The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Fun With Fundamentalists

When you’ve got a newborn in the house (and you’re still trying to get work done) you miss a lot. In fact, it’s took me the better part of a day to write this blog post (and that’s just the part above the fold), and another couple of days to get it posted. So, I didn’t know about the Tom Cruise Scientology indoctrination video until I read about on Gawker after the furor died down.

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comYou have to watch this video. It shows Tom Cruise, with all the wide-eyed fervor that he brings to the promotion of a movie, making the argument for Scientology, the bizarre 20th-century religion. Making the argument is an understatement. The Hollywood actor, star of movies such as Mission Impossible, is a complete fanatic. “When you’re a Scientologist, and you drive by an accident, you know you have to do something about it, because you know you’re the only one who can really help… We are the way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures.” There’s much much more. Let me put it this way: if Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch was an 8 on the scale of scary, this is a 10.

Well, I watched the video and even though I’ve made fun of Tom Cruise in the past, I’m starting to see him and his beliefs in a whole new light.

Despite the reactions over at Gawker, I’ve gotta ask: What did Tom Cruise say that was so, well, weird? More to the point, what did he say that was any weirder than any one else’s religious beliefs when you really look at it? That is, when you look at all the various beliefs equally? I’ll leave it to others to debate whether scientology is a cult or a religion. But let’s not forget that before the term “cult” became a reference to religious beliefs and practices outside the mainstream, it referred to “the totality of external religious practice and observance”. In fact, any religion can be referred as a cult, as the Wikipedia entry I just linked states, “Well-known global cults include Islam and Christianity.”

Indeed. So, exactly? what did Tom say that was crazy? (Us Weekly has select quotes.) His statement about the Scientologist driving past a traffic accident and having to stop because he’s “the only one who can really help,” does sound a bit strange, at first.

“Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident… you know you have to do something about it because you know you’re the only one that can really help.

But when you think about it Tom’s statement isn’t that far from what’s been said by other fundamentalists who just happen to belong to a more socially accepted faith.

Take the Virginia Tech shooting, for example. The country was still reeling from that tragedy when conservative columnist Dinesh D’Souza to (wrongly) declare there were no atheists at Virginia Tech in the aftermath of the shooting, and to assert—similar to what Cruise said about Scientology—that religious believers, and specifically Christians are the only ones who can help at times like that.

What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.

If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.

Of course, there was at least one atheist at Virginia Tech, and another atheist offering counseling to students at Virginia Tech.

Naturally, the Scientologists showed up at VA Tech to offer counseling, along with countless Christian counselors, but only the Scientologists were referred to as “vultures.” One group thinks only Scientology can help. The other thinks only God or Jesus can help. Aside the degree of social acceptance one belief enjoys, what’s the difference?

(Oh, and before you bring up the amount of money it’s said that Scientology costs its members consider the lifestyles of the rich and famous televangelists such as Benny Hinn, now under investigation by Congress for fleecing their flocks. Vultures? Perhaps.)

What about Cruise’s statement indicating a desire to live in a world entirely under the sway of Scientology, in which everyone is a Scientologist?

You look at him and see a crazy person. He looks at you and sees someone who has yet to come around to Scientology. That’s why he makes that remark about there one day being a world in which you can only find SPs (suppressive people) “in the newspaper.” His goal is for everyone on Earth to attain “Clear” status—the mindset in which you have no unwanted emotions—so that they can then progress to Operating Thetan status. Nothing can deter him from this.

Well, how is that really different from another faith calling its members to “evangelize the nations”? How is that different from Tom Huckabee wanting to amend the constitution to conform to “God’s Standards”?

The United States Constitution never uses the word “God” or makes mention of any religion, drawing its sole authority from “We the People.” However, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee thinks it’s time to put an end to that.

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

Tom thinks that Scientologists have the answer to everything?

“We are the authorities on getting people off drugs, we are the authorities on the mind, we are the authorities on improving conditions… we can rehabilitate criminals.

“…We can bring peace and unite cultures…

Well, how is that different from Mitt Romney saying that freedom requires religion? How is it different from the House passing a resolution expressing “continued support for Christians,” acknowledging and supporting “the role played by Christians in the founding of the United States,” and expressing its “deepest respect to American Christians”? (And it was a resolution no member of House—even the non-believers—was willing to vote against, out of fear of backlash.)And on the heels of that bill comes another religious resolution in the House.

How is Cruise wanting to living a world based on Scientology any different from our elected officials all but declaring Christianity the national religion?

And the rest of Scientology’s supposed beliefs, and the incident with Xenu? Well, how strange is it compared to any other religions’ creation myths or stories about how the world began? How strange is it compared to what lots of people believe about how the world will end?

Finally, I’d like to submit that there are some questions to keep in mind as people are shaking their heads over the latest news from Tom Cruise.

And just what are the scornable consequences that Scientology has fostered?

That car bomb planted by Sunni insurgents in Iraq against innocent Shia?
The Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms, the Holocaust?
The atrocities committed against Christians and animists in the Sudan?
The wars between Hindu and Buddhist in Sri Lanka?
The several decades of religious wars in Northern Ireland?
The mutual bloodshed in Lebanon?

Oh, and was it Scientologists who flew planes into the World Trade Center?

Maybe, just maybe, Tom Cruises beliefs aren’t any stranger than the tenets of more widely accepted faith. And maybe, just maybe, they haven’t done near as much damage os some of the older, more mainstream faiths.

So, unless Tom runs for Congress or the White House, or hints at making any of kind of trouble mentioned above, I’ll skip the excitement of any more of his videos.

I was never a big fan of his movies anyway.

3 Comments

  1. He was kinda geeky cute in his first movie, Risky Business. You have to give him that.

  2. When I was a lad, I went to a Catholic high school, but I was raised in the United Methodist Church. Both organizations spent a lot of time trying to differentiate between “cult” and “religion.” As near as I can tell, a religion is a cult whose leader has been dead for a long time. L-Ron died back in the late 80s, so I’m not sure how long “a long time” needs to be.

    Xenu, Xenu,
    Bo-Benu,
    Banana fana,
    Fo-Fenu,
    Me, My, Mo-Menu,
    Xenu!

  3. Give Scientologists 2000 years and they will have fostered some “scornable actions,” too. I have every confidence that it is human nature, not simply religion, that gives rise to the atrocities and glories of our history.

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