Posts Tagged With: religion

RELIGION, ETHICS AND GOVERNMENT

I was raised Christian and I’m continually stunned by avowed Christians who peddle hate, and spew vitriol about Arabs or Muslims or blacks, or gays… Hate begets hate; it sears the soul and I have a difficulty with that paradox. It is also partly why I am no longer a Christian nor a believer.

So, what can we expect from our government? Right now it is divisive, there is dominant greed, a consuming lust for money, power and prestige. Decisions are made to keep themselves in power over the broader good of the country, everywhere, not just in the United States.

And while I hew to no organized religion I would invite religious leaders to condemn the behaviors we see in government and to be vocal about reminding them of their supposed purpose as leaders.

The world’s religious leaders weighed in, representing 100 of the world’s diverse faiths, including Buddhism, Islam, Bahaism, Judaism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism and all the organized Christian religions, Pentecostals, Catholics, Protestants, Evangelical Christians, Mormons.

Together they formed a Parliament of the World’s Religions. They found some common ground issued a joint statement of rules for living which exhorts all people to eschew violence, to respect and restore the planet and to work together to address the worldwide problems of poverty, hunger, oppression and prejudice. A  GLOBAL ETHIC.

Here are some of their (abbreviated by me)  Declarations toward a Global Ethic:

WE are interdependent.

Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, people, animals, plants…

WE take individual responsibility for all we do.

All decisions, actions, and failures to act have consequences…

WE must treat others as we wish to be treated.

Respect life, dignity individuality and diversity, so every human is treated humanely…

WE consider humankind our family.

Serve others, forgive, not be enslaved by memories of hate, equality between men and women…

WE must strive for a just social and economic order, in which everyone has an equal chance of reaching his or her full potential.

We must speak and act truthfully and fairly…

WE commit ourselves to a culture of respect, justice and peace.

We will not oppress, injure, torture or kill…

Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed first.

We pledge to increase our awareness by meditation, prayer, positive thinking, understanding, friendship, peace fostering…

And so it goes. The ten page document was forged by 200 religious leaders in 1993. Well meaning, but since then things have only gotten worse.

I wonder if the Parliament would choose a different leader every month to attend every session of Congress and continually quest them to adhere to the basic tenants of their declaration before they voted, if it would help? In essence to become a presence of conscience at every step of the way? Might help. Couldn’t hurt.

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ANTI-SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE

The White House has called on federal agencies and departments to improve the ability of government scientists to openly discuss their research and findings with media, policy makers, and the public. Some agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation, have put forward policies that encourage such communication.

Government scientists should be able to alert the public when their research indicates a potential public health, safety, or environmental hazard.

Strange that we should NEED such a call to listen to science. Our whole world of inventions and weaponry , space travel and architecture, astronomy, road design, medicine, comfortable furnishings, computers, fabrics, mailing materials, machinery, building safe structures, growing more food per acre, improvements in glass, car safety, new technologies be it a bicycle or a car medical device have been invented or strengthened by  scientific testing and  investigation. We live every day with the things science has made possible.  We, as a country, used to lead the way in  scientific discoveries and investigation. Now we are #17 in the world.  Such a long fall from dominance.

How did we turn into a society that denies the overwhelming evidence of climate change?  It has hurt us as a country financially and in leadership around the world.

Part of it stems from the conflicted discoveries that appear to undermine religion. Red states with high numbers of fundamental religions, are where most climate deniers and anti science attitudes come from. Yet, many scientists believe in God and have religious beliefs.

The truth and nature of the world, which includes people, is a factual, solid place, not changed by science, but understood by science. However, people are more comfortable in their own beliefs and somehow feel it affects their self esteem if what they have  believed for most of their life is challenged.

Uneducated people regard scientists as some elite, arrogant class of know-it-alls that live off the taxpayers and deserve trashing. In fact scientists don’t make a lot of money. They have houses, a salary and spend into the private economy and pay taxes just like everyone else unless they work within a mega corporation where they can make better money. Where they buy houses, buy into the private economy and pay taxes like everyone else.

Scientists provide the infrastructure for great companies to succeed and compete. They are necessary to our capitalistic economy. And suspicions that they are liberals with an agenda to sway the public in some sort of conspiracy would take thousands and thousands of scientists to agree to a shady plan. It is unreal, untrue and unfortunate for all of us that such anti-scientific attitudes have been promoted and enhanced by politicians for their own gain. It is up to each of us to confront that attitude when we see it if we want to be the America we grew up with.

 

 

 

 

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YONGHE GONG TIBETAN BUDDHIST LAMA TEMPLE

We visited the Yonghe Gong Tibetan Temple in Beijing, the only Tibetan Temple not destroyed by the Red Guard during the 1960’s cultural revolution.  It houses a very famous statue of Buddha made from a single, gigantic sandalwood tree and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. (My camera couldn’t get this picture. I got it on-line from worldinprint.com.)  What I did get is the many worshipers around the temple grounds who do not mind if you take their pictures during what is a rather personal,  private event. And, the beauty of the temple itself.

Like most Chinese heritage sites, there are multiple buildings and plazas. The complex is huge and mobbed. Ten percent of Chinese identify as Buddhist, but many more really are. The tradition is deeply rooted and the Chinese people want to do good deeds and enjoy a better life in the hereafter. They feared retribution during the Cultural Revolution and have only recently returned to their temples.

A detail of the roof of the main building.

The worshipers mob fire pots to light their incense bouquets, some quite large.

They touch their forehead, mouth and then bow.

During the ritual, they recite the mantra:  Mind, Word, Deeds.   The street on both sides was filled with incense stands, and we wondered about them.

Then we saw the huge bouquets of incense they burn.

A pot for dousing the flames is ignored and used for offerings instead. They allow the incense to burn down to the nub.

There are many stations like this one where people contemplate their lives and pray to be better citizens and to ask for wellness and hope.

Some worshipers pass through the building behind them that houses multiple Buddha’s, some black, some gold. From Buddha’s position, just a small change in an arm or leg, comes different meanings. Some are painted black, others are bronze. Tibetan Buddha’s all face north.

This man is thankful for his son, in a one child family. He comes to thank Buddha for answering his prayers for a son.

This device is something like a prayer wheel.  It has an inscription on it and people  touch it quite reverently.

In one open building sat this huge tortoise-like creature.

Its mouth was filled with offerings for the monks, and maintenance of the buildings.

The monks don’t mingle much with the people. They are somewhat reclusive. This one wears a tan robe.

Another wore a saffron robe.  The color of the robe dictates different functions.

And, you are never far from the protective spirit of the lions.

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THE LAST SUPPER

Neighbor, Jan hosted other neighbors to a Last Supper, as it is celebrated by Christians on this date during the Easter season. Each person had a role. Sally was Jesus, and she broke the bread and offered the red wine.

We had a wonderful dinner.

Two of the guests left temporarily to attend a service at their local church after we ate.

Among us were believers and non-believers. Often warned that any topic is safe except religion and politics, we conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, had an invigorating discussion about both.

No one got angry, raised their voice or called names. Too bad our government cannot work with the same friendliness as we managed on such controversial topics. Oh, well. Maybe they need dinner and wine before they begin their deliberations. Have you all seen the email going around showing our congressional leaders playing solitaire on their computers while speakers are on the floor dealing with topics important to our lives? I’m such a cynic.

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SO MANY GODS

In my local paper, I was dismayed to read an advice columnists letter from a woman who attended one church for the 30 years of their marriage and her husband attended another. Her husband died but her pastor refused to ask the congregation to pray for him because their churches were  fundamentally different.
Oh, woe is humanity in the hands of men.

Its Christmas Time. A time of peace and good will toward others. We are at war. Its a religious war with people killing themselves and other people in the name of God.  Banish religion and keep God.
I’m reminded of Ela Wheeler Wilcox’s simple words.

So many gods, so many creeds

so many paths that wind and wind.
While just the art of being kind
is all this sad world needs.
(Ela Wheeler Wilcox)
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A SUITABLE BOY, A SUITABLE BOOK

One of the advantages of living on the road is less housework, no yard work and more time to read. And, I love it!  Even so, deciding to read a book like A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, takes a commitment.


Its physically bigger than a normal novel in size; thicker, as well, at slightly over two inches. And, the print is smaller than a regular novel with a whopping 1474 pages. (Compared below.)

Its the only book I’ve ever read that has the table of contents in poetic form. Also, his tribute and thank you is a delightful poem and I’m going to reprint it here.

A WORD OF THANKS
To these I owe a debt past telling;
My several muses, harsh and kind;
My folks, who stood my sulks and yelling,
And (in the long run) did not mind;
Dead legislators, whose orations
I’ve filched to mix my own potations;
Indeed, all those whose brains I’ve pressed,
Unmerciful, because obsessed;
My own dumb soul, which on a pittance
Survived to weave this fictive spell;
And, gentle reader, you as well,
The fountainhead of all remittance.
Buy me before good sense insists
You’ll strain your purse and sprain your wrists.

I said commitment because even in the motor home where I can easily read a book or two a week, this wonderful story is not a light read. Its a novel surrounding four families, Hindi and Muslim. But more than a novel, it is history, imbued with real people we know. It is set during the 1950’s when India is experiencing Independence from British rule. You experience this book, the clash of generations, from the traditional ways to new ideas; both exciting and painful, exhilarating and difficult. It deals with the politics, religions, social hierarchy, and fascinating traditions of India with its biases, superstitions, varied religious beliefs, death, marriage, mixed marriage, money, laws, agriculture, food, clothing, manners, family relations, work, business, politics…in detail with great warmth and affection. Its a saga that is educational and exciting as you wonder who Lata will marry; the man she loves? Or the man her mother has chosen for her? Will India ever overcome the caste system? Will Muslim and Hindu live peaceably side by side in acceptance?  There is so much of the normal upper and middle class here that we never hear about. Its always the teeming slums of Calcutta, or the famous pacifist Mahatma Gandhi that we hear about.
I plan to visit India and I’m so glad I read this book first. Try it, to enhance your understanding and provide you with calamities, gossip, spectacles and excitement that will linger in the mind. Then watch The Slumdog Millionaire, which we did, last night.

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