I want to clear some links from my cue, so let’s begin with this review of Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief (2013). This is the best review (out of three) that I’ve yet read; it prompted me finally to order the book. It should make a good (if depressing) summer read.
One aspect of the story that stood out is Scientology’s notorious litigiousness and abuse of our already abusive legal system. It caused me to wonder about the attorneys who represent Scientology. While I suspect that some of them are “church” members and don’t have that going for them as an excuse, it’s hard for me to understand how any non-Scientologist attorney could represent Scientology (nearly always as a plaintiff) in good faith or with a clear conscience.
As a former attorney, I’m familiar with the rationalizing bullshit stories we tell ourselves about representing dubious and fraudulent clients, but this seems a client too far. In this Business Insider piece on Scientology’s attorneys, we meet some of the scum. But the most disturbing aspect of the review is Scientology’s vicious campaign for tax-exempt status as a “religion,” which it eventually obtained after waging all out war on the government. It’s disgusting and the decision is shameful. The fact that Wright had to be so cautious about what he wrote and how he wrote it is an indictment of the system and scum.
From the merely disgusting to the positively criminal, we have two more infants in New York who have been mutilated and assaulted by ultra-Orthodox Jews in the name of an ancient (but “religious”) penis-sucking ritual. Courtesy of ABC, we have this insanity:
Two infants in the last three months in New York City’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have been infected with herpes following a ritual circumcision, according to the health department. The boys were not identified.
In the most controversial part of this version of the Jewish ritual, known as metzitzah b’peh, the practitioner, or mohel, places his mouth around the baby’s penis to suck the blood to “cleanse” the wound.
One of the two infected babies developed a fever and lesion on its scrotum seven days after the circumcision, and tests for HSV-1 were positive, according to the health department.
Last year, the New York City Board of Health voted to require parents to sign a written consent that warns them of the risks of this practice.
They “voted” to require a consent form? How magnanimous. So-called “cleansing” is a perverse practice that should be a felony criminal offense. It would be if we weren’t so concerned about protecting myths. This horror story only gets more surreal in its defense:
Some rabbis told ABCNews.com last year that they opposed on religious grounds the law requiring parents to sign a waiver, insisting it has been performed “tens of thousands of times a year” worldwide. They say safeguarding the life of a child is one of the religion’s highest principles.
“This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the Hasidic United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, told ABCNews.com.
Honestly? So much for living in a civilized society or rational age. This hoary religion is (like Scientology) tax-exempt. I understand not wanting to protect adults from their own stupidity, but when we can’t protect infants something is seriously wrong. Though imaginative-literary hell can be either hot or cold, according to this recent piece in the New Yorker, it seems like a good place for the perpetrators.
Over at the New Statesman, Alain de Botton carries on with his campaign to mystify or “religionize” our secular or atheist lives. While I have some small sympathy for this sort of thing, I’d execute it less obviously and mechanically. This isn’t all that much different from what Emerson and Thoreau were saying, except they said it much better. Goethe got it too.
Finally, in this look at the “lost” and relatively un-contacted tribes of the Amazon, we learn that they were weren’t simply left behind. They have actively resisted modernity, development, and “progress” — retreating deep into the forest in order to escape these myriad forces and effects. This seriously disrupts the standard (and normative) narrative about “primitive” tribes.