The Prison of Belief

by | November 6, 2020

By James Haught

James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back.

(Jan. 20, 2020 – Daylight Atheism)

When people accept supernatural claims of a religion, their lives are altered. They commit themselves to belief in miracles, prophecies and similar magic, which orients their view of reality. It confines them, hindering their ability to consider other possibilities. This narrowed lifestyle can be called “the prison of belief.”

A significant book about a controversial cult is titled: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief. It’s by Lawrence Wright, a New Yorker staff writer who studies religious behavior. One of his books, The Looming Tower, about Muslim terrorists, won a Pulitzer Prize. Wright says:

“I have spent much of my career examining the effects of religious beliefs on people’s lives – historically, a far more profound influence on society and individuals than politics, which is the substance of so much journalism.”

His Scientology book is horrifying. It examines various intelligent people who were sucked into the cult’s absurd crackpottery, juvenile nonsense that damaged them. First, some background:

L. Ron Hubbard was a flamboyant, bizarre, charismatic, prolific science fiction writer. The 2006 Guinness Book of World Records says he wrote 1,084 books, more than any other author. He turned his imaginary speculations first into a dubious psychology system, then into a magnetic religion featuring ridiculous claims. It goes like this:

Supposedly, 75 million years ago, a space alien king named Xenu, dictator of a Galactic Confederacy, was plagued by overpopulation on his other planets. So he paralyzed billions of people, shipped them to Planet Earth, and killed them with thermonuclear explosions. Their souls, called “thetans,” survived and later entered humans.

Allegedly, thetans are immortal. When a human dies, his or her occupying thetans travel to Venus to have their memories erased, readying them to re-enter other humans.

This cockamamie creation myth is hidden from beginner Scientologists, and is revealed only to members who pay huge sums for “auditing” that makes them “clear” and enables them to reach the level of Operating Thetan III.

Hubbard claimed that Scientologists who are “cleared” of mental obstacles can perform magical feats such as destroying the telephone of any caller who displeases them – and causing their own phones to hover in mid-air.

Hubbard was an astounding weirdo semi-genius who reaped wealth from his Dianetics psychology system, then greater wealth from his Scientology religion. The Going Clear book says the church has “colossal financial resources – about $1 billion in liquid assets… That figure eclipses the holdings of most major world religions.”

The French government convicted Hubbard of fraud, in absentia, and several Scientology leaders were sent to prison for infiltrating federal agencies. In a lawsuit, a judge ruled that Hubbard “has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements…. At the same time, it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating and inspiring his adherents.”

Before his 1986 death, Hubbard lived for years in hiding.

His science fiction colleague Isaac Asimov called Dianetics “gibberish” and others said it was “a lunatic revision of Freudian psychology.” Scientology’s Xenu creation story is the butt of guffaws.

But there’s no way for logic to prove that one religion is fake while another is true. Author Wright says in Going Clear:

“The stories that invite ridicule or disbelief, such as Xenu and the Galactic Confederacy, may be fanciful… but every religion features bizarre and uncanny elements…. No religion can prove that it is ‘true.’ There are myths and miracles at the core of every great belief system that, if held up to the harsh light of a scholar or investigative reporter, could easily be passed off as lies.”

Chicago Tribune review of his book concluded:

“Every religion constructs some species of ‘prison of belief’ for its followers, and most, in their fundamentalist forms, are just as dedicated as is Scientology to explaining away, or else simply denying, evidence that undermines their claims to authority.”

Translation: Scientology is no nuttier than other religions.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican AtheistsAmerican Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

About Canadian Atheist

Canadian Atheist is an independent blog with multiple contributors providing articles of interest to Canadian atheists, secularists, humanists, and freethinkers.

Canadian Atheist is not an organization – there is no membership and nothing to join – and we offer no professional services or products. It is a privately-owned publishing platform shared with our contributors, with a focus on topics relevant to Canadian atheists.

Canadian Atheist is not affiliated with any other organization or group. While our contributors may be individually be members of other organizations or groups, and may even speak in an official capacity for them, CA itself is independent.

For more information about Canadian Atheist, or to contact us for any other reason, see our contact page.

About Canadian Atheist Contributors

Canadian Atheist contributors are volunteers who provide content for CA. They receive no payment for their contributions from CA, though they may be sponsored by other means.

Our contributors are people who have both a passion for issues of interest to Canadian atheists, secularists, humanists, and freethinkers, and a demonstrated ability to communicate content and ideas of interest on those topics to our readers. Some are members of Canadian secularist, humanist, atheist, or freethought organizations, either at the national, provincial, regional, or local level. They come from all walks of life, and offer a diversity of perspectives and presentation styles.

CA merely provides our contributors with a platform with almost complete editorial freedom. Their opinions are their own, expressed as they see fit; they do not speak for Canadian Atheist, and Canadian Atheist does not speak for them.

For more information about Canadian Atheist’s contribors, or to get in contact with any of them, or if you are interested in becoming a contributor, see our contact page.

Image Credit: James Haught.

Category: Education Tags: , , , ,

About Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email, his website, or Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.