Friday, 10 May 2013

Leaving the Faith

"Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape" by Jenna Miscavige Hill.   Since there is a Church of Scientology opening a couple of blocks away, I decided to learn something about the religion. Perhaps reading a book by a person who has become disillusioned and downright angry about the religion is not a good way to get a clear picture.  First of all, the word religion does not really seem to apply.  There is no mention of God or belief in any higher power.  It seemed to me to be a mind/body philosophy with the body coming back again and again.  At seven, Jenna signed a million year contract. One of the slogans "Think for Yourself" is actually not possible with the regimen that is imposed on the students.  "Auditing" is a type of one-on-one counselling, involving lie-detector equipment.   Jenna was involved in the organization since the age of two when her parents moved to the compound in California  to work for the church.  From then on, she rarely saw her parents but was raised communally.  As well as school work, there were scientology courses and lots of physical work.  Jenna had additional problems because her uncle was the head of the organization and her parents left the organization.  Leaving was not an easy option and caused repercussions for all family members.

  I was reminded of other books that I have read about people leaving their faith.  It seems important to realize that religions are made up of individuals and abuse of power is not uncommon.  When these individuals dig in their heels and insist that they are right, they cause great damage.
    Martha Beck's father was an apologist for the Mormon Church and well respected in the Mormon community, but he was abusive at home.   Here is her dilemma:"The Mormons around me were such good people, and much of their goodness was grounded in their religion, and their religion was stronger because of my father".  Martha talks about her obsessive spiritual hunger, but as an adult she had paralyzing pain connected to the flashbacks and could not work out any faith because of the abuse that took years to resolve.  She is now a well-known therapist.
  Martha's story was heart-breaking.  Her book is called "Leaving the Saints".

  "Stolen Innocence" is about the L.D.S. strand of the Mormons.  The author, Elissa Wall, grew up in a polygamous sect and was forced to marry her cousin at 14.  

  Miriam Toews found the Mennonite religion too confining.  Her biggest complaint was that she couldn't drink, party, dance, or listen to rock music.  She writes fiction but includes much of her life in the characters.  Many people enjoyed her book "A Complicated Kindness".  Her sarcasm was too biting for me.

   Rhoda Janzen, also brought up in the Mennonite faith wrote "Mennonite in the Little Black Dress". This was a memoir, but, once again, she tried to be humorous while making fun of her upbringing.  I was doubly disappointed in this author because, as an adult, she had lived a life away from the values of the parents who raised her, but then ran back to them when she was desperate.  They warmly took her in, while she wrote nasty things about their beliefs.

  "Unorthodox: the Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots" by Deborah Feldman is fascinating.  Once again, a very strict religion with a disastrous arranged marriage.

  Mary-Ann Kirkby has written a memoir- "I am Hutterite: the Fascinating True Story of One Woman's Journey to Reclaim her Heritage".  It is refreshing to read a positive story of growing up in a restricted faith community.
I love memoirs and these are some that I remembered as I read "Beyond Belief".


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