29 June 2005

America's contribution to the world's religions

[don't read this if you're touchy about religion - ed.]

Salon has started a four-part series on Scientology.

What is it about modern American religions that binds them to such questionable social acts? Mormons [Wikipedia] have/had thier penchant for polygamy, Christian Scientists have their ambivalence towards medicine. And Scientologists have badgered, legally and socially, those who have left their religion or those who criticize it (and hopefully, they only attack those whose opinions matter--winkwink). Is this just a parallel of the persecution of older incipient religions? A very basic summary (although please correct if I'm horrendously wrong): Jews were enslaved as foreigners, Christians were persecuted for their challenge to the Jewish authorities, and Muslims were condemned for their conflict with the prevailing animism. All pretty normal in societies where theological is political. But in such a wonderfully permissive society as America's, how in the hell do religions crop up and still bump against the social norms?

All of America's religions are based on documented lies. In the world of early Judaism or Christianity or Islam, society's less-than-incisive collecting of facts was understandable. How can that happen today in our (apparently not so) modern world of open information? Well, there's a desire for the spiritual no matter the facts, so I guess if something's gonna crop up as a spiritual desire (rocks or crystals or incantations from a book or Nikes hopping a comet) no amount of real-world knowledge is going to stop it. The harmless part is the spiritual part.

But these affronts to social mores, that have little-to-nothing to do with the spiritual intent of the American religions, are inexplicable. All of the American religions have basically the same bundle of stuff once you ignore their embarassing beginnings and questionable activities: positive thinking and a (ultimately non-denominational) soul. Why don't they just stick with that?

[ posted by sstrader on 29 June 2005 at 12:55:01 PM in Culture & Society ]