My previous post was pretty vitriolic for me; for a moment there, I even thought I’d trolled my own blog! So a brief clarification:
I thought about toning some stuff down or explaining myself better, but the post has been public for several hours, and commented on. But I do need to explain that the more provocative expressions are there because they are provocative. Being American, I believe everyone has the right to say or write provocative things, as long as they don’t advocate immediate violence, and that anyone truly offended can respond verbally or simply ignore the provocation.
Even if you believe that either Mohammed, or Jesus, or Moses, or Krishna, are waiting personally for you up in the Great Beyond, remember that they are for the rest of us including those of other religions) simply ideas – we do not recognize them as sacred persons, and they are owed no greater respect than other ideas.
Ideally, we should respect all differing ideas, excepting those obviously causing needless harm (like Nazism, ISIS, homo-phobia, witch-hunting, etc.).
But respect for the ideas of others demands respect in return.
The image I drew from Jerry Coyne’s blog was posted because apparently it was banned from Facebook as offensive. This in itself justifies its exposure. It could have used a different picture as background, it could have been more precisely worded. None the less, the Muslims who seem to want to silence any criticism of their religion or their prophet, don’t quite seem to get what it means to live in a democracy with a diversified population. If they want to keep their own culture intact, they must allow others their cultures, however offensive. That’s also true for fundamentalist Christians and Jews and whatever.
In America women can walk around face uncovered, legs uncovered, private parts barely covered by a thong, if they want to – the law says they have the right to enjoy that as their culture. If that offends you, avert your eyes. If you get angry about it, see a psychologist, its your problem, not theirs.
If they want to engage in sexual conduct with a multitude of men – or women, or marry any man – or woman, that should be their privilege – they will live with the consequences, you won’t. If you are so enraged that other people find happiness in a way your faith condemns, that you simply cannot tolerate living with it – then leave. What makes you think we think you or your god are all that important to us?
The Amish are strict, conservative Christians. So strict, they have long lived in small communities isolated from the modern world. When a member of the community violates their codes of conduct, they are kicked out completely. But the Amish don’t proselytize, and they don’t engage in public rants condemning outsiders, and they neither threaten nor perform violence. That should be the model for the religious who cannot live with the rest of the world.
The bombings in Oklahoma City and Boston are models of nutcase attempts to blow up a world the perpetrators could not understand and refused to live with. Two of them died in these attempts. If you feel tempted to such a model, why not just kill yourself right now and spare the rest of us the anguish. I’m sure your god will forgive the suicide; I’m not so sure he will forgive the murder you may be contemplating.
People you’ve never met, whom you don’t know, and who never did you any harm. They are just different. And If you can’t live with that, that’s your problem. Many of us live with it quite well, we even enjoy it, we think everyone should be different. That’s a part of our faith, and it should be respected.
The image above (source of original picture uncertain) was posted so that there would be no doubt that for me, this is not an ethnic issue. Nor is it a spiritual one, though fanatics think it so. It’s a problem of people living in difficult circumstances in a particular time and place – real people, not models or saints. Fallible people and the vulnerable people they seek to convert, oppress, hurt, destroy. People who need to learn to live with others – because they will, in any event. The modern world isn’t going away, it’s just getting, well, more modern.
Religious violence of any kind is not to be tolerated in this world any more. It is too diverse, too pluralistic, over-populated and interconnected. The Middle Ages are over – no bombing will ever bring them back.
Finally, it is fair to ask whether I exempt my fellow Buddhists from such criticism. I most emphatically do not. Recently for instance, Buddhist tribalists in Southeast Asia have been stirring the pot, assaulting Muslims. I don’t deny they are Buddhists of some sect, but I insist that they are thugs, and if their interpretation of Buddhism is a motive for such acts, then it is a wretched interpretation, and should be denounced and squashed.
However, my own identification as a Buddhist is with a philosophy and a practice arising from the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha was no god, and I refuse anything supernatural. If it can be shown that the Four Noble Truths justify any sectarian tribalism or violence, then I would stop being a Buddhist. I’ll have no truck with any philosophy, religion, or ideology that separates us and then sets us at each other’s throats.
But there’s another lesson to be learned here, a point I was making when I remarked that Muslims, to come to peace with the modern world, ought to re-interpret the Qu’ran metaphorically and at least loosen the laws they live by, and adopt an attitude to those much different to themselves. This remark applies to those of any religion.
Find the spirit in your sacred text, not its letter; follow the heart’s caring and concern for others, not self-righteous contempt and temptation to rage; allow the possibility – just that, the possibility – that you have not got final insight into the nature of reality.
Or, as I said in the previous post: Otherwise, there will only be blood for blood, to the end of time – which may be a long way aways.