Lover of God

I get a new follower on Twitter. I look at his profile and read, "lover of life, music, traveling and most importantly God". A lover of God. Really? Now I am sure the majority of people would pass that one by and not say anything but I just had to stop. What the heck does that mean? Really?

In my experience, a person who says such things, who advertises their supposed piety, is trying to portray themselves in a certain light. They have taken some sort of the moral high road and want others to know them as better than the common person. In reality, they are anything but. They turn out to not be knowledgeable of whatever religion they are professing. They are not all that conversant with the Bible, They are pretty much ignorant of the world's other great religions and philosophies. And they more than likely are not morally superior to the next person. In fact, their supposed piety may lead them to the conservative end of the spectrum. They're right; others are wrong. They may proselytize.

Why proselytise? I have always felt that there is a deep seated need to confirm their beliefs and what better way of confirming them than by having others believe them too? It is not enough to see the light; they must have others see the light too. And their light is the right light. There is no possibility that they are wrong. Over my lifetime, I have run into a number of "believers" in air quotes who profess to knowing "the truth" also in air quotes. They know what they know but no more. It isn't as if they carefully studied five of the world's great religions or philosophies then decided number three was the best, it's more of a question that at some point in their life, for whatever reason, they needed something and whatever happened to be within reach turned out to be "the answer" to all their problems.

1969: The Bahá'í Faith
In my late teens, around 1969, I ran into a number of people who seemed to be caught up in the hippie age of self-discovery, new age movements, etc. These people were exploring various spiritual options which for lack of a better word were not mainstream. Some of these people were a tad extreme in their quest for spiritual fulfillment and it made me wonder what was missing in their lives that they seemed to be so hell bent on finding.

My girlfriend at the time liked to drag me out to various groups. I accompanied her to various mainstream churches and even an evangelical church where the service was punctuated with people standing up and yelling out "Praise the lord!" We visited the local Bahá'í group who turned out to be very nice people: I remember our informal discussions usually had Seals & Croft playing in the background, a popular musical group who were also Bahá'í. At the time, I didn't understand just what my girlfriend was looking for but I went along because… well, she was my girlfriend. Now, I realise that something was missing in her life: her father had died when she was young; she married at the age of 16; she had a child, got divorced at 18 and had to give up her child to her husband. That's a lot of upset to deal with before the age of 20.

Oddly enough, I remember one boy who became such a fervent follower of the Bahá'í movement that he attempted to convert his family. It got so bad at home that his own family finally had to kick him out. It didn't stop there, though. The regional council of the church actually took him to task for being too persistent in his proselytising as he was giving the church a bad name. Aside: I know the church; I know the religion and even though I'm not a believer, I found these people to be very nice, not some nefarious cult.

Framework
As I watched all this with both bemusement and amusement, I began to see that for some people the need for a spiritual framework in their lives was of the utmost importance. I realized that each one of us has "something", whether it is our church, our family or our job which provides us with a place to hang our hat so to speak. It was our base, our bedrock upon which we built our lives and gave us the stability we needed to weather the storm, to live our lives. I grew up in a solid home with parents who loved one another and never divorced. The boy I mention above came from a family whose parents divorced and whose father eventually committed suicide.

I theorized that I could create a religion. If I provided a structure, rules, guidelines, etc., I could give to people this all important framework they needed. It could provide the foundation upon which they could build their lives and allow them to get along in life. I also conjectured that such followers could be devoted, could be a little gullible and could be a source of revenue. Of course, this was just a theory I came up with while idly cogitating on my experiences and I never acted upon such a possible plan.

1974: Scientology
The 70's were my musical decade: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Nothing major, believe me; just an aberrant part of my past in an otherwise average life.

In 1974, I had an opportunity to spend some time at the Berklee College of Music located in Boston, Massachusetts. At this particular point in history, Chick Corea, the jazz pianist was riding a wave of popularity because of his group Return to Forever, a fusion of jazz and rock. Everybody at the school talked about Chick and a television special just about closed down the entire school as everybody in the place stopped to crowd around the nearest available TV set.

Chick Corea was a scientologist and this was very much a question at the school. I had no idea what Scientology was but there was a church of Scientology just down the street and several students at the school claimed to be involved with it including one of my 2 roommates.

Mike, my roommate, took the time to explain to me about L. Ron Hubbard, the movement and the church and even got me a copy of the book Dianetics. He took me through the ideas of auditing, the e-meter and becoming clear and went on to explain that he had so far spent $8,000 US in taking various courses in Scientology.

Wow. $8,000. This was 1974. That's a lot of money. It is even more money when I think that Mike only in his early twenties was a student and didn't really have that kind of money to be throwing around. After all, Berklee was an expensive school.

I read some of the literature; I skimmed through some of Dianetics when all of a sudden it hit me: L. Ron Hubbard had done what I had jokingly theorized about. He had created his own religion. The more I looked at scientology itself, the more I discovered about the man, the more I understood what he had previously done, the more I understood that he made up his own church. In fact, as I later discovered, he admitted this to people.

Further discussions with this Mike underlined what I had run across in 1969. Mike was looking for this framework, this spiritual structure to his life and just by utter coincidence, he had run into Scientology. In looking back on these discussions, I have to chuckle. I have to chuckle in the same way I've chuckled over the years when I run into somebody who seems to know "the truth". There was Mike talking to me with a great deal of conviction about this Scientology. Had he read the Bible? No. Was he familiar with the Book of Mormon? No. Had he ever looked at the Jewish faith or the Muslim faith or Hinduism or the Bahá'í's? No. Had Mike ever read "Discourse on the Method" by René Descartes in which he formulated his famous saying, "I think there I am"? No. Did he know that "God is dead" as per Nietzsche's "Also Sprach Zarathustra"? No.

Poor Mike
I'm sorry, Mike. You know the "truth"? You have fallen into the trap I had seen many people fall into: the first thing you ever bother to look at becomes your answer. You don't continue looking, you don't continue any research, and you just accept the very first thing you find as being your big discovery of the truth. How narrow minded, how convenient, how simplistic. I'm not saying I'm some big scholar, I'm not saying I know the "truth" any more than the next guy but I am saying that people who stumble onto something as Mike did as others I know in my life did, does not constitute for me justifiable grounds for anybody to be telling me they have discovered the "truth".

But here's the odd issue that goes along with Mike's conversion to Scientology; did L. Ron Hubbard know this and did it deliberately or was this just dumb luck? Mike had shelled out $8,000 to get where he was and was going to have to spend so much more to arrive at what is labelled "clear". Thinking of the psychological condition of cognitive dissonance, the inability of holding onto two conflicting believes at the same time, Mike would never be able to admit to himself that Scientology was wrong because to do so would require him to come to understand that all the money he had spent was wasted, that he had been duped. Nobody likes being duped so who's going to admit that Scientology may be wrong?

I found out later that Hubbard had deliberately set up a fee structure for his courses because he knew that people do not value something if it's free. Charge for it and you give the impression that what you're offering is valuable.

Tom Cruise
When Mr. Cruise with wide-eyed conviction (and here wide-eyed might mean crazed) that he knew "the answer", I saw what I had seen so many times before. Somebody needed something and latched on to whatever came by like a drowning man to a floating piece of wood. Tom had seen "the" light? Sorry, you have mistakenly employed the definite article when you should have used the indefinite. I'm certain that Mr. Cruise is a nice man but he doesn't know jack shit about religion and philosophy. He may have conviction but let's not forget the followers of Jim Jones had conviction.
 

Final Word
Lover of God? That's nice. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go. As quickly as possible. And far away. If you had said lover of truth or lover of justice or lover of peace, I suppose I might have let that slide, but there is something about advertising a religion, a category, or a philosophy, which tells me the individual is not open to "the truth", or is attempting to seek "the truth" because they have already found it. Can anybody truly say they have found "the truth"?

If it isn't on a profile as in Facebook or Twitter, it could be the fish symbol on the front door of the house or a bumper sticker on the car: Honk if you love Jesus. Maybe it's an advertisement for one's own convictions but it could be an advertisement for others who are like-minded. Honk if you like Led Zeppelin. Or Metallica. Or Flo Rida. Whatever.

When somebody advertises themself as a Lover of God, my experience has been that the person is ofttimes narrow-minded and very much entrenched in their convictions. When you have conviction, what's to debate? When you have faith, who needs facts? Don't get me wrong, faith is an important part of the human experience, but so much wrong has been done in the name of the Lord. I see the continuation of pain and suffering in the world sometimes tied to conviction as opposed to rational debate. Yes, we need faith but let's not ignore the facts.

So, lover of God? Ah, sorry. For me there is something not quite right with such an idea.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

References

Parts of the above posting appeared previously in "Scientology: Tom makes good movies".

my blog: Conversations with God
Neale Walsch may be an extremely nice man. Neale may have a wonderful message that brings hope to anyone who reads his book or his books. However, the premise spoiled the whole thing for me. If Neale had written that the Golden Rule is a wonderful rule and let's discuss how it can benefit us all, I would have said, "Yes". Unfortunately, he started with an idea I can't accept.

my blog: Scientology: Tom makes good movies
Scientology, Tom Cruise, Oprah, South Park. This dates back a few years but a reference on a recent blog made me think of my own run-ins with Ron. This is not an exhaustive description or analysis of this so-called religion but merely my personal experiences.

my blog: May 21: The End of the World (Afterword May 22)
The end of the world to which I'm referring has been predicted by one Harold Camping, a 89 year old Christian radio broadcaster. His end comes in two parts. On May 21, 2011 precisely at 6pm local time, we will see the Rapture, the Biblical ascension of God's elect people, approximately 200 million people, into heaven. They disappear and the rest of us have to hang around until October 21, 2011 when the end of the world comes. However, according to Camping, instead of the rest of us going to hell – literally! – we just cease to exist. That's annililationism.

my blog: What the @#$%^* do I know about religion?
I grew up in a Protestant middle class family. I remember my father as a salt of the earth type of guy, a touch of the traditionalist but one which was transported into an era outside of his control: the 1950s with the rise of psychology in child rearing and the 1960s with the hippies and social revolution. He didn't know the right answer any more than any parent (including me) and considering the influences outside of the home (friends, school, drinking and drugs), my upbringing like the upbringing of most (all?) kids had an element of luck to it.

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