Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Karen Armstrong: right and wrong.....

In Salon today, Karen is right when she quotes Confucius:

His disciples asked him, "What is the single thread that runs through all your teaching and pulls it all together?" And Confucius said, "Look into your own heart. Discover what it is that gives you pain. And then refuse to inflict that pain on anybody else." His disciples also asked, "Master, which one of your teachings can we put into practice every day?" And Confucius said, "Do not do to others as you would not have them do to you." The Buddha had his version of the Golden Rule. Jesus taught it much later. And Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus, said the Golden Rule was the essence of Judaism.

Wrong when she considers the roots of fundamentalism:

And Saddam Hussein, a secularist supported by us in the West for 10 years, even when he gassed the Kurds. We supported him because he was a secularist. If people are resistant to secularism in Iraq now, it's because their most recent experience of it was Saddam. So this kind of chauvinism that says secularism is right, religion is all bunk -- this is one-sided and I think basically egotistic. People are saying my opinion is right and everybody else's is wrong. It gets you riled up. It gives you a sense of holy righteousness, where you feel frightfully pleased with yourself when you're sounding off, and you get a glorious buzz about it. But I don't see this as helpful to humanity. And when you suppress religion and try and get rid of it, then it's likely to take unhealthy forms...

[F]undamentalism has developed in every single one of the major traditions as a response to secularism that has been dismissive or even cruel, and has attempted to wipe out religion. And if you try to repress it -- as happened in the Soviet Union -- there's now a huge religious revival in the Soviet Union, and some of it's not very healthy. It's like the suppression of the sexual instinct. If you repress the sexual instinct and try to tamp it down, it's likely to develop all kinds of perverse and twisted forms. And religion's the same.

It is not simply secularism per se, but rather the fact that oppression was used for a long period of time, as well as "ideology-ism."

If you raise people to believe that they live in a box, and cannot get out, and reward them and punish them to maintain this illusion, some- perhaps most- will act in non-productive ways based on maintaining and fostering this illusion.

A militant secularism or religious fundamentalism is just another head added to the one already owned.

Religion is hard work, whether it's a bonafide religion or a "philosophy." It is living out the Great Matter of Life and Death.

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