Although I normally would take the high road when it comes to language, I could not resist this title.
I find it endlessly amusing that someone whose faith moves them to believe in miracles, virgin births and bringing dead people back alive would trash another person’s faith.
As I discussed in my blog entitled Fact versus Faith—The Virgin Mary, Christians are called upon to believe in things that, in the real world of physics and nature, simply do not occur. These events—the virgin birth (gods mating with humans to create demi-gods), directly raising bodies from the dead, unseen spiritual forces that judge humans on earth—require belief and faith to be a part of Christian communities. But then you have church leaders who actively denigrate other religions, even religions under their own umbrella. I experienced this first-hand when my Baptist friends in college told me I was going to go to hell because I was a Methodist. I discussed this topic at length in my blog entitled How the Southern Baptists Helped Me to Stop Believing.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
There are two organizations that proclaim to be religions that are truly American in origin. Mormons and Scientologists. They bring together the same type of beliefs in faith that the standard denominations, with the promises of eternal life and rewards on Earth. They just take faith and belief to a different level.
I first encountered a Mormon while in junior high school in west Texas. Her name was Janice. She and I were gangly early teenagers in that really awful, full mouth of braces, unruly hair kind of way. We were never accused of being popular and pretty. When I visited her home, she showed me the family’s stash of canned goods and freeze-dried prepared meals, enough to last seven years. Then she slowly began to explain to me about her religion. But our friendship didn’t last very long. Texas is known for its iced tea, complete refreshment on a hot day. We drank iced tea day and night, winter, spring, summer and fall, with or without sugar—my mother bought that horrible instant that was so popular in the 60s and 70s; it was abysmal, but we drank it like there was no tomorrow. One day I decided to introduce her to iced tea in the school cafeteria. She always picked lemonade. I told her that she needed to try this fabulous drink—just take a sip. You will love it. I think a couple of other friends also tried to get her interested in trying the tea. But she refused. Her faith did not allow her to drink caffeine. Moreover, she began to avoid me like the plague. On one level, I understood her response. On another level, I felt abandoned over a silly little glass of refreshment. Our friendship was over.
Mormonism has its mainstream and its evangelicals, just as do all religions. Its roots date back to Joseph Smith and 18th Century North America. It was charismatic in experiences with leaders of the organization considered prophets with direct links to their god—not unlike Old Testament prophets. There’s also that thing about Jesus Christ coming to the native Americans after his death to minister to them as told by Smith’s Golden Plates. Smith, it is said, received the plates from the Angel Moroni in 1827, then politely gave them back to the angel after translated the Golden Plates from some unknown language into the Book of Mormon. Mormonism has been brought to the forefront of politics with the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Before he was the Republican candidate, the GOP faithful fought within itself as to whether Mormons were Christians or not. The Mormons themselves answer this question: Mormonism: Christian, Cult or ???
Source courtesy of Another Christian’s Blog by Travis Berry
The religion itself is fascinating and is very open about its beliefs, as opposed to groups that set themselves up with secret information, privy only to the believers. See Mormon Research Ministry.
To get the seedier side of Mormonism, pick up Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. Mainstream Mormons decry his tome for some factual issues and how it focuses on the most radical, evangelical leaders in their organization–especially Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. Professor Max Perry Mueller explores the questions raised by Krakauer in his essay, Mormonism and the Problem of Jon Krakauer. Suffice it to say that as SOME particular members of religious organizations become more “radicalized” in every faith and denomination, very angry people can do considerable damage with violence against those they take umbrage against its beliefs–in other words, destroy the messenger so that the message against the beliefs cannot get out to the public.
Then there’s Scientology. Created by the science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s after publishing his book, Dianetics, Scientology took off like a rocket. It is also a very wealthy and secretive organization which uses electrical monitors to “audit” the mind. Granted, as crazy as ALL religions sound to the non-believer, Scientology really does take its beliefs to the stratosphere as only a science fiction writer can do. L. Ron gets an “A” for effort and creativity. I don’t have the time, space or inclination to even begin to blog about what this group believes. Suffice it to say, the internet will be your best guide.
And thanks to the internet, Scientology seems to be imploding. Central to the Scientology experience was that everything was kept secret. New York Times reporter and author Lawrence Wright changed all of that with the publication of his book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Then, HBO upped the ante with its documentary based on Wright’s book, also entitled “Going Clear”.
I would absolutely recommend watching the HBO special; it is mesmerizing to me: “Going Clear” trailer by HBO.
As Sophie Gilbert masterfully writes in The Atlantic in her article, “It’s Not Easy Being Scientology,” the group “has put a premium on controlling the flow of information—an increasingly impossible enterprise in the Internet age.” See “It’s Not Easy Being Scientology” by Sophie Gilbert. Once those crazy ideas get out, people start asking too many questions and start questioning the very premise on which the group was founded.
Sound familiar? This is what non-believers begin to do when they look at the religion in which they were brought up and begin the process of questioning everything they were taught in that religion.
An organization, religious included, can only continue to exist as long as it has believers who do not (at least outwardly) question its basic tenets. It does not matter whether the religion is basic mainstream, as the Roman Catholic Church–considered the first Christian church, or home-grown religions such as Mormonism and Scientology.
No matter if the faith-based organization has been passed on from generation to generation, or whether it sprang from the fertile American minds of its originator–Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard–the organizations require you to believe in specific mystical events that could never, EVER happen in the natural or physical world.
And isn’t this the basic argument of faith? Your beliefs are right, no matter how ridiculous and impossible those beliefs are, whereas the other guys are false religions with false gods and fake legitimacy. It’s simply one way to convince the faithful to stay in that particular denomination and, for that matter, that particular congregation. If too many people begin to question the legitimacy of the faith, the preacher, the congregation or the denomination, the congregants go away and they take their money and their support with them. This is then the death of that group. And if people begin to question the basic tenets to begin with, then doubt and unbelief can easily follow.
No one wants to admit that they’ve been duped by false information and beliefs. But if those beliefs are simply impossible, then the rational person who finds faith impossible and unreasonable may never, ever rejoin the fold. They will take their spiritual nature elsewhere.