04-21-08, 12:27 AM #1
Politics of religion in east and west.
Hello, i have no particular religious beliefs myself but i have been thinking about politics and religion a lot recently and this is what i was thinking.
Of course every religion has a spectrum of followers. On one side I do think that there are people of all religions the world-over for which their religion is just a way to lead a better life, i have met lots of good people in my life for whom this is true. Having said this on the other side there are people of all religions also for which their religion is a means to propogate alterior beliefs, many times a determined minority can spread political beliefs through a sense of religious unity. We observe this occuring very strongly in the muslim world today, but i always remind people that not that long ago it was the pope sanctioning the christian kings of europe to wage wars on behalf of their religion. We see this side historically in all religions i believe, but i return to my optimistic affirmation that this is only one side of religion for the politically motivated, as opposed to the better side i first mentioned.
More broadly speaking let's say the worlds religions can be devided very roughly into two categories, the three western abrahamic religions and the eastern religions which are too diverse to categorize but share common elements for example the daoistic and/or dharmic outlooks. I believe, while of all religions there are people (hopefully a majority) that are leading a good life atleast partly thanks to their beliefs, the eastern philosophies in general are just more compatible as a means to this end and less accesable from the political side/as a political tool. I explain my thought process on this in the next two paragraphs.
I think that all three major religions share the element of tradition and enforcement of family values etc and tools that enable people to lead a better life. However i think over the centuries as politics has become more and more global, especially since the second world war, we have seen these religions shift further towards the political side of the spectrum, making them more accessable to those who wish to use their religion for political means. And in history i think we see an evolution with each ones emergence towards being inherantly more politically competative, and this process also taking place with each successive branch and sect within each of these religions. More and more political tools have become incorporated into these religions and given more strength. For example becoming successively more literal in their affirmations of rights and privaledges to their followers aswell as enhancement of religious laws, judgement and all three increasing emphasis on their historical viewpoint over time and ideas about chosen people and superiority etc.
Now i think that eastern religions are more compatible at the other end of the spectrum, of leading a better and happier life. They too contain there own set of tools to the follower with which they can do this. And these tools are very accessable to everybody because these religions have no inherent alterior motive/political competitivity and you don't see the array of political tools in these religions. For example in the western religions the metaphysical ideas about creation, afterlife and deities are explicit and tell you the way things have happened and will happen literally. In eastern religions the metaphysical elements are more like scientific models, for example as a good physicist knows an atom is not really like a tiny set of biliard balls rolling round each other, but this view allows him to make good predictions and do good things, this is the same way that reincarnation to the budhist can be considered or even the animistic gods to a hindu can be considered. Many or even most followers may think of these elements literally but the point is their only purpose is to provide a way of understanding that allows you to do good things. Because of this non-literalism you can even go as far as to consider eastern religions non mutually exclusive with any other religion. You could feesably follow teachings from confusionism or budhism aswell as islam for example, or follow all three. This is the greatest testament of all to their non-competative nature, you can see that they have little to no political side to their spectrum.
In conclusion there is atleast two sides to any religion, many people of all religions who follow the religious teachings who are good people probably even because of their religion but also many people who follow the religious institution and with or without knowing it the politics of their religion more so. And that the western religions are far succeptable to this problem because they are more politically geared and competative and therefore ultimately liable to abuse by a determined political force.
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