At about five years of age I told God that if he was real to show up at my bedroom window and then I’d believe in him. He did not appear and I decided that he didn’t exist. But in high school, I belonged to a YMCA youth group, and as part of our club work we visited different churches. We attended a Catholic mass, a Mormon service and meetings of various Christian denominations. I began to appreciate people who were truly religious.
Later, as a journalist in the 1980s, I covered new religions, spent a weekend on Whidbey Island, Washington with the Unification Church (commonly known as “The Moonies” after their founder Korean minister Rev. Sun Myung Moon), and had a long talk with members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness ( Hare Krishnas), who invited me to dinner. I also covered the trial of a deprogrammer near Portland, Oregon, who kidnapped an adult woman convert to a Christian denomination which her parents disliked. At the trial, I met Ted Patrick, “The Father of Deprogramming,” in the hallway of the courthouse, and one of the other deprogrammers I had interviewed flipped me the bird after I gave evidence to the prosecution.
During these experiences, the only intolerance, bigotry, “brainwashing,” arm-twisting etc. that I experienced was from anti-religious individuals and groups. I found the Moonies to be hardworking and sincere. I told them I was writing a story about them and they still welcomed me, even though they had been accused by other media of being a “brainwashing cult.” Biased news stories and a small cadre of anti-religious “experts” had helped persuade sympathetic judges to declare adult Unification Church members incompetent so their relatives could assume legal custody. Then kidnapping and “deprogramming” could take place at the hands of thugs and “mental health experts” at the discretion of the new legal guardian.
While deprogrammers have been jailed and discredited, bigotry has moved from kidnapping and physical assault to flooding the internet and media with vicious lies calculated to destroy the reputation of religions, people and groups.
In the past, the Unification Church had also been infiltrated by deprogrammers, reporters and others pretending an interest in their religion who later turned on them. So in an attempt to prevent that, the director asked new recruits to go on the road doing fundraising for a full year selling jewelry—something no reporter would put up with. New religions, it seemed, had to take some elaborate measures to protect themselves from attacks.
The Hare Krishnas took a photo of me so, in case I attacked them later in the newspaper, they could identify me and deny any further access. They were suspicious at first, but shared their meal with me, answered my questions and gave me a beautiful book, a work of art about their religion.
When I became a Scientologist, I found out firsthand about bias and brainwashing, and it came exclusively from anti-religious groups with free access to the media. A girl in one of the classes I attended was deprogrammed by people hostile to Scientology and was then persuaded to file suit against the Church. A media frenzy exploded, pages filled with stories of “cults” and “brainwashing” and all sorts of wild allegations. The suit was eventually thrown out, but damage was done and many of those lies and unsubstantiated claims persist to this day in the minds of those who are afraid to simply look for themselves. Go into a Church, check out the Church website, read a book by L. Ron Hubbard, or talk to a Scientologist, and you can find out for yourself.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” the old saying goes, and anti-religious sentiment still abounds. But while deprogrammers have been jailed and discredited, bigotry has moved from kidnapping and physical assault to flooding the internet and media with vicious lies calculated to destroy the reputation of religions, people and groups. And religions are set against one another by hidden third parties, intent on weakening religion through conflict.
Which brings me to “FaithLeaks,” modeled after WikiLeaks.
The supposed purpose of FaithLeaks is to get anonymous tips of wrongdoing within churches and religions, “expose” them and educate people. But as past is prologue, expect old hatreds, prejudices and bias to flood out, carefully sourced to be untraceable, no one held responsible, the perfect forum to covertly smear the reputation and honor of legitimate religious organizations. It is a circus of cowards who attack covertly, and the Mormons—those friendly people I first met in high school who have advanced the cause of family in a sometimes anti-family world—are the first targets.
The site will supposedly target “high-demand” religions—which means religions in which members are actively making a difference in a rather apathetic and cynical world—knocking on doors, talking to people about their beliefs, running social betterment campaigns, and giving striking evidence that a human being is more than mud, more than just a stimulus-response mechanism, more than a slave to economic and political demands, more than “a consumer,” “a taxpayer,” and “a victim,” but a spiritual being, a child of God, a bringer of goodness.
The principle at issue here is “Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others,” from The Way to Happiness by L. Ron Hubbard. Those that attack religions—or who attack the idea of men and women as essentially spiritual—have an agenda of their own that basically boils down to subjugation and control. Look at the most anti-religious or religiously intolerant regimes and they are bent on domination and will brook no interference by religion or by religious men and women.
Religion, from its Latin root “religare” means “to bind back” or more broadly “to bring mankind back into accord with God or his own spiritual nature.”
None are perfect, but religions are man’s last hope for a better future.