"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Sep 26, 2007

Burma monks and an African Catholic Bishop

An interesting contrast today in the impact of different men of religion on the affairs of their respective countries. Many people are rightly feeling inspired by the peaceful protests in Burma which are being lead by the Buddhist monks there in the face of brutal oppression by a military regime. On this same day we read of the story of a Catholic Bishop in Africa who is claiming that European Condom manufacturers are deliberately infecting the condoms that they send to Africa. Here in a nutshell we see both the potential for good in religion and the potential for backwardness and ignorance.

It is not yet clear what the outcome will be for Burma as a result of the ongoing protests there. In some ways it surprising to find such protests being lead by Buddhist monks. For Buddhism is a strange religion. Unlike western monotheistic religions it is not, fundamentally, built on the concept of a personified God. Indeed it is arguable that in Buddhism there is in fact no such thing as "God". True there are "enlightened" souls who have reached a state of nirvana - but this is not equivalent to the Judeo -Christian notion of heaven. Buddhism is a very individual religion in some ways and one that stresses the responsibility of the individual to pursue their own path to enlightenment.

At the core of Buddhism are notions of "non-striving" and non-attachment" which can result in Buddhists appearing sometimes to have a very passive attitude to this world and its affairs. Yet in Burma we now see monks taking a clear lead in their society for justice and democracy.

If religion has any value in this world then it is when the religious defend the weak and disempowered in this way that religion is deserving of respect.

Contrast this though with the Catholic African Bishop of Mozambique, Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, who has claimed that some western made condoms sent to his country have been deliberately infected with HIV and that some anti-retroviral drugs were also infected "in order to finish quickly the African people".

Sadly this, the irrational and backward voice of the truly fundamentalist religious believer, is more typical of the impact of religion in our modern world. The Archbishop speaks with a voice redolent of the US right wing christian, the Sunni Al Qaeda fanatic and the Shia fundamentalist revolutionary.

If there is one religion speaking for the values of peace and progress in this world it is not these, it is not the Archbishop of Mozambique and it is not the Catholic Church. It is the brave, saffron robed, monks of the Buddhist religion whose heads are being broken and cracked right at this moment in Burma - a country crying for democracy.


DiverL said...

Tainted condoms? Wow. I still can't believe the Catholic church would not want the African nation to have condoms. I don't care what their beliefs are, this is a matter of trying to irradicate HIV, not worry about some old biblical law. Sheesh!

And as far as Burma goes, there's news of outtages on internet useage.

Here's a link to a guy in England, originally from Burma, who's posting pics from people sending them to him, at the risk of their own lives.

In studying my own atheism, I've learned through the religions I've researched, that Buddhism is the closest religion I would want to be associated with.


Bunc said...

Yes crazy stuff from that African Bishop eh? I feel sorry for the folk in Burma - trying to overthrow a regime that is prepared to shoot people aint gonna be easy.
I totally agree with you - I have often in the past described myself as a (Zen) Buddhist because I like their take on things. I don't believe in all that reincarnation / rebirth junk though.
I will check out that link.

Bovinelife said...

Not all Buddhists believe in reincarnation and in fact in the original Buddhist sutras (texts) the Buddha was said to be silent on such matters. When you do see it mentioned, it tends to look at "rebirth" and not "reincarnation" - the difference being that reincarnation talks about souls - in Buddhism there is no soul, nothing to be reborn. However it does crop up, if anything is said to be reborn it would be addictive habits and tendencies. Some good schools of Buddhism in the UK would be http://www.amaravati.org/abmnew/index.php or www.fwbo.org or www.interbeing.co.uk or http://www.rigpauk.org/

Bunc said...

Hi Bovinelife, thanks for your comments. yes I was aware that not all Buddhists believe in that type of reincarnation - there are some forms that do and in fact, as far as I am aware some of the forms with many adherents do appear to subscribe to beliefs which seem to be about "personal" rebirth.

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