Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stop arguing with religious people

The only thing that I understand less than religious people justifying their hostility towards homosexuals through the use of religious scripture is people who try to counter this same hatred with religious scripture. The former is an example of magical thinking, a mythological worldview that unhesitatingly believes a teaching, no matter how unreasonable it is. 

The latter is trying to convince magical thinkers that they are incorrect because they are referring to the wrong pieces of magical literature. It's not going to work because dogma does not appeal to logic; it demands that people surrender their ability to reason in obedience to a higher authority, namely a scripture of some sort. In fact, that's what many religions praise--the Orwellian ability to believe in the unreasonable. It's called faith.

That is why appealing to scripture to combat intolerance is doomed to fail, because in order to do so one must sink to the level of illogic in the first place.

I don't believe in talking bushes, people rising from the dead, celestial Buddha realms--and until people experience them for themselves--neither should anyone else. Believing that the Buddha, escorted by a heavenly retinue of Bodhisattvas, actually recited the Lankavatara Sutra is akin to believing that Lord of the Rings actually happened.  

The Bible, like many religious texts such as the Avatamsaka Sutra for exampleis a patchwork of disparate writings stitched together. To say that either is a uniform text with one central message is like saying that America is one singular country. It's not. Like America, these texts have a multitude of competing messages and agendas. 

Some operate on higher moral and spiritual levels than others. The Bible has some of the most horrific, brutally genocidal passages, as well as beautiful, spiritually inspiring ones. But to try to try to convince the fire and brimstone congregants that they should be reading the peaceful passages is fruitless. They don't understand this because they view the world in mythic terms: good and evil, faithful and heathen, saved and lost. 
My point is: we do not treat others with respect and dignity because a book, any book, tells us to. We do it because that's how we treat other humans. As humans beings, they deserve it. 
To even debate the point is tantamount to a fundamental betrayal of our own humanity. 


  1. I don't think religious people should be singled out here. Non-religious people are just as likely to become 'fundamentalist' as anyone else. It's just that they justify their fundementalism with a different set of biases.

    This being so, perhaps the article would better say: "stop arguing" or just "stop".

    Besides, writing on a religious blog (ie, Zen) about religious people but thinking your religion is superior offers something of a paradox or contradiction.

  2. Bup Sahn,

    Thanks for your comment. As a Western, science-minded person, I admit that my bias is grounded in empiricism and reason; and that I am critical of those who choose belief over reason.

    As far as thinking that my stance is superior, the advantage to rationality is that it allows for revision. Science, in its truest sense, is always subject to the footnote "until proven otherwise." Faith-based lifestyles are usually less flexible.
    Also, I think that I made it clear that I was not elevating Zen above other traditions when I challenged the literalness of the Lankavatra, Avatamsaka, and other sutras.

    Personally, I do not consider the Zen that I practice to be a religion. Certainly there are individuals and segments within the Zen tradition who disagree. It depends on how one chooses to view, engage, and practice Zen that determines whether one sees Zen as a religion. The case can be made for either side, and I do not think that one is more correct than the other. I am not arguing that Zen is not a religion, simply that it not one for me.


  3. Andre,

    It is clearly important to you to not identify as religious and you seemingly do not like "religion." But what is "religion?" What is it about your participation in Zen that makes your Zen irreligious, but makes mine religious? Along the lines of what Bup Sahn wrote, I wonder if you could've been more specific and less alienating by saying that what you oppose is irrationality and mythology (but perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying about mythology). I doubt that many people for whom being religious is important to them would recognize how you're referring to religion. It probably doesn't match up with what is significant to them about religion. Often in such discussions, I find that our use of the word "religion" says more about ourselves than it does about religion.

    You set up a binary between belief (religion, inferior, stuck) and reason (science, advantageous, revisable) in your comment above. But doesn't Zen, like many religions, provide us a method to directly experience suprarational knowledge? Reason can take us only so far. It is a powerful tool, but, like all tools, one with limits. But suprarational knowledge is grounded in direct experience, so it isn't about belief either.