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Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Strib and Scientology

What a truly pathetic piece in the paper today entitled "Scientology: Fact or fiction?" It's not pathetic because of the subject matter (I couldn't care less about Scientology), but the way it is written.

First, the headline. With that headline, I can write a one-word article: Fiction. Scientology isn't fact. Neither is any other religion. That would hopefully be clear to educated journalists, but I guess not. It's just an awful headline. A better one would be "Scientology: what's all the hype?" At least that wouldn't be dragging religion into a philosophical field it is not designed for.

Second, the article quotes one David Touretzky, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, as to whether Scientology is a cult. He says, "We don't expect mainstream religions to lie, to exploit people, to engage in illegal activity." BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! David, meet the Catholic Church, er, Catholic Cult. How somebody can say that with a straight face, and how the paper can let an idiotic statement like that slide, is beyond me. Unless, of course, David believes the same thing that I do: if one religion is a cult, then they all are, since every religion does the same thing to a lesser or greater degree. Of course, if he does believe that, then it's the paper's duty to inform its readers of that fact.

I like this quote from a Scientologist: "Three hundred years ago I would have been burned at the stake." What does that add to the article? Three hundred years ago, I would have been burned at the stake, and I'm not a Scientologist, I'm just agnostic. Lots of people were burned at the stake back then. So?

It then goes on to talk about the infallibility of Ron Hubbard's writings, in a slightly negative way. How is this different from those who believe the Bible is infallible, or the Qur'an? Or the space aliens. So what if part of the religion is believing in aliens? Some Muslims believe in the whole "virgins-waiting-for-you-in-heaven" thing. Some Christians believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that people really did have lifespans in the hundreds of years in the olden days. The Catholic church, where I grew up, believes that the bread and wine in Communion is literally the flesh and blood of Jesus. These beliefs aren't as crazy as aliens?

I'm not defending Scientology at all. To me, all religions are equally useful or useless. If religion helps you become a better person and gets you through the night, then it's perfectly fine. If religion makes you hateful of others and drives you to hurt or kill them, then that's no good. Scientology can do either of these things, just like any other religion. But to me, it's no different from any other religion, and should be treated equally. I doubt that next week we will see an article entitled "Christianity: Fact or fiction?" in the Star Tribune, because the publisher would probably be burned in effigy. However, to be fair, that's what they should do if they are going to address Scientology or another religion in this way.


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