For those Germans fretting about Tom Cruise's "cult" membership, and American voters not quite sure how to deal with Mitt Romney's Mormonism, a thoughtful piece from Mark Oppenheimer:
When it comes to Scientology, there's a hunger for the negative. I suspect that's because Scientology evinces an acute case of what Freud called the narcissism of small differences: We're made most uncomfortable by that which is most like us. And everything of which Scientology is accused is an exaggerated form of what more "normal" religions do….
Religions appear strange in inverse proportion to their age. Judaism and Catholicism seem normal—or at least not deviant. Mormonism, less than 200 years old, can seem a bit incredible. And Scientology, founded 50 years ago, sounds truly bizarre. To hear from a burning bush 3,000 years ago is not as strange as meeting the Angel Moroni two centuries ago, which is far less strange than having a hack sci-fi writer as your prophet.
If you like the thesis, but prefer something a little more wild-eyed and negative, opt for Hitchens' God Is Not Great instead.