Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Losing My Religion

Warning: This post has absolutely nothing to do with my own personal religion or religious beliefs.

When ever I need to know what is hip and happening in German society, I turn to my cultural guide, my soap opera, Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times). In the past few months I have not had time for my guilty pleasure, but last week I was finally able to catch up. What I saw . . . was a little disturbing.

It seems that Vincent and Sandra have joined a religious type of organization known as "Conception." Their new found enlightenment has alienated them from all of their friends. Vincent's ex-girlfriend, Verena, wanted to write an expose on the "cult" and went to a meeting. The head of the group informed Vincent that Verena is "hard headed" and ordered him to give Verena a hallucinogenic drug while Verena watched the orientation video. Vincent could not do it and now wants out of the "organization." However, the group is making is life very difficult at the moment.

The parallels between "Conception" and Scientology are thinly veiled. And while this story line in no way tops the glorious and ridiculous story of Marlena's possession on Days of Our Lives, it actually does reflect a strong anti-Scientology trend in German society. I realized this a few weeks ago when a few CDU politicians argued that Tom Cruise should not be allowed to film his WWII movie in Germany because of his "religious beliefs."

This anti-Scientology bent is not just on the TV and used against Tom Cruise. A few months ago someone brought it to my attention that my business's reputation might be in danger. We do a few tutoring sessions for young kids after school. The person (who was a bit older than myself) said to me, "Claire, you should make sure that people see you in church more often."

I was a little shocked. I looked at her and asked why. She responded, "Well, everyone knows that those tutoring facilities and schools run by foreigners are just recruiting places for Scientology." I was completely at a loss for words. And trust me, that does not happen often.

After thinking about these things on the weekend, I decided to see what the fuss is about. I did a little Internet research on Scientology. Scientology is based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard and was founded in 1954. Scientologists refer to their beliefs as an "applied religious philosophy," whatever that means.

From what I can gather, Scientologists believe that humans are "immortal, spiritual beings." Problems that we have in this life are a consequence of what we did in a past life. (Hmm. Um, Mr. Hubbard, that sounds a lot like Hinduism?) Through the process of "auditing" you can free yourself of past traumas. (Hmm. Um, Mr. Hubbard, that sounds a lot like confession and/or therapy?)

I have to admit that much of Scientology sounds like a gathering of different types of belief systems rolled into one. Where Scientology gets weird is that as you achieve different levels of clarity, adherents attend advanced courses where they learn about things like Xenu and the Galactic Confederacy. Obviously Mr. Hubbard's science fiction writings influenced him more that he thought.

Now if you want to know more about this, you will have to do your own research. I stopped reading when I got to the part about Xenu. It was a bit too much for me. Also, frankly, I do not think a spiritual leader should wear ascots.

Do I think that Scientologists are such a danger that they will kidnap and eat little children? Heavens, no. Nonetheless, when I saw this picture posted on Wikipedia, I laughed. It is a German leaflet about threats to democracy. Scientology was between Islamic extremism and organized crime.

Picture Source: Wikipedia


Carrie said...

OMG! Someone did not tell you the go to church more often! Jeeezus! How cultish is that?

ann said...

It's quite the opposite down by us. There are scientology pamphlets in the waiting room of the Bürgerbüro. Right next to the pamphlets from the city explaining the programs for people with mental health issues or who need counseling (sp?), the scientology sponsored organization has pamphlets on the dangers of psychology etc. Although I certainly don't agree with everything coming out of the psychological community, there are clearly people who need help and I don't feel that the city should be giving scientologists a platform to frighten people away from, in many cases, needed support programs.
"Religions" that try to keep their belief structure secret using copyright law make me nervous. If it's so compelling, one should believe it deserves to be "proclaimed" openly and needn't be secret. Free market of ideas, very western, but then so was L. Ron Hubbard.

Re: church. Germans, in general, really don't care what you believe - most of them don't believe anything either, but showing up in church once in a while, even if they don't, is a way of showing that one belongs to the community. "One of us" as opposed to "one of them". I very much doubt that the neighbor was proselytizing.

redsimon said...

I think it's no exaggeration to say that Scientology is a dangerous cult. They exploit their members financially and threaten them if they want to get out, in some cases they do worse things. Them being watched here in Germany is self-evident because their beliefs pose a threat to the freiheitlich-demokratische Grundordnung.