Boinkie's Blog

Universalis

Thursday, May 31, 2007

War and religion: Bah humbug.

If you want to know why atheism is getting a comeback, you only have to go to the Washington Post’s discussion by eminent theologians on “war and religion“.

The official question is:How do you keep your faith during times of war?

The intellectual level of the discussion is staggering, at least in the five essays that I managed to get through before I left to take an anti emetic.
Most of the authors spout political/historical cliches rather than discuss the actual question.
It’s all there: Gitmo. The “wars of religion” (i.e. of four hundred years ago). Northern Ireland (where a couple thousand died in what was essentially a tribal war).

What is not there? Modern wars inspired by religion, or more accurately, distortions of a certain religion.
Suicide bombers killing Pinoys on ferries, Israeli grandmothers in Pizza parlors, Hindu commuters, and worshipers in mosques, churches, Hindu shrines, and Buddhist temples.

The “elephant ” in the living room…
Another missing element in their discussion are wars and democides under the name of atheist religions that proposed earthly utopias, from the Holocaust (inspired by “social darwinism” and eugenics) to the one hundred million dead in various Marxist democides.

Most of the authors rightly condemn the wars of religion caused by Christianity, but none of them seem to know that history is full of non religious wars and deathmaking, from Ghengis Khan, Attila the Hun, and the Emperor of Chin, to the Japanese massacres of civilians in World War II. (seven million Chinese civilians killed).

Does this sad history of human deathmaking suggest a genetic weakness in human beings that makes them prone to commit murder? Or (dare we say) could war have something to do with a human tendency to commit evil, or even an “evil one”?

Last time I looked, that was a “religious” question.
But if you notice, the WaPo discussion is not supposed to be about religion helping to justify war, or even the history of religious wars, but was supposed to be about how the authors retained faith “during a time of war”.

The few who discussed that part of the question are even more stupid.

Every cliche in the book is there.

“God is love”. (JesuslovesmethisIknowcausethebibletellsmeso).
“God doesn’t want war”. (well, duh).
“I oppose war”. (I do too…but what do you do if an “insurgent” walks into your hospital and starts shooting your patients and nurses? Inquiring minds want to know).
”In times of war, my faith teaches me to look for signs of love gathering around the evil and violence…”

Ah, little Miss Sunshine.
Hello, fellahs (and gals). Did any of you ever, how should I put this, risk your tush in a real war? And if you did, how did it affect your faith?

Words are cheap. Politically correct cliches by pampered clergy agonizing over theoretical war they meet mainly in headlines makes me want to become an atheist…or at least watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

What is lacking in the essays is something subtle.

Wisdom.

Piety.

Pity.

Knowledge that you are part of the community of the suffering (to use the phrase of Albert Schweitzer).
And humility: the knowledge to know we are not in control, but we are only required to do our best.

The faith to believe that there is a reason behind the things that happen, or at least that in the face of evil, that the ultimate outcome will be turned into good.

Camus, an atheist who fought with the French resistance, had one of his characters to say that he promised himself that he would always chose the patient over the pestilence. Later, this character said that the most important question of the modern world was ” to know how one can become a saint,”[16] but a saint without God…

Maybe the WaPost should ask an honest agnostic/atheist to answer the question the next time.

Cliches, bah humbug.

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cross posted to BNN

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

lack of spiritual roots?

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Driving while Indian? or driving while spoiled rotten?
In the news there was a story about a druggie/wild kid who had been "picked on" by one of the local cops. Last week, he was again pulled over, but took off, and when the cop pulled him over again, he resisted, and was peppersprayed. The kid (and this "kid" is in his twenties, but never grew up) took a gun, shot the cop, and then ran over him deliberately.
No news here. Druggies tend to do such things.
But then the story gets complicated.
An ex Marine and his son were driving by, saw the kid run over the cop, and stopped to help the cop.
What happened then is unclear, except that the Marine tried to stop the kid from leaving, and must have felt threatened, so pulled the cop's revolver and shot the kid dead.
End of story.

Except that last week the NYTimes printed a lovely "equal times" article about the story.
Duh. Sorry, NYTimes, why feel sorry for a druggie?
Especially one who shot the cop four times in the back before driving over his body?
Perhaps this explains it.
In an article about the kid's funeral, it mentions he had a "native American" funeral.

Now, there are two types of people who go in for "native American" funerals: Ex hippies who identify with the idea of an Indian, and true Native Americans, who actually still hold such beliefs.

Oh yes, there is a third group: Rich hippies who discover they have a great grandmother who might have been Cherokee.

This peaked my interest, since right now there is a struggle for recognition by many Eastern tribes who have long been assimilated but who want recognition (as a way to to revive their culture, but cynics say partly to reap casino money).
And there are many Native Americans scattered in the back country of New England including New Hampshire.
Yet the dead boy famous ski champion cousin's roots are rich hippie roots from California.

And the dead boy's parents owned a lucrative "Tennis camp", and were traveling in Hawaii when the incident happened. What is the Hawaii connection? Why does an obiturary say he was "home schooled" in Hawaii?

Three other hints that there was no "native American" connection is that his photo showed him holding a can of beer, the fact that he was cremated, and that his funeral was "a celebration of life", and the fact that artists, not known holy men from the tribes, conducted the ceremony.

Oh well. One feels sorry for his family, even if one could point out that
I haven't worked with woodland tribes except with the Oneida, but few have joyful funerals. And alcohol is used, but frowned upon because most tribes recognize the misery caused by drugs and alocohol. Finally, there is no mention of the traditional giving away of Tobacco of the Oneida and many Algonquin tribes that originally were in the area.

The problem of pseudo native american culture as part of a new age fad is trivia for most Americans, but to many Native Americans, it is an insult akin to Mohammed's cartoons or the Monty Python's ridicule of Jesus.

But there is something sad about a family so lost that they needed to deny their own roots in a burial ceremony.

On the other hand, when I can buy Dreamcatchers sold as Ifugo artifacts in Northern Luzon, it merely shows how commercialization drives the selling of "primitives" to tourists and others who have cut themselves off from their own traditions and seek something to fill the gap.

One wonders if much of this loss of roots may have something to do with the description of the mourners that he was "fun loving, proud of his gardening, and also frustrated at things he felt were wrong, and filled with a mix of righteousness and anger."

One thing that Asians (and Native Americans) stress is their place in life. That we are not independent individuals, but part of a family with roots deep into the past, and with responsibility to others in the family. Asians who are Christian (or Buddhist or Muslim) do not reject these cultural ideas, but find the good ideas of their culture can be expressed more deeply in the wiser truths of the great religions.

Yet the eclectic burial "celebration" suggests not the deep roots of culture, or the knowledge and peace found in the great religions, but suggests a vague spirituality that has neither the depth of experiecne nor the piety of respect nor the ability to root out the anger at the root of his problem. For only someone with a deep abiding anger against authority would repeatedly provoke local policemen with disrespect to the point of assault.

So one wonders how much of this anger was displaced against a police officer, who undoubtably saw the lost boy as a spoiled rich kid who frequently endangered the community by driving under the influence?

And one doubts that the hundreds who attended his funeral will bother to ponder the whys of the crime.

Sigh.

Luckily Catholics believe in Purgatory, where lost souls can find healing before entering the narrow gates, and indeed perhaps these two enemies will understand and reconcile with the grace of God.

So I will remember both of these men in my prayers tonite.

Such prayers are "old fashioned" for even Catholics, but like most wisdom that has roots longer than since 1969, the idea has a comfort in it.



Alas, without an honest retelling of the story, one will never know.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Audiobooks

Right now I am downloading Jane Eyre.

Earlier I downloaded Anne of Green Gables from the same free library, and am listening to it on my mp3 player, mainly at night when I go to sleep.

It is almost as if I am slowly having 40 years of medicine lifted from my spirit...I try to pray, and all I get is attacks and accusations of things I did wrong...not just sins but social faux pas or things I did that were good but stupid or rejected.

So it soothes me to read the old fashioned novels where women had grace, something that I never had.

I also found the Mitford series here in used bookstores. I left my series at home or gave it away when I came overseas, mainly bringing the heavy history or classics with me. The first year I was here, there were few books unless I went to the next town (no one here reads ) but now both the stationary store and the local mall have "used" books, that is books that were given back to used book stores. All are used but good condition, and mostly they are "best seller" types from two to three years ago.

But sometimes you find a gem. I just reread "I heard the owl call my name" which I love (I worked with Indians, although not the coastal tribes). Today I gave it to Joy's cousin who is a nun and going to the Visayas to teach catechism. They are Visayans, but now that Joy has married she has a lot of her family up here.

Another book I gave her is one of my two copies of Poustina. I love Catherine Doherty, but the best books on her are the ones by her husband Eddie...

I would love his book on her "Tumble weed" to be made into a movie.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

churches and Zim politics

discusses the pandering by Anglican bishops who are full of liberation theology so won't blame their dear brother Robert