The British have aired their ideas about Scientology. The Guardian describes it as a "neat reflection of the worst aspects of American culture with its repulsive veneration of celebrity; its weird attitudes toward women, sex, healthcare and contraception; its promise of equality among its followers but actual crushing inequality . . . it is, in its own dark way, the inevitable religion to emerge from 20th century America."
Really? Do you think the repulsive veneration of the English royal family (simultaneous demonizing of same); the weird English attitudes toward women, sex, healthcare and contraception ("What's the coldest place in the world? The English bedroom!"); the English pretense of loathing folks who strive for an aristocracy of talent and virtue rather than one of birth and wealth (as Thomas Jefferson put it) . . . makes Anglicanism the inevitable religion to emerge from 16th Century England and continue to dominate to the present?
The real American religion is still Puritanism. Puritanism, yes, Puritanism just as H.L. Mencken described it, the "haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Where would Clinton and Monica Lewinsky be without Puritanism? Not to mention John Edwards. (Indeed, where would John Edwards be without Jonathan Edwards, the hellfire Calvinist preacher who assured us in his sermon, "Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God," that at any moment, God would be happy to let Satan reach out and grab one of us miserable sinners?) The French don't understand it. The Germans shake their heads--their presidents get married four times, and they kick people out of office for plagiarizing their dissertations or letting colleagues offer the use of their country houses (which falls under the verboten category of accepting favors from business executives) not for having affairs, selling drugs or guns, or starting wars. No, American Puritanism is the endlessly invokable religion, the one that elects presidents, starts scandals, motivates citizens. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, and understand that recent exposés of Scientology--by Lawrence Wright, the Pulitzer prizewinning journalist, and by Jenna Miscavige Hill, a former Scientologist, point to a streak of indoctrination and fear-mongering that crossed the Atlantic with the Puritan divines on the Mayflower and other leaky vessels.
Scientology as the Puritanism of our time? Yeah, maybe. It's big business in bed with religion, in other words, it's Puritanism and the First Amendment, the one leaning toward separation of church and state, in bed all snuggled up yet again.