“Darwin Award” for journalistic excellence?

Posted: February 27, 2008 in Daily Rant

You can’t leave any “comments” on this particular article, but it may be worth an email in general with remarks on one of the most poorly “fact-checked” pieces of prose to ever be written (and from a state university no less!). If we could give a “Darwin Award” for journalistic excellence, this one would be in the running.

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Time for Scientology to be Treated like Any Other Religion

By Dan Ivers
Opinion Editor

You may have seen the posters around campus lately decrying the Church of Scientology. An organized group of hackers who call themselves “Anonymous” has declared war on the new and controversial religion after it tried to eliminate a video of Tom Cruise from the Internet. This attack has included campaigns at colleges to recruit young people looking to join their fight.

Most of the talk about Scientology is focused on celebrities who subscribe to the religion, such as Cruise, John Travolta and Beck. Through this, the church has gained a bigger profile and its basic tenets have become more widely acknowledged. However, this has also resulted in attacks on its legitimacy, and it is often criticized as no more than a financial endeavor for creator and former science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard.

In the United States, we supposedly pride ourselves on granting all citizens basic rights, such as freedom of religion. Besides some exceptions, a plethora of faiths and factions coexist here without much friction. Attacks on Scientology are often founded on the basis that it is a “cult,” or that its creation story or moral doctrines “don’t make sense.” Those who make such assertions need to take a closer look, not at Scientology, but at other, more accepted religions.

Scientology’s origin myth goes something like this: an intergalactic being named Xenu gathered up people from various overcrowded planets and brought them to Earth. He then blew them all up using hydrogen bombs, and their souls spread over the planet and stuck to all who were still living. I will admit that this seems outlandish. But given a closer look, is it that much stranger than God creating Adam and then fashioning a woman out of one of his ribs? The latter story has become so embedded in our minds that it seems beyond questioning. If Scientology was to become a more widespread and accepted religion, the story of Xenu wouldn’t raise nearly as many eyebrows.

Groups like “Anonymous” also claim that the Church of Scientology ruthlessly sucks money away from its adherents. They complain about the fees and donations that it requires, like the $300 annual fee for membership. However, nearly all religions rely on donations to survive. If you put five dollars in the collection basket every week at church, you would spend somewhere in the range of $260 for your parish’s upkeep. While this is not mandatory, many consider it their duty, and a good deed in the eyes of God.

Televangelists are all over the television on Sundays literally begging you to give money so that they can carry out God’s will. For many, such as Kenneth Copeland (who is currently under investigation by the government), God’s will includes a private jet, island vacations and a Rolls Royce, all tax-exempt for business purposes. While there has been some outcry over this, no one calls the people who gave to Copeland “brainwashed” or “cult members” like they do Scientologists.

Another common point of contention from Scientology critics is the church’s mandate that none of its members use drugs that affect their state of mind, such as antidepressants. Critics seem to hold the view that the church is denying its members happiness. A more mainstream faith, the Christian Church of Science, denies its members any medical treatment that might interfere with God’s will. Imagine contracting something easily managed, such as diabetes and being denied the opportunity to live a longer life. Despite this, the Christian Church of Science has largely avoided criticism over the years.

I am not advertising or endorsing Scientology, as it does contain aspects that could be potentially harmful to some of its members. However, the idea that it is something that needs to be “fought” is based solely on intolerance. Religious groups with seemingly strange practices like the Amish or the Mormons have carved out small societies for themselves because of a lack of understanding from mainstream society. While they are considered oddities, they are allowed to do as they please. Even illegal customs like bigamy, where one enters into a marriage while still legally in another, are for the most part tolerated in these places.

Scientologists have as much a right to believe what they believe as Christians, Jews, Buddhists or any other faith. They choose their religion on their own accord, and can leave whenever they would like. While it may seem strange, our country allows people to worship whatever or whomever they want. Religion is something that helps people find meaning in their daily lives, and we cannot deny anyone the right to find the faith that suits them best. What deserves criticism is when its virtues turn to righteousness and intolerance.

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  1. […] pseudoscientology wrote an interesting post today on âDarwin Awardâ for journalistic excellence?Here’s a quick excerptAn organized group of hackers who call themselves “Anonymous” has declared war on the new and controversial religion after it tried to eliminate a video of Tom Cruise from the Internet. This attack has included campaigns at colleges to … […]

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