On Russian Threat To Spiritual Freedom
Since Russia and Eastern Europe began relaxing restrictions in the 1980s,
their people have kicked over the traces exploded with a pent-up passion
for commercial, entertainment, and spiritual experience.
This Spring Albania, Europe's poorest country, fell bigtime for a
get-rich-quick pyramid scheme their government promised would show them
the capitalist money. The schemes failed, just as any American
high-schooler could have predicted. Not surprisingly, the government fell
bigtime in the next election -- after armed rioting claimed 1,500 lives.
There may have been a lot of ugliness about the old Soviet system, but its
extraordinary restrictions on commerce and freedom did offer protection
from capitalism's oldest sucker punch, the Ponzi scheme.
If Eastern Europe's financial naivte seems surprising, America has no idea
how a people denied spiritual outlet for generations is responding to an
open spiritual market. Mainstream churches, New Religious Movements, cults,
and the old, tired personal improvement training groups from the 70s and
80s are having a field day.
Along with Baptists, Muslims, and other world-respected traditions, we have
reason to believe that TM, Scientology, ISKCON, Moon's Unification Church,
Boston Church of Christ are all seeing greater growth in Eastern Europe
than anywhere on the planet. Reporting hath it that the pickings are so
lucrative that Werner Erhard himself is helping the entire continent "get
Other groups that have barely made a dent in the U.S., such as Panditji
Ravi Shankar's "Sudarshan Kriya," have found many thousands of converts in
We get a picture of a 24-hour, neon-lit, spiritual bazaar with hucksters
leaning out of their respect garish booths mouthing ever more grandiose
claims for enlightenment, immortality, and limitless wealth.
Recently, the Russian duma responded to this situation with what looks like
panic. A new law could make the Russian Orthodox Church a state religion
and essentially forbid the operation of any new religious group who entered
Russia less than 15 years ago: They would not be allowed to hold open
meetings, publish or distribute literature, or own property.
It's unclear whether the duma has plans for the "nonreligious" groups such
as Transcendental Meditation or est/Forum/Landmark.
trancenet.net is no fan of religious or secular cults. We believe we
experienced some of the most brutal mind control known to humanity within
But as survivors of cults ourselves, we also believe that the Russian duma
is on the verge of making a drastic mistake.
The solution to the Albanian crisis was not to forbid free trade and
democracy. It was to educate their people about the nature of free markets
and the sharks who swim in those waters.
The solution to the spiritual crisis in Russia is not to pull their people
back into the shadows of a smothering state church. It is to educate and
inform their people about the silken-voiced threats that the Elmer
Gantry's, Werner Erhard's, and Maharishi's may present them.
We simply can't support psychological freedoms on the one hand and
religious persecution on the other -- whether in Russia or elsewhere.
Russian Duma Backs Clampdown On Religious Sects
MOSCOW, June 23 (Reuter) - Russia's lower house
of parliament ... approved a bill on religious
association and freedom of conscience
condemned by human rights activists as
The bill says only confessions that have
operated in Russia for at least 15 years can
set up new religious organizations. It also
imposes new restrictions on religious activity
by foreign groups....
It now goes to the upper house, the Federation
Council, and must also be signed by President
Critics say it contravenes Russia's
constitution and revives Soviet-style
censorship of religion. They point out that 15
years ago religious groups were still tightly
controlled by the officially atheist Communist
Some mainstream Christian denominations like
the Baptists and Seventh-Day Adventists have
expressed concern that the anti-sect paranoia
of the Orthodox Church, now a close ally of
the Russian state, will also work against
But the Russian Orthodox Church and other
traditional faiths like Islam have welcomed
the bill, saying it will protect Russians
against destructive cults like Japan's
notorious doomsday sect Aum Shinri Kyo, which
had many followers here.
Last week Patriarch Alexiy, head of the
Orthodox Church, said the bill would help halt
the division of Russians along religious
The Orthodox Church has been alarmed by the
post-Soviet explosion of religious sects,
which have fed on Russians' poverty, spiritual
hunger or desire for the new and exotic.
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