July 14, 2005

And furthermore...

It is strange to think that even in the 21st century, there is a debate in the U.S. about the validity of the theory of evolution. And that we are governed by people who believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

Here is an excerpt from a letter sent to the International Herald Tribune referring to this anomaly:

How many children have AIDS because of a bizarre and tragic doctrine about condoms? How many people -- including those in the London bombings --continue to die in the name of superstitious dogmas? It is time for humanity to put behind us the dangerous pre-scientific beliefs of our ancestors and, with a combination of compassion and reason, use our vastly increased understanding of how we got here to make this world a better place.

Not that I have all that much faith in science or scientists, nor would I dismiss all pre-scientific beliefs and practices, but I do think that a proper response to religious fundamentalism/dogmatism is one of the big koans of our times. To "compassion" and "reason" I would add "continuing search for truth."

Posted by mandragore at July 14, 2005 09:24 AM

"I believe that television is going to be the test of the modern world, and in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our own vision, we shall discover either a new and unbearable disturbance of the general peace or a saving radiance in the sky. We shall stand or fall by television, of that I am sure."

E.B. White, 1938

There's another bit in there about the days before television when people looked about themselves and were generally happy, and how now they peer beyond the oceans and are filled with unutterable sadness. For some reason nobody ever quotes that part. Not that I think television has that powerful an effect these days, but what I'm trying to address is the feeling of having a lot on your plate that you can't do a damn thing about. As for religious fundamentalism/dogmatism, we often wonder if it's authentic. The guy that puts on the jacket and blows himself up obviously has strong feelings about something. But someone who's just repeating talking points about the sanctity of this or that might have other motivations. Having said that, (which is short for 'I just said that, now I'm going to say something else') I agree that it is one of the big koans of our times.

Posted by: Mike at July 20, 2005 12:24 AM

That's a nice harvest for a little quote. I'll try to come up with another one.

BTW: I found a nice little philosophical primer while waiting for a plane connection in Amsterdam: "The Little Book of Philosophy" by André Comte-Sponville, published by Vintage. Like Aoki-sensei with various body movement disciplines, he mines the writings of the major Western philosophers to present their essential positions on various "biggies" such as love, morality, death, God, atheism, etc. I especially appreciated what he has to say about atheism.

Posted by: mt at September 15, 2005 12:21 PM