Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Questioning (And Revealing) My Own Biases.

This post is something that I originally wrote on my livejournal. I'm cross-posting it here, because I think that dealing with issues of bias and questioning what is critique and what is just prejudice are important lines to traverse in feminist (and all social/political) standpoints. And so it goes, with a few grammatical corrections, and some additional thoughts:

Is it wrong that it so disappoints me that the following people are Scientologists?
(This is a list that is available to the public):

Giovanni Ribisi
Jason Lee (this might explain his latest movie choice--the live action version of The Chipmunks)
Juliette Lewis
Kirsti Alley
Nancy Cartwright (et tu, Bart?)

I mean, I don't ever want to discriminate on the basis of religion. I don't ever want to tell someone that what they believe in, what they have faith in is wrong. However, my distaste of Scientology right now is making me feel like I'm being racist (or maybe religionist? What's the correct -ist?) against the above people, for questioning their creditability, meanwhile I have no idea to what degree they practice their religion, anymore than my Catholic upbringing makes me a true Catholic.

But Scientology is just so sketchy in its origins, and while its structure and history certainly mirrors that of most of the main religions, to me that doesn't read as automatic religious authenticity. Justifying Scientology by the set-ups of previous religions is faulty, and only serves to further reveal the flaws of institutionalization. After all, many of the things that Scientology mirrors in established religions are problematic for those faiths as well. Certainly, a walk through the history of the Catholic Church is no fairy tale picnic. Repression, total excommunication, money-lust, colonialism, and other abuses are not specific to Scientology. And I certainly no longer identify as Catholic, despite my records of baptism, communion, and confirmation.

It is not the theology of Scientology that bothers me either. After all, is it really so far-fetched to be asked to believe their stories anymore than it is to be asked to believe in something like transubstantiation? Or exorcism? As well, the ability and choice to take these stories as figurative for deeper meaning rather than fundamental, literal doctrine is (or at least should be,in theory) possible.

But there is just something so sinister about the dealings and the conception of Scientology, and its celebrity status. I don't think even any other major world religion(should proponents continue to compare Scientology to other faiths)--even the Catholic Church--started its bid for followers by asking anyone for copious amounts of money. The Church demands a vow of poverty from its clergy, or at least it is supposed to. I don't know how poor the Pope lives. And, yes, the Church expects 'donations' to perform weddings and baptisms, but its regular Mass services, confessions and such are available for free. You can't get shit from the Scientologists unless you have the money for it. Even in the major religions, during their own heights of money-lust, poor people were allowed to have faith (if it wasn't already imposed on them). And most major religions have a diversity of ethnicities amongst their faith-holders (though, again, many imposed upon due to colonialism). Ever notice how all the major Scientologists are white? And rich?

See also, how problematic defending Scientology by comparing it to other established religions gets? Look how many parenthesis I had to use in the above paragraph...

Christ. Xenu. Whomever.

Can anyone even start a new religion these days with any creditability? You know, I would never not be friends with someone I thought was a great person just because of their religion. But I would steer the fuck clear away from anyone who was actively trying to rope/force/impose on me ANY set of beliefs against my will. I like being educated about other faiths, societies and cultural constructs; often, such education is enriching, and opens up new horizons of knowledge, expression and experiences. However, I wouldn't want to feel coerced into a new dogma, especially if it is rigid and oppressive about whom, what, where, why and how I can believe. I suppose I can only offer the same back to the list of people mentioned above. I love and respect all those actors and musicians. Jason Lee is a great talent, Nancy Cartwright's voice is iconic, and Giovanni Ribisi is just so cool. Doesn't it just make me a total douchebag to automatically assign disappointment to those people based on my own misgivings about Scientology? Without knowing anything about their personal practice?

I don't know.

Stupid Tom Cruise.

For a good examination/investigation of Scientology, see this article here from Rolling Stone:


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