Religion generates controversy just like any other discourses in the mainstream society. The controversies are outcomes of the different basic elements on which different religions are founded. Traditional religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, have some common elements even though perceptions towards them varied significantly. However, the emergence of new religions has resulted to disruption of the traditional meaning of religion as the unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things. There are emerging contestation in regards to what is sacred that has led to formation of new beliefs. Comparative analysis of the traditional and new religious belief systems relative to elements through which they manifest is imperative to understand persistent concerns about religion in the modern world.
The worldview of religion seeks to bring together a system of beliefs that make sense of the universe and humanity’s place in it. In the Christian belief system, Catholicism to be specific, the central belief is in a deity, God, who created the universe and humanity as the highest being. Catholics social identity is anchored in this system of guiding beliefs with accompanying symbols that according to Ysseldyk, Matheson, and Anisman (2010), have significant power in shaping social and psychological processes. The idea of faith, which central to Catholics belief system, is rooted in the New Testament through which God revealed Himself through Christ. However, the Bible as a whole, including the Old Testament, is of equal importance to Catholicism.
The Bible symbolizes an important institution because it is sacred and inspired by God to dictate Catholics perceptions of the world. In the bible, Catholics rituals and ethical systems are depicted. Baptism is the rite performed to initiate an individual into Christianity. The ritual is a necessity for one to have salvation and can be performed using water, blood, or fire. In addition, contains the Ten Commandments, which provide a moral compass to Catholics. The commandments form an ethical standard to live by, and judgment is based on failure to abide by the stipulations. According to Ysseldyk, Matheson, and Anisman (2010), uniqueness shared by Catholics as a social group grounded in a belief system that offers epistemological and ontological certainty is critical in the promotion of well-being. However, it is important to recognize that ethical system on which Catholics beliefs are founded has more weight that all others. In most instances, it advises on other religious elements and the consequence of going against the set standards.
Modern religions today, by virtue of their being new entrants into the discourse, have complex and mysterious ideologies. Scientology is one of such new religions whose belief system has different philosophical underpinnings contrary to what is advanced by conventional religious factions. According to Kent (1999), scientology is based on a multifaceted self-representation as a science, a mental health therapy, and a religion, relative to social, economic, and ideological pressures as perceived by its founder L. Ron Hubbard. The beliefs system of Scientology religion is dianetics, which refers to the science of modern mental health. Scientology introduced a belief system that was largely based on science. For instance, Hubbard discovered that problems of thought and mental function could be resolved within the bounds of the finite universe (Kent, 1999). The implication of the discovery is the conclusion that aspects of mental health can be scientifically determined as facts, which is contradictory to the ideology of faith on which belief of other religions are founded.
The rites and rituals of Scientology are similar to those conducted in other religions including worship services and ceremonies. However, the Scientology Creed and practices performed at these rites are different owing to a different belief system. Scientology has no set dogma on God and allows believers to come to their individual understanding of God. However, the rituals denounce mainstream ideologies about mental issues including development of psychological problems. The ethical system of Scientology exalts righteousness as evidenced by Hubbard’s writings, “No man who is not himself honest can be free – he is his own trap. When his own deeds cannot be disclosed then he is a prisoner; he must withhold himself from his fellows and is a slave to his own conscience” (Scientology, 2018). It is evident that the ethical system of Scientology has more weight because it specifies what the members should conform to, unlike the belief system that allows room for individual choices.
Review of aspects of religion herein illustrated that faith is contentious. The formation of new religions is due to the need for a different school of thought for explaining natural phenomena, which in most instances, would be denounced by mainstream religion. Diversity in religious beliefs is likely to result to different normative systems that draw from varied ethics. The world is faced with a dilemma of unifying religious factions to avoid the possibility of extremism associated with rituals and belief systems of some religions. However, the right to freedom of worship derails any efforts to have a common understanding of the needs of humanity regardless of an individual’s religious beliefs.
- Kent, S. (1999). The creation of” Religious” Scientology. Religious Studies and Theology, 18(2), 97-126.
- Ysseldyk, R., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2010). Religiosity as identity: Toward an understanding of religion from a social identity perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 60-71.