Friday, November 18, 2011

Scientology's Expanding Presence (Pt. 2)

This next blog post will cover the system of symbols Scientology uses to convey its universal meanings to its followers and the influences found in other religions. After watching the Scientology video with Tom Cruise giving his spiel about what the principals mean to him and why everyone should convert, I was a little confused. However, I did make some sense of several key points and feel I have a good idea of their system of beliefs. Scientologists deeply believe that they are the authorities on the mind; as Tom Cruise says, “they are the authorities on improving conditions.” They believe their practices are based on “religious” research and its doctrines are based on “scientific” laws and principals. Through these beliefs, followers consider themselves as saviors for human kind in any condition.
An interesting theme that can be found in other more commonly practiced religions that is shared with Scientology is that their beliefs revolve around the idea of a “Thetan,” an individual expression of a life force. This idea is similar to a spirit or soul, and is believed to represent the source of life, or life itself. As seen on page 39 of Janet Reitman’s book Inside Scientology, Hubbard defines the foundation of Scientology and the principals of Thetans as the following....

Such an example of the idea of Thetans can be seen in Hinduism; like Hinduism, Scientology suggests a relationship between the soul and an earlier incarnation in one’s present life. In many cases, Scientology, like many other religions, borrows similar ideas from other religions and other philosophies and adopts them into their own ideologies. In Hubbard’s view, the goal of scientology is to restore this power of the Thetan, which can be done through auditing, which will be explained further down. He believed this would streamline the process to enlightenment. Like the borrowed idea of Thetans, another highly interesting idea of Scientology is where Dianetics stems from. Hubbard took similar philosophies from Sigmund Freud regarding psychoanalytical theories. Such ideas can directly be found in Dianetics; they deal with traumatic memories imbedded in one’s unconscious. Through this, Scientology is able to promise self-betterment through Dianetic therapy and overcoming these strong memories. In many ways, Scientology is based off of Freud’s theory of Psychotherapy and persuading its followers to go through with these pricey Dianetic sessions.

In this blog post, I will shed further light on Dianetic auditing and how it directly ties into the ideologies of Scientology. The purpose of auditing is to increase one’s spiritual awareness and self-betterment. If applied correctly, auditing can rid the engrams (deep traumatizing memories) from one’s body, thus restoring their natural Thetans or souls and improving one’s everyday life. The auditing session is usually a one-on-one session between the patient and the auditor; in many ways, this is similar to the idea of a “confession” found in Catholicism. The task of the auditor is to aid the patient in overcoming and understanding engrams. As the sessions increase in frequency, they become more and more intricate, moving towards complex engrams. Scientology’s idealistic intention is to rid the planet of engrams, where people can live their lives free from traumatizing or scaring memories.

Other Fundamental ideas of Scientology present two major beliefs of the mind. They believe in two sides of the mind, the “reactive” and the “analytical” mind. The reactive mind is believed to absorb all pain and emotional traumas or “engrams.” To rid these engrams from the reactive mind and free their “Thetan,” E-meters, or “tech,” are used to rehabilitate the individual’s spiritual nature so that they may reach his or her full potential. The other side of the mind, the “analytical” mind, is responsible for rational functions and consciousness. The relationship both sides have with each other is the idea of balance; for one side of the mind to be freed, the other must be, too.

Another interesting element of symbols found in Scientology is the Scientology symbol itself. The symbol is composed of three different symbols, “S”, “ARC” and “KRC.” The “S” stands for Scientology, “ARC” stands for affinity, reality and community, and “KRC” stands for knowledge, responsibility and control. These symbols represent a certain way of life and knowledge that essentially all Scientologists strive for. The system of triangles acts in similar ways to a trinity; its followers constantly try to achieve a balanced equality in the encompassing representation of knowledge and ways of life.

 In many ways Scientology is drastically different from any other religion in terms of its beliefs; but like almost all religions, Scientology borrows several characteristics from other more commonly practiced religions, such as Hinduism and Catholicism. However, in my opinion, Scientology seems a bit far-fetched in several different aspects. I could not help to keep thinking how in many ways this religion seems more like a business than it does a religion; but that is beside the point. Studying and researching into Scientology was actually very fascinating; in the media, Scientology receives a fair amount of criticism, and it’s interesting to finally know what the beliefs actually are.

Scientology's Expanding Presence (Pt. 1)

My final blog post addresses Scientology and the ideologies that go along with this relatively new religion. Throughout these blog posts, I will be shedding light on their common practices, relating these practices to other religions, and analyzing the system of symbols that are associated with this Church. In this blog particular post, I will cover the background of how Scientology was introduced and some of the problems along with it. The blogs following this will be going into more depth about the religious ideologies that surround Scientology. The Church of Scientology is among the world’s most controversial religions and claims to have millions of members in 165 different countries across the globe. In 1954, Scientology was born from the idea of a science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard. In 1950, when L. Ron Hubbard’s book, Dianetics was published, it took the nation by surprise. This term Dianetics refers to a psychological distress theory that Hubbard invented. This theory was poorly received by professionals in the scientific and medical fields [1], especially in the publication of “The American Psychological Association,” which said that these claims could not be supported by firsthand proof. Other criticisms include an article published in Scientific American, saying that LRH’s book Dianetics contained “more promises and less evidence per page that any publication since the invention of printing”.[2] 
As Dianetics groups or cults were spreading across the country, many people were willing to pay for Dianetic therapy; this led to the large sums of money that came into Hubbard’s possession. Organization was lacking and there were no financial strategy of control over the money. Dianetic associates began to resign after watching the organization take in over $90,000 just within a single month and could only account for $20,000 (Reitman 34). The financial accounts of LRH were beginning to look a bit suspicious and a lot of this money was beginning to go missing and unaccounted for. As clearly shown, the foundation of Scientology has been surrounded by much skepticism and seems very shady financially. From Janet Reitman’s book Inside Scientology, Reitman tells readers that, “In the past 15 years Scientology had been involved in more than half a dozen wide scale government investigations around the world, thousands of lawsuits, many of which center on its controversial doctrine and practices” (Reitman).

[1] Staff (August 21, 1950). "Dianetics book review; Best Seller." Newsweek
[2] Rabi, Isaac Isador. "Book Review." Scientific American, January 1951

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Questionable Texts

After reading Joseph Smith’s translation of The Book Of Abraham, I was fairly confused at times. But after reading the Wikipedia page, I was a bit more at ease with my interpretation of this translation. What I found most interesting was why some of the different sects of the Church of LDS do not believe The Book Of Abraham is considered a religious text, even though it was interpreted by Joseph Smith, the founder of LDS Church. I could only imagine the reasons concerning the historical uncertainties seen throughout this text.
For one, there are several themes Christianity, Islam and Judaism share with this text. The first piece I had really noticed when reading the text, was the reference to angels, something most religions fail to cover, yet Christianity, Islam and Judaism all seem to embody. In other religions besides these, there is not a specific reference to angels, but Islam and Judaism believes God created angels as messengers between heaven and earth. This idea is seen in The Book of Abraham when it is said “the Lord thy God sent his angel to deliver thee from the hands of the priest of Elkenah” (35). This unique theme of the role of angels now is present in Mormon, Islam and Judaism; which shows where this idea may have originally stemmed from (not 2000 BE). I could only imagine this text is riddled with questionable statements similar to many of which that can be seen in Joseph Smith’s background.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Indoctrination of Mormon Beliefs

The Mormon take on Indians is very interesting to me, but what I find most fascinating is the relationship the Mormons have with Native Americans. I find the story of how the Lamanites and Nephites came into America a bit farfetched; I am a bit dubious of anyone sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in 600 BC. But that’s beside the point, I am not trying to make this into a scientific argument of why The Book of Mormon is a bit impractical. But in this blog post, I am trying to make a finer connection with the relationship Mormons have with the Native Americans and why there is so much resentment between the two groups. After reading the chapter, “The Book of Mormon,” I came to conclude from this is that Mormons established themselves in Native American territory and took their land for themselves, competed for hunting territory, took other valuable resources and felt the need to convert non-believers. Naturally the Indians would rebel and use violence towards the Mormons to try and get their point across. With persistence and “the will of God” the Mormons firmly believe the Indians must “lay down [their] weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding o blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command [them]”. Through this, the Mormons are able to indoctrinate their own set of beliefs and principals into Native American culture. In many ways, the Mormons have stripped everything from the Indians and instilled their own set of beliefs and “God shall command” them in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Skepticism Behind Joseph Smith

 After reading the Third Book of Nephi, I began to make more sense of Mormonism. I found it interesting how Mormonism depicts Jesus’ resurrection in the United States, something far different than what Christianity believes in. Many of these stories seem a bit fantasy like in their depiction of the second coming of Christ. However where I begin to criticize Mormonism and believe to think of it as stretching the truth of Christianity, is Joseph Smith's teachings and beliefs. I come from a Christian background so my view is very biased, but I believe Mormonism touches on pro-American ideals and white superiority. I believe Mormonism brought the idea of Christ resurrecting in America only to give America a sense of religious importance. Joseph Smith in my opinion seems to have written himself into this newly developed religion of Mormonism. He achieves this through being directed by an angel in a vision to the golden tablets, which only he can read with the help of a seer stone. Through his translation from Egyptian script to English he then can write himself into the “Book of Mormon” and serve as a servant to the Lord. As Christ goes on to say, “for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them…. But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand….”. Thus hinting at pro-American ideals through Smith's role in this new religion and the American values/principals that affect Mormonism. Where the theme of white superiority comes in, is the outlook on the Lamanites found in the Book of Mormon. It is believed if the Lamanites (Native Americans) do not commit to the Lord through baptism, then God shall not spare them in the afterlife. In the 19th and 20th centuries, white Americans may have seen the Book of Mormon as a way of answering many of the questions surrounding the Native Americans, and the views on Native Americans in the Book of Mormon may have fueled the fire for racism in America. In my view, the Mormons are more or less forcing the Lamanites to join the church of Mormon through guilt and the promise of an afterlife with the Lord; hinting at the notions Mormons have for less superior beliefs. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Science and Religion

Is Bahai a new religion or a  religion of a modern world? Bahai stems from Islam, specifically the Shi’ite sect, but embodies very different views. I find it interesting that Bahai strongly believes in the full equality between the sexes while Islam does not, and women are treated on another level as their male counterpart, yet other aspects such as the holy prophets are similar.
Yes, the Bahai is a relatively new religion in a new world, a way of life that is polar opposite from the world during 622 A.D. when Islam was being formed. In theory, Bahai is a religion that changes with the world; they have a set group of relative and eternal codes and principals. The eternal principals are based off how one should live their life by expressing virtuous themes of honesty and courage. Rather than fundamental codes, Bahai embodies relative codes that in theory change as the world changes along with the transformations in one’s life, such as divorce. From my understanding, in today’s world, it seems that some of the teachings of Islam are outdated and can easily be misinterpreted, resulting in a difference of teachings and beliefs. Islam is purely a religion based on the teachings of the prophet and tells followers how to live life. Bahai is a combination of science and religion, also teaching its followers the principals of how to live. Where Bahai clearly differentiates from its mother religion, Islam, is the scientific and modern approach of religion that touches on the creation and evolution of human beings and the world in which we live. Both religions teach their followers how to live through an individual system of teachings. However, in my opinion, the Bahai seem to be a bit more adaptive to modern culture in an ever evolving world. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Religious Barriers

The Charter for Compassion video was very interesting to watch and really hit a chord within me. I thought such a basic principal of the golden rule was so simple, yet so brilliant. Everyone has grown up with this fundamental rule since adolescence, and one would think compassion and respect for others would be a bit more prevalent in today's society. But there are many elements that seem to break this up and instill inferiority into cultures and religions. Since the dawn of religion, most religions have seemed to adopt this theme of inferiority of other religions, instilling hatred into global cultures. Unifying religions around the world to care for compassion and treat others the way they would like to be treated would ideally break a large amount of the religious barriers including the extremists and fundamentalists.  However the feasibility of this is doubtful, not to say I would not love to see this happen, but the individual ties human beings have with religion is so strong that many will die for their religion, and breaking this train of thought would prove to be difficult.
This religious/political onslaught that went on during the Ottoman Empire that Baja’u’llah had witnessed seems to have been avoidable if the golden rule was applied to the Iranians. However as one side fails to use compassion, I feel the other side then begins to cave in on compassion and loses hope for others. As “political” prisoners were sent to confinement jails, prisoners were suffering from the lack of water, prisoners were beginning to fall ill and some died (p. 92). I feel in conditions such as these, it seems impossible to still have any sort of compassion when the government has absolutely none. And at times I find it difficult to believe Baja’u’llah had risen above everything and still promoted compassion. Naturally this text does have a slight bias to it, considering one who practices Baha’i is the author.

So In the given light Moojan Momen paints Baja’u’llah as being a fearless leader and one who embodies compassion for all. I do feel Baja’u’llah would relate to Karen Armstrong’s message on compassion and believe this idea would be instrumental in dealing with many of the religious injustices that go on. In many ways Baja’u’llah shows examples of compassion throughout his biography. This is mainly shown through his strong love for his family, the sacrifice of himself for others, and his will to spread his message. On many levels, this idea of universal compassion could be what breaks many religious barriers apart. In many ways the Baha'i faith embodies this universal theme of compassion through their view for equality between genders and their encompassing views towards all religions.