Weekly bloggy roundup


by Sunny
20th February, 2006 at 3:31 am    

Amit Varma has an interesting piece on Sikhs in Peshawar, Pakistan, and the ‘jaziya’ tax. [tip Jay Singh]

Ali Eteraz has written a piece on modern sufi-electronica music for alt.muslim.

Two funny pieces sent in by an anonymous reader. 1) More blasphemy in Saudi; 2) A religious sermon rave.

Egyptian blogger Big Pharaoh receives the Ten Commandments for Muslims. [tip Rohin]

In the UK you can get away with publishing (clearly stated) fake photographs. In India, Maxim is getting sued for the same.

The man with world’s largest turban is aiming for the Guinness Book of Records! [via Sepia Mutiny]

Apologies for shortness – been v. busy. I’m considering setting up a thingy on the right so we can just link articles and small pieces of interest continually rather than doing this roundup. Thoughts appreciated.


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  1. Thinking Aloud:

    [...] (via Pickled Politics) Posted by Paul in Religion and Superstition (20/2/2006 at 7:47 pm) [...]




  1. David — on 20th February, 2006 at 11:04 am  

    That religious sermon rave is so funny. But what’s going on there? Why are they slapping their heads? I don’t understand…

  2. David T — on 20th February, 2006 at 11:09 am  
  3. Rohin — on 20th February, 2006 at 6:04 pm  

    Hmm, that Muslim rave thing is rather interesting – I was going to link to it here about a month back but I didn’t cos I couldn’t figure out how to make it not seem random.

    I first noticed it on YouTube, here. The reason I wanted to bring it to your attention is the comments – read them. SO many muslims denying that Shia are muslims. Wow, they’re so embarrassed by the video they are intent on claiming they’re not Muslims – or is it something deeper? How bizarre.

    “no there are not muslims really..
    they called shiea’a not muslims..not Real muslims..
    Sunna is the real muslims..
    so dont post things u dont know about it.. ”

    “This is NOT what TRUE Islam is about. This video is of some followers of the deviant Shee’ah sect of Islaam. What the people are doing in this video is NOTHING to do with true Islam.”

    “Those are not muslims, and like in christianity there are some christians who make baad image about christianity but thier behavior. Those are some crazy groups pretend to be muslims but actually there are not. ”

    “No they are NOT MUSLIMS at all, that hysterical acting it’s actually one of thousands ritual for shiea’a!! So, they’re NOT A REAL MUSLIMS!!
    SUNNA It’s the real ISLAM and it’s too was written for correct muslims.. not as that fantasies!!”

    Etc…

  4. David T — on 21st February, 2006 at 10:29 am  

    I’ve read accounts of the development of Shia Islam which has suggested that it owes at least something to Zoroastrianism. However, the standard salafist jibe at the Shia is that they are Jews (of course!).

    See also this poem by Qaradawi:

    http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2005/02/09/the_moderate.php

    The Crusaders have returned once more, and they move about in the [Iraqi] lowlands.
    They spread perversion in the land, as though it were ground free for all to graze in.
    They are again spilling blood, without shame of exposure.
    And the Shi’ites play well the role assigned to them.
    The treacherous role, whose beginning and end are known to all.

  5. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 10:44 am  

    David

    I think all Abrahamic religions owe something to Zoroastrianism. I once had an online discussion with a dawah preacher Muslim evangelist who was going to prove to me that Sikhism was a ‘false’ religion. He pointed out that Sikhism has historical roots in a Hindu reformist movement called Bhakti and hence was false and non existent so all Sikhs should convert to
    Islam. So I reminded him of the pagan, Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian roots of Islam, how everything is simply re-packaged Judaism and other stuff, and he got very upset and went off in a huff. I think I made him cry underneath the rage he was sent into.

    For all the problems it causes, the actual history and development and theories of how religions developed is one of the most fascinating things to study. The overlap, the influences, the cross-pollination. Really fascinating to see the confluences and joins.

    Yeah, but anyway, I read a paper somewhere about how Zoroastrianism influenced all the Abrahamic faiths – it was the first religion to have a single book of laws, the dualistic heaven/hell, God vesus the Devil kind of set up, loads of other stuff. Most Zoroastrians now live in India, although they number only a quarter of a million around the world. And Freddie Mercury was one of them.

  6. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 10:48 am  

    The story is that the Zoroastrians fled Persia when the Arabs invaded. Most were converted at the point of a sword, the ones that escaped by ship made it to India. They are also known as Parsees which is an Indianised version of Farsi (Persian) They flourished and have always been one of the most prosperous and influential communities in India, although in recent years the demographics are changing and the Parsee community is declining.

  7. David T — on 21st February, 2006 at 12:04 pm  

    They weren’t always prosperous and influential – but became so, I think , during the Raj period.

    The interesting thing about

    how everything is simply re-packaged Judaism and other stuff, and he got very upset and went off in a huff.

    No, really? I’m astounded!

    Sikhism is the first post-Enlightenment religion, as far as I can tell, which embraces all sorts of sensible and egalitarian things (in theory at least).

    The weird thing about Zoastrianism is that the greater part of their religious texts – which were committed to memory by the priests who were then slaughtered – has been lost. The Parsees even ended up operating on a different version of the calendar, and from substantially different texts from the Iranian Zoroastrians.

    From what I’ve read of them, dogs – and being nice to dogs in particular – is a big theme of Zoroastrianism. That’s cool.

    There are also, I think, pre-Zoroastrian fire worshipers in Iran.

  8. Jai — on 21st February, 2006 at 12:15 pm  

    =>”From what I’ve read of them, dogs – and being nice to dogs in particular – is a big theme of Zoroastrianism. That’s cool.”

    If this is true, I wonder if the Islamic tradition of regarding dogs as “unclean” was a reaction to this, ie. a deliberate move to differentiate themselves from Zoroastrians.

    I’m just speculating, of course — I know that Persians were immensely powerful in the ancient world, but I don’t know how much their influence extended into 7th Century Arabia.

  9. Don — on 21st February, 2006 at 12:27 pm  

    This in today’s Guardian;

    ‘Earlier this month Muslim medical students in London distributed leaflets that dismissed Darwin’s theories as false. Evangelical Christian students are also increasingly vocal in challenging the notion of evolution.’

    http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,1714171,00.html

    While is nice to see religious types finding common ground, it’s unfortunate that it had to be this. Well, this plus despising gays and demanding respect.

    I’m pretty clear on the Islamic stance on this, more or less the same as the evangelicals, with some insisting on a six-day, no-messing, truth-in-genesis line and others accepting the mechanism of evolution but initiated and guided by god.

    But I’d be interested to learn the position of Sikhs and Hindus on evolution vs creationism. How literally are creation myths taken, is there a conflict for scientists? Is Darwinian evolution taught in state schools?

  10. Jai — on 21st February, 2006 at 12:45 pm  

    =>”But I’d be interested to learn the position of Sikhs and Hindus on evolution vs creationism.”

    I’ll let the Hindus here answer your question themselves, but from the Sikh perspective there is no conflict here. The Sikh scriptures do talk about the creation, expansion, and evolution of the universe from a “Physics” perspective (to some extent), but to my understanding they’re fairly neutral about the biological development of mankind in this regard.

    =>”How literally are creation myths taken,”

    There are no creation myths in Sikhism.

    =>”is there a conflict for scientists?”

    No, because Sikhism focuses predominantly on the nature of God, “ideal” human conduct, and how man can icrease his spirituality to gain a genuine awareness of God. With regards to creation vs. evolution issues (and so on), there is no conflict because one is supposed to use scientific means to find out the answers for these issues.

    Some examples from ancient Indian history are used in Sikh scriptures in order to demonstrate certain moral/ethical points, but beyond that it’s not a “history book” in the sense that a number of Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic holy books are. So there is no conflict with any biological, archeological, paleontological or general scientific disciplines or any “hard-science” conclusions that may arise as a result of research in these areas.

  11. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 12:50 pm  

    One other Persian religion is Bahaism. Bahaiullah was their prophet. He rejected Orthodox Islam and propounded a religion of remarkable heterodoxy and appeal – essentially saying that all religions are equal and from Zoroaster to Buddha to Moses to Krishna to Mohammad is one single line of divinity. He was executed for denying the finality of Mohammad and rejecting Islam. People say Sikhism is the newest of the worlds religions but I believe the Bahai faith takes that position.

  12. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 12:58 pm  

    I agree – the reverence for Dogs is a very good thing in Zoroastrianism.

    A good book to read to get an insight into modern Parsee life is Rohinton Mistry’s Family Matters.

  13. Don — on 21st February, 2006 at 1:03 pm  

    Thanks, Jai. That’s more or less what I had expected.

  14. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 1:04 pm  

    David

    I agree that Sikhism has lots of good things to say regarding social issues. To some extent they have been realised by Sikhs, but as always happens, the ideal and the reality are often different and Sikhs often fail miserably to live up to the social ideals laid down by their religion.

    There are a couple of things that persist like the concept of community work and service is deeply embedded in the Sikh psyche and is a good, practical thing. Other aspects like true egalitarianism are ideals that have yet to be realised fully.

  15. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 1:08 pm  

    The comedian and actor Omid Djallili (very very funny guy) is a Bahai. They are persecuted in Iran big time since the revolution.

  16. Steve M — on 21st February, 2006 at 1:26 pm  

    I really don’t ‘get’ religious persecution.

    I know for sure that the world is a giant turtle watched over by the turtle-God. What the fuck do I care what you believe?

    My religion forbids me to eat any animal smaller than a centi-cubit and demands that I stick out my neck seven times a day facing North-East (except Thursdays, of course). Should I give a shit if you eat termites and never stick your neck out at all?

    I guess I’m far more comfortable in my beliefs than many.

  17. David T — on 21st February, 2006 at 1:49 pm  

    Omid Djallili (very very funny guy) is a Bahai

    No! I never knew that.

    I’ve seen him live a few times and he is very funny. First time I saw him, before he became famous, he started his routine in a heavily accented voice in faltering English, and you could just feel the whole audience doing the whole patronising “Oh, its so nice that he is making the effort to do his routine in a language he doesn’t really understand…” thing

    When he broke into his normal accent, I’ve never heard an audience laugh so loud.

    So he is Bahai is it.

    Did you know that Casey Kasem who plays Shaggy in Scooby Doo is a Druze?

  18. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 1:51 pm  

    Wow David, that’s an interesting article – may have to write about that in my paper! Although not as cool as the Jewish googlevid you linked to, priceless.

    About Hindus and creationism. It’s a complex one, as any Hindu will tell you that there are almost as many Hinduisms as Hindus.

    Deepak Chopra is a prominent Hindu figure, especially in America, and he has come out in favour of creationism, the great tosser. He spouts a lot of crap but it does serve to show that religious zealots of just about any religion can find common ground when it comes to rubbishing science, the thing they feel is de-throning their exalted position of authority.

    However, going back to Hindu scriptures, one becomes confused as to why Chopra endorsed this theory. I have described myself as a Hindu atheist before, which isn’t a misnomer – I mean that I enjoy reading the texts as works of philosophy.

    There is no unified Hindu account of the universe’s creation. A passage from Rg Veda describes that at the start, there was nothing – no existence, no atmosphere, no time. Then, some claim Shiva, some say Brahma, gave rise to a ‘cosmic seed’ which gave rise to the universe in a fire that arose from God.

    Some could interpret this as the Big Bang I suppose, but it’s pretty vague.

    As for humans – the evolution of Vishnu could be interpreted (again, with some imagination) as the evolution of man. Vishnu’s manifestations are:

    The Fish (Matsyavatar)
    The Tortoise (Kurmavatar)
    The Boar (Varahavatar)
    The Lion-Man (Narasimha Avatar)
    The Dwarf (Vamana Avatar)
    Parashurama (Rama with an axe)
    Rama (the prince of Ayodhya)
    Krishna (the black tribal)
    Buddha (the completely enlightened one)
    Kalki ( the incarnation to come)

    Interesting eh…more and more complex animals, a diminuitive humanoid and then man. I find this one of the most fascinating things about the religion.

    However, Hinduism also includes more conventional “first came man, then from him came woman” stories.

    So, you see, whoever claims to speak for Hinduism is a bit off.

  19. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 2:12 pm  

    David

    Yeah he is Bahai. He has mentioned it a couple of times in interviews. He is a brilliant stand up. As I understand it a lot of the Persians in Britain are Bahai – they went through hell after the revolution and are basically escaping persecution. I don’t know what it is that makes him so funny, but he is one of a few stand ups that I go out of my way to see because he is guranteed to make me laugh. He is getting a lot of work as an actor too.

    Have some fun, go to his website:

    http://www.omid-djalili.com

    Click on ‘Fun’ and then on the link to the photo of his facial expression that is meant to say ‘Oooh you won’t find Bin Laden in there’

    The guy is a dude.

  20. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 2:27 pm  

    He is so funny because he has far more to his humour than “my parents used to say THIS in an amusing laugh my silly culture” and “Oh look I do things differently to you whitey!” or “yes massah” etc etc.

    He subverts peoples’ stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims even though he is neither. He challenges peoples’ assumptions of people from the Middle East. And he just fucking cracks me up.

    Somehow I’m subscribed to a Baha’i mailing list – as in snail mail. So every month or quarter I get a newsletter about what the community’s up to. My Mum likes reading it and knows a lot about them, even though neither of us know why we’re on the list! Seem like a nice, small community (in the UK).

  21. Sunny — on 21st February, 2006 at 4:11 pm  

    There is a problem from many traditional Hindu quarters about evolution too.

    A lot of them, specially the militant VHP crew, take the ‘Lord Ram was around 2 million years ago’ thing literally.

    Hindus believe the world is created and destroyed in cycles, and I’ve heard the same from some Sikhs too. We are currently in Kal-yug , a dark cycle that will eventually be destroyed. Orthodox Hindus, I’ve read, are waiting for the final re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu, before the world is destroyed and re-created again.

    So with all the cycles going on, evolution is a tricky concept.

  22. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 4:42 pm  

    Hinduism has been hijacked by idiots. By that I don’t necessarily mean the extremists – all extremists are de facto idiots, we take that for granted. I mean most normal Hindus are unaware of much of what the vedas and upanishads say because the religion is led by those who I feel have missed the point, which is why Buddhism has enjoyed such popularity – it stripped Hinduism down to its essence. Hinduism descended into ritual, hierarchy and decadence a few hundred years ago. The concept of ritual is one of the key things that turned me off religion.

    The interesting thing about kalyug and the other ‘ages’ are that the interpretation of their duration is so varied – time is relative. As you say Sunny, when people try to nail religion down to specific timescales, they come out with stuff like Ram living in year x and the world being created a few thousand years ago (Xtians and Muslims).

  23. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 5:18 pm  

    which is why Buddhism has enjoyed such popularity – it stripped Hinduism down to its essence

    The Buddha’s message was so radical and distinct, that I think this is a simplistic and innacurate summary of what Buddhism was and is. In what way was it stripped-down Hinduism?

  24. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 6:13 pm  

    Jay I never claimed that Buddhism is ONLY a bare bones version of Hinduism, I said that Buddhism took much of the ethos central to Hinduism as inspiration. I think you’re trying to infer something that wasn’t there. Vast amounts of Buddhism and Hinduism are exactly the same. I’m not claiming one has superiority over the other, but they are intrinsically linked. Buddhism and Jainism were direct responses to what Hinduism had become, both originating at a similar time.

    Jains were fed up with the decadence I mentioned above, so chose an extreme route – but kept most of the Hindu beliefs intact.

    Buddhism sought a middle ground between the excesses and ascetics in Hinduism. But concepts such as nirvana, samsara, karma and more survived completely unchanged.

  25. Checks and balances — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:29 pm  

    I once saw Deepak Chopra on Larry King and he claimed he didn’t call himself a Hindu when Larry asked him what religion he was. He was born a Hindu but says he doesn’t call himself one. Basically he peddles Hindu concepts, with some Buddhism thrown in and makes a living from it. I think he doesn’t want to call himself a Hindu because he thinks that will limit his appeal to his customers. So I wouldn’t attribute his support of creationism (by the way which creationism is he supporting? The Christian version or the million other versions out there?)

    As for ritual etc. in Hinduism, I personally think it’s a bit unfair to say that it has all decended into ritual, decadence etc. Hindu rituals are beautiful and add colour and life to daily life. As long as the meanings are not lost or distorted, I see nothing wrong with it. “Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion” by Stephen Huyler is a great look at ordinary Hindus who live their daily lives through meaningful, simple to complex rituals. They come from all levels of society and do so with sincerity, and I wouldn’t call them decadent and out of touch with the real meaning of Hinduism. I think one of the strengths of Hinduism is that it has such a range of ways of worship to appeal to all levels of people – from the Vedas and Upanishads level to other levels. I personally would hate to see Sanatana Dharma stripped of its life and made more austere and “semiticized” in a way. There’s a place in it for both. And in the end, no matter what people say, all religions are basically rituals of some sort.

  26. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:31 pm  

    Rohin, am in complete agreement with your points in [23]. Hinduism has fallen victim to a preponderance of cloying sentimentalism. Hinduism seems to have gravitated towards complete Bhaktism and an over-dependence on the form – usually anthromorphic form. You can see the same development in Western Christianity as well.

    However, Hinduism also has the Shankar Acharjya’s Advaita Vedanta. Its absolutely unbelievable. Its universal spirituality in pure and explicit metaphysics. Gone is the sentimentalism, the bhakti and the clinging to form.

    The Vedanta is still practiced in India but its by no means mainstream. Check out the writings of Ananda Coomaraswamy.

  27. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:40 pm  

    Again C&B, I didn’t say all Hindus lose sight of the meanings behind ritual. But I think most do. When I have gone to the temple, I have really tried to be contemplative and use my time constructively. But all that friends around me have wanted to do is check out girls and hit the pub opposite (nr. King’s Cross).

    It would be completely unfair of me to ignore the social role of the temple/church/gurdwara etc, it has always been a place to meet people. But I’ve rarely felt spiritual when the places are full. When empty, definitely. Ah I don’t know where I’m going with this, so let me get back to your point about ritual. People seem more concerned with the routine and the fact they are seen to be doing something than what they are actually doing. Like so many Muslims I know pray five times a day on autopilot. It’s become a chore, something to tick off the list. This completely defeats the point of prayer.

    Ah this is a big topic and I’ve got to get on with some work – but I’ll try to explain more clearly at some point.

    Sid I shall check out your suggestions, I can’t say I know a great deal about Coomaraswamy.

  28. Checks and balances — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:41 pm  

    Also, Buddhism can be fairly ritualistic in Sri Lanka, Tibet, Ladakh, Thailand and other places. Without some level of ritual you wouldn’t have the preservation of thousands of sacred groves in India that contribute to conservation of biodiversity and rare species long decimated elsewhere.

  29. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:42 pm  

    “And in the end, no matter what people say, all religions are basically rituals of some sort.”

    Completely agree – that’s exactly what they are. A vehicle to provide structure to someone’s life. Glorified ritual.

  30. Checks and balances — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:54 pm  

    I guess we all have different experiences at temples. I love going to them (don’t get to go often though) and find the experience moving, but don’t find them necessary.
    I used to be moved by the makeshift shrines I used to see while hiking in India and moved by the understanding and attitude towards the environment and life that I encountered amongst villagers who lived in these forests and erected these shrines. They didn’t need to read the Vedas or the Upanishads to live out some of the ideals of Sanatana Dharma.

    I understand what you’re saying though about rote repetition of rituals etc.. But then the fault lies not necessarily with the ritual but with the people. Either they don’t understand what it is they’re doing, its significance or it just doesn’t do anything for them and that’s fine. They can then seek other alternatives to ritual. I’m not pushing ritual or saying it is necessary. I just don’t think ritual should be dismissed, especially since this is one of the features used to denigrate Sanatana Dharma by other religions that do not understand their meaning or misconstrue them or deliberately twist their meaning, and this has led some Hindus, in my opinion, to go out of their way to “semiticize” their faith. I have a Buddhist friend who feels that Buddhism too has been “semiticized” by certain practitioners. But there is so much variety in both, so to each his own.

  31. Checks and balances — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:59 pm  

    Well, I agree. Life itself is one glorified ritual, from birth to death. Getting up every day and brushing your teeth is a ritual, going to work and doing the same thing every day, eating at certain times of the day, dressing a certain way. Why bother with any of it really? It all obfuscates, not just religious rituals. Even ascetics, who’ve given it all up, have rituals. It’s inescapable.

  32. mirax — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:59 pm  

    Er, I used to be a Bahai some years ago. Met bahais from all over the world- from tribesmen from Papua New Guinea to Iraqi bahai refugees in the UK . Generally a very kind and peaceable lot but very staid and rather boring. Can’t quite imagine the community producing standups or rockstars.

  33. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:12 pm  

    I just don’t think ritual should be dismissed, especially since this is one of the features used to denigrate Sanatana Dharma by other religions that do not understand their meaning or misconstrue them or deliberately twist their meaning, and this has led some Hindus, in my opinion, to go out of their way to “semiticize” their faith. I have a Buddhist friend who feels that Buddhism too has been “semiticized” by certain practitioners. But there is so much variety in both, so to each his own.

    So how does the “semiticization” manifest itself?

  34. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:20 pm  

    Can’t quite imagine the community producing standups or rockstars.

    Or Weapons Inspectors who might not have committed suicide.

  35. Checks and balances — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:24 pm  

    Well, it’s a bit complex. For example, some Hindus get very defensive and start saying “we are just like you, we too only believe in one God.” While this is true and does correct a widespread misconception about Hinduism, it negates the complexity of Hinduism and incorrectly equates it with the Abrahamic religions’ idea of monotheism. I don’t claim to be an expert on Hinduism, but this sort of equation sells the religion short. Monotheism, polytheism, henotheism, and other theisms are all part of it. So when I hear Hindus saying we are not polytheistic and believe in one God, while that is true, it also buys into the derogatory attitude towards polytheism that the world’s major monotheistic religions have historically had. They need to qualify that statement so that Hinduism does not become equated with the idea of monotheism in the semitic religions. And what about the current beliefs of certain tribes or animists or the ancient Mayas, Greeks, Incas etc. Are they somehow lessened because of their polytheism? Their beliefs are in no way inferior to the semitic religions or any other religion.

  36. mirax — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:33 pm  

    The ‘semitization’ manifests itself mostly in gross simplification. The focus on ONE book, ONE prophet/avatar, ONE way of thinking, ONE history etc.

    The brahminisation of so many diverse and heterdox traditions in folk worship is also not a good thing.

  37. mirax — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:38 pm  

    yeah Sid, the David Kelly thing was a shocker for the community. Sent ripples that reached even ex-bahais living on the over side of the world ;-)

  38. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:39 pm  

    Their beliefs are in no way inferior to the semitic religions or any other religion.

    Yes you’re absoluteley right. But the term polytheistic is of the language of theists who considered the ‘polies’ as being inferior without understanding them. The Mayans or other native American religions would never consider themselves polytheists as in the believers of a multiplicity of gods, because like Hindus they considered the Gods as manifestations of the Being or Brhma in Hindu terms. Hindus have always claimed that as well, hence Atva, as Beyond Being. But the calcification of Hinduism in the last 1000 years have seen a drift towards formality and Bhaktism, in spite of people like Shankara and Chaitenya etc.

  39. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:44 pm  

    C&B you’ve put your chequebook on something I’ve often talked about here:

    ““we are just like you, we too only believe in one God.” While this is true and does correct a widespread misconception about Hinduism, it negates the complexity of Hinduism and incorrectly equates it with the Abrahamic religions’ idea of monotheism.”

    And also with the rest of your comment, very well said.

    Yes, many Westerners still to this day believe Hinduism to be a polytheistic cult. But who said polytheism was worse than monotheism anyway? Why does everyone seem to accept this as the status quo? Hindus rush to justify themselves to all and sundry, but I sometimes feel that an honest desire to correct peoples’ misconceptions is tinged with or replaced by a metaphysical chip on the shoulder.

    But yes, Hinduism is frequently misunderstood when it comes to the mono/poly argument.

  40. Checks and balances — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:47 pm  

    But the term polytheistic is of the language of theists who considered the ‘polies’ as being inferior without understanding them. The Mayans or other native American religions would never consider themselves polytheists as in the believers of a multiplicity of gods, because like Hindus they considered the Gods as manifestations of the Being or Brhma in Hindu terms.

    True, I only used the word polytheism because that’s how they were seen. My point is that even if a religion is strictly polytheistic by its own adherents’ definition and understanding and they don’t believe in a final, one God or Being, there’s nothing wrong with that. This tyranny of monotheism and the belief that there HAS to be only one God is a bit troubling.

  41. Checks and balances — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:49 pm  

    “But who said polytheism was worse than monotheism anyway? Why does everyone seem to accept this as the status quo?”

    Rohin, thanks. That’s what I was trying to say, but it ended up being a little convoluted.

  42. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:53 pm  

    A good book to read on Buddhism, the historical and theological context and the sheer radical philosophy and meaning of Siddhartha Gautama teachings, the fractious relationship between Buddhism and Hinduism, is Pankaj Mishra’s An End to Suffering: The Buddha In the World

    Very good on why Buddhism dissapeared in the land of its birth too.

  43. mirax — on 21st February, 2006 at 9:58 pm  

    Sid, your statement :
    ‘But the calcification of Hinduism in the last 1000 years have seen a drift towards formality and Bhaktism, in spite of people like Shankara and Chaitenya etc. ‘

    is rather confused. Please read up on the bhakti movement – you may be surprised at adi shankara’s or chaitenya’s role in it- before you diss it.

  44. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 10:04 pm  

    Rohin

    Which mandir are you referring to that is close to Kings Cross?

  45. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 10:18 pm  

    It’s just a town hall, Camden town hall I think. It’s used by the Bong community for durga puja and other festivals, I’ve also been to one in Tooting a few times. The only (south Asian-wise) places in the UK where I have been outside a specific festival are a few south Indian temples in Tooting, the gurdwara there and the Swami Narayan mandir. I am not a regular visitor to the temple by any stretch of the imagination, as you might have guessed. I’ve always said, just like Homer (Simpson) – if God is everywhere, why do I need to go to church?

  46. Jay Singh — on 21st February, 2006 at 10:28 pm  

    Yeah I was just wondering. I used to work near Kings Cross and didn’t recall there being a mandir there. The Hare Krishna place off Oxford Street is the closest to a central London mandir I guess.

  47. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st February, 2006 at 11:10 pm  

    Bikhair

    Well yeah, Chaitenya was Bhaktic as was Shankara. But Shanakara was one of the few geniuses of this world who was a pure gnostic, a gnana in Sanskrit terminology, and therefore could wrap the cosmology of Bhaktism around his little finger before he went on to the meat of the matter – which was the the pure metaphysics of the Advaita. The only other person who comes close, and of how gloriously close, would be Ibn Arabi of Murcia.

  48. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st February, 2006 at 11:19 pm  

    I agree – the reverence for Dogs is a very good thing in Zoroastrianism.

    The Sufis love their doggies too.

  49. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st February, 2006 at 11:20 pm  

    gulp…

    My post [48] was to mirax and not…Bikhair. I’m so very sorry.

  50. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 11:23 pm  

    Got her on the mind eh Sid?

  51. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st February, 2006 at 11:26 pm  

    oh that capricious snip of a girl!

  52. mirax — on 22nd February, 2006 at 6:51 am  

    The only muslim family I know who had dogs as pets were persian emigres – so maybe some of the old ways stuck. Every other muslim in this part of the world gets rather hysterical about dogs.
    Singapore’s first and only court case of racial/religious hatred last year was triggered by dogs.
    Following a letter in the press from a malay muslim woman who was tetchy about dogs being transported in taxis without being confined in pet carriers(hence polluting taxis for muslim passengers) , some dog-loving chinese bloggers said some rude things about muslims in general. It was a very strange case, totally unprecedented since we do not have racial/religious hatred laws per se. More a case of the government striking out against bloggers and throwing a scrap to the muslim community.

  53. Jai — on 22nd February, 2006 at 12:31 pm  

    Something I find interesting is that the 2 main groups of global religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism on the one hand, and Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism on the other — to some extent claim to have developed independently of other faiths within the same “regional group”, and to have the “correct” view on religious/spiritual matters, yet there are marked similarities within each group.

    For example, the Islamo-Judeo-Christian faiths all claim “exclusivity” (ie. only one true faith, only “their” God is true, “revealed” tenets to specific prophets, and so on), along with quite black & white concepts such as Heaven & Hell, God vs Satan, only 1 life, damnation or salvation, Day of Judgement etc. The so-called “Eastern” faiths have a very different view on things (Rohin already summarised the basics in his view of Buddhism so I don’t need to reiterate them here, as they generally apply to the other faiths involved too).

    In each case, the specific religion claims to have the “right” interpretation of God and spirituality, and (more in the case of the Middle-Eastern/European faiths rather than the Indian ones) an element of primacy (“God’s favoured people), yet they have greater localised similarities with the other regional faiths than with those originating further afield in the world.

    Some would say — correctly — that it is a matter of common sense that geographical proximity would cause this to happen; but it just strikes me as interesting, as each faith claims its inspiration comes directly from a divine source rather than from any worldly influences.

  54. mirax — on 26th February, 2006 at 3:12 am  

    Re the Islamisation of Hindusim, check this out:
    http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/Sep222005/national1716162005921.asp

    The setting up of a Hindu law Board by a bunch of fanatics who aim to set up hundreds of courts to solve disputes sharia-style. Meanwhile , to really get into the spirit of things, they’ve offered a reward for the beheading of MF Hussain for defaming hindu gods. These are fringe nutters but the story is out in the international press with NO clarification whatsoever that the Hindu Law Board means squat.

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