Religion

Posted: 20/08/2011 in Insight, Struggle
Tags: ,

(Added to Religion page)

I am a deeply religious man. Early in my life I came out of a drunken haze to realise there was a Oneness that we all are – One the Movie. Once there I was driven by the convicition of this awareness, that at the time I called spirituality. This spirituality fed my time in politics, and although being spiritual did not seem much connected with endless mailings and letter-writing the reality was that it was the motivation. My involvement with the struggle came from compassion. And it is my compassion that makes me look at the world religions and say what are you doing?

Basically religions have been bought off. The institutions themselves marvel in grandiose buildings, temples, churches, mosques and other religious buildings are perhaps some of the most beautiful architecture in the world; yet thes buildings can exist in some of the more impoverished areas of the world. Is that compassion? For me this is an indication that the survival of the institution is more important than its compassionate teaching. And this is the crux of the issue, how much do the religious institutions compromise themselves to get the funding they need for the religions to continue? Survival is essential, but how much must they compromise to survive?

Buddhism has three refuges – Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, belief in the Buddha’s enlightenment and all that follows, the teachings, and the community of the teachers. Perfectly sensible. Then you start to ask, in this day and age how does the Sangha continue? They need finance, and like everywhere the nominal donation from the rich (1%) is far more important to the survival of the institution than the 1% of the poor. And when the rich donator asks, does the Buddha say that being rich compromises you the monk is encouraged to answer no. And it is this no, that starts the slippery slope of compromise that is part of the general social compromise that avoids the political awareness of the corporatocracy and its consequences. In Buddhist terms the wealth needs to have come from Right Livelihood, and how many rich people can say that in the capitalist system?

But for me the greatest burden lies with Christianity, quite simply because the hegemony is in Christian countries. How much has the Christian church avoided the political truth so that it can survive? Why is it that I grew up in a Catholic family, and the more vehement Catholics in my family are the more right-wing? Quite simply why don’t Christians in general associate caring and compassion with the Struggle of Left-Wing politics? Especially Christians in the hegemony. This is a question that has always bemused me. For me the aims of socialism are quite clear, better treatment for all people. Isn’t this caring and compassion? What else can it be? Now there might be names such as Marxism, there might be calls for revolution from some on the left, but overall the Struggle is about caring for all. And isn’t that fundamentally what religious people are about?

So what happens to stop this identification between religion and the left? Let’s start with fear. Christians have their lifestyles. They go to church, and meet other christians whose lifestyles are similar. The priest tells them to make a donation to the church, s/he tells them that they should be moral, and then the Christian goes home to carry on with their lifestyle of avoidance. In the hegemony politicians on the right use religious rhetoric to support their positions especially in the US – although Tony Blair misused religion in his political life as well. How can Christianity allow this? It totally bemuses me.

And what happens on the left wing of politics? They eschew religion. I know Marx talked of religion as the opiate of the masses, but I am not sure that he decried religion per se – I hope he didn’t. When he describes religion as an opiate I agree. The way religions operate they allow people to avoid. The church might encourage donations to Oxfam but what does it do about the underlying politics that creates the conditions for the poverty that Oxfam is trying to help with. Christianity avoids the politics yet it is western democracies whose politics creates the poverty. The corporatocracy requires the votes of these Christians to continue. Why does the church not extend its purview to all of daily life, to an awareness of all the forces that in dailiy life creates the conditions of poverty. Quite simply it can’t because the fabric of western daily life is not sustainable if carried out on a Christian caring basis. How can Christians survive without the sales of the weapons industry and the wars the industry requires? That money underpins the economies of Christain countries. This avoidance of the truth in the institutional aspects of the Christian community is integral to the way of life of Christians in the West, and whilst not all westerners are Christians it is a prevalent justification of the establishment. And in America you have the Religious Right? Again I am bemused as to how these people are accepted as Christians.

And the left wing? Do they take the moral high ground? No in general they cede the religious territory to the right, rejecting religion as not being connected with the Struggle. Yet the religious Struggle is the same as the political Struggle. The distance between religion and compassion is perhaps the same distance as politics and caring. If we can begin to identify these two struggles together then perhaps we have a chance of relieving suffering.

Religious convictions is far more powerful than any political convictions as political theory comes from the intellect whereas conviction is insight. This conviction needs to encompass a political understanding that requires struggle, for most the institutions dissipate any conviction if not directly promoting the establishment at least not promoting antagonism by accepting the reality of what has been done in the established name. Religious people often end up fighting their religious institutions, quite simply because institutional survival has led to a corruption of the truth.

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