Sunday Sundries — Contested Faiths, Syncretic Possibilities, Morality and Sick Police Behavior

A quick roundup today because I am leaving town tomorrow and will be blogging irregularly this coming week.  We will begin with an examination of a theme from my earlier post on Fractured Faiths — The Myth of Unified Religious Traditions.

In this article, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche over at HuffPo Religon discusses what it means to be a Buddhist, whether Buddhism is a “religion,” and asserts that Siddhartha was not a Buddhist.  Yet another example of a fractured and contested spiritual tradition.

In this article, Katherine Seelye of the New York Times reports on Catholics who wonder what it means to be Catholic and what is required to be considered a Catholic:

“Do you have to be a good Catholic or a true Catholic?” Ms. Keating asked. “Can’t you just be a Catholic?”

The Rev. Robert J. Bowers, his open, puckish face capped by his gray buzz cut, offered solace, if not a solution. “You are redefining what it means to be Catholic, to be Christian, a religious person, a believer at all,” he told Ms. Keating. “The litmus test used to be: Do you go to church every Sunday? Yes. Do you support your pastor? Yes. Do you go to Mass and Communion and confession?”

But now, he said, “there is no litmus test.”

Clearly, Catholicism is not monolithic and has different meanings to different Catholics.

In this article that speaks to yesterday’s post on syncretism, John Thatamanil examines the similarities between Siddhartha (Buddha) and Jesus, and contemplates the possibility of joining or syncretizing these two spiritual traditions.  Some kinds of Buddhists might be able to do it, but I cannot see that many Christians would be interested.  Buddhisms are syncretic and open; Christianities are monotheistic and thus are generally closed to outside influences.

Finally in the New York Times Magazine, Paul Bloom has written a long and excellent article on “The Moral Life of Babies.”  Yet more evidence that moral behavior is rooted in biology, develops naturally, and is not necessarily linked to religion.

Speaking of morality, which in monotheistic religions is firmly linked to the faith and used to maintain boundaries, Megan McArdle has posted (and commented on) a shocking and heartbreaking video over at The Atlantic.  I strongly encourage you to watch it.  Members of a certain faith which shall remain unnamed are firmly convinced that marijuana is evil and smoking it is a sin.  The result?  We live in a police-state in which it is acceptable for a SWAT team to raid a family’s home and shoot the family dog in front of the man’s wife and 7 year old son.  The suspect’s alleged (moral) crime?  Possessing a few ounces of marijuana.

Like I said recently,  monotheism can often lead to extreme intolerance and moral rigidity.  In this case, it plays a major role in justifying outrageous police behavior.  In my opinion, it is unforgivable.  Unfortunately, I suspect many Christians in America “the free” will see this as perfectly acceptable because the man is “guilty” in two senses: he has committed the marijuana sin and broken the ridiculous law which codifies that sin.

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One thought on “Sunday Sundries — Contested Faiths, Syncretic Possibilities, Morality and Sick Police Behavior

  1. thisica

    I’m quite amused that a lot of religious talk of morality is just a disguise for “I don’t like X, so we’ll ban it/punish people who do X”.

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