Monday, July 9, 2007

Religion and Cult

Tom Cruise has "publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult", stated the German defence ministry, which is why filmmakers of Valkyrie have been banned from German military sites. The film is about Col. Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, the German army officer who tried to assassinate Hitler with a suitcase bomb.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has considered Scientology to be a dangerous cult, conducting activities that are "directed against the free democratic order" in the country.
"Germany is a country of established churches, and so Scientology is viewed as a cult and, worse, totalitarian and exploitative. A professing Scientologist in the role of Stauffenberg is like casting Judas as Jesus. It is secular blasphemy," said Josef Joffe, a German journalist.
In a world where "church" and "cult" ride a razor’s edge of definition, restricting people based on ideology, religious practices, etc., may set a dangerous precedent. Who defines what is cult-like? Despite being relatively more established, what makes any of the churches in Germany different?
"In Europe, but in Germany especially, we are more sensitive to totalitarian ideologies," said Ursula Caberta, the head of a government task force in Hamburg that opposes Scientology’s expansion in Germany. "Tom Cruise is not just an actor who is a Scientologist," Ms. Caberta said. "He is an ambassador for Scientology. All totalitarian systems have their celebrities to open doors for them."
Banning Scientologists from Germany is their attempt to control, the keep a lid on a fragile human psyche, a delicate society. Recent history has shown just how easily humans can be manipulated, but once we begin to ban and outlaw people, religions, cults, etc, the "black list" only grows longer. Anything new, "other," strange, etc. will be targeted and labeled. All non-established, non-mainstream people and activities can be viewed as suspicious.
Church and cult are just two words- words given separate powers and meanings, depending on an individual viewpoint. We should look at both objectively- we are not completely safe or in immediate danger from either. Both have the power to influence politics, people, and societies. The trend should not be to restrict- where channels then run underground.
The human mind cannot be liberated by restricting the spaces where it may go. The only real weapon against totalitarianism is openness. Anything else is a step in the wrong direction.

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