention of her sexual orientation. Indeed, the major reason the site lists for the show tanking is that it “sucked from the start” and was never worth watching.

2.  People don’t watch TV as often as they used to. This is not only because people seem to work longer hours than they used to, but also because there are simply many more visual entertainment mediums to indulge in. From the internet, to 3D movies, to video games, to porn, the available options make traditional television look less and less appealing everyday. So far this year, 18-34 year olds, Idol’s core constituency and the group most likely to support gay rights, have been watching 5.8 percent less television. People of all ages are watching 2.3 percent less. Even my grandfather, one of the die-hard viewers who has been mesmerized by TV since its inception, now spends a large amount of time on the computer.

Conclusion: The gays are not killing TV, TV is killing TV. Maybe Gary McCullough and his “Christian” buddies watch Pat Robertson all day, but everybody else is finding better things to do.

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