Friday, August 31, 2007

A Moratorium on Solutions to the Problem of Religious Dialogue

Most who know me know that I have few buttons that can be pressed to evoke any sort of dramatic response. Often enough I don’t even recognize intended insults. But for some reason when someone solves the “problem” of religious tension with one fell swoop in a newspaper editorial I start to get a kink my neck and a desire to ridicule both the person’s face and their mother.


See here for said article in local newspaper.

For a few weeks The Kitchener Record experienced some brief volleying over views on religious differences.
Enter Michael Cahill. He summarizes that,

Second Opinion columns and letters to the editor have attempted to explain and defend some of the positions and issues. Let me paraphrase some of the relevant submissions, "all religions share a belief in their own truth" and also, "we shouldn't discriminate against people of faith." Assertions like these are, of course, quite mistaken, but not in the way you are probably thinking.

Oh yes Michael those poor imbeciles have got it all wrong, but what is this? Not in the way I was thinking? Do go on.
Michael swaggers out with his opening line to catch us off guard with his brash and edgy outlook,

I, quite frankly, believe in very little, and have faith in very little else. Having said that, allow me to try and put some things into context.

I don’t know what to believe anymore Michael. Help. I need some guidance.

When we are at our very best as people, we will meet each other as we are. As individuals, regardless of how we feel, or how we look, we meet each other and become friends, neighbours, and co-workers. We all share in common the daily aggravations of life.

Ah yes the ties that bind. Our dog peeing on the newspaper, our pesky kids pulling off some crazy hijinks. Why can’t we just communicate that to the Iraqis? Or the troubled youth wanted to take his life or others. I’ll get on it. But, why does it seem so hard to get this crucial point across?

If we see each other through the distorting lens of our own self-interest -- religious or cultural -- then we have become victims of corporate media and AM talk radio.

Ayyyeee. I didn’t know that AM talk radio was big enough to have a separate branch from corporate media! This is serious. But you have cleared yourself of such self-interest Michael. Enlighten me.

[insert four sentence re-cap of the history of religious pluralism]

Now, after several centuries of living together I'm sure that we, as people, have all learned that one does not wander into a Zoroastrian worship space and yell "fire," and one does not show up late for synagogue eating a bacon sandwich.

Surely we have all come this far.


Again, if only we had a team of translators working on this for the various dialects in Iraq. Perhaps it would be helpful to share some of your own experience Michael.

I share with my good friend Kaz the observance of Ramadan, and an annual beard-growing contest. My friend Bhupi is one of Canada's most talented mehendhi artists (henna tattoos). She is also a devout Hindu. And her husband Sanjeev makes the most wicked martinis in Cambridge.

And my old chum Margot Sangster, the noted Buddhist philosopher, once said to me, "Yes, we all take different paths up the same mountain."


Coooooool.
How would you summarize if you had to wax philosophically on the matter?

Regardless of our individual faiths we share a common starting point, and a common destination. When we as people differ, when there is conflict, it is because of narrow self-interest and politics. It's not because of faith.

To be aware of, and celebrate our differences, be they religious or otherwise, is a form of discrimination in and of itself. It is to our credit that we do so. And let's recognize that no one religion is the one true path to anywhere -- recent statements from the Vatican notwithstanding.


So sayeth Michael Cahill. Amen.

I am not entirely sure why this is such a button for me. For a time there was a stream of liberal rhetoric that I wanted to buy into but now pieces like this just drip with an arrogance and not-so-subtle colonialism that just grates.

Regardless of our individual faiths we share a common starting point, and common destination.
So that which is beyond human experience unites us.

When we as people differ, when there is conflict, it is because of narrow self-interest and politics. It's not because of faith.
It is the details of the life in between that is the problem.

And let's recognize that no one religion is the one true path to anywhere.


What the hell does that even mean?


I call for a moratorium on any solutions for religious dialogue.

2 comments:

johnny m said...

oh, mercy.

the doctor ranting? what a topsy turvy world this is becoming!

IndieFaith said...

Yes, I have now tipped my hand and revealed one of my allusive "buttons". If only you had known in college!