Religion 401: Beyond Ficciones and Supersticiones…

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The Golden Spires of Shwedagon Pagoda

I’m Karges, not Borges, and this is Burma not Buenos Aires, so there is no time for fiction and it’s time for an end to silly superstitions, the Christian war God and 7-day creation, immaculate conception and messy ascension, hung out to dry on crosses and clotheslines, left to die in caves and blind alleys, rescued by pregnant virgins and holy whores with hearts of gold and the greatest stories ever told…

But Islam takes holy virgins to new heights, and new depths, heaven and more, from 72 houris (hoors), with varying degrees of “lush full rounded breasts” and more. The best part: the lot of them only need one man, the double standard enshrined into canonical law! We always knew 100 women only need one man to reproduce the species!

Then there’s this:

Al-Suyuti. Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an. p. 351. Each time we sleep with a Houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected never softens. The erection is eternal; the sensation that you feel each time you make love is utterly delicious and out of this world and were you to experience it in this world you would faint. Each chosen one will marry seventy [sic] houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetizing vaginas. 

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Okay, I’m back now, and feeling surprisingly refreshed. Then there is the prohibition on pork, which for many Muslims—and Jews—is the line that defines them. I know Muslims in Thailand that drink like fish, but won’t touch pork! Now we all know what pigs eat, and that’s not clean, unless they’re properly raised and fed. But to base a religion on porkly abstinence is absurd—unless all meat is being disallowed…

The superstitions and little white lies of Christianity and Islam are not unique to the Abrahamic religions (including Judaism, of course), but are easily found in the religions founded in the Indian sub-continent including the world’s third-largest religion (atheism doesn’t count): Hinduism, arguably the worst on this list, with a list of superstitions that would make a Christian blush, including multiple gods, reincarnation, past lives, karma and a caste system to boot. Ouch!

Buddhism corrected many of those logical inconsistencies, at least temporarily, until the advent of Mahayana Buddhism pretty much let anybody and everybody in, much like Catholicism in the West, so in came all the old superstitions—except the caste system, which is the logical consequence of karma-laden reincarnations. The Tibetans even postulated multiple realms for all the past and future lives of which they are so enamored…

I guess Tibetans are not into space, up there in the cold winters of their remote mountain fastnesses. They’re into time—makes sense! I think I’ll pass on the ‘hungry ghost’ realm, though—sounds creepy. On second thought, I’ll pass on much of it. Mahayana Buddhism recovered some of its original inspiration by the time it passed through China and reached Japan, but even there, you’re supposed to achieve enlightenment almost magically by the realizations that arise from the linguistic conundrums that arise from unsolvable riddles…

But there is more to life than language—I hear. Everybody loves predestination and conspiracy theory, ’cause it’s easy, it’s lazy, it’s neat, and it’s convenient—but it’s almost certainly wrong. There is just no evidence—scientific or otherwise—to support it. Karmic retribution serves the same purpose in primitive Buddhism that Hell does in Christianity—enforcement of the moral code with threat of future punishment…

Enough already: let’s grow up and leave the child psychology behind! Theravada Buddhism has some of that, too, just not so enshrined in the canon. I really don’t think Siddhartha Gautama the Awakened One spent his life searching for answers, only to come up with something akin to Hinduism for non-Indians, or worse: Hindu Lite. No, he almost certainly intended to leave most of it behind—except meditation…

The Dalai Lama opines that Science isn’t likely to disprove past lives, but: Hello, Dalai, ever heard of DNA? Many prisoners have gotten out of prison that way, and many just might leave religion, too, if it can do no better. Science has superstitions, too, of course, absolute materialism and pharmacological hubris, so no wonder we’re a nation of drug addicts and war whores, but it doesn’t have to be that way…

Science is still the most obvious way out of superstitions, with DNA, carbon-14 dating, fingerprints and toe-prints to boot, so maybe Tibetans can leave their past lives and karmic retribution behind, move toward something like Reincarnation—in the Spirit, like a Christian ‘born again’, figuratively but not literally…

Then more than a few Buddhists get obsessed with which direction to circumnavigate a stupa, without questioning whether the whole activity might not just be a littlt bit ‘stupa’d’ itself, if you stop to think about it. If this is what constitutes a religion, then atheists are probably right…

Same with removing shoes. As with the aforementioned pigs and their sh*t, certain prohibitions made much sense millennia ago, just as a matter of good health. But religion, i.e. a belief system, should be more than that, at least in this day and age. We have vacuum cleaners…

But the thoroughly modern Christian will say “Love is our belief system,” except that love from above, victors over vanquished, is not the same as the religious magnanimous type. And Muslims will say, “Our jihad is not with swords and the words of war, but in our hearts against the evil thoughts that haunt us. You should try meditation…

And Hindus will finger their prayer beads and Buddhists will wrap their necks in charms and fetishes. And there’s nothing wrong with any of this, just that it’s not necessary and it cheapens the cause of religion in the eyes of atheists, agnostics and even some scientists. Religion can do better than the analogies and metaphors of bygone eras. And it can do better than the ‘no-thought’ reliance on writ, whether Christian, Muslim, Theravada or Mahayana…

 

 

 

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