Scientology and skeptics

The article on the Church of Scientology (“Scientology’s Plan for Canada,” Society, Oct. 8) misinforms readers by printing ridiculous claims made by a handful of members of the cyberhate group Anonymous as well as a former church staff member with an axe to grind. Scientology is an applied religious philosophy practised by millions of members through more than 10,000 churches, missions and affiliated groups in 167 nations. It is expanding rapidly, including in Canada, where our first church opened in Toronto in 1967. While members of Anonymous and bitter, defrocked former church executives may not be happy about it, this expansion is necessary to meet increasing worldwide demand for Scientology services. The spectacular growth of the Scientology religion is the result of people discovering for themselves the religion’s practical tools that assist an individual in improving his or her life. Moreover, our humanitarian programs are effective, selfless and are making the world a better place in which to live.

Karin Pouw, Church of Scientology International, Los Angeles

Your special investigation on Scientology notes this bizarre organization, as a recognized church, enjoys property tax exemption. This is absurd. No religious organization should enjoy, as a general rule, this long-established benefit. The only possible exception might be where such houses of worship are agreed to be of major historical or architectural significance and where non-payment of property taxes would lead to their disrepair or closure. We are a secular society. We should not have to subsidize church organizations. Carrying this a step further, we should also review the tax-deductable status of donations to churches.

M.J. Day, Wolfe Island, Ont.

In the name of freedom and democracy, I suppose we have no choice but to allow Scientology to worm its way into people’s lives here. Contrary to what religionists proudly claim, it is definitely not the case that any belief is better than no belief, any church is better than no church.

Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert, Alta.

I marvel at how supposedly educated people can be bamboozled into following a line of self-serving prattle, in turn resulting in a self-inflicted loss of judgment. It’s appalling, but it explains how entire societies fall under the spell of greedy and power-hungry leaders. I used to show courtesy toward “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and other similar organizations, even while never contributing a penny to their musings. Now I have lost all patience with purveyors of convoluted thinking and even those who fall under their spell; I simply close the door in their faces.

Red Witt, Ottawa

While I am no fan of Scientology, I do not find their beliefs and policies that much different from mainstream religions. Harmful? Yes. So is pedophilia and bombing planes, not permitting medical interventions, treating women as second-class citizens, or worse. The myths behind Scientology are no more ridiculous than talking snakes and receiving of God’s laws through talking burning bushes. Perhaps our educational system should be more about teaching how to think rather than teaching what to think. There is nothing like good critical thinking skills to separate a rational mind from an irrational one, making all religions stand on the block of skepticism and perhaps eliminating the most harmful aspects of each.

Stephanie Norris, Powell River, B.C.


A couple of years ago I had the luck and pleasure of meeting Col. Chris Hadfield, who is now about to be the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, when he was a guest at a local literary festival. To say that he is amazing is a gross understatement. He spent time talking with my 10-year-old daughter, who was absolutely mesmerized. So when I saw the Maclean’s story about Hadfield (“Building the perfect spaceman,” National, Oct. 8) and saw a cover image of a generic space helmet, I was pretty disappointed. The faces of some of the seediest and evil people can stain the cover of your magazine, but when there is someone so truly remarkable and should be so celebrated, he is just in snapshots for the article. Hopefully we can see more of our Canadian heroes on the cover of Maclean’s.

John Knox, Collingwood, Ont.

Pardon me, Omar?

Canada’s failure to rescue Omar Khadr from his torment was hypocritical at best (“The secret Khadr file,” National, Oct. 1). It’s hard to imagine any other so-called civilized nation abandoning a young soldier, little more than a child, in fact, to 11 years of abuse, torture and solitary confinement. Confessions obtained under these conditions deserve no more credibility than medieval admissions of sorcery. Canadians today should be less concerned with what he did than with answering the question: “Can he pardon us?” Let us hope Omar is still capable of the same forgiveness that so many people have denied him.

Mike Ward, Duncan, B.C.

I am sure Omar Khadr would not approve of me: a gay, atheist, octogenarian, retired zoologist. But because of his despicable treatment by the Americans and the shameful stalling of Stephen Harper and Vic Toews in his repatriation to his native country, in my most recent will I have left Khadr a small monetary bequest to help him adjust and integrate into Canadian society.

Jack Hallam, Saltspring Island, B.C.

Two solitudes, Irish style

As an immigrant from Northern Ireland some 35 years ago, I can say that segregation of education and sports ensures that children do not cross the cultural divides, leading to the perpetuation of historical fears and mistrust in both cultures, which in turn leads to self-ghettoization in adult life, further maintaining the political divide (“Troubled times,” International, Oct. 8). There was a common lament in the article that despite the Belfast Agreement nothing had really changed in the last 15 years. That should not be surprising. A society so divided along cultural and political lines allows extremist politicians on both sides an easy path to power by trotting out the same old tired mantras election after election. No need to present real solutions to economic and social problems when a simple slogan shouted frequently enough will scare the electorate into voting for you. We in Canada need to learn from this example. One only has to look toward Quebec to see a society already teetering on that path.

J. Trevor Leathem, Oakville, Ont.

Chop chop!

Invoking the Holocaust in the article about circumcision, as Barbara Amiel does, is wrong (“It’s not about the rights of the child,” Opinion, Oct. 8). Come on, Barbara, you even call some of your own religious practices illogical. Well, singing and candles don’t hurt anyone. Singing, candles and human sacrifice? Yeah, got to draw the line there. Singing, candles and lopping off pieces of children? The court ruling in Cologne came to a good intellectual conclusion: the kid may not grow up to practise their parents’ religion, therefore, this decision should not be imposed on babies. I don’t care how old the religion is, this is the 21st century.

Carol Nefedow, Pitt Meadows, B.C.

The common analogy for the medical benefits of infant circumcision is infant vaccination. Both, for example, hurt. Yet they are effective. Circumcision has been shown in large-scale studies to considerably decrease the acquisition of the HIV virus by up to 60 per cent, as well as significantly decrease incidence of herpes, the HPV virus (which causes genital warts), sexually transmitted infections in female partners, and it is also tied to lower penile and prostate cancer. The Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatricians and the World Health Organization all acknowledge that circumcision provides lifelong medical benefits. To contextualize this, the latter organization eradicated smallpox in 1980 and more recently was working on eradicating mumps until an outbreak in 2008 thwarted those efforts. Tellingly, this outbreak was traced to a fundamentalist group in Western Canada who adamantly refused to have their children vaccinated. Likewise, a small and vocal group in Canada is adamantly against circumcision, whatever the data may show.

Jean Marcus, Victoria

Just a minute

In our ongoing journey to define Canada, the return of the Heritage Minutes series is welcomed (“In a Canadian Minute,” TV, Oct. 8). Using TV and social media to educate kids on what it means to be Canadian can only be beneficial. For a country and its people to know where they are going, it is important to know where and who they have been.

Gillian Lavin, Woodstock, Ont.