Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's Not About Religion

Let's take a look at a little history, shall we? Throughout the vast stretch of Christian history Biblical passages have been used to justify some really horrible, inhuman things. Then Islam came along, and added to the entire miserable human state. Even the Jews in the early days of Christianity persecuted the new Christian sect, leading perhaps to the anti-Jewish slant to the Gospel of John.

 The monotheistic traditions are not alone in acts of persecution. The battle over the state (now country) of Pakistan pitted Hindu against Muslim. And my own belief system is not free of persecuting; currently the Buddhists in Burma are trying every means possible to expel Muslims. I've seen them in interviews saying very unenlightened things, nothing at all like you would hear from such leaders as HH the Dalai Lama.

 Is it true, as prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins assert, that religion is inherently malicious to competing traditions?

 Richard Dawkins is a pretty smart fellow, and I wouldn't want to face him in a debate on the subject. Certainly religion has its problems. But I contend that the root of these conflicts is not religion, but culture. Let me use as examples racism, of the past (yes, it is still very much around in the present), and rights of same-sex couples, in the present.

 Slavery, while justifiable in the Old Testament, cannot be justified in Christian theology. Even the most casual reader of His teachings would know that Jesus would never have approved of the abduction of a race of people and putting them to work in the sugar or cotton fields. That just wasn't his style. And high school, my world history teacher maintained that slavery was a GOOD for the Black race, for, without it, they never would have been Christianized.

Certainly the pre-Civil War abolitionists pointed to scripture, stating that slavery was immoral. But they didn't particularly want Black folk in their neighborhoods; their idea was to move them away from America, to some homeland, to be established, of their own. Today Southerners will contend that slavery was NOT the cause of the civil war, and I would contend that slavery was only part of the issue. What Southerners found threatening was their way of life. Blacks were not fully human, were thought of as property, and were a vital component of the Southern economy. Like the Abolitionists, they had their own religious justification for their actions.

(As a tangent in the modern sense, I also grew up around people who thought inter-racial marriage was against God's will; if He had wanted Africans to marry White Folk, He would have made them White.)

Let's now look at the hot topic that some Christians and Muslims (and Jews, for all I know, there are so few of them and they seem to dedicate their energies elsewhere...but again, I don't personally know), which is gay marriage.

Having been raised as a homophobe, and learning that "Homo!" was an insult long before I knew what homosexuality is, I was culturally indoctrinated that homosexuality was a sin, an abomination. The notion that homosexuality was a "lifestyle" choice only made sense. After all, God says homosexuality was wrong, and God makes all things, so it would be contradictory for God to create abominations.

But contact and friendship with a gay couple exposed this for what it was: false logic. In fact, the logic was backward! If being gay was a choice, then being heterosexual must be a choice, too. But I knew I never made that choice, I just woke up one day and girls weren't yucky any more.

Perhaps it says something sinister about Southern culture, but the protest against gay marriage, wrapped as it is in the pages of Leviticus, is not really a religious issue, it is a cultural one. Our holy men can stand toe to toe and sling passages back and forth at each other, trying to justify their position of for or against, but in the end the way we were raised plays a bigger role in our outlook (and, let's be honest, our comfort level), even if such raising included religious "teachings."

As we see history unfold, right now, before our lives, and in our recent past, America as a society has moved further in the direction of inclusion. It has made our nation stronger, and recognizing the gay community and its contributions will do the same.

We need to get to a point where "community" is not defined by race, religion, or sexual orientation. I would hope to see that someday it is not defined by arbitrary lines we call national borders.

I had an argument with a Tea Party Republican who was against gay marriage because it was "redefining" marriage. I agree that it is, but it is being done in the spirit of inclusion (or, I think for a large number of people, because they take the position that it is none of their business). And we have precedent for such a redefinition: slaves were once not fully human.

Let's rise above our raising, let's be more than the indoctrination of our culture. If two people of the same sex want to get married and enjoy the privileges, pains, sorrows, and joys ("the whole catastrophe" as the line goes from *Fiddler on the Roof*), let's embrace them. And then we can get onto the real problems of poverty, hunger, disease, and real catastrophes. Let's not turn our raising into catastrophe.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Make a Joyful Noise

Loving the World Cup matches, but not these.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's fun...

when you fall asleep at your computer desk. I think I accidentally sent several pages of nothing but the letter (b) to Condoleezza Wright. Now I'm afraid she won't read it because it's too long.

Night night everybody.

- Robert, the sleeping typist.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bon Ape-tit

Yes, the title is a joke. Wanna see something better I picked up from one of Karen's blogs she follows? The little girl is probably 9 to 12 months old, but speaks very eloquently.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Almost done

The weatherization folks are almost done. It was a warm day today and the house stayed cool, a good sign.

Hope y'all are following my music blog, Theme and Variations, that I write with Mike.

Music in my head: "A Change Would Do You Good," Sheryl Crow

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Song

This evening, during our going-to-bed ritual, Ethan and I made up the words to a new song. The music is based on a familiar Mozart work (which was, in turn, based on a naughty French song), sometimes referred to as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

The lyrics are simple, and you know the tune:

Hics and hurps and slips and slurps
Ethan's got the hiccup burps.
Hiccups here and hiccups there;
Hiccups flying in the air!
Hics and hurps and slips and slurps
Ethan's got the hiccup burps.

Music in my head: I bet you can guess...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Monks and Chinese Government

Interesting story.

Note the end of the story:

Makeshift rescue teams of monks and fellow Tibetans said they would work until there was no one left to save.

"We wanted to help people and save lives," said Dengzeng Luosang, a monk from neighboring Sichuan province, as his crew pushed at a section of wall with wooden beams and yanked away a chunk of concrete with ropes.

Nearby, a dozen government rescue workers probed the debris with video cameras and heat sensors.

Both teams, one Tibetan and one largely Han Chinese, were likely to spend another cold night sleeping on a bus or in a tent after yet another meal of instant noodles.

"It doesn't matter if it is Han or Tibetan," Dengzeng said, wearing cotton work gloves and a simple face mask. "Life is precious."