There is something you should know about me: I don’t believe in God.
Normally, I would hope this would elicit a big “So what?” – same reaction I would hope to get about my eye color or my sexual orientation. But in the case of Scientology protesters, it matters, because it’s something that Scientologists love to seize upon: “Ah-hah! He’s an atheist! He’s opposed to religion! He wants to see all religions come to an end!”
This argument, while not applicable to Scientology (I’ll explain why in a sec), has some truth to it. For reasons that would probably sound a lot less insensitive than the next dozen words will, I do think the world would be a better place without religion.
I have a feeling that a lot of Scientology protestors, particularly those who have never been involved in Scientology, are atheists. Religion fills a need in the human soul: The yearning for there to be something beyond us, a future past the future, a greater meaning. Immortality, if you will. Some of us just buy into that. Not because we’re smarter or better or more evolved; it’s just how we see the world. I’m not opposed to the idea of a God; I’d love it if there was an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-loving Big Being who oversaw everything. (Although based on what the God of the Old Testament says about gays, goys, and girls, I’d rather not have to answer to that particular dude.) Based on the evidence, I think the existance of a God is highly unlikely. People like me just simply aren’t as susceptible to the charms of religion – nor are we suceptible to the charms of Scientology, which feeds those same needs.
So do I protest Scientology because I oppose religion in general? Not at all, because of the second thing in which I don’t believe:
I don’t believe that Scientology is a religion.
This, like my atheism, is based on evidence, except in the case of Scientology, it’s a lot more clear-cut. Scientology started out as a self-help business. It became a religion for tax purposes. Unlike my atheism, this is not a matter of opinion; Ron the Blabbermouth said it (and wrote it) himself. Repeadedly. (Brilliant con man though he may be, that narcicissm always got the better of him.)
L. Ron Hubbard evolved much of Scientology, including the UFO alien life form stuff, after deciding that a religion was more profitable than self-help. Ron learned his lesson with Dianetics: All you needed to do was read a book, maybe take a course or two, and bammo, you were a Dianetician; there was no continued income stream for Ron. You can bet your ass he wasn’t going to make that mistake twice!
Frankly, I think that by concentrating on the crimes committed in the name of Scientology, we’re missing the biggest crime of all: Scientology’s tax-exempt status.
Understand that Scientology did not get tax exemption because it is a legitimate religion. It got tax exempt status because they hounded the IRS into submission. That was no easy feat, but they did it. They did it by spending millions of “parishoner” dollars, and for what? So that they could keep the millions of dollars that followed.
Scientology as a tax-exempt religion is a crime. They are not a religion; they are a self-help business that does not actually help. If you live in the United States, you know that our government isn’t exactly flush with money. Our schools need funds. Medicare needs funds. Many of us would love to see a state-funded health system. Scientology has been keeping millions, if not billions, of dollars that could help fund those programs.
Not only that, but people like Marty Rathbun and other independent Scientology practitioners are able to claim tax-exempt status as well. Marty, next time you drive on the Interestate, send us all thank-you notes; we’re paying for those roads, you aren’t.
Listen, if people want to pay for auditing, that’s their business – but why shouldn’t Marty pay taxes just like a therapist? After all, they’re doing basically the same job.
Scientology can claim that it meets the definition of a religion; they’re big into dictionary definitions. But anyone who has experience and has gotten out will tell you Scientology is has as much in common with religion as a tree does with a Greyhound bus.
You want to see an end to the crimes of Scientology? Then let’s start talking about their tax-exempt status. Now is the time to write to your congress-people that you want Scientology’s tax-exempt status looked into. If Scientology was regarded as a business, they’d be scrutinzed as a business – and that means they couldn’t get away with the dangerous and demeaning shit they do.
Last time Scientology took on the IRS, they won because they had a bigger war chest. Now, with dwindling membership, tons of money tied up in buildings and facilities, and more and more Scientologists resisting the brutal fundraising, they might not be so strong. The prospect of a multi-billion-dollar tax bill would do them in, so they’d have to fight to the death… and death is a real possibility. Bam! Scientology problem solved.
And that’s something I do believe in.