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Have a Beer, Buddha

Entry 1691, on 2014-12-20 at 10:24:31 (Rating 3, Religion)

It's no secret that I am not a great fan of religion, but if I (along with many other technical and science oriented people) was forced to choose one it would probably be Buddhism. I guess that's because of the Dalai Lama and the philosophical basis of Buddhism which just seems to be make more sense.

I should mention here that many people say Buddhism actually isn't a religion. According to Wikipedia "Buddhism is a nontheistic religion..." and "While many approaches to religion exclude nontheism by definition, there are some inclusive definitions that show how religious practice and belief do not depend on the presence of god(s)" so I guess opinions vary, but that's not the point of this post anyway.

My point is that things aren't always what they seem. For example, the Dalai Lama isn't necessarily quite as great as some people would suggest if you explore the way Tibet was run before it was taken over by the Chinese - not that I am suggesting the Chinese are much of an improvement!

And then there are the disturbing reports of atrocities committed by Buddhists. For example there have been many cases in Myanmar where Rohingya Muslims have been attacked by mobs of extremist Buddhists despite the Buddhist principle of nonviolence.

And now there is a case reported from Myanmar (previously known as Burma) where a New Zealand bar manager has been charged with insulting Buddhism after he posted an image of Buddha wearing headphones on the internet as part of a promotion for a new bar. He is currently being held in a prison in Myanmar which are reportedly not pleasant places to be.

OK, so he might have been acting like a bit of an ass when he did this but it seems relatively harmless and surely not something worth being thrown in prison over. And since I criticised Muslims for getting upset over Mohammed Cartoons (and many other things) and Christians for persecuting gays and other groups they disapprove of (and many other things) I should equally criticise Buddhism for this lack of tolerance over this issue.

So what's the problem here? Why do religions (even notheistic ones) show such an inability to accept alternative ideas and criticism? Why can't they take a joke? Why do they insist on being treated with more respect than they really deserve?

Well I have no data on this but I think it's because they are all fully aware of how weak their beliefs really are, so they feel the need to protect them in any way necessary from any real or perceived threat. Add to that the fact that in the past religions have been given a lot more respect than they really deserve - a phenomenon which continues today in many countries - and there should be little surprise that followers of religion to insist on special treatment.

There is one other factor: belief in religion is irrational so extending that lack of rationality to acting irrationally to those who criticise them is again, no great surprise.

A far better response than throwing a person into jail would be to have a good laugh and say yeah, Buddha would love a call set of 'phones like that and probably enjoy a quiet beer at this bar as well! I'm sure that's the sort of response the Dalai Lama would give (note that he is head of a different branch of Buddhism).

So Buddhists shouldn't complain when they see an image of Buddha with headphones, Muslims shouldn't complain about cartoons showing Mohammed with a bomb balanced on his head, and Christians shouldn't complain about a cartoon of Jesus laughing at them saying "there's a sucker born again every minute". None of these things really bring their religions into disrepute. There's no need for it because they are doing such a good job of that themselves!

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Comment 1 (4502) by Anonymous on 2016-06-21 at 12:24:35:

People need to be respectful of the culture of a country they visit. it is up to the people who live there permanently to decide what they will tolerate.

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Comment 2 (4503) by OJB on 2016-06-21 at 17:05:07:

Yes, I see your point there but I think people should also try to "fix" the culture where it is repressive or has other negative aspects. And yes, I know that argument about "who are we to judge what is appropriate and what isn't". I think any move to greater freedom and more open discussion without fear of overbearing repression is a good thing in any culture.

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