The Supreme Court of England and Wales has decided that a ScientologyTM church is a "place of meeting for religious worship" and so can conduct legal marriages. This ruling effectively overthrows a 1970 High Court ruling that ScientologyTM meetings are not acts of worship, in other words, ScientologyTM is not a religion.
In England and Wales, where the legal system is based on English Common Law, a lower court is bound by the rulings of a higher court and the precedent of earlier cases, so High Court judges were bound by the 1970 ruling until it was changed by a higher court or legislation in Parliament. The Supreme Court replaced the House of Lords as the highest court in the land a few years ago and it's rulings can only be reversed by legislation in Parliament.
ScientologyTM was invented by the trashy sci-fi author, L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950s to win a bet with another and better sci-fi author, Robert Heinlein, and is based on nothing more than his limited imagination. Hubbard had boasted that he could make more money by inventing a religion than by writing books - which was probably true for someone with his limited sci-fi writing abilities. Heinlein's response was to write Stranger in a Strange Land which shreds all organized religions and especially cults like ScientologyTM.
ScientologyTM has become notorious for its cult-like insistence on money-making, which has led many countries to classify it as a commercial enterprise rather than a religion, as well as the psychological techniques it uses to keep its members and to harass those who dare to leave and speak out against it or the cults leaders.
The case had been referred to the Supreme Court by a High Court judge who had refused to set aside the 1970 ruling and allow marriages to be conducted in ScientologyTM churches, as they are in Scotland which has it's own legal system and is not bound by English and Welsh court rulings and precedent. Lawyers for ScientologyTM had argued that it had evolved since 1970 so that ruling no longer applied. The judge had said that it was not for the High Court to rule on what constituted religious worship.
The five Supreme Court judges decided that it was the definition of 'religious worship' which had changed. The 1970 definition of religious worship as 'reverence or veneration of God or of a supreme being' was now outdated and would also exclude Buddhism. Lord Toulson, delivering the written verdict, said to confine religions to those which worship a supreme deity would be discriminatory. He broadened the legal definition of religion which should no longer be confined to religions which recognise a supreme deity. Which, aside from the circularity in that definition - religions are religions which may or may not have gods - raises more questions than it solves. What is now not a religion? Does it now include football club supporters, folk dancers, ufologists and sewing circles?
Of course, a religion based on nothing more than absurd ideas and half-baked pseud-science is nothing new. In that respect there is no real difference between ScientologyTM, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. The only material difference is one of age.
But the most significant thing about this ruling is that it reflects the shifting sands of 'religion', in what is rapidly becoming post-Christian Britain as many people are increasingly rejecting the absurd biblical mythologies and superstitions, but some are still looking for a 'spiritual' dimension and especially the sense of belonging to a community of like-minded people which the church previously provided. At the current rate of decline in traditional religions it would not be long before very few places could be called places of worship on the old definition. The Supreme Court ruling merely reflects this change in social attitude and cultural awareness. It marks a small step in the evolution of British culture.
If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.I'm with Richard Dawkins and the late Richard Feynman and Albert Einstein that learning about the Universe and how we fit into it, and especially learning how we are the product of a process that means we are related to all other life on Earth, and are made of the same stuff the Universe is made of, is profoundly spiritual.
Letter to J. Dispentiere, March 24, 1954
Letter to J. Dispentiere, March 24, 1954
One of my most profound spiritual experiences was when it dawned on me that, because we are made of the same stuff the Universe is made of and are the product of an inevitable process the result of the fundamental laws of matter in this Universe, in a very real sense, through us the Universe has become self-aware. Through us the Universe can gaze in awe at itself.
Recognising that, and recognising that every single living thing is the product of survivors who never once failed to produce an offspring, and so we are all descendants of the first replicators and have all travelled the same journey, is profoundly spiritual.
Do I need to gather with others to share that and to get a sense of community? Not personally, though others might, but I like it when others agree with me and say so.
'via Blog this'