Friday, January 23, 2015

More On Religion

L. Ron Hubbard

I rarely talk about religion and when I do, most of the time I wind up deeply regretting it.

I’m not a “believer.” At least not in any organized religion. I AM spiritual, in that I am a Deist. I believe there is some organizing principle and some Creative Life Force or God of some kind. I just don’t understand it, but I don’t have to. I mean, who really understands concepts like “infinity,” or “eternity” and we throw those terms around all the time. I have never hated religion, nor do I take any offense at anyone else's beliefs, nor do I intend offense by my own lack thereof.

I gave up on my religion at about 11 years of age.

Back then (I’m OLD now) the Catholic Mass was said in Latin, which may as well have been Sanskrit, as far as I was concerned. Only the homily or sermon (whatever they call it) was said in English. What really burned me up (as a kid) was how intently all these adults, who I was pretty sure didn’t speak or understand Latin either, followed the priest so attentively. I’d grouse, “Mr. Bevins speaks Latin? Get out, judging from the way he speaks, he can barely understand English.”

Most of what I remember about Church was the day-dreaming. Yes, I had undiagnosed ADD...probably ADHD, because I was pretty hyper as a kid too. Anyway, I didn’t mind the day-dreaming so much because almost every time, I dreamed about me being incredibly, fantabulously rich and living in a huge home under some ocean (Hey, I was a kid!). But after awhile, I began to resent being mandated to waste an hour or more day-dreaming every Sunday morning, so at 11 years of age, I finally found the courage to ask my Dad if I could just stop going.

I asked after he made one of his often inciteful musings about how, “The minute some people get out of Church they can’t seem to wait to get back to being the bastards they were the rest of the week, cutting people off on the way out of the Church parking lot...” etc..

Dad acquiesced and I happily stopped going to Church to listen to a Mass I didn’t understand. Now, I didn’t become a full-fledged non-denominational Deist overnight, mind you, it took a bit of time. AND (for the record) it wasn’t just the Latin thing, there were all the weird teachings; an infant that died before being baptized being forever doomed to a place called “Limbo,” and the idea that an “all forgiving, all-knowing God,” who knew everything (presumably even what you and I will do before we do it) would consign people to HELL forever...a place where both Hitler and the kid who stole a cookie and lied about it would go.

As I grew and learned about other religions, I found most of them even more outlandish than my own.

Like when I came across Mormonism, founded by a guy named Joe Smith who allegedly found some gold or gold-plated plates in some woods in upstate New York and then was confronted by an apparition of John the Baptist, or some kitchen supplies salesman who, I guess, was a dead ringer for John the Baptist.

I’m pretty sure I know what happened from there. John the Baptist (or this kitchen supplies salesman) told Joe Smith he could use the plates for a month at no cost and at the end of that time could either keep them for $300 or return them “no questions asked.” Moreover, IF Joe kept the plates, he could take this sales pitch on the road (out West) and kind of franchise out this little plate selling scheme. You know this kitchen supply salesman had to be Jewish, right? I mean (1) it fits the mold (Jesus was Jewish, so was John the Baptist and that other John...and Mary and Joseph) and (2) the best sales people are all Jewish. Anyway, unlike someone like myself, who if I’d made 10 or 12 gold plates with some fancy writing on them, I’d,“Ahh, what did I do now?! I always go overboard! Who’s gonna buy a bunch of solid gold plates? What in the hell was I thinking?” this salesman looked for a “hook.”

He came upon this “religious experience” idea. Some might call it a scam, but it’s still an idea. Anyway, the idea was to leave them in a regularly traveled wooded area, then when a traveler begins picking them up, come out from behind a tree or bush or whatever and spring this franchise deal on them. I’d never have come up with such a great idea myself. I’d be too busy kicking my own ass off in some dark corner.

Joe Smith liked the plates...a LOT, but he didn't have the three-hundred bucks! Hell, people earned something like $5/week back then. So, old Joe came up with another idea (scam...idea, what’s the diff?), only Joe’s idea was to skedaddle with the plates and just head West. Hmmmm, I guess that IS a "scam," or at least a crime (like theft). Only Joe was wracked with guilt, which, oddly enough, manifested itself in some kind of weird “religious conversion.” Yup, Joe Smith started Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. Wow! Now that’s a mouthful, right there.

So anyway, the upshot is that I couldn’t get into a religion started by a guy named Joe Smith, who apparently picked up a bunch of gold plates and subsequently may have seen either John the Baptist, or John the kitchen supplies salesman. I couldn’t do it, but I honestly have no issue with anyone who does. After all, one of the Mormon teachings is, “In Mormonism, life on earth is just a short part of an eternal existence. Mormons believe that in the beginning all people existed as spirits or "intelligences," in the presence of God. In this state, God proposed a plan of salvation whereby they could progress and "have a privilege to advance like himself." The spirits were free to accept or reject this plan, and a "third" of them, led by Satan rejected it. The rest accepted the plan, coming to earth and receiving bodies with an understanding that they would experience sin and suffering.

“In Mormonism, the central part of God's plan is the atonement of Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that one purpose of earthly life is to learn to choose good over evil. In this process, people inevitably make mistakes, becoming unworthy to return to the presence of God. Mormons believe that Jesus paid for the sins of the world, and that all people can be saved through his atonement. Mormons accept Christ's atonement through faith, repentance, formal covenants or ordinances such as baptism, and consistently trying to live a Christ-like life.”

Now that’s some pretty cool sounding stuff, even though I still can’t buy a religion started by Joe Smith...and a lot of the other views that Mormons supposedly believe.

Then I came upon a religion that was started even AFTER Mormonism, called Scientology. Unfortunately that one was started by a science fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard. That breeds some skepticism right there. He was probably an arrogant kind of guy, who read through the Bible and wasn’t too impressed with the stories and so far, I’m good with that. I mean the Bible isn’t great literature to me, although apparently William Shakespeare would disagree. At least that’s what a lot of English teachers claim...that Shakespeare’s works are derivative of a bunch of Biblical stories. Then again, to some of them, EVERY story is derivative of some Biblical story, in some way. For my money, if we look at literature as some kind of verbal Rorschach test, then that view is an epic fail. I mean, IF you can actually fail a Rorschach test, that’s a fail.

So, anyway, I’m guessing that this guy Hubbard gets kind of steamed that the Bible has sold so many more copies than every book this guy has ever written COMBINED. I’d have pointed out to L. Ron that the Bible DID have a hell of a head start, but that apparently either didn’t occur to Hubbard, OR he just resented a collection of what he saw as inferior writers so thoroughly kicking his proverbial writing ass.

So, L. Ron Hubbard decided to, in effect, write his own Bible and start his own religion...generally a REAL bad idea (think Jim Jones, Kim Jong Il and a bunch of other crackpots). Anyway his major book Dianetics was initially made into a form of counselling or psychotherapy, which BOTH the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association promptly rejected, so L. Ron shrewdly declared war on psychiatry, claiming that, “the practice of psychiatry is destructive and abusive and must be abolished.” Funny story, Kim Jong Il did the very SAME thing.

Anyway, sometime during the 1950s Hubbard started his “Church” in Camden, New Jersey, the garden spot (in the garden state) for all budding new religions.

For awhile L. Ron Hubbard actually inspired me. After all, I write some pretty crappy science fiction too.....OK, I really don’t, but I DO aspire to writing crappy least someday, whenever these creative juices really kick into overdrive.

But after a short period, I gave up on that dream. I mean, who’s gonna follow me? I’ve never even been to Camden!

But I haven’t totally given up on belief systems, not at all. I think something inside all of us struggles to understand (even if only in the most rudimentary way) what all this means, why we’re here and all that.

So, lately I’ve come across the idea of “Ancient Alien Origins!” That’s right, according to this great TV show (called, appropriately enough, "Ancient Aliens") humans were genetically created out of chimps or some other ancient primate by these advanced ancient aliens. Yeah, at first blush, it sounds absolutely ludicrous, I know, but how much more absurd is it than Catholicism, or Calvinism, or Mormonism, for that matter?

In fact, it has a lot going for it, in that it really would explain a lot. How about, “God obviously doesn’t care about us. Why else would God let so much bad happen to so many good people?” Ancient Alien Origins has an answer for that – “God doesn’t know about us.” That’s right, God created these ancient aliens and THEY created this talking ape...US. If you really get into it, maybe God created earlier Ancient Aliens who created other "Ancient Aliens" and they created us! WoW! If that's the case, then somewhere along the line, God is probably gonna be royally pissed! I mean, whenever this God gets around to finding out about all this.

Think about it and it all begins to make perfect sense. These ancient aliens get all technologically advanced, they’re cavorting around the universe, zooming through black holes and as always happens affluence and technology combine to make them lazy and self-centered. So, what do they do? Yeah, exactly what you and I would do, they hunt around for a subspecies to genetically alter so it can do the mining, the farming, basic transportation, the boring bookkeeping, maybe even some light housekeeping, perhaps. Yeah that’s US! The GREAT homo sapiens!

We’re the only ones who think we’re hot shit! And that’s only because we don’t know any better. We’ve never met a more advanced species than ourselves, so we imagine ourselves to be “top of the heap.”

I know what you’re thinking, “If no one’s ever seen these ancient aliens, how do we know that they exist?”

Good one...BUT that just adds the critical component of “plausible deniability.” EVERY religion needs that.

Oh yeah and another good thing about ancient alien origins is that there’s no Church on Sunday, or Saturday...or ANY other day AND you don’t so much pray, as you curl up into a fetal position and HOPE (in abject terror) that you never run into one of these super advanced ancient aliens.

The more I think about it, it’s sort of a least for me, right now.

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