Saturday, June 20, 2009

Does family count?

Last night I was getting to know a little more about a dedicated group of protesters questioning whether Scientology is more cult than faith, more business than religion. I hope to write a profile on this young, passionate contingent of do-gooders.

What was a philosophical discussion quickly turned personal, however, when a man came up to our table at a local IHOP obviously upset and with something on his mind.

"I overheard you talking about Scientology and I just have to say it's ruined my brother. He married a Scientologist, became one and now they've moved to Dubai and won't have anything to do with the family," he told us. He went on to condemn Scientology for many things -- some of which the protesters had been telling me about.

It occurred to me that many religions and cults aim to conquer and divide. They want their believers to fully embrace their doctrine and leave their former lives behind.

Are family and faith mutually exclusive?

1 comment:

  1. I would definitely argue that they are not mutually exclusive, in and of themselves. That said, some religions will certainly ask adherents to make that sort of awful choice, and Scientology can be one of them. They don't make you choose when you join, but if your family is all Scientologists and you decide to leave, they will make your family sever contact with you. So in the case of Scientology, they try to make it so you can't have your family and *abandon* Scientology. The reason is obvious; it's all about controlling the members. But the practice has roots going way way back. Puritans called it sending a person to Coventry.

    Of course, I think it's worth making a distinction between faith and religion. Faith is personal; it's what a person believes in (spiritual or otherwise; you can have faith in your fellow man as easily as you can have faith in a deity). Religion tends to be more organized, with rules and processes ostensibly to help guide a person's faith. Religion can exist without faith, though, and I think that when a religion becomes *really* restrictive, the original faith is usually lost, replaced by a fanatical devotion to the religion itself.

    You may enjoy the book "Small Gods", by Terry Pratchett. He explores this idea, and others, on the fantasy world called Discworld, where magic is real, and so are gods, but the gods are literally a product of human belief.

    I think I'm going to really enjoy reading your blog!