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Some weeks ago, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling made in 1970 regarding the Church of Scientology. The question asked over forty years ago was this - is scientology a religion? The court’s verdict then was that it was not, since it doesn’t involve the veneration of a God or a Supreme Being, this being the distinctive feature of a ‘religion’. The recent challenge was brought by a lady who wished to be married in a Scientology ‘chapel’, and the court decided to uphold her appeal, presumably on the grounds that she should be free to make her own belief choices.
I must confess that I’ve never cared for the word ‘religion’. I’ve heard it applied to many things from football to daily habits, and to many the word has become emptied of real meaning. The founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, appeared to believe that a powerful dictator called Xenu from a remote planet somewhere in the galaxy brought millions of people known as ‘Thetans’ to earth 75 million years ago. Earth was then known as ‘Teegeeack’, and here Xenu destroyed the Thetans with hydrogen bombs, and it is their remaining bereft souls that cause our problems, unless we discover the secrets of Scientology to negate them. Now you may ask whether that is any less likely than, say, pairs of animals voluntarily walking onto a big boat with Noah to avoid drowning, or God coming to earth as a baby, or Jesus walking on water.
Whichever set of stories we choose to accept – and even if we reject them all – we must accept that there can only be one reality that is true, one set of parameters that defines our universe and everything that lives in it. We may choose to follow whatever path suits our own purposes, but the chances are that many are simply wrong. When all known facts about our world are considered, the more outlandish religions are discredited. But faith cannot be disproved. Religion can be understood as a system of rules to which a person chooses to subscribe; faith, in contrast, is a belief in someone beyond those things we all see and know to be true. Christianity is not simply based on accepting a theory somehow ‘revealed’ as fact to a ‘chosen’ person, like Hubbard. It begins with the desire to know the truth and ends with encountering the one true and living God, who chooses to make himself known to those who sincerely seek. This is the only precondition God sets; if you really want to know him, he is always there to be found.
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares God, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, italics mine).
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