I find that other people can often express something better than I can! Very frustrating!! Yesterday I spotted this on a blog:
“An absurd and sinister cult, created in the latter half of the 20th century by a charlatan, based on an obviously fabricated and nonsensical narrative of the creation of humans and the universe, is now a tax exempt religion.”
Yes, indeed. The stupefyingly-soggy British establishment – this time in the form of a bunch of judges – has decided that Scientology must now be considered as “a religion” ……
…. whereas it is of course more accurately described in the blog extract above. However, this all raises an extremely interesting semantic question. What is the difference between a religion and a cult? (which was Scientology’s official status until yesterday – a day being a long time in religion.)
I have very good Christian friends, and while I would not wish to insult them it is impossible to avoid the truth – AS ONE SEES IT. And as an atheist, my initial reaction to this semantic question being posed yesterday was:
There is no fundamental difference between any church, religion, faith, sect or cult. They are all based on superstition and almost always a belief in an afterlife and/or the worship of some mythical unprovable entity or indeed human guru-figure who is supposed to be some sort of medium between Humans and the mythical, unproven and indeed unprovable entity being worshipped and usually referred to as “God”.
I say “superstition” because – I think it is fair to say – there is no evidence of an afterlife or deity of any kind that could possibly stand up in court, and as far as I am concerned any belief for which there is no credible evidence whatsoever is superstition. The latter was very much in fashion in the Middle Ages: life was often so awful and death so random and incomprehensible, that people needed to find some sort of explanation for the existentialist mystery we all face, and some kind of “God” or “Gods” can obviously provide this. Indeed, a “God” can be designed to explain anything you like and – as we can see from the differing versions of “religion”, there is no shortage of variety.
The strange thing is that despite the Enlightenment – when reason was prized above all – superstition is still rife, so desperate are people to believe that death is not the end of our consciousness but that somehow our “souls” survive. And many people do not find the need for any EVIDENCE for their superstitions. Of course, this is rather tauto0logical, since the moment there is real evidence for a superstitiion it immediately ceases to be one,
Anyway, an astraordinarily large number of people’s disregard for the importance of evidence allows them to believe in any one or more of the following: astrology, zombies, ghosts, aliens, mediums, fortune-tellers, fairies and of course “God”, who takes many different forms according to your fancy – there is no shortage of choice: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, Mormon, Jehovah, the Sun and now of course Scientologist.
Some superstitions dress it all up with elegant and usually complex rituals – priests were the first experts in marketing – others with savage ones. They all share the feature of brainwashing their followers, who in many cases are driven to acts of extreme savagery for their “faith”, being led to prize “God’s work” (which they are obviously carrying out) above their basic humanity.
The harmless ones can be tolerated: they ease people’s fears of death; some even do good works, though often claiming that only they know what is “good”, but the harmful ones should be banned and their followers exiled to somewhere full of like-minded lunatics.
The bottom line is that SOME religions, sects, cults, faiths (we need a new, all-encompassing word, since they are in effect all as good as each other in “theological” terms) are “good” in that they actually may DO good but more importantly harm nobody. Others, however, are very nasty indeed, since of course THEIR “God” is the only “true” God and must be obeyed, defended and helped to triumph over all the other “Gods”.
As far as the writer is concerned, people are – OBVIOUSLY – free to believe in whatever mumbo-jumbo takes their fancy, but NOT AT MY EXPENSE. The officialising of Scientology as a religion throws into highlight the complete absurdity of giving preferential tax advantages and exemptions to ANY religion.
I may have been able to accept the CofE getting some tax relief. After all, it provides multiple services to people – even though for a determined atheist these are superstitious nonsense – and they also do a number of “good works” and correspondingly do not in general harm people. In addition, they are part of our country’s heritage. Despite my own atheism, I find it difficult to imagine a county village without its church and church hall. This is of course illogical, but there you go.
HOWEVER, I draw the line at the taxpayer subsidizing Scientology – and – logically – any other weird, bizarre cult and/or sect that is suddenly transformed overnight from “bunch of raving loonies” to “official religion”.
I hope there will be a mass protest at this lunacy, but then so many people “are not interested in politics”, even though politics determines EVERYTHING that we can and cannot do. (see North Korea for a start.)
IMHO, the idea that ANY religion, cult, sect or faith should be granted any form of tax exemption is both absurd and obscene – and clear proof of Man’s insanity. Where is the petition I can sign?