Unusual Belief Systems (con’t)

Unusual Belief Systems (con’t)

I have saved Scientology for last, and it deserves an individual posting. The “official”core belief of this alleged religion is the belief that human beings are immortal, that a person’s life experience transcends a single lifetime, and that human beings possess infinite capabilities.                            

According to L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s fundamental creation myth goes something like this: Xenu (also referred to as Xemu) was once ruler of the Galactic Confederacy, an ancient organization of 76 planets. Having existed for 20 million years, the planets were struggling from extreme overpopulation.

Fearing he’d be thrown out of power, Xenu gathered billions of his people, froze them to capture their souls (“thetans”), and transported them to Earth (then called Teegeeack) for elimination. He dumped them at the bottom of volcanoes and then destroyed them in a series of nuclear explosions, killing all but a few and sending their souls into the air.

Once in the air, the souls were captured by Xenu, who then implanted into them misleading information, including concepts related to all of the world’s religions.

After all this evil was carried out, Xenu was eventually imprisoned, and Earth was left to be a mere prison planet by the Galactic Confederacy.

The frozen thetans of the Xenu story go on to play a huge role in Scientology beliefs. Each human has their own thetan and Scientologists strive to purify these spirits through “auditing” sessions until they reach a state of “clear.”

Auditing is one of the central practices of Scientology, in which practitioners are cleared of negative influences, called engrams, to heighten spiritual awareness and access untapped potential. The Church of Scientology has stated the procedure is 100% effective as long as it is done properly and the recipient is truly seeking change.

Happily for the Church of Scientology, auditing is also wildly expensive. It is estimated that reaching Clear costs about $128,000.

After becoming Clear and learning how to fully embrace and control the capabilities inherent in all thetans, the practitioner is now known as an Operating Thetan (OT). According to Scientology, OTs are not limited by physical form or the physical universe. According to the church itself:” “OT is a state of spiritual awareness in which an individual is able to control themselves and their environment.”

From there, many OT levels exist, all of which promise increasingly awe-inspiring knowledge and powers, and which, of course, cost more and more money to attain. At OT level three, for example, practitioners are able to hear the Xenu story above.

According to official Scientology doctrine, reading and reacting to other people is key to being successful. While that’s not an outlandish statement, Scientology holds that most people are simply no good at connecting an apparent, outward emotion to its true inner emotion.

Created to “take the mystery out of human behavior,” the tone scale teaches Scientologists how to read people and provide the appropriate emotional response.

The tone scale runs from -40 to 40. The higher on the scale you are, the better. A score of 40 is described as “Serenity of Beingness.” A 1.1 is considered covert hostility (smiling on the outside while plotting inside) and describes someone who can’t be trusted. If you don’t believe in Scientology, you are a 1.1.

And because Scientology — like many other religions supposedly built on love and acceptance — employs homophobic doctrine, the tone scale also aligns with sexual orientation. If someone is gay, they automatically fall into the Covert Hostility category and can only move up into heterosexuality and spiritual elevation through auditing.

In L. Ron Hubbard’s book, Scientology: The History of Man, he goes into deep descriptions of incidents in our past lives. Because thetans are eternal entities, they have past lives that have experienced traumas throughout time. As a result, people today have subconscious memories of past lives as everything including clams, atoms, cells in the process of mitosis, early photosynthetic organisms, and sloths, just to name a few.

The clam, in particular, provides a great example. Hubbard argues that the hinges of the clam eventually became the hinges of the human jaw and that by invoking your clam past, you can have a very real effect on a human today. As Hubbard writes in Scientology: The History of Man.

Election Polls Post Mortem

Election Polls Post Mortem

The results of the election are finally tabulated. I have been tracking the polls and Las Vegas odds since the beginning of the year. The first thing that I notice is that on average the polls where mostly accurate within their stated margin of error. The other factor that appears in the final results is that, again on average, the polls were skewed slightly in favor of Biden. The Las Vegas odds were slightly more accurate.

It is interesting to note that Biden won the popular vote with over twice as many votes as Hilary in 2016. The margin for the popular vote was over 6 million votes. The Electoral College vote was the exact reverse of what it was in that year. It was not close, but it was not a landslide. The average of the polls in late October showed Biden ahead by about 4 ½% and he won by almost 4% (as of 11/19/2020). The Vegas odds just prior to the official election day showed Biden as a “slight” favorite.

There were a few areas where predictions were off the mark at the state level. In both Michigan and Wisconsin Biden was favored to win by about 6%. He did win, but by a much smaller margin (especially in Wisconsin where it was less than 1%). Arizona and Florida were both rated as toss ups and each candidate won one of these. Both Vegas and the polls got the Georgia outcome wrong.

On the Senate races the polls and Vegas got the races in Maine and North Carolina wrong and Vegas also missed the mark on Iowa.

All that said, the polls were on target on the vast majority of the races and only erred on the races that were close calls with the exception of Michigan and Wisconsin.

Researching Unusual Belief Systems

Researching Unusual Belief Systems

I was raised Roman Catholic (ten years in Catholic schools) and even though I am no longer a practioner I have a keen interest in belief systems that have unusual components. I have spent a considerable amount of time looking into the specific beliefs of several religious practices. I have read the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Dianetics (A Scientology starter) and even the Urantia Book.

I have always wondered why Muslims believe that the men will be rewarded with 72 virgins when they enter Paradise. It turns out that that promise is not contained in the Koran, but the concept of the Houri.  Houris are women in Islamic eschatology who will accompany faithful believers in Paradise. Muslim scholars differ as to whether they refer to the believing women of this world or a separate creation, with the majority opting for the latter.

The concept of the Houri is actually only mentions in a few of the Hadiths of which there are tens of thousands. The Hadiths are a collection of traditions containing sayings (supposedly) of the prophet Muhammad which, with accounts of his daily practice (the Sunna), constitute the major source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Koran. Keep in mind that no one knows who wrote or exactly when the Hadiths were composed. Also, the translation of the concept of Houri is in dispute and could well have a different meaning. The truth is that the vast majority of Muslims do not subscribe to this belief, but it has been an effective tool in recruiting potential martyrs for radical Muslim terrorists.

The belief system that I find most interesting in Mormonism (AKA the Church of Jesus Christ of the Later Day Saints, AKA the LDS.) I really admire the architecture of their temples and the ethics and morals practiced by many of their faithful. I laughed my ass off at the South Park episode that featured the history of the religions foundation and a typical Mormon family (season 7, episode 12). I traveled to Austin to watch “The Book of Mormon” and enjoyed it immensely (it was completely different from the TV episode).

I found the actual Book of Mormon to be a difficult read. Despite their official complete name, you will not find much in the book referencing Jesus. The  believers view faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement as fundamental principles of their religion. Church theology includes the Christian doctrine of salvation only through Jesus Christ, though LDS doctrines regarding the nature of God and the potential of mankind differ significantly from mainstream Christianity. The church has an open canon which includes four scriptural texts: the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Other than the Bible, the majority of the LDS canon constitutes revelation received by Joseph Smith and recorded by his scribes which includes commentary and exegesis about the Bible, texts described as lost parts of the Bible, and other works believed to be written by ancient prophets. Because of some of the doctrinal differences, CatholicOrthodox, and several Protestant churches consider the church to be distinct and separate from mainstream Christianity.

What is contained in the Book of Mormon that I find especially unusual is the submarine voyage that the Jeredites took from (I guess from the east coast of Africa to the New World, I surmise it was South America).

Jared and his people were among the many scattered peoples from the destruction of the Tower of Babel. The brother of Jared is described as “a large and mighty man … highly favored of the Lord”, and seems to have been the spiritual leader of the group. He was given a vision of the history of the world, and inscribed prophecies, which were “sealed up” until the Lord decides to reveal them. The Lord told the brother of Jared to build unpowered submarines, termed “barges” or “vessels”, to cross the ocean to the promised land. The barges could circulate fresh air because of openings in the top and bottom of the vessel.[8] The hole in the top could be “stopped up” when the waves crashed over the vessel to prevent scuttling. The hole in the bottom is assumed to have been constructed as a sort of “moon pool” with the lip above the waterline so it would not flood the vessel. This would also allow wave action and the buoying of the vessel to pump fresh air in and out of the vessel when the upper opening was uncapped. Because the vessels could not sustain fire or windows for light, the brother of Jared went to a mountain and prayed for help. God touched several molten stones and made them shine. Because of the brother of Jared’s great faith, he saw the finger of God. He then saw and spoke with Jehova. The people launched the vessels and traveled through great storms. After 344 days, they arrived at the Americas. Jared and his brother led the people to successfully establish a righteous nation.