This article by L. Ron Hubbard launched the Scientology Volunteer Minister program in the mid-1970s. Declining church membership demonstrates his views on religion are even more pertinent today.
We are today at a watershed of history and our actions today will decide whether the world goes up from here or continues to slide into some new dark age.
It is important to understand bad conditions don’t just happen. The cultural decay we see around us isn’t haphazard. It was caused. Unless one understands this he won’t be able to defend himself or reach out into the society with effectiveness.
A society is capable of surviving for thousands of years unless it is attacked from within or without by hostile forces. Where such an attack occurs, primary targets are its religious and national gods and heroes, its potential of leadership and the self-respect and integrity of its members.
Religion is the first sense of community. Your sense of community occurs by reason of mutual experience with others. Where the religious sense of community and with it real trust and integrity can be destroyed, then that society is like a sandcastle unable to defend itself against the inexorable sea.
For the last hundred years or so religion has been beset with a relentless attack. You have been told it’s the “opiate of the masses,” that it’s unscientific, that it is primitive; in short, that it is a delusion.
But beneath all these attacks on organized religion there was a more fundamental target: the spirituality of Man, your own basic spiritual nature, self-respect and peace of mind. This black propaganda may have been so successful that maybe you no longer believe you have a spiritual nature but I assure you you do.
In fact, you don’t have a soul, you are your own soul. In other words, you are not this book, 1your social security card, your body or your mind. You are you.
Convince a man that he is an animal, that his own dignity and self-respect are delusions, that there is no “beyond” to aspire to, no higher potential self to achieve, and you have a slave. Let a man know he is himself, a spiritual being, that he is capable of the power of choice and has the right to aspire to greater wisdom and you have started him up a higher road.
Of course, such attacks on religion run counter to Man’s traditional aspirations to spiritual fulfillment and an ethical way of life.
For thousands of years on this planet thinking Man has upheld his own spirituality and considered the Ultimate wisdom to be spiritual enlightenment.
Religion has also been attacked as primitive. Too much study of primitive cultures may lead one to believe religion is primitive as it is so dominant in them and that “modern” cultures can dispense with it. The truth of the matter is that at no time is religion more necessary as a civilizing force than in the presence of huge forces in the hands of Man, who may have become very lacking in social abilities emphasized in religion.The great religious civilizing forces of the past, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and others, have all emphasized differentiation of good from evil and higher ethical values.
The lowering of church attendance in the United States coincided with a rise in pornography and general immorality, and an increase in crime which then caused a rise in numbers of police without a subsequent decline in actual moral aberration.
When religion is not influential in a society or has ceased to be, the state inherits the entire burden of public morality, crime and intolerance. It then must use punishment and police. Yet this is unsuccessful as morality, integrity and self-respect not already inherent in the individual, cannot be enforced with any great success. Only by a spiritual awareness and inculcation of the spiritual value of these attributes can they come about. There must be more reason and more emotional motivation to be moral, etc., than threat of human discipline.
When a culture has fallen totally away from spiritual pursuits into materialism, one must begin by demonstrating they are each a soul, not a material animal. From this realization of their own religious nature individuals can again come to an awareness of God and become more themselves.
Of course, if one is going to find fault with something, it implies that he wishes to do something about it and would if he could. If one does not like the crime, cruelty, injustice and violence of this society, he can do something about it. He can become a VOLUNTEER MINISTER and help civilize it, bring it conscience and kindness and love and freedom from travail by instilling into it trust, decency, honesty and tolerance.
Briefly, a Volunteer Minister fulfills the definition of religion in this increasingly cynical and hopeless world.
Let’s look again at the definition of religion.
In a few words, religion can be defined as belief in spiritual beings. More broadly, religion can be defined as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life. The quality of being religious implies two things: first, a belief that evil, pain, bewilderment and injustice are fundamental facts of existence; second, a set of practices and related sanctified beliefs that express a conviction that Man can ultimately be saved from those facts.
Thus, a Volunteer Minister is a person who helps his fellow man on a volunteer basis by restoring purpose, truth and spiritual values to the lives of others.
A Volunteer Minister does not shut his eyes to the pain, evil and injustice of existence. Rather, he is trained to handle these things and help others achieve relief from them and new personal strength as well.
How does a Volunteer Minister accomplish these miracles? Basically, he uses the technology of Scientology to change conditions for the better—for himself, his family, his groups, friends, associates and for Mankind.
A society to survive well, needs at least as many Volunteer Ministers as it has policemen. A society gets what it concentrates upon. By concentrating on spiritual values instead of criminality a new day may yet dawn for Man.