Is this a sign that the Church’s long campaign against “Secretive cults” has been effective, almost deadly to these groups?
Or that the apathy/Scepticism of the modern times, towards religion in general, is taking affect against these fringe/cult groups more aggressively, than against other religions?
I read an article recently that said that membership in Freemasonry has dropped from over 100,000 people in the 1960s in Melbourne Australia, to less than 10,000 people today. Scientology has experienced a similar fall in membership since the 1980s.
For many, Catholics and other Christians alike, indeed members of other faiths, Freemasonry specifically is forbidden. Many people point to their faith as reason enough not to join these groups.
Also, there are many in the world who could care less to what they perceive as old men in funny hats do behind some locked doors in their lodges. The population has become less interested in these kind of pseudo-spiritual activities, as indeed to spiritual activities in general. This can be seen in the rise of atheism and agnosticism.
Be cautious. My New Agey co-worker asked me if I wanted to join her in the “revival” of our local masonic hall. She said there was a movement afoot to re-create the whole masonic idea. It sounded like the same old thing with a newer, looser morality.
I think especially young men are going to be increasingly hungry for fraternal companionship and conversation revolving around the transcendent - ideals or values, such as the virtues - but, at the same time, feeling increasingly isolated or confused in or about those longing’s or desires’ specific objects. I think that will be a result of the corruption of institutions on one hand coupled with a culture that constantly glories in vanities, the superficial and what can only serve to jade us. I think groups that target this natural desire especially in young men will be just fine as modern society’s redefinition of progressivism results in deadening, indeed lifeless mentality of absolute relativism and scepticism. They will at least draw the best of men who have the character and conviction to draw others and weather a storm.
I think Masons should look to Plato’s dialogues and remember the effect that Socrates’ refutation of the Sophists had on the young pupil: he was reinvigorated and inspired by virtue. This is a perennial problem. Sceptics, sophists et al. are not - as Aristotle rightly pointed out - philosophers: they neither have nor actually love wisdom.
At the same time, I think the rise of homosexualism will be the test for any social organization’s future and long-term survival in how they choose to deal with it or manage it. Ecclesial organizations and communities that have embraced it are (nay, have) died the death. Accepting homosexualism without question will result in relativism, radical scepticism and the death of virtue as all truth and logic is ejected for the sake of the passions. It can and will of course also tend to corrupt proper social relationships, as between the mentor and his disciple or even simple brotherly love and concord.
I don’t think it’s because of the Church’s teaching that such groups have entered into tough times. I suspect its part and parcel of changing social mores. The temptation is to adapt by being incorporated into the seemingly irresistible tendency toward a relativistic and ultimately deeply materialistic and atheistic world-view where God is not given any room or authority in life - but it should be remembered that the enemy always appears invincible while he happens to be winning; but no man, or human ideology, is ever invincible.
Scientology, for example, likely was a product for its specific time and the reigning Zeitgeist and so will pass away as that fad does; Freemasonry, however, exercises a more perennial philosophy and appeal - that is, if Masons themselves are willing to appear counter-cultural in, e.g., talking about philosophy and man’s philosophical problems, which in a rampantly pragmatic culture will seem strange at best and ridiculous at worst.
CBS Sunday Morning just had a segment on the masons. It was weird because it was all about their history and their members denying all the “myths” about them. I felt like they were talking about Scientology.
There is a need for a fraternal moral development - but increasingly (even as a Mason) I think this should be handled under the auspices of the church. For example - the Knights of Columbus. We Lutherans used the have the Walther League, but it was a bit bombastic and more a product of it’s time.
Ideally, I would like to see the secrecy of the Masonic degrees removed and the organization opened up to ‘more light.’ But as I’ve gotten older and a bit more focused on the Cross, if Masonry existed only as a relic, it wouldn’t make me too upset.
I can’t really speak for Freemasonry other than to say that, at least in my town, membership in the local lodge is pretty consistent. It’s certainly down from the hey-days of the 50s and they lost a pretty good chunk of members over our church’s decision to bar Masons from leadership positions in the church, but membership is holding more or less constant.
As for Scientology, everything I’ve read from the ex-Scientologists is that membership is in an outright free fall ever since the launch of the Ideal Org strategy and the continual reg-cycles (i.e. hard-sell asking for donations) that every Scientologist has been put through over the last 10 years. To make matters worse for the Church of Scientology, a great many people are blowing for good over Golden Age of Tech II (which, yet again, is invalidating all of their Scientology training) and the new Mark VIII E-meter (which all trained Scientogists are required to own two of at $5400 a pop only this time, they aren’t permitting any grace period or financing at all. You either buy both of them with cash up front right now or you loose your Audtior’s certs immediately.) Unbelievably, the RTC (the “watchdog” of Scientology) has chosen now to begin yet another purge of old Scientologists who won’t get with the new programs.
When they first revealed the name of the new “age” of Scientology, I thought it was a sick practical joke even with the “Phase 2” explanation. A “Golden Age” is naturally followed by a “Silver Age”, then “Bronze Age”… But Scientology was desperate to keep “Golden” in the title! So now we have a “Golden Age 2”!