Recently, the French parliament received the (annual) update of the commission on sects. An impressive original document that already dates from 20 years ago, and an equally impressive list of sects (according to them). Most of us will certainly agree that some unfortunate experiences with sects (the Manson-Tate example) that caught the media, should make us wonder. But since we are not courageous enough to deal with the real sects, and since we think only the parliament can make the distinction between sects and non-sects, we start to make rules and lists.
What is a sect? Wikipedia clearly sees it in the realm of religion. And interestingly: "deviating from orthodox practices". So, there are those that are mainstream and therefor correct, and those that are deviating, and therefor a sect. The organisation for religious tolerance (whatever that might mean), cites Leo Pfeffer, saying "if you believe in it, it is a religion; if you do not care one way or another, it is a sect; but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult". Though Pfeffer seems to have great reputation, his definition seems dangerous to me (but who am I?) And who is the organisation for religious tolerance; they might be a sect, who knows. I do not care about them one way or another; hence they fit Pfeffer's criteria. I am sure you start to get the point.
Ode summarizes an article on the Tiranny of Science of Frank Furedi. Science seems to tell us how the world works, but to decide what those discoveries mean, we need moral and philosophical debate. And yes, that is not Cartesian for sure. The language of right and wrong has been replaced by the phrase "the research shows". At least: the mainstream research shows, since that is what gets published. And recall: the mainstream is correct, the deviating is a sect.
Certain parts of good old Europe, and France is definitely part of that, has for one or another reason felt that they should ban religion, and in the same line "spirituality" from life. It is encouraging to see courses like "spirituality and leadership" (Vargas-Brazil), or "spirituality and management" (IIM-Bangalore, India) on the curricula of good and accredited business schools. Is that what we call BRIC? Probably not, praise God (I start messing up everything). In Europe, we want to claim supremacy around corporate social responsibility and/or sustainable development, or ethics, but we forget that in order to make those topics naturally acceptable, it should be part of the managerial paradigm. If we do not accept that everything and all are intimitely connected (systemic, indeed), then all those slogans become vague. And by the way, the spiritual dimension of things specifically deals with that profound interconnectedness of people and their environment: nothing more, nothing less. It is in fact the "what for" question. I am sorry if this is disappointing for some of you.
It would be good if people would be able to make the distinction between spiritual development of the individual and whatever role religion is playing. In the best of its interpretation some religions have developped a ritus to support people in their spiritual development. But in the worst of their actions, they have developed an institute that is in for power and manipulation (the nazi's that thought "Gott mit uns", or Bush who asks God to bless America, and only America; and of course, I am not going to talk about Opus Dei). But in the same organisation you find people that are seeking that profound interconnectedness (Daens, Dom Helder Camara, Mother Theresa, just to cite a few known figures).
Is science the newest religion? Is it a powerhouse with ranks, promotions, mainstream (the orthodox) and dissonants (the sects?). Is it rituals, that we agree on, and that make us part of the group? Or should science finally start investigating the exploration and discovery of that interconnectedness. For sure, some scientists are already doing that, but unfortunately they are sometimes considered by the others as a sect. Science investigates facts, not meanings. And indeed, mainstream science is unable to research meaning. But that does not make meaning less necessary, and it does not make researching meaning sectarian.
What makes a house a home? In order to have a house, we need walls, a roof, electricity, plumbing, furniture, heating, etc. But all that will not help to make a house a home. Try and find out what makes a house a home, and you will discover what spirituality is all about: nothing to be afraid of.