In February of 2018 Scientologist Jeffrey Murphy wrote an article lauding Martin Luther as being one of the founders of religious freedom. As this post continues to be publicized by the STAND League it needs to be addressed as it leaves a wrong message as to what Luther was attempting to achieve.
Murphy’s post is crafted in such a way that one comes away believing that Luther was an activist for tolerance and the rights of an individual to embrace his own beliefs. In this way Martin Luther is held up in thanksgiving for Scientology’s freedom to be practiced in the world today.
Murphy writes “in addition to starting a major new religious tradition, Luther opened the door to the religious diversity and laws which protect freedom of religion that now prevail in many countries throughout the world… I’m grateful to the contribution Luther made to religious freedom, which helped make it possible for Scientology to be practiced freely throughout the world.”
Martin Luther was born into a Catholic family at a time when there was already rampant religious division and dissatisfaction with the excesses of Rome. There were many scholars and theologians who spoke against Church teachings and practices including John Wycliffe, an English theologian and early proponent of reform in the 14th century. Luther was not the first to express frustration in writing either as Jan Hus, a priest from Prague who preached against indulgences and was eventually burned for heresy wrote what he called his Six Errors wherein he criticized the corruption of the clergy.
Growing up Luther felt called to the monastic life in spite of his father’s insistence he take up a law career and it was during his time in an Augustinian Order that he began to question some of the Church’s practices.
Even though he was living the life of a monk, his education continued as he studied at the University of Erfurt as well as at a university in Wittenberg. Luther served as a representative in Rome for the German Augustinian monasteries where he got a first hand look at the way Rome operated. Continuing his education, Luther received his doctorate and became a professor of biblical studies. It was his continuing theological studies that would lead him to question some of the Church’s practices.
St. Augustine, the founder of Luther’s Order, firmly believed in the primacy of the Bible rather than Church officials being the ultimate religious authority. Augustine also taught that Man could not reach salvation by his own acts, but rather only God could bestow salvation by His divine grace.
When Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses it was in an attempt to bring about change within the Church, especially concerning the selling of indulgences which was a practice where one could make a donation in exchange for absolution from sin and a place in Heaven.
The 95 Theses is seen as a basis for the Reformation and it is, but it is also important to understand that at the time Luther wrote it he was not defiantly announcing a split with Rome but rather he was attempting to open a dialogue that could effect needed change. Luther’s tone was one of humility and academic questioning rather than accusing or attacking.
Luther’s concerns were not about respecting all the various versions of religious belief held by others. Rather his focus was on attempting to stop the corruption within his own faith. He firmly believed Augustine’s tenets that only God could grant salvation and would have been adamantly against Scientology’s idea that Man can save himself. In fact, while Protestant sects in every form were being persecuted and were on the move seeking freedom, not one of them would have supported or defended Scientology’s ideology either.
Martin Luther wrote in his Theses that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone, and not deeds, would lead to salvation. This is completely in opposition to the Scientological teaching that their deeds, through their tech and with their clearing the planet, is the only way Mankind can be saved. Luther believed in and defended faith, something that Scientology clearly advises its members not to trust in.
It is a certainty that Luther would have spoken out against such heresy not supported or defended it.
In his 95 Theses Martin Luther referenced what was known as St. Peter’s Scandal at the time, asking “Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”
One might just as easily hear him ask “Why does not David Miscavige, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the Super Power Building with his own money rather than with the money of his poor followers?”
It can be argued that Luther did not set out with the intention of creating schism within the Church let alone the creation of a new religion. It is obvious from his arguments and his initial lifestyle that he had a deep faith in God and a great desire to effect change and spiritual growth in Catholicism. His Theses was not about arbitrary religious freedoms, tolerance for the budding Protestant movement or any political motivations. His focus was solely on bringing his own faith back to its spiritual roots and closer to God.
Luther did not accept the abuses he encountered. He put his very life as well as the state of his soul on the line in defense of truth for love of God. For a Scientologist to use Martin Luther to somehow justify their existence as a “religion” would be profoundly offensive to him.
Scientology stands for nothing remotely redeemable as a religion. In fact there is truly little difference between the Catholic Church’s selling of salvation through “donations” during Martin Luther’s time and Scientology’s sale of salvation through “donations” today.
Luther condemned indulgences, condemned the idea of Man achieving salvation through his own deeds and vehemently defended the idea of faith in God and salvation through His gift.
Murphy claims “Like other leaders of the Reformation he was attempting to get his own version of Christianity accepted as the ‘true’ religion.”
This statement is false.
Luther was not promulgating some new or personally created idea of Christianity. He was attempting to return the existing faith to its spiritual roots. It was only after many years of debate, struggle and ultimately excommunication that he finally moved on to live a religious life he believed reflected the original ideals laid out by Jesus.
As he grew older he was not an active participant in the reform movement as it had grown beyond his ability to influence it and more and more it was becoming political rather than purely spiritual.
Jeffrey Murphy writes “Finally, while people such as Luther and other early reformers demonstrated the courage to stand up for their ideas, other people also demonstrated the quiet courage that is necessary to allow people to go unmolested while promoting radically different views.”
What Murphy fails to note is that Luther was also an advocate for the expulsion of Jews from the empire which is hardly the actions of a man promoting freedom for those who hold radically different views.
There is one other consideration in this bizarre and skewed honoring of Martin Luther by a Scientologist.
Murphy closes his article saying “There are as many explanations for the continued existence of oppression as there are for the spread of freedom. While there isn’t one easy solution to it, keeping in our minds the premise on which this country was built—freedom to practice one’s faith without persecution—will enable us to resist threats to that freedom.
Also, the actions of such people as Luther, Penn, Williams and many others—of standing up for their beliefs and granting others the freedom to stand up for theirs—set an example of what we can do to make a more free world.”
Enter Leah Remini and Mike Rinder, amongst many others.
Like Martin Luther, Remini saw wrongness within her organization and questioned it. As a result she, too was cast out. Labeled an apostate. She and Mike Rinder both faced persecution and bravely stood up to speak against the ongoing oppression that is Scientology.
The similarities between the actions of Luther and the actions of so many former members of this cult of darkness are indisputable yet Murphy praises Luther while his religion denigrates those who are clearly following in his footsteps.
With The Aftermath Remini and Rinder figuratively marched up to the Flag Building and nailed their grievances right to COS’ front door. They, along with all those who appeared with them, took a public stand against what they knew to be wrong within their own so-called faith.
How is it that Scientology can show gratitude to Martin Luther for his defiance while condemning those who mirror him?
In this much touted blog piece Jeffrey Murphy demonstrates a selective and deficient understanding of who Luther was and what he stood for. The reality is that Luther is more likely to have supported Leah Remini, Mike Rinder and those others who left the cult in the name of truth than he ever would have defended Scientology in their heresy.