Religion & Religiosity

Jun 16th, 2008, in Opinion, by

Rima Fauzi Rima says religion and religiosity are to blame for much of Indonesia's, and the world's, troubles.

Why religion doesn't matter at all

Once upon a time, Indonesia was well-known in the world as a nation of peace, tolerance and religious pluralism. Other countries even made us their example, a country full of people with various religious beliefs, from various ethnic and language background, people who live side by side in harmony.

Indonesia was and even more now, a very religious country, where the people live and breathe religion. It doesn't matter what religion a person is, as long as it's one of the six official religions. While it is unheard of in developed countries, in Indonesia identity cards bear not only name, address and sex, but also religion. Thus, religion is a must in the country of 240+ million people.

I still remember as a little girl, my Christian neighbors would come to our house in Eidl Fitr to celebrate our Ramadan victory with us, and vice versa, we would come to their houses to celebrate Christmas with them. Back then, we were not suspicious with one another, we were all like one big happy family, with real problems, none of which originated from religion. Those were good times.

I also remember being taught that religious people, specifically Muslims, go to heaven (if they're good) and others do not. As kids, our schools taught us communism equals atheism and therefore very, very bad. This is deeply embedded in our minds which is why many Indonesians feel somewhat afraid or even disgusted towards communists and atheists.

As a little Muslim girl, at home and in Madrasah, I was taught that Jews were our enemy, never mind the fact that the Koran says otherwise. Christians weren't mentioned, as it was politically incorrect to address them as our enemies back then. Besides, the President was close with the Christian community as well as the Muslims, making it a point that we were brothers and sisters who must fight the latent danger of communism and atheism.

Back then, I thought religious people like my dad, with his Peci, white shirt and sarong, reading the Holy Koran and doing the daily 5 obligatory prayers, Friday prayers plus the sunnahs like Dhuha and Tahajud; Or neighbors that go to church every Sunday and have bible studies once or twice a week, were perfect. Maybe they were, then. Living without a religion was something unthinkable, and most certainly a life that would doom a person to hell.

Fast forward several decades, things have changed. Not for the better, but for the worse. Now, the country is becoming more religious than ever, but tolerance is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Suspicion of Christian evangelism, for example, is rampant everywhere in the country with ridiculous accusations of lures of instant noodle to make one convert. Not only that, even sects within Islam are now attacked, despite sharing the same God and the same Holy Book.

Many of us are not obeying the law but instead take matters into our own hands. We are bypassing God as the only rightful entity to judge and condone or condemn anyone. Attacks and burning down of churches, places of worship and even mosques of different Islamic faith from Indonesia's mainstream Islamic brand make many feel threatened to continue living in this tropical paradise. The government is weak and caves in to terrorist demands. A real shame that would make our founding fathers turn in their graves.

However, as we are growing more religious, good morals seems to have declined. There is no more shame in bribery, in prostituting the country by selling its resources to the so-called 'infidels' for big money while the country is short of the resources sold; there is no more shame in adultery, in human rights violations, in cheating the poor; there is no more shame in flaunting riches in front those who don't have enough money to buy a decent meal, in attacking people for having different beliefs, in condoning immoral and violent acts; there is no more shame in oppressing ethnic and religious minority, in stealing funds intended to help those struck with earthquake/tsunami; there is no more shame in not being polite, in offending our brothers and sisters of different beliefs, of displaying behavior and attitude suitable for the middle ages, and; there is no more shame in abandoning victims of a disaster as a result of one's greedy attempt to rich themselves, in any immoral acts in the interest of one's self or group, being a bigot, racist and being discriminative.

We are instead fixated in pornography, women's dress codes, dangdut singers' dance and internet as if those are the only things in the world that could and would corrupt the moral of our future generation. We aren't even ashamed of the fact that we are in the top 10 of most corrupt countries in the world, as if money is our new God, yet we are, without a doubt, one of the most religious nations in the world.

As I see all those above and more so-called religious people fighting with one another. Where one feels more self-righteous than the other and worse, hurting and killing people in the name of God, a God - if It exists at all - who would most likely shed a tear in sadness and frustration at all this, my opinion and feeling towards religions have changed 180 degrees.

I now strongly believe that religions are the culprit of all hurt and heartaches the people of this world has endured in the past, present and future. I believe it's nothing but poison to the human mind. It limits our thinking, promotes hatred and violence and it tries to control us with threats of hell and lure us into doing evil things with promises of heaven. The day I know what religion God believes in, is the day I will once again believe in a religion. But until then, all the points above are the reasons why I think religion doesn't matter at all.


302 Comments on “Religion & Religiosity”

  1. avatar ausdag says:

    My comment is way too long so I’ll post a link to it. Here’s my take on the matter.

  2. avatar Lairedion says:

    Back then we thought the world was flat. Now we have different questions.

    Correction, my bad. In 1993, the supreme religious authority of Saudi Arabia, the blind Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, issued a fatwa, declaring that the world is flat. Anyone of the round Earth persuasion does not believe in God or Allah and should be punished!

    Patrick,

    I concur with Shloka (again!).

  3. avatar Brett says:

    The day I know what religion God believes in, is the day I will once again believe in a religion. But until then, all the points above are the reasons why I think religion doesn’t matter at all.

    I am totally with you on this. I gave up on Catholicism after 25 years of doctrine-enforced self-loathing. The sad part is that I believe in God and the underlying principles of unconditional love. In the context of my family and school, I developed (what I think are) good morals and principles – and the Catholic Church played no small part.

    Ultimately it was fundamentalism that drove me away. I questioned the importance of archaeic ideology: the Immaculate Conception? Transubstantiation? The Holy Trinity? The list goes on… I couldn’t understand why these things mattered. Surely, if we let go of this crap, we would see just how much alike we all are. Looking back now, I can see why these things matter: they create “godliness” in a world that seems “godless”.

    It went downhill from there, as the papacy spouted crap to the masses. I wonder what the world would look like today if Pope John Paul II had promoted condoms as opposed to abstinence in the face of the AIDS epidemic? What would the world’s population be if the 1 billion Catholics had used contraceptives for the past 30 years?

    The problem is, once you start questioning, it’s hard to stop. Before long, I had moved on from “so what if Jesus had sex with Mary Magdella” to questioning pretty fundamental principles, the resurrection and (gasp!) the divinity of Jesus Christ.

    So where am I now? Pretty much where Rima is, I think. I am so very grateful to the Catholic Church for opening my eyes to God. But now what?

  4. avatar ausdag says:

    Brett says:

    I am so very grateful to the Catholic Church for opening my eyes to God. But now what?

    Have you considered Eastern Orthodoxy? A lot of disillusioned Catholics (and Protestants) find peace within the Orthodox church.

  5. avatar Patrick says:

    Shloka says and apparently Lairedion concurs: “Buddhism has also accounted for a lot of good and far less evil in the world, than the major monotheistic faiths during its 2600 years long history.”

    First, can we really define Buddhism as a religion? Under your own admission you say that “Buddha taught his faith without reference to God and group support in the form of the Sangha ( community of followers) was also a key concept in Buddhism.” Really? If thats true then can we can say it is more of a philosophy on how to live your life than a religion? Do you agree? If yes, then let’s look at the lifestyles enjoyed by countries with majority Buddhist populations

    Most of the Buddhist countries have had long histories of abysmal human rights records and repressive totalitarian forms of governments. That list includes: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Mongolia, Thailand, Japan, Myanamar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. If you wish you can add China as it once enjoyed a majority Buddhist populaton.

    Just in the last 100 years the atrocities committed by Buddhist majority countries are appalling. Who can forget those happy-go-lucky Japanese Buddhist as they raped and pillaged their way across most of Asia during WWII. Then there was the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia with their “killing fields“, or Pol Pot in Laos, or the ever friendly Viet Cong as they hacked off arms of newly inoculated children. And lets not forget that Buddhist were conducting human sacrifice in Burma in the 19th Century in order to sanctify the new capital of the time. The British governor finally put an end to it but only after a body count of over 100 was recorded.

    As you can see their is a dark side to Buddhism as well and I am only scratching the surface here. Remember the old saying “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones” and I do hope that you concur Lairedion

  6. avatar Shloka says:

    Patrick,

    Well, China whether China was ever a majority Buddhist population is open to debate. Chinese worship a Sky Dragon sort of God, and have a religion of fusion Taoism, Confucianism and various folk religions.

    And calling Buddhism a philosophy rather than a religion is akin to calling Uniterian Universalism a philosophy. Its the religion\philosophy of Tim Berners Lee, the British inventor of Internet, after he left the Anglican Church as he refused to believe in ” all sorts of unbelievable things,” This particular Church admits atheists\agnosts and considers itself a faith, similar to Buddhism. Why should lack of God be a reason to make a religion sound like a philosophy? Then are only the monotheistic faiths fitting the definition and polytheisms like Hinduism or Wicca non faiths?

    As for the atrocities you mentioned,they were committed by atheistic regimes which had renounced the religion\philosophy of Buddhism like Russia or East Germany renounced Christianity, or simple war crimes. If thats’ how I counted crimes, maybe Christianity would emerge as the worst faith by a long count. Lets’ see, wiping out the natives and inhabitants of the huge continents of America,destruction of Inca and Peru’s glories, colonialism of the entire world and racism and brutality of ethnic populations, slavery exclusively based on race and Apartheid until recently, World War 1 and 2, attacks with flimsy reasons on Vietnam and Iraq, even prisoners’ abuse in Abu Gharaib, invention of the doctrine of Communism which led to the atrocities in Vietnam.And human sacrifice in Burma was similar to witch killings, superstitious acts by superstitious folks. While Japan raped and pillaged its way through World War 2, as an inhabitant of Britain’s biggest erstwhile colony I can confidently tell you the Christian raped and pillaged their way through Asia not for 4-5 years but for 300, while colonial masters destroyed the bodies of the “heathens” Christian missionaries came in to save their souls. But I don’t include those atrocities because appalling though they were they were not explicitly due to religion, and I’m sticking mostly to atrocities committed either by religion or for religion alone.

    All I feel is, something like the Crusades or the Reconquista which even reached India and Indian Jews were victims of Anti Semitism for the first time, or the Iranian Theocracy, Saudi Theocracy or Taliban which claim they draw their inspiration solely from religion have happened to lesser degrees in Buddhism.

    I still don’t think religion is all bad and I concur people are the main culprits rather than religion. Cheers:-) No offence!

  7. avatar Lairedion says:

    Patrick,

    Just read again what I’ve stated earlier in this thread:

    To put all religions together as the culprit of a lot of evil is not fair to the likes of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shintoism (whether some of these are religions is another discussion). Of course there are people who justify their violence with any of those religions/philosophies but only in Judaism, Christianity and Islam we can find violence, hatred and intolerance in their holy scriptures and teachings. Because more than half of the world population is either Christian or Muslim and continue to fight each other we can forget about world peace anytime soon.

    I challenge you to find an equal amount of “divinely” sanctioned violence, hatred and tolerance in Hindu scriptures, The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path and the scripts of various Eastern philosophies/religions.

    Your answer is typical of the Believer who lives his/her life on the notion: “I’m right and you’re wrong because I believe in God and you don’t.” But unlike Khmer Rouge and other Reds I won’t deny you the right to believe. If you want to believe the Old Grey Man with the Beard will judge you, that’s OK with me. I only claim my right to disagree and follow my own common sense and reason. And I do hope that you concur Patrick.

  8. avatar Shloka says:

    THREE IMPORTANT REQUESTS TO RELIGIOUS PEOPLE:

    (1) Can you stop saying that others not worshipping your God will go to Hell? I remember reading in my scriptures that, different religions are but different paths to the same God. None of us have seen God, except some Prophets who claim to have done so, and with our imperfect knowledge,our desire to live on despite the end of our physical bodies and our attempt to understand the Universe at a time of little scientific knowledge we have fashioned different ideas of what God must be like. Surely a loving God will welcome all good people to Heaven, regardless of the way that person tries to understand God and express his\her devotion. The Catholic Church had a doctrine of Limbo, whereby unbaptized babies would not go to Heaven. This doctrine naturally caused a lot of grief to mothers of newborn dead babies, and the Church recently abolished it. The idea of Hell for non believers causes far greater pain, so can we hope that this doctrine will be similarly abolished?
    (2) Can you stop sacrificing animals to please your God, especially sacrifice in a way that causes the animal so much pain? You might’ve agreed to worship God, animals didn’t, but they feel the same physical pain as you would if your neck was slowly slit by cannibals. Can we hope for a future abolition of Halal\Kosher meat?
    (3) Can you be more tolerant to those who’re different from you? By you I mean heterosexual Muslims or Christians belonging to mainstream Christian sects who also assume all the leadership positions in the religion. Gays, lesbians and women and heretical sects have as much right to live a free, honorable right as you do. So will you accept that women can dress as they please, have a relationship of equality rather than submission with their husbands, that gays and lesbians have have as much right to the full expression of their sexuality as you do and heretical sects are simply trying to establish their relationship with God like you ?

  9. avatar ausdag says:

    (1) Can you stop saying that others not worshipping your God will go to Hell?
    (2) Can you stop sacrificing animals to please your God,
    (3) Can you be more tolerant to those who’re different from you?

    Dear Shloka,

    please stop your intolerance of others’ religions. Please don’t force your religion down our throats. What makes your religion as eluded to in your ‘important requests’ any more right than those you are clearly being intolerant towards? What makes your requests any more important than others’ need to sacrifice animals? You accuse others of being intolerant of gays etc, but you are just as intolerant of people who live by these principles. Thank you for your perfect example of inescapable intolerance.

    Like I said in my blog

    “What is needed is adherents of all religions who are steady enough in their beliefs that they feel neither threatened by the presence of other religions, nor the need to resort to violence to enhance the standing of their own beliefs. Accept that everyone is out to seek converts and accept that proselytising is a natural part of standing by our principles. And accept the fact that each one believes that he/she is right and the rest are wrong. When we can accept that, and if we leave the judging of others up to God, whatever form He/She or Non-Existence of may be, then the world will be a happier place. Of course, there is no utopia this side of whatever we believe comes next.”

  10. avatar Jakartass says:

    Accept that everyone is out to seek converts and accept that proselytising is a natural part of standing by our principles.

    Why should everyone seek converts, David? Can we presume that you are talking about particular religious sects, because, if so, then that isn’t “everyone” because few of us who refuse to be labelled would proselytise.

    I suggest that most folk wish to be left undisturbed, hopefully content with their set of spiritual beliefs and moral values.

    And Shloka is, I suspect, one of them, so please leave her(?) be. She asked reasonable questions about intolerant practices, without stating her own core beliefs..

    Incidentally, I doubt that anyone is 100% committed to any one religion, sect or cult. This is because all religions have been created to give a semblance of purpose to validate humanity’s existence. It’s doubtful that other animals can be bothered with such deep and meaningless questioning.

    But if you want to know which religion is best for you, if any, try this Belief-O-Matic™.

    (It listed 27 different religions, to varying degrees, for me. Animism wasn’t one of them.)

  11. avatar ausdag says:

    Why should everyone seek converts, David? Can we presume that you are talking about particular religious sects, because, if so, then that isn’t “everyone” because few of us who refuse to be labelled would proselytise.

    No, I mean whenever anyone points their point of view across about what is right and what is wrong, they are doing so in order to have others accept what they say is true. Otherwise, what is the point? Unless one simply likes the sound of their own voice.

    And Shloka is, I suspect, one of them, so please leave her(?) be. She asked reasonable questions about intolerant practices, without stating her own core beliefs..

    I too wish to remain undisturbed, but I found three-pronged ‘attack’ (a little harsh perhaps) disturbing. And if you read her three points agian you will see that s/he quite clearly states her core beliefs –

    1) “different religions are but different paths to the same God.”

    2) “Can we hope for a future abolition of Halal\Kosher meat?” (ie, animals have no consequence in man’s relationship to God)

    3) “will you accept that women can dress as they please, have a relationship of equality rather than submission with their husbands, that gays and lesbians have have as much right to the full expression of their sexuality as you do and heretical sects are simply trying to establish their relationship with God like you ?”

    And Shloka is, I suspect, one of them, so please leave her(?) be. She asked reasonable questions about intolerant practices, without stating her own core beliefs..

    No, Shloka is insisting that others who follow a different set of principles from his/her own do as s/he insists. That is intolerance. How is that different from believing certain things about hell, the place of animals in the universe etc?

    My point is that, like it or not, we cannot escape intolerance of other people’s beliefs, because no matter how ‘open-minded’ we may profess to be, we soon come up against principles that interfere with our own principles. We are compelled by this very fact to be intolerant.

    I was simply reminding Shloka that she was being just as intolerant as what she is insisting against. S/he can’t tolerate my beliefs, I can’t tolerate his/hers.
    Cheers.

  12. avatar Patrick says:

    @Lairideon – You concurred with Shloka and you both were proven wrong! Beyond that what is your point?

  13. avatar dewaratugedeanom says:

    Patrick said

    On the other hand, if you think of a human being as the product of blind evolutionary forces, if you think there is no God and that human beings are part of a godless universe, then you will be inclined to accept a view according to which belief in God is a sort of disease or dysfunction, due perhaps, to a sort of softening of the brain.

    Lairedion said

    Humans must be aware they are part of an Absolute Reality which itself is always evolving, changing and never-ending. Call it God, the Spinning Wheel, Rha or Nothingness, whatever you want, it’s up to you.

    Humans are not necessarily the product of a godless universe and blind evolutionary forces. But belief systems (monotheistic religions and atheism) always go out from the premise ‘God exists’/’God doesn’t exist’, as if the notion of God has to represent an unchanged or unchangeable Being/Non-Being beyond the phenomenal world. But what if God – or what our minds consider to be God – is a participant in the process of evolution and will reach Its apogee of pure existence at the end of it? This rationale opens up a whole array of philosophical and metaphysical possibilities that can break the deadlock of opposing religious paradigms and their miserable consequences. Although this ‘process theology’ as such only started to develop in the West since the beginning of the 20th century it is well worth noting that parallel views could already be found in ancient Indian Hindu philosophies like ‘Samkhya’ (dualist) and ‘Advaita Vedanta’ (non-dualist).

    Before anyone dismisses the theory as nonsense I recommend having a look at this site of Stanford University.

  14. avatar Lairedion says:

    Patrick said:

    You concurred with Shloka and you both were proven wrong! Beyond that what is your point?

    I said:

    Your answer is typical of the Believer who lives his/her life on the notion: “I’m right and you’re wrong because I believe in God and you don’t.”

    Hence my point.

  15. avatar Shloka says:

    ausdag,

    When did I even mention my beliefs, let alone shove them down others’ throats? I only mentioned my scriptures, because that’s where I’d read that line and liked it. I like many lines in the Bible too, and mention them on apt occasions.

    I’d like to clarify my stance:

    My first point about Hell, to give you an analogy had a White supremacist believed that, in order to fully be a part of his race, it was impossible to serve food to a Black, study in the same school as blacks and neccesary to scream “filthy nigger” at Blacks, would that be acceptable. No longer, but it was acceptable well into the 20th century. So isn’t it equally unacceptable to scream,” You’ll go to Hell however good a person you are, because your God\Prophet is an imposter?” And intolerance was not limited to words alone.As late as 1858, a little Jewish boy Edgardo Mortara was kidnapped by the Catholic Church, and they believed they were acting in his best interests,”saving” him from Hell. Why should religion inspired hate speech be put on a higher pedestal than race inspired ones? Surely religion is as much part of one’s identity as race?

    My second point about animal sacrifice, had a religious person believed that, its neccessary to cruelly torture and thenceforth “kill” witches, would that be acceptable? Even Martin Luther believed in witch burnings, and the Saudi theocracy still executes supposed witches. If pain and torture of humans is cruel, why animals? There are protests against whale killings, and fur too. Incidentally, some Jews too protest ritual slaughter of animals in the name of their religion, and some male Jews would like circumcision banned. Freedom of speech for all.

    My third point about rights of gays, lesbians and women, surely I don’t need to enumerate the numerous atrocities committed against them by religion? Women are forced to wear the full veil in Saudi and other theocracies, are stoned to death for adultery or unwed pregnancy, and homosexuals are routinely killed as well. Again, if white supremacy is not acceptable, male supremacy or heterosexual supremacy isn’t either.

    I agree with you that the unbeliever section of the Western World today shows some arrogance, but similar arrogance is shown by religious believers as well. George Bush Sr. said an atheist has no right to be a citizen, and the U.S. fundies like Jerry Falwell, Anne Coulter and Pat Robertson indulge in similar arrogance and hate speech. And while these unbelievers show arrogance by words, the believers prefer to let their actions do the talking. Burning unbelievers on the stake, and even today the Christian Creationists try to bar evolution from textbooks, while leaving Islam is a capital offence in Muslim theocracies…

    I don’t feel the world would be a better place if religion was left untouched, and protected from criticism. Had Kemal Ataturk not secularized Turkey, it would still be practicing the atrocities committed by Iran and Saudi. Religion no longer has the monopoly on arrogance, or in attempts to seek converts, neither should it.

  16. avatar Patrick says:

    @Lairedion – My answer is a rational answer to a statement made by Shloka and that I proved was wrong. Sorry that you cannot accept rationality. Perhaps you should take the time to improve your mind instead of attempting to bully others into accepting your illogical statements as cognitive thinking?

  17. avatar Brett says:

    At the risk of throwing the cat among the (already frazzled) pigeons, I would say the complete inability of some to accept and respect others’ views, beliefs and opinions just proves Rima’s point.

    If the level of discourse here is at all reflected in society, then we are screwed.

  18. avatar ausdag says:

    When did I even mention my beliefs, let alone shove them down others’ throats? I only mentioned my scriptures, because that’s where I’d read that line and liked it. I like many lines in the Bible too, and mention them on apt occasions.

    Hi Shloka,

    First of all, I’d lke to apologise for being so sharp-tongued. I’m sorry.

    Your beliefs were expressed in your dislike of those things you are criticising. My ‘down our thoats’ comment was a badly worded attempt to demonstrate that everyone is guilty of expecting others to listen to and accept what we believe as the truth, no matter how ‘tolerant’ we want others to think we are.

    I agree with you on many of your criticisms. My point is this, it is nice, it is ‘hip’ to preach tolerance. And in so doing it is popular to criticise the established religions an brand them intolerant.

    But that is the whole point of a belief system or even a philosophy. We simply cannot escape intolerance. Either we believe something or we don’t. Actually the latter is impossible.

    If we are to be truly tolerant, we have to tolerate evrything, including cruel animal sacrifice, and bombing as an expression of faith (Jihad).

    If we cannot tolerate those things (which I can’t), then we have to admit we can only be nothing but intolerant.

    The idea that all religions (lets say ‘faiths’ instead) lead to God needs more thought.
    To be sure about that, we have to first determine God’s mind on that matter.
    If it is true, then we must be intolerant of those who do not believe it.
    If God says it’s true, then it means that God accepts the faiths and thus *practices* of everybody.

    This means God accepts those whose expression of faith is in cruel animal sacrifice, and in bombing as an expression of Jihad. Do you agree?

    If God is tolerant of ALL faiths and expressions of those faiths, we must also be tolerant of them. Thus we have no right to criticise bombing, sacrifice, drowning witches etc, because God has determined that ALL faiths lead to God.

    That helps do away with hell.

    Wrong.

    What about the atheist who wants no part of God? That is an expression of faith too. If an atheist expression of faith in God’s non-existence also leads to God, then the poor atheist has to succumb to the torments of being dragged kicking and screaming into God’s presence. That would be hell for the poor atheist would it not 🙂 🙂

    So we a re reduced to two (okay three, after reading a bit if Lairedion’s idea of process theology) choices –

    1) God does not exist – in which case we have the problem of working out what is right and what is wrong

    2) God does exist – in which case we have no choice but to accept that there is only one right way to approach God only, and all other ways are wrong because we cannot escape the sense that some expressions of faith are indeed wrong. Picking and choosing the ‘good’ bits from multiple faiths and saying that is true faith is also fraught with problems.

    3) God is evolving (if I understand Lairedion’s idea correctly)

    We cannot dismiss religion. We cannot be tolerant in the fullest sense of the word. The only other choice is to exercise ‘healthy fundamentalism’ –

    i.e, accept the fact that each one believes that he/she is right and the rest are wrong. When we can accept that, and if we leave the judging of others up to God, whatever form He/She or Non-Existence of may be, then the world will be a happier place. Of course, there is no utopia this side of whatever we believe comes next.”

  19. avatar Joy says:

    I have been recommending a book called “My Stroke of Insight – a Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor and also a TEDTalk Dr. Taylor gave on the TED dot com site. And you don’t have to take my word for it – Dr. Taylor was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People, the New York Times wrote about her and her book is a NYTimes Bestseller), and Oprah did not 4 interviews with her.

  20. avatar Janma says:

    I don’t think that religion makes people good or bad. Both good and bad people follow religions, both good and bad people have no religion. Religion is merely a conduit. A person who is by his very nature controlling, hateful and judgmental will be that way whether he follows a religion or not. The same for a sympathetic loving man. There have been Christians who have pillaged and murdered in the name of religion, but there have been Christians (like the quakers) who are fundamentalist and ‘pure’ in their faith, but never have felt the need to impose violence on others in the name of religion. The same goes for Muslims. I think that there is something in the middle eastern character (of the men at least) that predisposes them to violence. Blood feuds, honor killings and the like have long been a part of the culture there. I don’t know how much it really has to do with the religion. It seems the religion is just a vehicle for the expression of these… how shall we say..? ” manly urges” or “primitive urges”. It makes right what would otherwise (especially in this day and age) be wrong.

    I love the story of Julian of Norwich a woman who in England in the 14th century, after falling ill, was subject to visions about God and eventually became an anchorite in the monastery of St Julian of Norwich. She was a very compassionate woman, and found it hard to reconcile a revelation she had in which God asserts that unbelievers and the like will be cast into hell. In her consternation she demands an explanation from God, but all he will say is “All will be well, All will be well, All manner of things will be well”. (She is famous for this quote)

    This is what she wrote;
    “And I wondered greatly at this revelation, and considered our faith, wondering as follows: our faith is grounded in God’s word, and it is part of our faith that we should believe that God’s word will be kept in all things; and one point of our faith is that many shall be damned,–And given all this, I thought it impossible that all manner of things should be well, as our Lord revealed at this time. And I received no other answer in showing from our Lord God but this: “What is impossible to you is not impossible to me. I shall keep my word in all things and I shall make all things well.””

    -Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Alice in Wonderland.

  21. avatar Shloka says:

    @ Patrick,

    When did you prove me wrong?You pointed out evil done by Buddhist nations or by nations which were once Buddhist but now atheist, and I know about those and acknowledge the fact that they’ve been done. But have you read my post addressed to you about the things done by Christian nations? Surely in sheer number and geographical places, they are far more. Ditto for Islamic nations. However, they have not all been done in the name of their faith, and as such one can’t hold the faith responsible.

    However, please mention the Crusades in the name of Buddhism? Or the Inquisitions? Which faith have Buddhists persecuted for 2000 years like the Christians persecuted Judaism?

  22. avatar timdog says:

    The problem is not religion itself (or nationalism, or even politics); the problem is when those things are used to create a concept of “them” as opposed to “us”. Nowhere does this manifest itself more than when we find current actions explained, justified, or even demanded by historical events…

    So the destruction of a mosque or attacks on Muslims in modern India are explained, down-played or even justified by the actions of Muslim invaders of India in the past, despite the fact that most of modern India’s Muslims are fairly miserable and impoverished, and a long way from rapacious Ghaznivad plunderers of times past; Shia Muslims cling to their agonised sense of wronged grief for the murders of Ali and Hussein, 14 centuries ago, and use that grief to justify the planting of bombs in Sunni mosques of modern Iraq and Pakistan; Modern Chinese and Koreans hate individual Japanese people for what their grandparents and great grandparents did; some retarded Christians still despise 21st Century Jews for killing Jesus, some mad Muslims see a genuine link between the Crusades and real-life modern westerners, stupid people say that when European-born Muslims find themselves spat at in the street, and their mosques firebombed they are getting “a taste of their own medicine” and in an infinity of Asian, African and European countries people are just a little political instability away from taking up arms to avenge “the sins of the fathers”…

    All forms of tribalism can engender an absence of empathy, a dehumanising of “the other” into, not a living, breathing, feeling human being, but a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu, a Jew, an infidel, a foreigner, whatever it may be.
    Religion is one of the most rapacious sources of this absence of humanity, but without religion we would do – and indeed we do do – the same thing on the basis of nationality, skin colour, political or sexual tendencies, or even favourite football teams…
    It is, miserably, just human nature…
    “I will kill you because of what your ancestor did to my ancestor…”
    “Cut me and do I not also bleed?” means nothing to most of us when we find the knife in our hand and a millennium of hate in our hearts – whatever our religion happens to be.

  23. avatar Shloka says:

    @ Timdog,

    The acts on Muslims are not downplayed or justified by all sections of Indians, if some do, there are enough Hindu turned feminists-atheists like Teesta Setalvad coming out in support of Musllims, and they continue to dwell happily in India, unlike a Taslima Nasreen who is driven out from Bangladesh for her sympathy to the Hindu minority there, and her statements on women in Islam. And temple destruction is not a thing of the past, the Pakistani army in Bangladesh destroyed the 1000 year old Ramna Kali Temple in 1970’s. As a daughter of ex Bangladeshi parents, I can confidently tell you that, the Hindu community has requested the Government there many times that they be given permission to rebuild it,but to no avail. The Ramna Kali Temple was not built atop a mosque, it was just an old temple.

    Sure the Muslims in India today are impoverished, but the immigrant Pakis and Bangladeshis in U.K. are far poorer than the immigrant Indians there, what to do? And sure they don’t destroy temples in India, they don’t have the power to. Instead, they plant bombs in Hindu temples and public places about twice a year, and after the blasts, send messages claiming to destroy the “faith of the infidels.” Most of the time, they face no backlash, but once or twice, riots break out. Funny how even in Pak Mosques there are bomb blasts, but not by the Hindus\Christians, but Shias against Sunnis.

  24. avatar dewaratugedeanom says:

    Patrick said

    Most of the Buddhist countries have had long histories of abysmal human rights records and repressive totalitarian forms of governments. That list includes: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Mongolia, Thailand, Japan, Myanamar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. If you wish you can add China as it once enjoyed a majority Buddhist populaton.

    So you put the recent repression of the Buddhist monks by the military dictatorship in Myanmar also on the account of the ‘abysmal human rights record’ of Buddhism. What kind of a twisted rationale is this? If I follow your reasoning then the recent earthquakes in China and the taifun in Myanmar with their enormous death toll are also to blame on Buddhism because they happened in Buddhist majority countries.

    @Lairideon – You concurred with Shloka and you both were proven wrong! Beyond that what is your point?

    Now tell us, where were Lairedion and Shloka proven wrong?

    Patrick says : “I’m right and everybody is wrong.”

    Question : “Why?”

    Patrick says : “Because I say so.”

    Me : Where did I hear this before?

  25. avatar Shloka says:

    @ Dewa,

    You heard that from Mohammed, Hitler, Stalin and lots of others before.

  26. avatar Lairedion says:

    ausdag said:

    3) God is evolving (if I understand Lairedion’s idea correctly)

    Yes and no. It is evolving, or as Dewa put it, a continuous process. But for me God is just a name you can give to this Reality and religion is just a way to try to explain this Reality but so is science.

    I personally refrain from using the word God because the common perception of God is that of monotheism, the personal god as the Creator of All who will judge us eventually. I’ve set myself free from this thought a long time ago.

    But reading most comments here I realize it’s difficult to break from the monotheistic view of God.

    Patrick, you didn’t prove Shloka wrong.

    It’s that classical mistake of blaming Buddhism for the wrongdoings of several Asian regimes because these very nations are traditionally Buddhist while we know most of these regimes were atheist or hostile towards Buddhism and religion in general. If I follow your theory we can blame Eastern Orthodoxy for the wrongdoings of Communist Soviet Union because most Soviet states are traditionally Eastern Orthodox while we all know the Reds were atheist and hostile towards religion. Now that would be an illogic statement.

    I wouldn’t blame Christianity solely for anti-semitism, the Holocaust and the destruction of most Native Cultures in the Americas but it has played a part in it while blaming Buddhism for the genocide of the Khmer Rouge is ridiculous.

  27. avatar timdog says:

    I believe, Shloka, that you have missed the point… or was it that you were proving it?

  28. avatar Shloka says:

    I believe one of your points was “historical reasons” for present violence, I pointed out that all the atrocities in the sub-continent weren’t historical and I have given you examples of present atrocities,which makes the sub continent’s state somewhat different from Korea’s dislike of Japan or Christian anti semitism.

    Of course, tribalism is essential to human survival, humans have lived in groups for thousands of years, and empathy with fellow tribesmen was more important than with men of other tribes.I believe we humans are biologically wired into this mode of behaviour, and its happened since the dawn of history.It ideally shouldn’t rob us of empathy, but most human beings or group of humans find it difficult to ” turn the other cheek” and return perpetual violence with unrelenting love and goodwill.

    You have very amiable relations with your Kabir of Khulna, and some discomfort with organized religion due to whatever happened in your upbringing. If you were my father, forced to flee a nation where he’d spent three decades of his life, leaving a thriving legal practice, with your pregnant wife, baby daughter and young son, you’d no doubt have some ill feeling to Muslims. Yet I know that my father would never bomb a park or mosque full of innocent people in Bangladesh, and the Bangladeshi Hindu community hasn’t either. The Bangladeshi terrorists however, have bombed some cities and temples in India, for goodness knows what reason. Similarly, if Hindus had destroyed the historic Mecca Mosque, and built a temple atop it, I know that my parents would say that there are thousands of Hindu temples in India, and one of such historic significance to Muslims should be remade into a mosque.

  29. avatar Patrick says:

    My point was that Buddisim does not have a better record for being peaceful or tolerant than the monothestic religions. One only has to do their homework and see what is happening to Christians in Sri Lanka or even Bangladesh to see there is a dark and yes sinister side to Buddisim. Here is one news report below:

    DHAKA, BANGLADESH (BosNewsLife) — Christian villagers in a remote area of Bangladesh tried to rebuild their lives Tuesday, April 11, after an angry mob reportedly burned down their church to protest against their decision to abandon Buddhism and convert to Christianity.

    While Bangladesh is a majority Muslim country, Buddhism flourishes in small pockets like Panchari, where the attack took place. Panchari is a sub-district of Khagrachhari district in the southern Chittagong Hill Tracts, known for religious violence

    A Bangladesh army contingent has reportedly been deployed to Kinamonipara village following the March 30 incident in Panchari to prevent further violence, but human rights watchers have in the past expressed concern that security forces are also involved in attacks against Christians.

    Christian sources in the capital, Dhaka, said the tension was at least partly due to Buddhist leaders losing temple fees from villagers who converted to Christianity reported Christian news agency Compass Direct.

    The latest violence came a year after local Buddhist leaders were angered over a Christian baptism ceremony and began attacking churches and their leaders. Uzzal Kanti Chakma, the pastor of Kinamonipara Presbyterian Church, reportedly fled the area before 12 men launched an attack on his house May 28, 2005. They returned the next day and threatened to cut his wife open with a sword, Compass Direct reported.

  30. avatar Shloka says:

    @ Patrick,

    Yes, it does have a dark and sinister side to it, as does every faith. But where again are the Buddhist Crusades, Inquisitions, Reconquista or similar large scale violence?

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