Tag: Religion

The Rumford Public Library

Maine Pastors Seek to Ban Books from Library’s Banned Book Display

Banned Books Week is coming! That means that the period between September 23and September 29th is a time to recognize and celebrate works suppressed by censorship for dubious reasons. This years theme is “Banning Books Silences Stories.”

 

Not everyone is jazzed for Banned Books week. Specifically, a group of pastors in Maine are distinctly not jazzed. In fact, they are so devoid of jazz that they recently sought to have a local library in Maine ban books from the banned book table they’ve set up for Banned Book Week. And the repetition in that sentence makes me think of that one Tyler, the Creator gif which I’ll put here for your amusement:

 

"So you're just going to bring me a birthday gift on my birthday to my birthday party on my birthday with a birthday gift?"

 Image via Tenor

 

The display, pictured below, featured several works of LGBTQ literature, and this seems to be the rallying point of the complaint made. On September 6th, Dan Pears of Rumford Baptist Church, Justin Thacker of Praise Assembly of God, and Nathan March of the Parish of the Holy Saint co-wrote a letter to the Rumford Public Library which read, among other things: “children should not be subjected to early sexualization” and that the display preaches “far left political views that sees homosexuality as acceptable.” 

 

Display of banned books prominently featuring books on LGBTQ themes.

 

Here is the pastors’ letter in full:

 

The full letter sent to the Rumford Public Library

Image via Wonkette

 

Part 2 of the Letter

Image via Wonkette

 

The library in question has the support of both the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). Even without the support of these organizations, the library, as a public institution, still has no obligation to curate its offerings based on the tastes of individuals or groups thereof in the local community. And the library said as much in the board meeting that was called to address the concerns of the pastors. 

 

An article published by Wonkette has reported that, “after a brief hubbub and a rather pitched fuck-tussle,” the library stood its ground and refused to take down the display. The article also reports that author and Maine resident Katrina Ray-Saulis said that one of the letter-writing pastors “verbally expressed that he would like to pursue the destruction of all books regarding homosexuality in the library.”

 

In a satisfying end, the meeting concluded with a unanimous vote to preserve the display, with Board of Trustees chairperson Carolyn Kennard saying, “By moving that (display), it would be a form of censorship that we cannot do, under any circumstance.”

 

"Yes!"

Image via Gifer 

Featured Image Via Wikipedia.

Church of Scientology

The Author Who Holds the World Record for Most Publications Is Not Who You Think It Is

The most published author of all time has officially been declared by The Guinness Book of World Records (and, surprisingly, it’s not the king of fiction himself, Stephen King) as none other than the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

 

Take a second to breathe that in; it’s shocking, alarming, and even a little unsettling, I know. 

 

Over the past few years a plethora of Scientology documentaries have been released on HBONetflix, Amazonhulu, and more, making L. Ron Hubbard a bit of a household name. 

 

But, if you happen to be unfamiliar with Hubbard, or Scientology in general, here are some of the basic things you should know:

 

L. Ron Hubbard was born on March 13, 1911 in Tilden, Nebraska. He spent much of the first part of his life working as a fiction writer, gaining notoriety for his science fiction and fantasy short story contributions to pulp fiction magazines in the 1930’s. He also had works published under romance, adventure, western, mystery, aviation, and mystery, and even wrote the screenplay for the Columbia Pictures feature film, The Secret of Treasure Island.

 

In 1950, Hubbard went on to publish a series of “psychological self-help” books entitled Dianetics. Dianetics is a system of levels to work your way through that are stated to help remove psychosomatic disorders by eliminating dangerous or harmful images from your mind— the process involves sitting in a room with an “auditor” who interrogates you, forcing you to reveal your innermost thoughts, past traumas, and any secrets you may have so that you may erase that part of your mind and reach contentment, awareness, and sanity. Dianetics would become the foundation of the creation of Scientology.

 

In May of 1952, Hubbard finally launched his, now infamous, cult-like religious system, Scientology. Scientology is stated to be a system of graded courses and levels to work through with the goal of self-awareness, spiritual fulfillment, and super powers beyond that of any normal, everyday human. The entire process of working through the levels typically takes decades and costs around $500,000 (graduation from the program alone is $100,000, and additional $100,000 fees are given to anyone who speaks publicly about the practices). Once you’ve reached the final level, you are said to gain magical abilities such as telekinesis, immunity from all illnesses, superior senses, and mind control. (No scientologists to date have reported ever witnessing someone reach this final, mystical level and gain said powers.)

 

By the time Hubbard opened The Church of Scientology on February 19th, 1954, he already had a steady following of loyal and believing scientologists ready and willing to join.

 

And, by the time the 1960s rolled around, Hubbard had found himself the leader of a worldwide movement containing thousands upon thousands of members (some celebrity members have included and continue to include Tom Cruise, Elisabeth Moss, Kirstie Alley, Laura Prepon, and John Travolta).

 

As the years went on and more was revealed about Scientology and what was really going on within The Church, investigations were launched against Hubbard, forcing him to spend his remaining decades living in hiding.

 

L. Ron Hubbard suffered a stroke and passed away on February 24th, 1986, leaving behind a powerful, sinister legacy of systems still in place today (The Church of Scientology is stated as currently having around 25,000 members, with numbers in a steady decline).

 

Even in death Hubbard is still managing to make headlines; since his passing he has been awarded three separate records through The Guinness Book of World Records, and still holds the titles today:

 

1. Most Published Works by an Author1,084 publications

2. Most Languages Translated to by an Author: 71 languages

3. Most Audiobooks Recorded by an Author: 184 audiobooks

 

 

The strangest thing about all of this is that Hubbard feels like some sort of evil super-villain we can’t defeat; Scientology has caused a lot of pain for a lot of people and, though it’s numbers are decreasing, there are still many people following it today. The Church has a scary amount of power, making it extremely dangerous and nearly impossible for members to ever leave; and it’s all thanks to L. Ron Hubbard, the man who turned simple science fiction stories into an infectious, disease-like-religion that seemingly can’t be stopped.

 

But, if we can’t tear Scientology down in it’s entirety, the least we should be able to do is beat Hubbard’s World Records and get him off the list.

 

So, get to writing, we’ve got publications to stack!

 

 

 

Featured Image Via The Los Angeles Times

Manuscripts

The Newly Revamped Bible Is Meant for Readers Who Love Novels

Do you like reading the Bible, but find it too Bible-y? You’re not alone, and do we have a Bible for you. Manuscripts is a new serialized version of the Bible that comes in the form of pocket-sized individual volumes, the first of which are coming out this month following the success of their crowdfunding campaign.

 

“Our research showed us that people were often intimidated by how it’s traditionally been presented; as one big book,” says Manuscripts creative director Jacob Scowden. “We wanted to give an ease to it, and reemphasize the effectiveness of reading the Bible as individual books.”

 

Manuscripts Gospels

Image via NPR

 

Beginning with the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – each section of text has been arranged in a single column, without verse numbers or footnotes. The Bibles read more like a novel than a textbook. 

 

According to a 2017 survey by Christian research firm and chain of bookstores Lifeway, 1 in 5 Americans have read the Bible completely at least once, with nine percent of Americans claiming to have read it multiple times. This new formatting might help people read more of the Bible, but there are downsides to the new way the text is presented, specifically regarding authorial intent.

 

If the first printing of the Gospels does well, you can expect to see the remaining books of the Bible turned into bite-sized books some point soon. Considering how well their crowdfunded campaign was and how they’ve peaked this non-religious writer’s interest, I’m betting Manuscripts will be a huge success.

 

Featured Image Via Jesse Tyler, NPR. 

Scientology

5 Books by Authors Who Risked Everything to Escape

Its time to tear yourself away from watching true crime documentaries on YouTube and Netflix and pick the stories up in your hands instead. Watching as opposed to reading harrowing stories of people just like you and me can be somewhat numbing after a while, and in my experience of reading up about cults, sitting with a book gives you the reflection time you need, as opposed to the constant stream of information that comes at you while watching shows and films like Holy Hell, Witches: A Century of Murder or Deprogrammed. Cults that are active today range from New Age mystic groups to hardcore fundamentalist Christians preparing for the end of days. Many have been around for decades, with some as old as a century, and dozens are still operating in the plain sight.

 

cult

Image Via The Washington Post

 

From the outside looking in, cults or religious sects seem like a genuine breach of human rights, but its interesting to take a step back and think about how humans are vulnerable to the feeling of belonging. These true accounts help us to learn about how these communities were conceived, why people listened, joined and eventually why many give up their entire lives to these counter-culture movements. The speakers in these stories entirely humanize the whole experience and make it easy for us to understand why cults and extremist groups exist, why people join, how they become more powerful and what happens when it finally becomes too much.

 

The books on this list reflect many different experiences for both men and women, who have been members of, and left, cults, religious sects and extremist religious lives. The stories range from those of ex-scientologists, to those who have rejected the strict religious lives of their families, to those who suffered control and abuse at the hands of cult leaders.  

 

1. Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

 

deborah

image Via GoodReads

 

Deborah Feldman spent nineteen years growing up in the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism. The sect prohibited her from talking to people on the outside, from reading specific works of literature and forced her to dress conservatively. It was arranged that she would marry into a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional relationship with a man she barely knew. It was with this stranger that she conceived her first child, and it was at that moment that she had to save herself and her son from a life of oppression. This is her story.

 

 

2. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill and Lisa Pulitzer.

jenna

Image Via Amazon

 

Jenna Miscavige is the niece of the Church of Scientology’s leader David Miscavige. After leading a controlled life of neglect at the center of this controversial organization, by the time Jenna was twenty-one, she was ready to make a break for a life outside the church and escaped. In her memoir, she speaks about facts such as the church’s emphasis on celebrity recruitment, the oppressive and alienating culture within, and how the most devoted followers often receive the worst of punishments.

 

 

3. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

 

hirsi ali

Image Via GoodReads

 

This is a remarkable coming of age tale of one of today’s most admired and controversial political figures. This champion of free speech made worldwide headlines following the assassination of Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch film director, by an Islamist who threatened to kill Hirsi Ali next, due to her film Submission. Hirsi Ali has survived a civil war, female mutilation, and a forced marriage. Since escaping her marriage, she and her sister have been granted asylum in the Netherlands where she enrolled as a student of political science and has since been fighting for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam as a member of the Dutch parliament. Disowned by her father, expelled from her family, stripped of her citizenship and under constant threat of death, this fascinating woman’s memoir is a must read.

 

4. Not Without My Sister: The True Story of Three Girls Violated and Betrayed by Those They Trusted by Kristina Jones, Celeste Jones and Juliana Buhring.

 

Not without my sister

Image Via Amazon

 

Abused from the age of three by their ‘guardians’ in the infamous cult known as ‘Children of God’, these three sisters were denied access to education, lived a life of sexual exploitation and sustained beatings on a daily basis. The story follows the day their mother decided to escape with the hope of saving one of her children. Years later, that same child returned back to the cultto free the sister she left behind. The third sister, Juliana, pregnant with her first baby finally escaped as well, bringing all three back together after years of painful separation. This is perhaps one of the most harrowing tales you will ever read, but fascinating all the same.

 

 

5. In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult by Rebecca Stott.

 

Stott

Image Via Goodreads

 

In her interview with the New York Times, Stott said, “What we’re really talking about is collective PTSD. I knew it happened to my family, but I didn’t know — I do know now — how bad it was. We need to remember that cults can flourish not just in the desert or remote places but in suburbs as well, and that people have the capacity to do this to each other.” This is a memoir written by Rebecca Stott of Brighton, England, who’s endured a harrowing childhood during which her father was an officer in the Exclusive Brethren, a radical Protestant sect that closely controlled the lives of its members. Stott takes a painful trip down memory lane to uncover the holes in the story her family left her with, and to expose the abuses she, her family endured at the hand of this sect before their excommunication. 

 

Featured Image Via The Daily Beast

Dead Sea scrolls

Researchers Finally Decipher the Most Difficult Text of All Time!

The Dead Sea Scrolls are documents that have always created a sense of mystery inside my head. They’re old, worn, yellowed scriptures that no one even understands…until now that is. It’s taken a long, long time, but researchers have finally decoded the last of the Dead Sea Scrolls. That should make history.

 

Dead Sea Scroll

 Image Via Smithsonian Magazine

 
The University of Haifa was able to breakdown the scrolls first discovered in the 1940s near Qumran caves close to the Dead Sea. These scrolls, all 900 of them, have all sorts of scriptures and language transcribed on them, many of it is now in the Bible. Despite the scrolls dating back from 408 BCE – 318 CE, two researchers, Dr. Eshbal Ratson and Professor Jonathan Ben-Dov, found the code to be quite common, according to The Guardian.

 

The scroll is written in code, but its actual content is simple and well-known, and there was no reason to conceal it… This practice is also found in many places outside the land of Israel, where leaders write in secret code even when discussing universally known matters, as a reflection of their status. The custom was intended to show that the author was familiar with the code, while others were not.

 

Dead Sea Scroll

 Image Via DeadSeaScroll.org

 
The original author of the scroll (believed to be the leader of a sect) made several mistakes and left out many holidays. A scribe was forced to correct everything in the margins. There’s even a unique calendar that shows the strong beliefs of the Qumran sect. At the time it was used, it was unusual to use anything other than the lunar calendar. This caused a great debate against the 364-day calendar

 

The lunar calendar, which Judaism follows to this day, requires a large number of human decisions. People must look at the stars and moon and report on their observations… By contrast, the 364-day calendar was perfect…Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day. This avoids the need to decide, for example, what happens when a particular occasion falls on the Sabbath, as often happens in the lunar calendar. The Qumran calendar is unchanging.

 

Biblical and non-biblical stories and scriptures are found within this manuscript, which dates back two millennia. Who would have thought we’d ever get here? There’s still plenty more to decipher and decode for the researchers, but at least it won’t take as long… or, as the narrator in SpongeBob would say, two thousand years later.

 

Feature Image Via Shalom Israel Tours