Religious Illiteracy From “Religion Guy” Richard Ostling

In a recent post on Patheos.com, Richard Ostling, who goes by “the religion guy,” starts by speaking sympathetically of IRS employees for being tasked with investigating Scientology, which he refers to as “godless.”

I’m not sure what’s worse, mischaracterizing my religion as “godless” or sympathizing with a group of corrupt IRS agents who abused their power and squandered taxpayer funds in a wasteful, years-long, bigoted attack on the Scientology religion close to three decades ago—one which has long since been laid to rest with the Church granted full religious recognition.

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Photo by Jacqueline F. Cooper/Shutterstock.com

Be that as it may, any cursory examination of the basic tenets of Scientology will reveal that “godless” is a bigoted and false characterization.

The term has several definitions. It can mean not recognizing or obeying God’s law. This, in the context of Scientology, would presuppose that God would take any issue at all with a Scientologist’s dedication to becoming more ethical, productive, spiritually aware and contributive to the wellbeing of humanity. So maybe not that definition of “godless.”

To call me and my religion “godless” is like calling the Pacific Ocean “salt-depleted.”

“Godless” could also mean “without a God,” which would fly in the face of a core tenet of Scientology—that life can be divided into eight urges toward survival or “dynamics” and that the eighth of these dynamics is “infinity” or “the Supreme Being.” Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard himself wrote: “No culture in the history of the world, save the thoroughly depraved and expiring ones, has failed to affirm the existence of a Supreme Being. It is an empirical observation that men without a strong and lasting faith in a Supreme Being are less capable, less ethical and less valuable to themselves and society... A man without an abiding faith is, by observation alone, more of a thing than a man.”

The third definition, and probably the one the author really meant, is just plain insulting. “Godless” in this sense means simply “wicked,” as in “her godless habit of using nail polish remover in a crowded elevator made her unpopular.” 

Chapel
The Grand Chapel of the Scientology Flag Building in Clearwater, Florida, where parishioners attend Sunday Service

Any way I read it, using “godless” to describe Scientology is ignorant at best, coming from someone who calls himself “the religion guy” and, at worst, bigoted and offensive.

The issue of the religiosity of Scientology has been exhaustively upheld by scholars for decades and these same scholars have also noted the belief in and relationship to a supreme being inherent in the Scientology religion.

In Scientology, a New Religion, M. Darrol Bryant, (Ph.D., Professor of Religion and Culture, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) wrote“It is particularly within the Eighth Dynamic that one encounters the Scientology affirmation of the Supreme Being or Creator.”

“A man without an abiding faith is, by observation alone, more of a thing than a man.”

But there’s an even more basic reason why “godless” is an inappropriate descriptor: the fact that, as religious scholar Bryan R. Wilson, Emeritus Fellow, Oxford University, wrote in Scientology, An Analysis and Comparison of Its Religious Systems and Doctrines“A distinctive feature of Scientology is that members are not required to abandon other religious beliefs and affiliations on taking up Scientology.”

So if one became “godly” or “God-fearing” or developed a belief in God in an earlier religious practice, it certainly isn’t required that they abandon it for Scientology. It’s more likely that they came into Scientology already armed with a belief in the Almighty than that they came into it without one, and their study of the spirit as provided in Scientology would very likely have made that understanding even more abundant.

Alejandro Frigerio, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Sociology, put it this way: “The stated aim of Scientology is to achieve the complete and total rehabilitation of the innate capabilities of the individual as an immortal spiritual being. Such capabilities would put him at cause, with full knowledge, over matter, energy, space, time, thought and life. By reaching this state, the individual would be capable of a direct understanding of the infinite.”

I was able to quickly locate the unbiased research noted above in minutes; apparently “the religion guy” didn’t have that kind of time before he had to go to press with his post.

As a Scientologist, I don’t choose to share my thoughts about God with just anyone. I believe an understanding of God is a lifelong search, and one of the most intimate journeys any person ever undertakes. To call me and my religion “godless” is like calling the Pacific Ocean “salt-depleted.”

And as far as pitying the “poor staffers” who spent so many years trying to prove that Scientology was not a religion at all and who failed miserably… well, let’s just say that I hope the God I believe in will forgive them their trespasses.

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