Belfast Telegraph

Celebs flock to trendy churches, but I’ve just no faith in any them

By Sharon Owens

You know, this world is getting weirder by the minute. John Travolta’s beloved son Jett has died tragically of a seizure.

There are suggestions that the teenager may have had autism, a condition that isn’t recognised by the Church of Scientology, to which his parents belong. And there is speculation centring on whether their beliefs played a part in the treatment of their son’s long-term illness, though there is no doubt that Jett was much loved.

Whatever is behind this sad story, the main thing that strikes me this week is how many of our favourite celebs are flocking to the trendy new religions of Kabbalah and Scientology. And how many thousands of ordinary people may soon join up too, perhaps in the hope they might get to meet Tom Cruise or Madonna at the water cooler. Lisa Marie Presley is another famous (and rich) Scientologist. Michael Jackson, well, I think he’s a Muslim these days but I suspect that’s only |because he has a few wealthy pals in the Arab world.

Oh sorry, do I sound a bit cynical? As a disillusioned Catholic myself who stopped going to Mass when I was 15, I really can’t see why so many otherwise sane people are queuing up to be told what to do by ‘church’ leaders, some of dubious qualification. Oh yes, and to hand over their money too. Well, there’s always a begging bowl involved somewhere along the line, isn’t there? As soon as the early Christian church hit on the genius idea of asking for monetary donations in return for heavenly pardons, well, religion has all been rather money-|centred, hasn’t it?

Why is it that so many churches, temples and mosques have to be so huge and so expensively decorated? Why are they mostly run (and owned) by hard-line and uncompromising men? Men who are quite obsessed with keeping us gobby ‘weemin’ under control? And why do they seem to spend so much time and effort grabbing our money? If any of these religions (both conventional and New Age) were any good they’d hold their prayer meetings in the open air. And they wouldn’t charge the punters tuppence to get in. They wouldn’t lord it over the faithful in their fancy capes and cloaks. And they wouldn’t scare the bejaysus out of tiny (captive audience) children: filling their heads with hair-raising tales of fang-toothed devils hiding under the beds. If these religions were any good, they wouldn’t have it in for innocent lesbians and homosexuals. Or could it possibly be that they want to keep us all breeding like flies so donations don’t drop off?

And do they all secretly fear free thinkers like myself and my husband because we will happily tell them where to shove their rules on birth control? I daresay in the old days, the non-conformists were denounced as witches and burnt at the stake. Or stoned to death. Or drowned in a duckpond. Anything gruesome would have done the job of keeping the others in line, I suppose.

We’re not really into burning people alive any more (or are we?) so instead some religions are using the lure of fame to attract new followers. But I for one am fed up to the back teeth with these idiot-celebs running to their ‘gurus’ and pouring their millions into doubtful ‘foundations’ when there are literally countless people in the world today in need of a few quid. If I ever need counselling, I’ll go to my GP and if I have money to spare, I give it to World Vision or Barnardos or to local good |causes.

And as far as group worship goes, I’ll continue to spend my Sunday mornings tucked up in bed before rising at lunchtime to cook Sunday lunch and then spend the rest of the day catching up on the housework. I’m sure God doesn’t mind. After all, my religious upbringing taught me that a woman’s place is in the home.

Wouldn’t it be only hilarious if a hundred years from now we had Scientologists and Kabbalahists throwing leaflets at each other on Drumcree hill?

“You’re all just vessels for drifting alien spirits!” the Scientologists will chant.

“Well, you’re all doomed if you don’t wear red string on your wrists!” the Kabbalahists will |retort.

Sounds mad? Not as mad as Catholics and Protestants killing each other in Europe and the US for nearly 500 years, or the equally bizarre notion of a virgin birth.

Look, religion clearly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And fame isn’t all that much fun when you think about it. And when they take out the management fee, the agent’s fee and the income tax, it doesn’t really pay very well either.

My advice is to forget about Kabbalah, Scientology and The X Factor and save up your money for your kids’ college fund and/or your retirement years.

And let the Godsquad pay for their own marble floors and gold leaf ceilings.

Belfast Telegraph

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