Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’
Last night, Xmas night, I was in a Chinese restaurant in Ganjingzi, a new and expanding neighborhood near the Dalian International Airport. I was the guest of Sherry Cai and Bin Qui, her husband. It seemed like a normal Chinese dinner in an average to good area, lots of fresh seafood.
And then there was a sort of night club show with pretty girls doing a sort of belly dance routine, an MC who recognized the only Laowai in the restaurant, yours truly. I guess this was more evidence in these good times in China, that the Chinese enjoy parties and celebrations as much if not more than many other places I have lived.
So I am in an Xmas mood this morning and couldn’t help feeling touched by these thoughts written by Alan Wolfe in a review of an interesting book about the connection between religion and culture. Here is a telling excerpt from that review:
We are, in addition, witnessing the severing of religion from the cultures within which it was once embedded. Religion and culture have long existed in an uneasy embrace. Catholicism is presumably a universal faith, yet long before the reforms of Vatican II allowed Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular, Brazilian Catholicism owed as much to its South American roots as Polish Catholicism did to its Eastern European ones. Islam sought to conquer the world, or as much of it as it could, yet it was intimately connected to the Arab culture in which it was born. The only reason we do not find the term “secular Jew” puzzling is because we appreciate that Judaism is both an ethnic and a religious category. Much the same can be said for many of the other world religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism.
If religion is in decline in the modern world, Roy argues, so is culture. On the one hand, we have multiculturalism, celebrations of diversity that somehow wind up making all cultures look and feel alike. More important, we face globalization, today’s true universal faith, which subjects all local customs to the laws of the market. Under the influence of both, religion loses whatever affinities it may once have had with the cultures that sustained it. Jakarta, the capital of the world’s largest Muslim country, lies some 5,000 miles from the holy city of Mecca, and even Mecca, Roy argues, has lost much of its specifically Arab character.
I am a declared Agnostic about all religion and especially about the intersection of religion and North American politics. Here the reviewer and the writer point out that religion begins in a cultural context but it tends to cool as its original cultural connection wanes and withers. Is that what happened to me? Did my cultural unrootedness lead to my Agnosticism? I think that could be the case.
In Dalian I am a Laowai but I don’t feel a strong cultural attachment to that connection, since most Laowai here seem to share a very shallow and uninteresting cultural view, at least here in Dalian. Oh, I can’t pretend to be Chinafied but I do enjoy my cultural connection with them better than I do the connection with Westerners. Maybe I just prefer to seem different because that’s what I have always felt in whatever city/community that I lived or worked in.
- A tuneful Christmas in Beijing. Why do the Chinese love singing so much more than us? (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- The Real War on Christmas: No Teaching of Religion (time.com)
With Words on Muslims, Opening a Door Long Shut nytimes.com
A book arguing that Muslim immigrants are socially, culturally and intellectually inferior has sold more than a million copies.
I believe that Mr Sarrazin has a point and I sort of am happy to continue living in China where I can expect that sort of immigration issue will not arise!
There are so many things I like about NY Times, or maybe you haven’t noticed that it’s my main feed! This morning I found this nugget that reminds me of my non-religious beliefs and a sound reason for them.
Yes, I am an agnostic and that’s the position that most philosophers accept as the most tenable one for human bein’s. But I beg your indulgence and say that I am no philosopher, even with my agnostic thinking. Though it’s true that I like to philosophize.
Here’s the quote from this morning’s piece about philosophy:
In these popular debates about God’s existence, the winners are neither theists nor atheists, but agnostics — the neglected step-children of religious controversy, who rightly point out that neither side in the debate has made its case. This is the position supported by the consensus of expert philosophical opinion.
So, I feel better in my conscious mind about my agnostic beliefs because the nonsense of an all powerful caring God Father in this universe of such immensity, violent beginnings and endings of star systems et al is just too obvious. I accept many of the moral teachings of Jesus, but God Incarnate, gimme a break!
Here’s the view of another agnostic who blogs at 3 Quarks:
Having recently spent two weeks in Cambridge (the one in the United Kingdom) on a Templeton-Cambridge Fellowship, being lectured to by believers and nonbelievers, I found myself feeling more than anything unconvinced by certainties on either side. And feeling the need for solidarity and identity with other doubters. Thus my call for a revivified agnosticism. Our T-shirt will read: I just don’t know.
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- An Agnostic Manifesto (3quarksdaily.com)
- Disambiguating Faith: How A Lack Of Belief In God May Differ From Various Kinds Of Beliefs That Gods Do Not Exist (camelswithhammers.com)
I read the whole piece in the London Review of Books after seeing the link in Ross Douthat’s NY Times column about the Hitchens memoir and persona.
Yes, I kind of like Christopher Hitchens and especially the person/journalist described by Runciman!
What’s not to like about a contrarian talker like Hitch? I like most of him and his contrarianess!
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It seems that homo sapiens in whatever national variety there is can accept and follow the dictates of the most hoary religions, like Scientology. How crazy can humans be (like Tom Cruise for example) to say that they follow and ascribe to the Religion of Scientology?
Surely they are nutty or barmy or batty or just plain nuts! So what about the Indians who now apparently follow the religious dictates of Hubbard? See this link!
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- Who will inherit the Earth? (new.exchristian.net)
- In Germany, Scientology Outrage Over a Critical Film (time.com)
A little history, Jewish socio-biblical culture and Xmas. David Brooks does find a way to mix things and deliver a mildly moral story. This time it’s about the Jewish seasonal celebration of Hanukkah and here is the telling excerpt form today’s NY Times column:
Generations of Sunday school teachers have turned Hanukkah into the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire. Settlers in the West Bank tell it as a story of how the Jewish hard-core defeated the corrupt, assimilated Jewish masses. Rabbis later added the lamp miracle to give God at least a bit part in the proceedings.
But there is no erasing the complex ironies of the events, the way progress, heroism and brutality weave through all sides. The Maccabees heroically preserved the Jewish faith. But there is no honest way to tell their story as a self-congratulatory morality tale. The lesson of Hanukkah is that even the struggles that saved a people are dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices.
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- White House Hanukkah Party Spawns Anger (cbsnews.com)
- Jewish families find ways to share Hanukkah’s light (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- It’s so fun-akkah to celebrate Han-ukkah! (pbpulse.com)
While the Dalai Lama was pursuing “peace” in Vancouver, Pope Benedict was advising Czechs, Poles et al:
In a meeting with religious leaders on Sunday, the pope emphasized that Europe had been deeply shaped by its Christian roots. Invoking his own background as an academic, he warned the Czech academic community against allowing a modern-day preoccupation with reason to cancel out faith.
“What will happen if our culture builds itself only on fashionable arguments, with little reference to a genuine historical intellectual tradition, or on the viewpoints that are most vociferously promoted and most heavily funded?” he asked.
Some young Christians said they felt alienated by a socially conservative pope, who appeared more intent on preserving the church’s traditions than on adapting it to modern times.
“A pope’s visit should energize all Christians, but I find his social conservatism quite ridiculous,” he said. “The Vatican and this pope have been absolutizing the traditions of the past without thinking of the reasoning behind these rules, which is what Jesus was fighting against.”