The Message Or The Messenger?

Last week, I covered the Carnaval Baranquilla Colombia.

Aside from the colourful costumes and legions of dancers, I couldn’t help but notice a little booklet that kept appearing. The book was called El Camino de la Felicidad (The Way To Happiness).

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I couldn’t read the book itself (since it was in Spanish) but something about it seemed…odd. It definitely had the air of a religious text, that much was clear. But even more bizarre was when I realized the books were being handed out to the crowd by the soldiers.

Why would the theoretically neutral army agree to hand out religious texts at the Carnaval?

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I asked a Spanish speaking friend to call one of the soldiers aside and ask why he was handing them out. He said they were told to. My friend asked if he knew what the book was about. He shook his head, though said “Something about how to live better?”

A large truck drove by, loaded to the brim with boxes upon boxes of this handbook. Children clutched the book in their fingers as their moms flipped through the pages of their own copy.

A group of performers walked up to the barricade near me and offered me the book. I held up the copy I was already studying – they nodded and continued on.

I had to get to the bottom of this mystery. I searched the book for any more clues as to the origin.

Finally, on the copyright page, one name struck me: L. Ron Hubbard Publications.

I couldn’t believe it. It was Scientology. Somehow, they’d managed to convince the Colombian army to hand out their “non-religious” booklets as if it were an official document, sanctioned by the state.

On the last page, a website was listed: The Way To Happiness.

Visiting the page for the first time now at home, I’m confronted with an extremely slick presentation of short video PSA’s illustrating the key concepts of this new “moral code.”

Here’s the dilemma.

The PSA’s are very good. The messages contained therein, as far as I can tell, are timely and important.

I have nothing personally against Scientology. I even took their guided tour while in LA last year. But the method of distribution for these booklets, under the facade of being “non-religious”, feels shady.

Then again, like anyone outside the Scientology, I’ve been jaded by Tom Cruise’s antics and Hubbard’s rumoured quote “The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion.”

So what’s more important: the message or the messenger?

10 Comments

  1. Scary– because it’s only one of numerous examples of how dangerous religious/political/social movements get started.

  2. Hi

    1)Do you have yourself any solutions or you are simply a witness to the suffering of others?

    2)The writer “George Orwell” said to make money start a religion. So check your sources.

    Lois

  3. Hi Lois – 1) There are many solutions out there. I personally am drawn towards the Buddhist one. Other people don’t have to use that solution. And 2) I very highly doubt that was George Orwell who said that. http://www.cosvm.org/startit.htm

  4. Hi Ian
    Thanks for your answers.

    1)Cool for the buddhist. The sources of Buddhist and The Scientology are the same. But you can’t to know that because you judge Scientology on the false datas.

    2) The most extensive investigation by the IRS over a period of 10 years on the Scientology announced that the Founder has not made a cent. Check your sources again, this site is an anti-scientology site. When you need a plumber you do not ask the advice of a doctor.

    Best regards
    Lois

  5. 1) Actually, I did know that Scientology shares many aspects of Buddhist philosophy. But they appear to diverge quite significantly on the role of the “church” and their method of spreading the word.

    2) Any links to back that up?

    To reiterate, I have nothing personally against Scientology. To each their own. But I am suspect of any church that has government soldiers handing out pamphlets to an unsuspecting crowd of citizens.

  6. Hi Ian, this is my first post on your site. I like it a lot.

    Anyway…I think the most important issue is that the government is handing out religious doctrines of any kind. It doesn’t matter what religion.

    And it’s no use arguing with a Scientologist, he’s been brainwashed. Or maybe I have…?

  7. There is a whole lot more than this typically insidious action by the COS to be skeptical of. This “church” destroys families and lying is their way of life. Don’t accept their soft-sell for a second. It’s all a ruse. It’s all dishonest. And no, Lois, I am not misinformed. I’ve lived it. Good detective work, Ian.

  8. interesting. I’ve heard crazy things about the creator of scientology. but then again i have heard crazy things about ghandi, as well as chogyam trungpa. both people who made beautiful changes in the world using buddhism. I believe we make one sided judgements when we look at the world in black and white while in reality no one is completely a monster, and no one is completely pure. some peoples actions are more monstrous than pure and vise versa the beauty of knowing you get to chose what you believe is you can read about other believes and be completely fine. though i have a hard time believing anyone could be religious who wasn’t born into it or just a lost soul.

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