Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

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Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Luke » Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:13 pm

Here's an interesting article I found on AlJazeera yesterday:

"Losing Our Religion"
http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/op ... 62386.html

Here is an excerpt:
So does it really matter that only 47% of Americans know the Dalai Lama is Buddhist and a paltry 38% are aware that Shiva and Vishnu belong to the Hindu tradition? How about only 54% of Americans know that The Quran is the Islamic holy book, or that only 27% know that most people in Indonesia are Muslim? Well, I won’t lie and say it wouldn’t be nice if we knew somewhat more about Arjuna than the Octomom.

But the real danger, of course, is that the US is involved in conflagrations with those predominantly of a different religion, including terrorists who falsely interpret their religion to justify heinous acts—all of which leads American opportunists of all stripes to use these distinctions to denigrate others and generalise about the ‘Other.’ Whether it’s nihilists cheering for random bombings abroad, or an at-the-time-unknown Pastor named Terry Jones, who has a Wyatt-Earp-moustache fetish and likes to threaten to hold Quran burnings, how better to clear out your sinuses while sowing worldwide division?

These people are all preying on fear of the unknown, leading to hatred, where none would otherwise exist. And as the great Shirley MacLaine once said, “fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.”
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Astus » Thu Oct 07, 2010 3:09 pm

"Not to mention the fact that religion has probably been the number one cause of war since the Dinosaurs went bye-bye."

What an enlightened article. I'd rather ponder whether religion has been ever the cause of any war. But OK, this is just another stereotypical concept about religion and why people don't even want to know about it. Also, ignorance about religion simply means that it is irrelevant in people's lives. How would it ever matter for a bloke in Minnesota what unknown people in a never heard of country believe in? It is false premise that reflective and critical thinking is every human being's domain. Who would expect that at least the majority of citizens can paint, sing and dance on a fairly enjoyable level? Higher intelligence is just like artistic skills: not everybody has it, and they don't need it either.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby ronnewmexico » Thu Oct 07, 2010 3:50 pm

Quite unfortunately at times we in the US live in a democracy of sorts.

Due to not knowing the fundamental religious differences between shia and suny(for example), we can be told things in mass media like the suny taliban (who consider the shia not even muslim) are being helped in their endeavors in Afghanistan by the Shia Iranians. Leading to perhaps the pretense of war against Iran as was war in vietnam engaged earlier on the pretense of communist china helping historical enemy vietnam as prime mover(ignorance of another sort) .Suny fundamentailist al queda could have been considered being aided and abetted by secular suny Saddam H, in Shia majority Iraq.

So ignorance of any sort to include religious is dangerous. Ignorance allows for manipulation by those who would manipulate.

In the core survey it appears those in most self perceived threat of their beliefs being ursurped are the most knowledgeable.....led by atheists/agnostics, Jews, and Mormons......all three subject to religiously based discrimination(or worse) in recent history.

Is this worse than in other times...I'd say affirmatively very much so. The US population is becoming as a whole... regardless of educational level dumber and dumber by leaps and bounds.
The society seems to have reached its moral and knowledge peak by my take just around the end of the 2nd world war. A strict decline since then, starting with mccarthyism and decending into tea party today.
I fear for the fate of these peoples.

ONe extreamist successful attack against a national right wing politician by one affiliated to Muslim belief....and it will all come crashing down. Widespread mosque burning, killings, restrictions on religious freedom, law and war to follow or continue. Indias history of such after the death of indira ghandi speaks of that sort of thing. Ignorance not nationality is the common denominator.

One of the few right wing politicians to speak out against the movement to stop what has been called the world trade center mosque.....from Utah representing a mormon constituancy. No accident that.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Luke » Thu Oct 07, 2010 7:15 pm

Astus wrote:What an enlightened article. I'd rather ponder whether religion has been ever the cause of any war. But OK, this is just another stereotypical concept about religion and why people don't even want to know about it.

Okay, the article was a bit sarcastic and exagerrated, but that doesn't mean that it contained no truth.

Are you saying that the Crusades were not a result of any religious motivations?

Astus wrote:Also, ignorance about religion simply means that it is irrelevant in people's lives. How would it ever matter for a bloke in Minnesota what unknown people in a never heard of country believe in?

Maybe it won't matter to your hypothetical simpleton in Minnesota (where there may actually be more intelligent people than you think), but if this man becomes a bit more tolerant and understanding of other religions and doesn't feel the need to act violently or unkindly people who practice them, that might well matter to the practioners of those religions and make society a bit more harmonious, since new foreign immigrants are entering the country all the time.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Heruka » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:30 am

ronnewmexico wrote:
Is this worse than in other times...I'd say affirmatively very much so. The US population is becoming as a whole... regardless of educational level dumber and dumber by leaps and bounds.
The society seems to have reached its moral and knowledge peak by my take just around the end of the 2nd world war. A strict decline since then, starting with mccarthyism and decending into tea party today.
I fear for the fate of these peoples.



ron, would make a nice topic for discussion, would like to read your ideas about this.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Heruka » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:43 am

Astus wrote:
What an enlightened article. I'd rather ponder whether religion has been ever the cause of any war. But OK, this is just another stereotypical concept about religion and why people don't even want to know about it.



I don’t think a blasé revisionist indifference, is any solace to the dead of Islamic invasions, or Christian crusades, or any other pre Abraham tribal deity blood letting worship in the 100,000 years of mankind’s ascension.

A religion gets its morals from people, not the other way around, last time I checked, you, me and the pope or an Imam are just primates.

The notion that it is ok to kill, because in god I trust, is so delusional, as to be a real, tangible, psychological enemy of reason, and by inference as an enemy of moral conduct.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby plwk » Fri Oct 08, 2010 6:51 am

Ignorance is bliss.....it seems...
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Astus » Sat Oct 09, 2010 6:25 pm

"Are you saying that the Crusades were not a result of any religious motivations?"

It is easy to simplify historic events to single causes. It is also easy to understand how such a thinking is naive and mistaken. Religion - if defined as a set of doctrines accepted by a group of people - is hardly ever the direct cause of violence except if it is explicitly about killing, like in the case of human sacrifices. War is a big enterprise for any country and it takes lot of planning and organising to measure what a nation can profit from such a costly event. Religion in many cases can be a good ideology to justify violent acts. But to say that religion is the cause is confusing things. We'd be a bit closer to the truth to say that it is politics causing violence, since it is politics that actually govern a country and its army. However, politics is a product of many people with different agendas, so blaming "politics" is still quite a deluded opinion.

As for the Crusades, on Wikipedia you can read a summary. It says, the initiating cause was the Byzantine Empire's request to the Pope to send soldiers against threatening Turks. And as the circumstances were appropriate the Pope agreed, just like many rulers of European countries.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby ronnewmexico » Sat Oct 09, 2010 6:34 pm

That is nice to say but flies in the face of the facts.

The reason the crusaders were allowed to engage with murder of children women even cannibalizing the dead muslims at one time, (a strict defilement in their religion)...is because of papal action which allowed one engaged in such actions since they were receiving spiritual merit for their engagement in this holy war, to be sent to heaven regardless. A blanket immunity of sorts.

That issued by papal decree which is the only thing which could have allowed such heinous behavior on the crusaders side.
Knights templar and others... these things did not just rise up out of the blue they were directly enabled by the papacy.

The holy roman empire....get it? The church was the empire of the day....Geeze louise.

Led by the pope. Ruled most of europe, with association and manipulation of local politic.
Check it out, this stuff is not hidden. One partial quote from wikipedia doen't tell that story. Its history...european history.

What you have stated is initiation. That is like saying world war one was caused by one specific assination of a local politician..you totally misread. This perhaps exemplifies in a global sense the initial claim.

As a aside to see to what extent and control the papacy had over european politic of this day one could read a wiki article called walk to cannosa. It is not on point, to crusades, but does completely exemplify the extent of control of the politic the papacy held back in the day. Absolute contol no....effective control to the extent of assesment of determination with few exceptions.... assuredly yes. What the papacy wanted was quite normally what the papacy got.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Heruka » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:08 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Meadows_massacre

Mountain Meadows massacre


The Mountain Meadows massacre was a mass slaughter of the Fancher-Baker emigrant wagon train at Mountain Meadows, Utah Territory, by a local Mormon militia and members of the Paiute Indian tribe on September 11, 1857. The incident began as an attack, quickly turned into a siege, and eventually culminated in the murder of the unarmed emigrants after their surrender. All of the party except for seventeen children under eight years old were killed—about 120 men, women, and children were killed, but precise numbers have been debated.[1] After the massacre, the corpses of the victims were left decomposing for two years on the open plain,[2] the surviving children were distributed to local Mormon families, and many of the victims' possessions were auctioned off at the Latter-day Saint Cedar City tithing office.[3]
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Luke » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:23 pm

Heruka wrote:A religion gets its morals from people, not the other way around, last time I checked, you, me and the pope or an Imam are just primates.

Exactly, people create religion or at the very least transmit it to others, and therefore, are responsible for which parts get emphasized (the "turn the other cheek" teachings of Jesus certainly weren't spoken of too much during the Crusades).

Astus is trying to separate people and religion with this sort of "religions don't kill people, people do" argument.

The boundary between religion and politics may often be fuzzy, but many religions shoulder their share of the blame.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Astus » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:44 pm

What I argue against is the concept that religion is behind most of the wars ever happened as the article claimed. But I'm OK with reducing that to a position that religion doesn't cause war except when it is a religion about causing war. I don't see Christianity generally (Roman Catholicism included) as a warring religion. By this I don't deny that just as Christianity has played an important role in European history it was used on several occasions to justify wars. But justifying a war and inducing a war is not the same. And even if I was proved wrong in the case of Christianity - which would require proving that Christianity is essentially a doctrine making people kill each other in wars - there are still hundreds of other religions both extinct and living.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Heruka » Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:10 am

Old testament has it all, revenge, genocide, vengeance, wrath, slavery, plagues, child sacrifice and so on, no wonder they needed a new testament.

let no one stand in your way...........
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Luke » Sun Oct 10, 2010 2:08 am

Often what can be worse than the religions themselves is the tendency of people (especially from powerful nations) who practice one religion to view people who practice other religions as being without value as human beings and as having no rights.

Papal decrees which gave Christian nations "the right" to conquer non-Christian nations, enslave them, and steal their land and resources is a case in point.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanus_Pontifex

The resulting "Doctrine of Discovery" has been used in US law countless times to cheat the Native Americans out of their land and other basic rights.
http://ili.nativeweb.org/sdrm_art.html

The Catholic Church's approval of conquering indigenous peoples in the Americas caused immense amounts of suffering and resulted in the total destruction of many cultures.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Astus » Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:32 am

Luke,

The use of Romanus Pontifex to justify slavery is a good example of people using religion to justify their acts. If you read this essay by Fr. Joel S. Panzer, The Popes and Slavery: Setting the Record Straight, you find that even before the said decree slavery has been condemned, just as not long after the colonisation of America, in 1537 Pope Paul III issued an encyclical against the injustice done to the natives in America. It should also be noted that the United States has never been under the rule of the Pope.

Seeing others as non/sub-humans is not a specifically religious but a general human attitude. In fact it is a basic Christian idea that all humans are capable of being saved, thus it was naturally the position of the Roman Catholic Church that the people of foreign lands are humans and can be converted. Nevertheless, this is not even the case of a religion causing war.

From a Buddhist perspective, violence is from greed, hatred and ignorance. Greed for others' possessions, hatred against those we don't know and ignorance about the law of karma. Christianity, as a religion, teaches contentment, love and divine punishment. Same can be said about Islam. So to me it seems to be a more complex issue here than just saying religion causes war.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Luke » Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:39 am

Astus,

So you've proved that a few of the Popes actually had a conscience and condemned some of the activities of European explorers in the Americas. However, this does not lessen the damage done by the other Popes who gave their approval to such negative actions (such as Pope Nicholas V who issued Romanus Pontifex).

And the negative actions of the Europeans in the Americas go well beyond slavery. Simply forcing the Native Americans off their homelands and destroying their cultures were bad enough actions.

Astus wrote:Seeing others as non/sub-humans is not a specifically religious but a general human attitude. In fact it is a basic Christian idea that all humans are capable of being saved, thus it was naturally the position of the Roman Catholic Church that the people of foreign lands are humans and can be converted. Nevertheless, this is not even the case of a religion causing war.

But many of these conversions were carried out by the point of the sword. Perhaps this didn't always cause large-scale wars, but just caused simple murder, cruelty and theft on a large scale.

What matters more than the abstract principles of religions is how those principles have actually been applied in the world over the ages.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Astus » Sun Oct 10, 2010 2:32 pm

Luke,

I'm simply against demonising the concept of religion. Naturally every religion that has grown influential enough for a larger group of people, which is true especially in the case of the three largest religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam), wars and other forms of bad things have been part of its history. But it's a different thing to say that religion is the reason for a war or that a religion has been involved in some ways in military conflicts. To blame the conquer of North American natives on Christianity is quite absurd. Isn't it that certain European kingdoms wanted to rule the whole place? Priests were neither military leaders nor government officials to eliminate the local population.

And let me repeat, I'm putting forth here an argument against the preconception that religion is something that creates wars. This is a view, a philosophical idea, and not a historical event. Religion includes all the religions, even the religions of Native Americans. It is not the same as saying there are religious militant groups and terrorists who use a religion as their ideology. Should we conclude that Buddhism causes wars because there were Buddhists warring? Is Buddhism as a religion faulty at slavery because there were Buddhists keeping slaves?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby Luke » Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:40 pm

Astus,

You're always talking about the importance of philosophy, and in this case I agree.

The philosophical world-view that is presented by each religion greatly influences how people act. In Christianity and Islam, there is little tolerance for other religions--especially for religions which believe in many gods or no gods, and each of these religions has its own concept of "holy war" (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

In contrast, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism put forth much more tolerant world-views, and for this reason, have started much less wars.

The psychology behind many of the large, monotheistic religions just leads to a superiority complex which makes conquests at least seem justified to many of their followers. It results in this "There is no god, but my god. Other gods are false or evil. Convert or suffer" type of mindset." I would argue that many of these large monotheistic religions were designed for conflicts. The concept of the distinction between self and other could not possibly be more deeply imbedded in them. Their thinking is just "us vs. the heathens."

The mindset of these religions is so often not one of tolerance and integration: it is one of domination, and this carries over into other aspects of the culture. Christianity doesn't use violence much anymore, but just look at the aggressiveness of their proselytizing around the world. Now they try to conquer with the media instead of with swords.
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby BFS » Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:34 pm

Astus wrote:
And let me repeat, I'm putting forth here an argument against the preconception that religion is something that creates wars.


This is a view I share.

This quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in When The Iron Bird Flies, puts it into perspective, for me.

Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama: "For a truly religious person there is never any basis for quarrel or dispute. Yet it is a fact that there have been so-called religious wars. However, the people involved in these were not practising religion but were merely using religion as an instrument of power. The actual motivation was selfish, not spiritual.


Some interesting interfaith articles:
http://www.thubtenchodron.org/InterreligiousDialogue/index.html
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Re: Lack of knowledge about world religions in the US

Postby BFS » Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:42 pm

Just adding a couple of extra links some may find interesting:

http://www.sravastiabbey.org/news/news2010.html#oct10

excerpt:

Four people from the Abbey attended the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan at the Spokane Islamic Center. There were prayers and a huge, delicious meal that followed it. A woman from the mosque who had lunch with the Abbey residents afterwards wrote to us, “It was a pleasure meeting you all. I met several people who attended the EID activity and they were impressed with your presence. It meant so much for everyone the support and solidarity you offered. A simple physics theory says that constant movement of butterfly wings over time create a hurricane and I am a believer. The collective effect of drops of kindness inside each person can lead to peace and tolerance. Meeting wonderful people gives one hope and a positive outlook.”

.......... interfaith respect and dialogue are an important theme in Buddhism.You may also be interested in the Common Ground Charter which expresses the voice of many Americans, that anger and fear can be met with understanding and love.

and:

Toward a True Kinship of Faiths - His Holiness the Dalai Lama"
http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl/9780385525053.html


Thanks for the thread, Luke.
:heart:
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