Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The political science of Scientology

A few weeks ago, in as speech in the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Gummer MP said: ‘It is pretty ridiculous that the king could be a Scientologist, which is manifestly intellectually difficult and religiously rubbish, but cannot be a Catholic, which is intellectually difficult and religiously correct.’

Setting aside the context of his demand for the abolition of the Act of Settlement, or his apparent bigotry, or indeed any legitimate Protestant challenge to Mr Gummer’s assertion that Roman Catholicism is somehow ‘religiously correct’ (whatever he means by this), there is an inference that Scientology is somehow pseudo-religious, quasi-spiritual, and to be dismissed as a weird cult.

The editor of the BBC's Panorama programme might agree. Reporter John Sweeney exploded during the filming of a documentary into this ‘religion’, losing his temper with one of its leaders. According to The Guardian, the Church of Scientology is now considering legal action and a formal complaint to the media regulator Ofcom. They profess to be a church of social action, involved in the rehabilitation of criminals, drug addiction, drug prevention and human rights. They seek a civilisation without war, without criminality and without insanity, where honest people have rights. Any notion of cultic brainwashing tendencies is naturally offensive to them.

Critics accuse the organisation of cult-type practices and exploiting followers for financial gain. It is opposed to democracy, and presupposes a very black and white image of the world, comprising those who are friends and those who are foes. This has led to the perception that ‘Scientology uses totalitarian ways of handling problems and even people’. In Germany in particular the Church of Scientology has been under surveillance for years, with accusations that it is ‘involved in activities directed against the free democratic order’ and the country's constitution. They further assert that ‘Scientology is a totalitarian commercial cult. It is dangerous because Scientologists are against freedom of religion and freedom of opinion’.

Hmmm…

Cranmer would like to point out that Scientology is not a religio/cultic-political construct unique in this respect.

The BBC asserts that Scientology is an ‘extraordinary organisation’ which has ‘no way of dealing with any kind of criticism at all’. A Scientology spokesman told the BBC that he had ‘no right whatsoever to say what is and what isn't a religion; the definition of religion is very clear and it's not defined by John Sweeney’.

In actual fact, the definition of a religion is not remotely clear. According to the Charity Commission for England and Wales, ‘Belief in a supreme being remains a necessary characteristic of religion for the purposes of English charity law’, but the term remains undefined as a matter of international law. The absence of a definition is not peculiar to international human rights conventions; most national constitutions also include clauses on freedom of religion without defining ‘religion’. Thus, on the one hand, there are important provisions guaranteeing fundamental rights pertaining to religion, but on the other hand the term itself is left undefined. Of course, the absence of a definition of a critical term does not differentiate religion from most other rights identified in human rights instruments and constitutions. But because religion is much more complex than other guaranteed rights, the difficulty of understanding what is and is not protected is significantly greater.

It would appear therefore that both the BBC and Mr Gummer are free to dismiss Scientology as ‘religiously rubbish’. But Cranmer wants to know by what criteria such an assertion may be made, and why Islam or Hinduism may not all be similarly dismissed; and why BBC reporters do not lose their tempers with imams, or MPs do not deride these faiths for being ‘intellectually difficult’ or ‘religiously rubbish’.

19 Comments:

Anonymous bob said...

I would imagine that what Gummer is pointing to is that Catholicism has, whether one agrees with it or not, a long tradition of philosophical and theological reasoning to underpin its doctrines. Scientology, to my knowledge, has no such tradition. I'm not very well versed in Islam or Hinduism, but I assume that they do have some sort of philosophical or theological structure underpinning them.

Also it seems to me that bigotry is such a subjective thing. I know I find myself contantly compelled to deem the opinions of a large number of Irish journalists and commentators as anti-Catholic bigots, but to someone else they're doubtless champions of freedom of expression. I just wonder how one can clearly define someone as a bigot?

16 May 2007 at 09:02  
Anonymous Fred said...

How about these as a couple of definitions?

Fool:
Someone who disagrees with what you say.

Bigot:
Someone who fervently disagrees with what you say.

To that extent if we have strong beliefs in what the Bible actually says, including what God demands of His people, then we MUST stand up and be counted bigots in the world's eyes. For we must fervently disagree with Islam, Hinduism, Scientology, and Catholicism, as none of them takes the Word of God and follows it without amendment, or at all.

16 May 2007 at 09:46  
Anonymous The Recusant said...

You Grace argues semantics, what constitutes or not a religion, I suspect typical of the type explored by cloistered academics on cold wet autumn evenings. Instinctually I feel the BBC it correct, unfortunately they are the least equipped intellectually or philosophically to pursue such an argument, being overwhelmingly militant secularist, and consequently unwilling and largely unable to comprehend a religious outlook on life.

Scientology is nonsense, pure and simple twaddle but as GK Chesterton once said "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything."

I would have though your grace would concern himself with more important matters such as the New Tory Party policy of dropping Grammar Schools and totally morphing into Blairite clones or the unquestioning support of Robert Mugabe by the Anglican Episcopal Synod in Harare last week by 14 bishops and a canon in a Pastoral letter; This in stark contrast to the position of Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo who’s life, by all accounts is now in danger.

Still if Mr Gummer and his opposition to scientology is more appealing, as the IT generation would say, Go for it.

16 May 2007 at 10:39  
Blogger Cranmer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 May 2007 at 10:54  
Anonymous G Orwell said...

The difference between Scientology and other religions is that you have to pay !!

Saying that as only Catholic kings and queens have burned Christians - it is not unreasonable that a Catholic can not be King.

16 May 2007 at 10:55  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Recusant,

Thank you for informing His Grace of what should be occupying his mind at this time.

In His Grace's opinion there is a manifestly 'correct' stance or 'wiser' view to hold upon all the issues you have suggested. Being intelligent and erudite, communicants would all doubtless find themselves in agreement. It is not therefore so much that Scientology is 'more appealing', but the issue of what constitutes a 'religiously rubbish' philosophy or worldview is a very relevant subject of inquiry. And in the context of Gordon Brown's likely attempts to reintroduce the 'Bill to outlaw incitement to religious hatred' at some point in the future, His Grace has chosen to raise this.

He humbly apologises that it is not to your liking, but begs to point out there are a plethora of blogs discussing grammar school and Robert Mugabe.

16 May 2007 at 10:59  
Anonymous The Recusant said...

You Grace as always, chastises in a most affable manner and the Recusant is most grateful for your generosity. Indeed your Grace there are many blogs but on finding a jewel you sell everything to buy it. Where else would his left-footed communicants find such erudite, intelligent and educational religio-political comment? Why Mr Voyager or Mr Bob alone are worth the licence fee.

16 May 2007 at 12:14  
Anonymous bob said...

only Catholic kings and queens have burned Christians

Protestant monarchs seem to have preferred the axe and the gallows for ridding themselves of troublesome Christians.

16 May 2007 at 12:48  
Anonymous The Recusant said...

Mr G Orwell if you insist on making inflammatory statements at least do yourself the courtesy of having a passing acquaintance with the facts. Indeed His Grace along with that other benefactor of the Catholic monastic system Mr Cromwell (the Uncle) may remember some of the earlier heretics as both were burning to ignite their fire.

1. Anne Askew (1521–1546) Henry VIII
2. Joan Bocher († 1550) Edward VI
3. George van Parris († 1551) Edward VI
4. Matthew Hamont († 1579) Elizabeth I
5. John Lewes († 1583) Elizabeth I
6. Peter Cole († 1587) Elizabeth I
7. Francis Kett († 1589) Elizabeth I
8. Bartholomew Legate (1575–1612) James I
9. Edward Wightman (1566–1612), relapsed heretic and the last person to be executed for heresy in England by burning at the stake. - James I

16 May 2007 at 14:00  
Blogger botogol said...

IMO His Grace has (again) put his finger on a very important point. If we are to have the right to freedom of religion, and that right is not just the right to think a thought, but is a right that actually has real life effects (exemptions from certian laws, access, or lack of access to to government money, and so on) then it is important that we can define what a religion is.

Otherwise I can define my own and have you all respect it. (like Hubbard did, I guess). Botogol's church of non-taxpayers, perhaps.


It's interesting that the Charity commission is of the view that belief in a supreme being is a necessary feature of religion, as that would exclude buddhism and jainism, which are normally counted as religions.

16 May 2007 at 15:34  
Blogger Newmania said...

why Islam or Hinduism may not all be similarly dismissed; and why BBC reporters do not lose their tempers with imams, or MPs do not deride these faiths for being ‘intellectually difficult’ or ‘religiously rubbish’.

This thought often occurs to me although a similiar treatment of a Christian leader would be taken amiss as well. In fact I cannot imagine it happening.

16 May 2007 at 15:36  
Blogger botogol said...

Bob said
"I would imagine that what Gummer is pointing to is that Catholicism has, whether one agrees with it or not, a long tradition of philosophical and theological reasoning to underpin its doctrines. Scientology, to my knowledge, has no such tradition"

Are you saying that being wrong for a very long time justifies more respect than being wrong for just a short time?

16 May 2007 at 15:40  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Does John Gummer think his father would have agreed with his latest volte-face ? Or does John Gummer think that when he was on The Synod of the Church of England he would have uttered such claptrap on the Act of Settlement ?

The German Government has the BfV watch Scientologists and it is under scrutiny by the Counter-Intelligence because it is a threat. It buys up apartment blocks, fronts homework clubs, tries to get into rehab programmes to gain recruits.

The United States has a peculiar First Amendment which has been used to exempt religious groups from paying taxation. As such a fraudster like L Ron Hubbard found a tax-free corporation suited his purposes. You can always form a cult and always get members, some people will join anything; others will join everything.

I am in favour of retaining the act of Settlement but repealing John Gummer in the first instance for abusing Cordelia with a beefburger and using his child as a stage-prop; and secondly for being a sanctimonious twerp rather like Jon Snow who similarly inherited the pomposity of ecclesiastical self-satisfaction

16 May 2007 at 18:30  
Anonymous billy said...

botogol said...
It's interesting that the Charity commission is of the view that belief in a supreme being is a necessary feature of religion, as that would exclude buddhism and jainism, which are normally counted as religions.
3:34 PM

Buddhism is an interesting one where I live.
A local committee has decided that only Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism are worthy of the attention of primary aged scholars. It is a little unfortunate that there is a semi detached full of Buddhists monks and two temples near the school.

16 May 2007 at 19:20  
Blogger Shutter said...

You might benefit from reading about John Sweeney here

http://tinyurl.com/3d7ee9

then searching the site for "John Sweeney"

16 May 2007 at 21:48  
Anonymous Voyager said...

A local committee has decided that only Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism are worthy

I cannot understand them stretching the definition to include the latter three

16 May 2007 at 22:15  
Anonymous Yes, a Scientologist said...

Your Grace,I had a hunch that erudite discussion on this topic would be available here, so I thank you.

As ever, there must be two sides to any argument, and Panorama presented a version of their side on Monday.

Anyone who gave 30 minutes to Sweeney would be well advised to donate a similar time to 3 short videos made by people who show how REAL investigative reporting should be done, yes, the CoS.

By way of right-of-reply, I venture to say that you might have a few surprises when you see the full content. You even hear what Sweeney asked the "celebrities" and some of their responses - no wonder they refused him permission to use the footage.

Here are the links, I think you will have to copy/paste.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=9psX5SlXb_g

www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1iCI3iykYM

www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtp1y_IkLag

Enjoy !

17 May 2007 at 03:26  
Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

Christians must believe there is only one true religion. Jesus said, "No man comes to the father but by me"

Therefore, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Scientologists must be following a false religion.

The question is how many so-called Christians are following a true religion.

It is hard to find anyone who has every point of doctrine right. Even the great CH Spurgeon was a heavy smoker.

17 May 2007 at 11:55  
Anonymous Colin said...

Shalom and Assalamu Alaikum (May Peace Be Upon You) my Christian brothers.

21 May 2007 at 14:20  

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