Op-Ed: Scientology in sharp decline as new religions arise in Australia

Posted Jun 29, 2012 by Paul Wallis
One of the unknown joys of being a middle class country is that you can take religions or leave them. People prepared to call themselves Scientologists totalled 2163 in the current census. 60,000+ call themselves Jedis.
Scientology in Australia has received a body blow. Not only do their current numbers reflect a membership which would have trouble filling a convention centre, Ms Wendy Honner, a winner of the church’s highest award, the Freedom Medal has also quit. Media analysts say the local Scientology spin doctors are going to be working overtime to undo the damage.
The rise of new religions as the old ones go sour
The established religions all have one thing in common- A total contempt for their parishioners. People are generally expected to show up, pay for God’s polite attention, and go away. These aren’t the well-meaning religions of the past. You don’t have some kindly priest pitching in and helping, as they used to do in traditional Christian, Judaic and Islamic practice.
1. Jesus Christ was a teacher/hands on social worker and a creative thinker, not a PR agency. Read the Gospel of Thomas and Gnostic literature for details.
2. Moses did his own social engineering and tried to create a working system of laws for his people, rather than simply advertise insularity and some bizarre sort of “I’m more Jewish than you are” insult to 5000 years of “interesting” experiences.
3. The prophet Mohammed would actually go and plough people’s fields for them so there’d be food to eat, not just issue occasional press releases about how great it was to be a fanatic while people starved for generations.
Modern religions have lost track of any sort of relevance to human need, physical or spiritual. The Salvation Army, St. Vincents, Wesley Mission and many others arguably do more good work in a few days than these corporate monoliths do in a decade. They’re businesses, and people are taking their spiritual business elsewhere.
The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard and claims to have more than 12 mill...
The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard and claims to have more than 12 million worshippers. - Photo: Church of Scientology, New York.
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Religious fanatics and corporate fanatics are now tarred with the same brush. The raving lunatic is considered holy, while the guys doing the work are mere employees. Evangelism has arguably turned off more people to Christianity than it’s turned on, in multiples. People don’t like fanatics. They also don’t like hypocrisy, paedophilia, double standards galore, greed and corruption, particularly when they’re claiming to be providing an afterlife, (possibly now with coupons) and spiritual salvation (with a smile, of course).
That lack of credibility, strangely, leads to an interesting phenomenon- People are taking up religions which appeal to their imagination and their intellects, rather than some sort of religious Wal Mart. It’s more interesting, and certainly more fun, to be a Jedi than it is to be some sort of wannabe saved person constantly apologizing and begging for God’s mercy for sins you may not even understand. It’s far more fascinating to be involved in a do it yourself belief system like Wicca than a stolid serf to a multinational banking system, however spiritual it claims to be.
The rise of “paganism” is more or less inevitable. Paganism predates the old organised religions by thousands of years. The monotheists have never really understood it, and even with their own pantheons of saints, etc., have never seen the parallel with the hierarchies and systemic forms of pagan gods and goddesses. The Christian churches also swiped quite a lot of things including rituals from the Celtic and other local belief systems in Europe. Halloween is the Celtic Samhain, or the German Walpurgis Nacht, for example.
I’m a Celt, myself. We’ve been around for a long time, pre-Christian. We don’t even believe in death and we were fortunate enough to avoid an organised religion so we don’t therefore suffer from the failings of an organised religion. Membership is quite voluntary, as you’d expect from any sort of belief which has to deliver to get any interest and in the old days included convincing large numbers of heavily-armed Celts it was worth believing in things during a time of more or less constant wars.
We also don’t believe in being bored to death, so Druid worship was always a lot more fun and always interesting. Modern Druids take note, please, ritual doesn’t replace involvement and participation on a spiritual level. Our moral tales are the equivalent of sermons, and much more interesting. (They’re a bit like Aesop in some ways- Stories with messages. The churches did at one stage preach like that, but got more involved in the “Thou shalt-ing” than the message. They don’t appeal to reason, but simply spout dogma endlessly, whether it’s understood or not.)
Belief is based on understanding. People don’t understand a system which denies them the right to think. Nor do they trust it. They don’t understand the value of any belief which acts like a prison. The modern religions have only just started. Don’t expect door to door Wiccans, discounts on your next light sabre purchase or Celts selling preloved oak trees, though. If you have a belief, it should have some dignity. That’s what’s missing from the mainstream religions, and it’s likely to be a long time before they get it back.