One of the premier critiques of religion is this oft stated question. This article by a young stroke survivor relates a tale that asks this question. She has a positive outlook on life after her suffering, but she has doubts about one of the key tenants of her religion. The ugly truth, according to the author, is that Karma is not real. I am not one to judge the truth or falsity of her claim, but I can acknowledge the problem she posits is almost universal for other religions. It is interesting that if you read the comments section, several people have given her answers that will accommodate her new found view of Karma, that it doesn’t exist, while keeping her religious identity intact.
We are currently going over “Transcendent in America” in class. This book goes into detail concerning Hindu-inspired meditation movements (HIMMs). I thought that the first section of this book was good and that the second section was informative, and I found the third section enlightening. Overall I think that this book was very informative and a good read. I really had no idea what went on in these religious movements, and this book really helped to explain it. The author does a good job at remaining impartial in her explanations despite her background of being in a HIMM, and she does not leave out information that show the HIMMs in a less than positive light. The author does her best to make some of the stranger practices seem relatable, but some of the things that go on in Hindu-inspired meditation movements seem a bit cultish. The absolute faith that one is expected to place in one’s guru seems to me to be dangerous, especially since this relationship is abused on occasion, and the cover-ups that happen to hide negative information do not sit well with me either. I think that the biggest problem that the author has is that there is an innate inability to explicate the experiences had by those who participate in HIMMs. The book relates some of them to Pentecostal church happenings, which are equally mysterious to me, and sometimes attempts physiological explanations (i.e. tingling spine), but ultimately I do not know what their spiritual experiences are like. If you have a spiritual experience by looking at the image of Gurumayi on this blog, please let me know.
This article gives some recent information on the developments in the India-Pakistan conflicts recently. At first I was just thinking that it was a pretty small scale conflict, and that this is just what happens in that region, but then I read this article, which states that Indian forces have fired 59,000 rounds of ammunition and over 4,000 mortars. Now 4,000 mortars is a whole lot of potential damage, and that is just the attacks from India. Whenever nations who both have nuclear weapons clash like this it is always frightening. It is believed that these conflicts are the result of disputes over Kashmir, which I found has a significant Muslim majority even in the Indian controlled areas. I was curious as to why these nations would fight over this country so violently with such potentially severe costs, so I looked around a bit. Now with my basic understanding I knew that the Partition of India was intended by the British to accommodate religious differences between India and Pakistan. With this in mind, it is understandable that Pakistan would want to take Kashmir as part of Pakistan because it is majority Muslim, but no country wants to give up land, which explains India’s resistance. It just seems like a bad situation with no easy reconciliation in the near future.
It is not hard to see how Kali can be viewed in a pretty negative manner. I mean, she’s got heads all over the place. I don’t know why, but I just recently remembered a Christian evangelical tract that I found somewhere more than ten years ago that portrays a pretty extreme view of the goddess Kali. I found a link to it here. Now most people would see this and see the very, very obvious (and frankly ridiculous) biases that are both explicitly stated and inferred. I was curious as to what would make someone think about Kali like this, apart from Indiana Jones, so I did some research (Googling…). It turns out that there are actually human sacrifices to Kali still occurring, albeit rarely. Here is an instance of a murder I found that is relatively recent. As a father of a young child this is horrifying. Now as a rational human being I am completely aware that most of those who claim to be devotees of Kali are not murderers, but a very few are.
This article is analogous to what I am currently investigating for my research project. I am attempting to find as much information as I can on why some people who identify as Hindus exclude from their religious group others who also identify themselves as Hindus. In this article, there are a myriad of reasons why a person who considers themselves to be Jewish person considers themselves or others as Jewish, and why they do not. For me, there are some obvious parallels between Hinduism and Judaism. For instance, some individuals consider Jewishness to be an ethnic trait, and the same can be said for Hindus. Also interesting is that there is a significant Hindu population that identify themselves as Hindu, but yet have no religious affiliation other than their ancestral ties. The same is true of Judaism (These are the much discussed Nones, who are of special relevance to this blog site). There is at least one key idea that I hope to take away from this article, though. And that is the distinction between religions and culture is largely from Protestant influence, and neither of the two groups mentioned fall into either category exclusively, which can be problematic if you can’t think of religion other than in the traditional manner.
This is a hotly debated topic recently, and Zach Price has already covered it some here, but I stumbled upon an article on the Huffington Post that was just so interesting I felt I had to write about it. This article written by Mark Morford is pro-Yoga and very anti-Christianity. He argues that Yoga is not a violation of church and state while also claiming that it is religious. Now this may seem problematic, but he claims that Yoga practitioners connect with their inner divinity, not an external entity. I believe that he was trying to interpret the idea of separation of church and state as applying it only to organized religion. If you look at it from his perspective, then you realize that if he concedes that Yoga is religious then this is a problem for Yoga practitioners because they will be banned from schools and other government owned places, but if he doesn’t attribute some religiousness to it then Yoga is just another exercise, which is not what he wants either.
This movie has been out for a few months now, so if you don’t know by now, you don’t care, but Benedict Cumberbatch plays Khan Noonien Singh in the latest Star Trek movie. Khan was meant to be of Indian descent in the original Star Trek series (Singh is a predominantly, almost exclusively, Sikh surname), and was played by Ricardo Montalbán, a Mexican with Spanish ancestry. The argument is that Khan isn’t supposed to be white because he is supposed to be a genetically superior creation (we all remember what happened the last time white guys thought they were genetically superior), and by making him white J.J. Abrams was sorta kinda in a roundabout way endorsing white people as being superior genetically.
On the other hand, I have heard that Benicio Del Toro was Abrams’ first choice for playing Khan, and that he only went with Cumberbatch when Del Toro couldn’t do it. Now maybe I am just an idealist, but I like to think that J.J. wasn’t being racist when he cast Cumberbatch, and that he doesn’t see white people as being genetically superior. Maybe Abrams thinks that genetic superiority has nothing to do with ethnicity, and simply picked a great actor to play a great villain.