Michael Shermer of the LA Times almost got it right, starting his editorial with these words:
Imagine reading this news release: “Hello, Jews. We are anonymous. Over the years, we have been watching you. Your campaigns of misinformation; suppression of dissent; your litigious nature, all of these things have caught our eye. … Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed. For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind – for the laughs – we shall expel you … and systematically dismantle Judaism in its present form. …”
The rantings of crazed neo-Nazis, right? No. Substitute “Jews” and “Judaism” with “Scientologists” and “Church of Scientology” and you are reading from a statement issued by a group of anti-Scientologists calling themselves “Anonymous.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Shermer then indulged in his own brand of religious intolerance, passing judgement on Scientology beliefs as the self-proclaimed authority that he is not.
With the specious argument that other churches don’t “charge” for their services (No. Some tithe 10% of one’s income; some live off the interest of their 2,000-year long investiments and property; some require that one pay for attendance at high holy day services and for the religious training of their sons and daughters to be confirmed in the church or religion; some merely pass the plate), he fell into the same trap that intolerant, narrow-minded men of all ages have relegated themselves to.
This country was founded on the philosophy of freedom of religion.
This is the country to which the Calvinists, Quakers and Huguenots fled when they found discrimination in Europse intolerable.
This is the country my own grandparents came to at the turn of the last century to escape the Russian pogroms–traveling in cattle boats, earning enough money in New York to bring over the family of eight, two children at a time.
These and so many more came here because they cherished the freedom to believe as they saw fit and the right to practice their beliefs.
Mr. Sherman succumed to the skeptic impulse (read compulsion in this case) of denigration of all belief. He would have done well to have stuck to his first and accurate premise.
Americans in the 21st Century, and particularly those who profess to be the intellectual leaders of our civilization, would do well to recognize that the strenght of this country comes from its initial philosophical premises, and the very character of America is tainted by bigotry as it weakens the foundation of what made this country great.