Creativity is a wonderful thing. I helped edit a book by George Land and Beth Jarman called Nature’s Hidden Force that made an intriguing argument for what the authors called “Creative Connecting” as a natural but little-understood force driving the universe and that is worthy of the reverence and awe that theists reserve for their deities. So when I noticed a court case last month in which something called the “Creativity” faith was recognized by a federal court as a legitimate religion, entitled to all the privileges thereof, I perked right up. Could this be a religion I would actually like?
This belief system actually has nothing to do with the normal meaning of the word “creativity,” because its simple central tenet is white supremacy. The subtitle of its website is “Survival, Advancement and Expansion of White Race,” and the most decisive of its “Five Fundamental Beliefs” is that “We believe that what is good for the White Race is the highest virtue, and what is bad for the White Race is the ultimate sin.”
I suppose it’s theoretically possible to be in favor of supporting the White Race without denigrating anyone else. If so, that’s not what Creativity does. It has Sixteen Commandments, including #3: “Remember that the inferior colored races are our deadly enemies, and that the most dangerous of all is the Jewish race.” And #7: “Show preferential treatment in business dealings with members of your own race. Phase out all dealings with Jews as soon as possible. Do not employ niggers or other coloreds. Have social contacts only with members of your own racial family.” Their website proclaims that “The niggers, undoubtedly, are at the very bottom of the ladder, not far above monkeys and chimpanzees.”
Somewhat unexpectedly, the church proudly proclaims that “our women members, just as our male Creators, can become ordained Reverends and rise to positions of influence. This fact proves that Creativity has always respected women’s ideas and leadership abilities. If that were not the case, the position of Reverend would be closed to women, but it is freely open to any woman wishing to attain higher rank and demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of Creativity.” That’s a lot more enlightened than most Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist sects.
Further unlike most other religions, Creativity shuns all supernatural claptrap. (I wish I could say the same for their zealous use of capitalization.) They reject the idea of an afterlife “because there is not the slightest shred of evidence of any ‘pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die,’ nor, thank goodness, do we believe in ‘fry-in-the-sky-when-you-die.’” They quite correctly point out that “the sum total of knowledge about any so-called God is zero. We CREATORS, therefore, reject all this nonsense about angels and devils and gods and all the rest of this silly spookcraft.” Could Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins have said it better?
How then, you may be wondering, did a court award Creativity the status of being a religion? It’s clear from reading the opinion that Judge Krieger held her nose while she was writing it. But racist teachings surely cannot be a disqualifier. Large chunks of the Hebrew Bible and Talmud exalt the superiority of Jews over non-Jews. For nearly all of its history, the Catholic Church insisted on the evil of the Jewish race, which it herded into ghettoes. Protestant God experts were prominent leaders in the White Citizens Councils that led the “massive resistance” to racial desegregation in the 1950s, taking their cue from the Dutch Reformed Church that preached the theology of apartheid in South Africa. A central feature of Hinduism for nearly all of its history has been the superiority of the lighter-skinned Aryans over the darker-skinned Dalits, who were relegated to the caste of “untouchables.” It almost seems that racism is de rigueur for religion.
Nor was the absence of magical belief a deal-breaker. There are various tests courts have developed for determining what constitutes a “religion,” and belief in a spirit in the sky is not essential. As Creativity itself argues, at least some sects of Confucianism and Taoism are nontheistic, “but rather are socio-ethical systems, proclaiming certain moral values. Yet they have been recognized as religions for centuries, and rightfully so.” Scientology is also firmly established as a religion, despite its lack of any god.
Thus Judge Krieger was forced to conclude that “however bigoted as Creativity’s beliefs may appear, the Complaint states facts which, taken as true, suggest that Creativity addresses the purpose for life and means of salvation, imposes duties on its members, and denotes certain holidays and religious ceremonies to be celebrated or performed.” Therefore, it’s legally a “religion.” It may have been especially distasteful for her to reach this conclusion because the plaintiff in the case is a prisoner who’s serving a forty-year sentence for soliciting the murder of a federal judge—not something likely to endear him to other federal judges. But now he will get special privileges that other nonreligious prisoners do not get, just like the Muslim prisoner in Holt v. Hobbs who gets to grow a beard while other prisoners do not. One privilege he’ll get, for example, is the right to peruse racist hate literature that other prisoners are denied.
I understand how difficult it is to define “religion,” and how important it is for any such definition to be broad so that small religions are not excluded. But why does the law need to define it at all? Why can’t we have a world where the same rules apply to everyone, regardless of whether they have a religion or not? Where there are no special privileges for religious prisoners, or for religious county clerks to avoid doing their jobs, or for religious employers to discriminate against women? As Sam Cooke sang, “What a wonderful world this would be!”