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Posts Tagged ‘Scientology’

I probably should do some heavy editing to the “About” pages on this blog, to reflect the way things have changed over the 2+ years that I have been blogging.  Just a thought.  Not an April Fools joke, because it is not nearly interesting enough to be an April Fools joke.

In fact, I have been hesitant to even blog today, for fear that I will be accused of April foolin’, since I plan on wading out into some deep waters with this thing. So for future reference, expect no jokes from me.  Though I did think about declaring my conversion to Scientology or something.  But I didn’t feel like doing enough research on Scientology to make it plausible.  So no worries.

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Today my wife and I went to a service at the Church of Christ, Scientist. We’re not sure that Cedar Ridge Community Church is a good permanent church solution for us, and we were in the mood for something different. I actually found an Episcopalian parish I wanted to attend, but they’re on some kind of weird summer schedule (I guess most Episcopalians don’t go to church in the summer) where they only have an 8:00 am Rite I Eucharist service (old style, and with no music). I was kind of annoyed about that.

Alternately, we’ve been thinking about visiting an Orthodox church again, but we hadn;t hear back from the OCA parish in Bethesda about whether they have child care during the liturgy.

So instead, we decided to go on a wacky adventure to the Church of Christ, Scientist!

I should co ahead and say that I’m not actually interested in joining the Church or practicing Christian Science. But the church is odd and quirky (much like Mormonism) and I wanted to at least visit. Plus, I’ve been keen for some time on getting my hands on a copy of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science And Health With Key To The Scriptures, just out of pure theological curiosity.

Anyway, there was child care available, which was good (without it, we would have just had to go home, because there’s no way our one-year-old can quietly sit through, well, pretty much anything).  The service was kind of boring- Christian Scientists have no preachers, because the Bible and Science and Health are their preachers.  That means the sermon is just a set of collected readings from those two books.  It takes up most of the hour, and it’s hard to sit still and pay attention.

There were also some responsive readings, which I always really like in a religious setting, and some hymns.  It was nice to sing hymns after six months of nothing but contemporary Christian praise music.  Did I mention that I like hymns?

One of the readers sounded hilariously like a Mormon General Authority- actually like a cross between Thomas S. Monson and L. Tom Perry, I thought.  My wife mentioned that the man had sounded like a GA, and I laughed because I had been thinking that the whole time.

The meeting was not well-attended, although the church was in a really nice building.

The topic of the sermon/readings was Life, and it was all about how life, mind, and spirit are real and  how matter and death and illness are illusory, which I think is pretty much the gist of the religion.

At the end, when we went downstairs to fetch the little one, the nice lady there gave us a copy of Science And Health, and that pretty much made my day.  Also, it was really nice of her, because I think the book cost something like ten dollars.  The thing was, the cover was glossy and it hurt my eyes in the car on the way home when the sun reflected off it.  So she really did blind me with science.  As in, Mary Baker Eddy blinded me with Christian Science.

Incidentally, Christian Science is not the same thing as Scientology.

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If the only thing I feel even remotely sure of is that the Sacred exists, should I be limiting myself to Christianity?  What about other major (and minor) world religions?

My first instinct is to be basically opposed to that kind of “looking outside the box.”  One big problem I have  with religion in general is how bound up t is with culture.  The result is that when someone converts to an exotic religion, they are put into a position of cultural dissonance.  However, when someone embraces the religion of their own nation, their connection to their own culture is enhanced and made deeper.  This is a sticky wicket for me, especially for religions that claim to be universal (like Christianity and Islam).  Christianity is bound up with European culture (well, most Christianity is).  Regardless of the religion’s Middle Eastern origins, we receive modern Christianity through the hands of the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, the Reformation, and on down through the saga of Western Civilization down to the present.  For 2,000 years, Europeans have been affecting Christianity at the same time as they have been affected by it, until Christainity is now part and parcel of being European (and I use the term European in a broadly ancestral sense to include people of European descenn, so the Americas and Australia/New Zealand).  So becoming Christian really also means becoming at least a little bit European.

For a European, that means enhancing one’s own culture.  For a non-European, it means becoming a kind of a crazy two-headed cultural aberration who really belongs nowhere, victim to cultural dissonance of the worst kind.  That doesn’t seem universal to me.  Does God prefer Europe and Europeans?   According to Christianity’s teachings, the answer should be no.  But the reality is that it seems like He does.

And the same goes for Islam.  Becoming a Muslim means partly becoming Arabic.  If you’re already an Arab, great.  If not, then you’re going to be culturally adrift.  Why?  Goes Allah prefer Arabs?  That doesn’t sound right if we’re talking about a religion and a god that are supposedly universal.

And if we’re talking about a religion that isn’t supposed to be universal (Judaism, for example, which pertains primarily to one nation; or Hinduism,  which adopts a sort of many-paths approach), an outsider has absolutely no reason to adopt it, other than a passing infatuation with the exotic.  Or maybe as a purely practical matter (you marry a Jew, for instance).  But barring that, there’s really no reason to change teams.

Conversion to a culturaly exotic religion has little to commend itself anyway, but if the religion in question holds that you don’t need to convert to it, there’s even less.  Unless it offers something unique and absolutely fantastic (I don’t know what would qualify; super-powers, maybe?), there’s simply no motivation to pursue it.

What about new religions, faiths that are equally foreign to all cultures, like Scientology or Baha’i?  Or even Mormonism?

First, new religions aren’t equally foreign to all cultures.  All of them have  a time and place and cultural ethos out of which they were born, and thus they all carry cultural biases that make them less foreign to some people than to others.  On top of that, I think that many of these new religions depend on claims that are fairly dubious.  Major world religions generally have the advantage of origins obscured by history.  You don;t want to see how sausages are made, and you probably don’t want to see how religions are made, either.

Are there other options?  Philosophical systems that replace religion, like Deism and Pantheism?  The problem with those is that usually they depend jsut as heavily on their time and place of inception, and the way people thought then and there.  If they somehow rose to prominence and stoof the test of time it’d be one thing, but most of them are manifestations of a constantly evolving field of philosophy, and thus have a level of obsolescence built in.

What about atheism?  I believe enough in the divine to not be comfortable with dogmatic atheism (and i also think that dogmatic atheists can be big arrogant jerks, though in all fairness so can religious people of every stripe), and I’m not content to remain an agnostic in the long-term.

The occult?  Too creepy.  Also, I’d need to see some evidence that Magick actually accomplished something.  If I can’t actually summon Things from Beyond or cast fireballs, it doesn’t seem to be worth the time, effort, and possible risk to my immortal soul.

Reconstructed religions?  I don’t believe that Wicca is actually reconstructed at all, and so it has both the problems of New Religions and the problems of the Occult, so that’sdouble trouble.  Various forms of Neo-paganism?  Dubious reliability is one proble.  Also, centuries of nobody believing in them seems to take away from their validity.  Plus, most of them carry the same cultural problems as exotic world religions do.  Asfar as Neo-paganism that draws on my own ancestry, well, I already taked about Asatru a couple weeks ago.

Do I just construct my own belief system?  That seems unreliable, and possibly fraught with peril.  So what do I do?

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