Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


starting your own church
February 20, 2001 10:51 AM   Subscribe

starting your own church It might be wise to start your own church. Pres Bush now must decide whether Scientology is or is not a "true" religion. The president's father got big bucks from Rev. Moon of the Moonies, a group that gave generously to Bush the Father, so I imagine that group is a true religion. We too can feed at the spiritual udder. I hope some faith-based charity goes to Travolta and Cruise.
posted by Postroad (30 comments total)

 
the times story referenced by drudge is here.
posted by maura at 11:40 AM on February 20, 2001


Dubya: "Hey, Dickie-boy, who's box is that over there?"
Cheney: Well, Mr. President, the tag says "Pandora".
posted by jpoulos at 12:05 PM on February 20, 2001


That's an easy call scientology is as much of a religion as Battlefield Earth was a blockbuster.
posted by dancu at 12:23 PM on February 20, 2001


You, too, can become an ordained minister (for free!), like I did.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:35 PM on February 20, 2001


Hey, we only get two choices for political parties...
posted by muppetboy at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2001


I've been thinking about starting a religion for a while based on my love of games. The Temple of Pong.
posted by john at 1:16 PM on February 20, 2001


There's always the Church of the Subgenius, which will ordain you as well.

(Bush haters, fire away.)
posted by mikewas at 1:29 PM on February 20, 2001


Even recently, local governments have not shown a lot of flexibility when it comes to long-established religions. I don't know that one can expect the federal governments to do better, especially with religious movements that are outside the mainstream.

Question for non-USA MetaFilter readers: does your country license or otherwise approve religious organizations? If so, how does that work?

posted by idiolect at 1:37 PM on February 20, 2001


hey look, it seems like Dubya's faith-based initiative programs are going to have to force the government to decide what religions are legitimate or not. Some religions will get government funding, the others will not just get no money but have the stigma of being officially dubbed as shams. (Of course, ones like Scientology that are shams deserve to be, but that's another point...) If this doesn't sound like a direct violation of the First Amendment's "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion" I don't know what is.
posted by andrewraff at 1:52 PM on February 20, 2001


Funny. From that article maura linked, it looks like the real story is that the ADL is trying to force the Feds to stop the Nation of Islam from being treated as a legitimate religion.

And there's plenty of legitimate reasons for the Feds to deny funding to at least some of Scientology's programs, particularly that Narconon-type stuff. First, there's a lot of evidence that it doesn't work. Second, there's a lot of evidence that it's used as a false front for real live Scientology, and they try to bleed the suckers dry monetarily. I'd say either of those would be more than enough of a reason to deny them the funds.

I know that Germany, at least, does indeed "license" or approve religions in some form. Not too long ago they rejected Scientology's application.
posted by aaron at 2:07 PM on February 20, 2001



But aaron, if lack of evidence that it "works" were criteria for denying funding, we wouldn't give money to any. And as for them sucking money from people....come on. What religion doesn't take money from it's followers?
I personally don't see what's more absurd about Scientology than any other religion. They're all a sham, scientology is just younger.
posted by Doug at 2:41 PM on February 20, 2001


the thing about the nation of islam is what struck me about the article too, aaron. i think this may end up even uglier than i had first imagined.
posted by lescour at 2:44 PM on February 20, 2001


Doug, the difference with scientology is if you don't fork over, you're thrown out. That, IMHO, is de facto proof they're not a real religion. True religions try to help human beings make sense of it all, for the good of those being helped and of humanity in general. Sure, money is often needed to keep the chruch going, but it's voluntarily given. Scientology, OTOH, is run like a business. Beyond the first "get-em-in-the-door" test, everything else is SOLD, not GRANTED. And if you run out of money, if you get to the point where you literally can't scrounge up the cash for the next (very expensive) course, they will dismiss you. Their "holy books" are copyrighted, and you are no allowed to know any "truth" until your MasterCard's been approved.

That's not a church, to me. If people want to believe in the tenets of Scientology, that's fine. And there are people that do this, study Scientology outside the grasp of the Church, where the information is free and the people are free. There's a name for these groups, I forget what it is. It's the Scientology organization that is the problem, and whose activities cause them to lose their legitimacy as a religion.

Boiled down, let's just say that when it's a business, it's not a religion.
posted by aaron at 3:24 PM on February 20, 2001



i actually took one of their tests when i was in seattle. i had never even heard of scientology at the time, and was approached on the street. i think they couched it as a survey, but i don't really remember. i was bumming around the city with nothing to do for a week, so i agreed.

the test was muliple choice, and resembled a personality test.

after i failed the test, this guy started in with the sales pitch. we immediately got into an argument about the dianetics book. he wanted me to purchase it immediately, and i told him i could pick it up at the library. this didn't suit him at all and he continued to try to pressure me to buy it. it was very clear to me that he wasn't interested in my having access to the material, only that i pay him for it. i wouldn't, so i left.

which, i guess, is a pretty good screening mechanism.


posted by lescour at 3:51 PM on February 20, 2001


In the UK there is still (if I remember correctly) a blasphemy law that applies to the church of England. Other than that I'm not sure. Except that the head of state (i.e. the Queen) is also the head of the church. Which kind of puts all those other religions out in the cold a bit.
posted by davidgentle at 4:25 PM on February 20, 2001


But the plot begins to truly thicken:http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20010220/3079570s.htm
posted by Postroad at 5:36 PM on February 20, 2001


hey post road, you can use ctrl-shift-a to build links, just in case you didn't see that below (I know I didn't notice it until recently)
posted by cell divide at 5:52 PM on February 20, 2001


I know that Russia has some sort of registration for religions, and IIRC the criteria is that the religion has to have been active in-country for 50+ years (not that it has been the same country for 50 years, but that's another story).

On another note - what's the deal with the headline at the USA Today link from Postroad. Does it make sense to anyone else?

posted by OneBallJay at 6:00 PM on February 20, 2001


Accountingboy: I posted the link about foreign aid and Bush because he (Bush) seems to be moving not only to faithbased domestic aid but also to foreign aid. Why not simply make a new cabinet post and put some guy like Pat Robertston in charge of shelling out money of the taxpayers to those who seem to accord with the White House sense of religion? Will Medicare soon become faith based?
and Cell Divide: I have seen that but thought it was some sort of encryption. This sort of thinking comes with old age.
posted by Postroad at 6:22 PM on February 20, 2001


Postroad: I wasn't criticizing your post. I just opened the page and started reading the text of the headline and it seemed to be random politically-charged words joined in a meaningless string. The article was completely relevant and I enjoyed it. Sorry for the misunderstanding.


posted by OneBallJay at 6:51 PM on February 20, 2001


Read it: Foreign aid hike pushed: Bush considers Helms' call for "faith-based" initiative. They skipped a punctuation mark is all.

dancu: That's an easy call scientology is as much of a religion as Battlefield Earth was a blockbuster. Ah, so now "religion" is "religions dancu approves of"? Read the First Amendment again, bub.

aaron: here's a FAQ about Scientology in Germany. It seems that there is a special corporate status that some religions have, and that the Jehovah's Witnesses, along with Scientology, do not have. But they can still operate as a non-profit, which is no better or worse than their status in the US. The question of whether or not Scientology is a religion has more to do with exemption from labor laws and rights of employees, and whether most of its activities are "commercial". This is all separate from the record of Scientology harassment of ex-members and other critics, which has brought them other legal troubles in Germany and many other countries.

I'm agnostic on this point. For the purposes of US law I don't think Scientology should be excluded from OFBCI. If it's going to exist, it cannot pick and choose without, in my opinion, acting as an establishment of religion, i.e. an official state religion. And let me tell you I'm very unhappy with this as it is. On the other hand I fully support Germany's crackdown on their crazy slavedriving and fundraising practices (quite apart from the criminal harassment).
posted by dhartung at 8:28 PM on February 20, 2001


I don't know how Bush is getting away with proposing these ideas. The thought that they might even be enacted is beyond belief.

I mean, this is whole "faith-based" stuff is so unconstitutional.

How is he getting away with this? Why are people not freaking out?
posted by locombia at 11:39 PM on February 20, 2001


aaron: And there's plenty of legitimate reasons for the Feds to deny funding to at least some of Scientology's programs, particularly that Narconon-type stuff. First, there's a lot of evidence that it doesn't work.

true...that might confuse the christers' legitimate transubstantiation tenets.

aaron: Second, there's a lot of evidence that it's used as a false front for real live Scientology, and they try to bleed the suckers dry monetarily.

gosh...right on, aaron! the vatican just gives and gives and gives!

aaron: I know that Germany, at least, does indeed "license" or approve religions in some form. Not too long ago they rejected Scientology's application.

Perceptive!...finally I know what that gold star means on my chest...German approval! Nothing says "justice" like a Deutscher star!



posted by red cell at 1:06 AM on February 21, 2001


Doug, the difference with scientology is if you don't fork over, you're thrown out.

Without wanting to defend scientology, if you're a Mormon, you're supposed to tithe, and that's taken very seriously. How is that different? (Of course, it's been alleged that the LDS Church is basically a giant real-estate operation in the form of a church, so your answer may be "it's not.")

Red cell: what are you on about? Aaron's point wasn't that scientology is bad but Catholicism is good; it's that Narconon shouldn't get US government funding because it's a scam. I often don't agree with Aaron, but he's right here, and I trust he would use the same logic about a Catholic-based scam front organization. And bringing in snide references to Nazis doesn't contribute any light to this discussion at all. Should we just call Godwin's law and move on to another thread?

Brits: doesn't the C of E still have some "special" status under UK law?
posted by rodii at 6:18 AM on February 21, 2001


I found it interesting to learn in the Times article that while the "Krishna-sponsored program was totally secular" (the director was quoted as saying, "We certainly put in the closet a lot of our religious philosophy"), the Salvation Army - regarded as a shoo-in for this new, faith-based government funding - tells those receiving its assistance that they are "required to attend devotions and Bible study daily." I'm all for supporting social services for people who need them. I'm uncomfortable with the thought that the "price" of those services is mandatory religious training.
posted by m.polo at 6:56 AM on February 21, 2001


Mormons and members of several other religions are supposed to tithe. But that's a percentage of current income: there's no rule that says "And if your ten percent isn't at least N thousand dollars a year, you're expelled."

I am appalled by the whole proposal, but nothing is gained by messing up the facts.

An atheist friend of mine who lives in London is an antidisestablishmentarian because he thinks that the established Church of England serves as an inoculation against religious fervor. But it took them centuries to reach that point; I don't want to be in a nation that is at the beginning of such a process.

The oddest thing about this is the number of religious believers who think it's reasonable for the government to get involved in funding and deciding upon the activities of their churches.
posted by rosvicl at 7:01 AM on February 21, 2001


The oddest thing about this is the number of religious believers who think it's reasonable for the government to get involved in funding and deciding upon the activities of their churches.

The Baptists have been objecting to Bush's proposals, actually.

I am a decided non-fan of the Church of Scientology, but I think rejecting their application might have some use value: i.e., it might provoke a lawsuit about the constitutionality of these matters. And I _still_ think someone ought to call conservatives on their claims that "scientism=religion" by taking 'em at their word.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:53 AM on February 21, 2001


My church (Seventh-Day Adventist) is vehemently opposed to government involvement in any of our decisions. At our services for the past few weeks, there have been speakers from the religious liberty section of the church organization discussing possible implications of old W's actions.

I, for one, think that it is entirely unreasonable for the government to fund our church's activities - be it in the form of assistance for social programs, school vouchers, even student loan subsidies. There's more than enough money within the churches to do all that is needed. I realize that there's a lot of hypocrisy in my church (and all others I've seen), but I feel that if they truly believe in the church's message, church members will be willing to help support its outreach programs, and God will make sure it's enough [boy am I inviting flames here]. I'm often upset at the way my tithe (10%) is used, but that doesn't stop me from giving it. And I respect those that don't agree with my beliefs, and certainly don't want their tax money to help further my cause.
posted by OneBallJay at 8:59 AM on February 21, 2001


hey look, it seems like Dubya's faith-based initiative programs are going to have to force the government to decide what religions are legitimate or not.

To an extent, our tax scheme already forces the IRS to make that distinction on a routine basis, and there's been no call to repeal the income tax or the charitable contribution dedection.

As I understand the proposal, dollars will not be distributed bases on the "legitimacy" of the particular sect behind the program, but the goals and effectiveness of the programs themselves.

Now, if I were running such a program, I wouldn't want to touch the money for fear of the strings involved. But that's not my choice to make.
posted by mikewas at 9:24 AM on February 21, 2001


How is he getting away with this? Why are people not freaking out?

I'm kind of wondering the same thing. It's certainly freaking me out.

posted by jennyb at 10:53 AM on February 21, 2001


« Older The Key Vanishes: Scientist Outlines Unbreakable C...  |  Metababy... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments