Why We Want to Keep Church and State as Far Away from Each Other as Possible
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Last month in London, an atheist church was launched with a reading from Alice in Wonderland, a Powerpoint presentation by a particle physicist explaining the origins of antimatter, and a congregational singalong with songs by Stevie Wonder and Queen. Indeed, we’ve come a long way, baby. Personally, I stopped believing in God when I was a kid and the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. How, I thought, could an omnipotent deity allow that to happen?
I was militant in my disbelief until the 1960s. After all, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian leader, but I was inspired by his actions, whereas George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi Party, labeled himself an agnostic, yet I abhorred his actions. I could no longer judge people by what they believed, but rather by whether they were kind or cruel to others. As simple as that. However, I’ve remained adamant about the separation of church and state.
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My definition of a religion is a cult that’s exempt from paying taxes. Scientology, for example. L. Ron Hubbard’s book Dianetics became a bestseller with the aid of a Scientologist employed at the New York Times who leaked the names of those bookstores around the country that provide the basis for the Times’ bestseller list. Hubbard’s thesis was that traumatic shock occurs not only during early childhood, but also during the pre-natal stage.
In Neurotica magazine, G. Legman took off on that concept with his own cult, called Epizootics, “demonstrating the basic cause of all neurosis in father’s tight-fitting jockstrap.” Not to be outdone by parody, Hubbard in 1952 turned Dianetics into Scientology, which traced trauma back to previous lives, not necessarily incarnations that were spent on this planet. In fact, Scientologists were forbidden to see the movie 2001 in order to avoid “heavy and unnecessary restimulation.” By what? When Hal the computer says “Unclear”?
In 1955, Hubbard incorporated Scientology as a religion. This would enable its ministers to gain entry into hospitals and prisons, not to mention getting tax exempt status. He issued the Professional Auditors Bulletin, a handbook for luring prospects into the Scientology fold. One example was the “illness research” method, taking out a newspaper ad such as: “Polio victims -- a charitable organization investigating polio desires to examine several victims of the after-effects of this illness. Phone so-and-so.”
In 1962, Hubbard wrote to John F. Kennedy, claiming his letter was as important as the one Albert Einstein had sent to Franklin D. Roosevelt about the atomic bomb. He insisted that “Scientology is very easy for the government to put into effect,” and that “Scientology could decide the space race or the next war in the hands of America.” He offered to “train astronauts” for a fee of $25 an hour. “Don’t think me a crackpot,” he requested. Kennedy didn’t respond, but the White House issued a memo to the Secret Service titled “Final Disposition,” identifying Hubbard as a potential serious threat to the president’s life.
The E-Meter had been presented as a panacea that could cure such “psychosomatic” problems as arthritis, cancer, polio, ulcers, the common cold and atomic radiation burns. In October 1962, the FDA was investigating Scientology, so Hubbard wrote that the E-Meter is “a valid religious instrument, used in Confessionals, and is in no way diagnostic and does not treat.”
Nevertheless, in January 1963, Attorney General Robert Kennedy ordered the FDA to raid Scientology headquarters. More than three tons of equipment, papers and books were seized, including a hundred E-Meters.
Scientologists claimed that this violated their freedom of religion, and Hubbard wrote to President Kennedy again. He wanted to meet with him so they could “come to some amicable answer on religious matters.” Then he wrote to Robert Kennedy, “even though you are of a different faith,” asking for protection of the Scientology religion. Bobby didn’t respond.