The survey of organised religion, released this week, shows that Scientology and Pentecostalism are the two fastest growing forms of faith in Britain. This would be comical if it weren’t so … disastrous. Scientologists believe that ‘thetans’ are immortal beings with numerous past lives, including those from ‘extraterrestrial cultures’, that have taken root in human bodies. Pentecostals have a more or less literal belief in the bible, indulge in ‘possession’ in their services and ‘speaking in tongues’.
We are told to respect all faiths but these are beliefs it is hard to warm to. What these surveys never explore, to my knowledge, is whether these clearly absurd views affect other areas of the believers lives. Does believing something that is clearly wrong (let’s not beat about the bush here) affect us all? By encouraging absurd beliefs, these ‘religions’ hold their members back from participating fully in modern society. At least the Anglican (and to an extent the Roman Catholic) faiths have engaged with the modern world (eventually) and it is possible to be both modern and Anglican or Catholic (just). Imagine what Britain would be like if Scientology and Pentecostalism took over as our dominant religions. Imagine Parliament speaking in tongues (I know, I know, some of them do anyway).
On the other hand, maybe this madness was where religion was always going to end up. As a kind of comic sideshow.