Friday, January 22, 2010

Heading For The Ozarks

My brother lives in Ozark Mountain Country Missouri I will be there for a week. I was going to make a post with my thoughts on this, but I do not have the time. Just please read and tell me what you think.

"Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another?" These words of the prophet Malachi (2 :10) were repeated several decades ago by a Jewish rabbi as he extended his congratulations to a Catholic bishop on the occasion of his consecration. The belief in one God should indeed awaken in the faithful among all the high religions the consciousness of belonging together in one family and their obligation to stand together fraternally. It is understandable that those who profess a divisive form of national polytheism should think of themselves as enemies not only for political reasons but for religious ones as well. National strife is for them also a war of their gods. But at first glance it seems inconceivable that those who profess faith in one God or one divine essence can combine with it a spirit of mutual estrangement and hostility.

But thus it has been in the history of religions. The faithful among the higher religions have opposed one another again and again, indeed if not engaging in bloody persecution, then despising the followers of other religions as deplorably ignorant persons who must be led with all possible speed to the true church and religion. How many human beings have become the victims of religious wars, how frequent the oppression of other religious consciences, how numerous are the martyrdoms suffered in courageous confession of individual faith! Think of the repeated instances of cruel persecutions of Buddhism by Confucianism in China and of Islam in India! Or of the outlawing of the Jews and their segregation into ghettos in the Christian Middle Ages, the ecclesiastical enforcement upon them of baptism and the attendance at sermons! Think of the Christian Crusades against Islam with all their brutalities, and in turn, the pressure of Muslim rulers upon Christian nations. Even in the religions familiar with the concept of tolerance, such as Hinduism, the converts to Christianity have been expelled from their families and castes and treated worse than pariahs!

Although in more modern times religious persecution has passed from the hands of religious to totalitarian political powers, the deeply irrational contempt for other religions is still widespread. Indeed in Western Christendom today it has in certain respects become more widespread than in the eras of the Enlightenment, Classicism, and Romanticism.

Churchmen and theologians today are far behind that strong sense of unity that permeates the cultural work of UNESCO. If we ask why this sense of unity should be most hindered from that quarter where it ought be most vitally fostered, we will find the reason for this paradox in the sense of absoluteness characteristic of one segment of the higher religions.

In An Historian’s Approach to Religion (Oxford University Press, 1956.) (the best theological book of the last ten years, though not written by a theologian), Arnold Toynbee suggests that those three religions of revelation which spring from a common historical root -- Judaism, Islam, and Christianity have a tendency toward exclusivism and intolerance. They ascribe to themselves an ultimate validity. While the faithful among the Indian religions recognize the other religions insofar as they discern in them another manifestation of the essentials of their own religion, the three religions mentioned above (especially Christianity) are so exclusive that their followers often enough look upon other religions as the outgrowth of error, sin, and malice. Thereby they transfer the absoluteness which is an attribute alone of the divine and eternal to their own system of faith without seeing that this divine absolute can also be comprehended in entirely different forms of thought and devotion.

There is indeed something essentially correct in Toynbee’s objection. The Indian religions are a treasure of more than two thousand years of tolerance. Two hundred and fifty years before Christ, King Asoka, one of the noblest figures in world history and the great promulgator of Buddhism, proclaimed to his subjects not only tolerance but also love for other religions. He states in one of his famous edicts carved in rock:

The divinely favored King Piyadasi honors all sects, the ascetic as well as the local. He honors them with gifts and tributes of all kinds. But the divinely favored one does not lay so much weight upon gifts and tributes, but rather that in all religions there might be a growth in essence. The reason for this is that no praise for one’s own religion or reproach of other religions should take place on unsuitable occasions. On the contrary, every opportunity ought to be taken to honor other religions. If one proceeds in this way, he furthers his own religion and renders good to other religions. Otherwise he does harm to his own religion and reproaches other religions, and all of this out of admiration for his own religion When he would magnify his own cause, he rather does all the more harm to his own religion. Unity alone profits, so that everyone will listen to and join the other religion.

Your thought advocates Judaism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. In my thought there is only one universal religion, whose varied paths are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being. In your thought there are the rich, the poor, and the beggared. My thought holds that there are no riches but... life; that we are all beggars, and no benefactor exists save life herself.

Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth. I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.
Kahlil Gibran


masterwordsmith said...

Dear Walt

Here's wishing you a great time with your brother. Take care and come back refreshed and renewed!

Thanks for this lovely post. I have always loved the thoughts of Kahlil Gibran.

Take care and God bless you!

PinoyApache said...

That's a good trip, my friends. The Ozarks, hmmm, that's Osage country, I think? Wish me your brother well.

Anonymous said...

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