"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brushes with Buddhism

Jesus FightFor all the huff and puff of the culture wars, most real-life religious believers are more reasonable and inclusive than the idiotic, we're-right-and-everyone-else-is-fucked dogma their various churches, mosques and temples would have us believe.

Consider, for example, the recent Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finding that 57 percent of "evangelical" Christians in the United States believe that "many religions can lead to eternal life".

That statistic may give your average foaming fundamentalist a clutcher, but it fills this particular atheist with something of a warm glow, even if these believers tend to still think that their understandings and petty rituals are still miraculously closer to "God" than everyone elses'...

In that spirit of equanimity and brotherly love, is also fair to say that unlike some non-believers, I can see plenty of benefits of at least some type of religion and religious belief. Hey, we all like a good party, and though I've never been to a humanist "union", it's a dead cert that your typical Hindu or Muslim wedding is going to have way better food.

In fact, I'm so certain of my own wisdom on this point that I'm going to state categorically, here and now and without fear of contradiction, that not all religions are as wrong as each other too.

Let's take, for example, Buddhism. Strip away unprovable reincarnation and the ancestor-worship-esque guru veneration, and you are left with a simple set of rules which are eminently sensible. You should be nice to other people no matter who they are and what they do to you... Life is a struggle between understandable human desires, and the pain we face in gaining and losing these things we desire... We should live in the now - not in the past or in the future... And so on.

Hole IslandAnd with that as a background, it's time for me to blog at last about my recent stay at the Buddhist Retreat on the windswept and very beautiful Holy Island, off the Isle of Arran in Scotland.

Having decided at last that the corporate world could live without me for a little while at least, I was looking for an excuse to get into some good habits - to lay off my usual atheistic-hobbies of murder, whoring and crack-dealing (well, smoking cigarettes anyway...) and to get fit.

And so, I ended up at a week-long "meditation and yoga" course, booked last minute and pretty much at random. It was great. There was no meat, no booze, no fags, no television, no internet, and jeez louise, no DaveScot or Denyse O'Leary to distract me from the pure joy of wishing loving kindness and compassion to all living beings...

I should write about it more :)



Leroy Grinchy said...

I'm glad you wrote this. I agree. Why let all the believers of monotheistic religion have all the advantages that religion has to offer.

I used to envy the people who went on retreats like these, but then I realized that it was just a matter of priorities so I'm planning on going to a retreat as soon as possible.

PTET said...

Thanks Leroy! There's more to come on this when the writing comes. And get away from the normal life for a bit. It did me wonders :)