Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Getting and Spending

Karen Armstrong, the British religious historian and former nun, is the author of A History of God, The Battle for God, about religious fundamentalism, and most recently, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions.

In an interview with Janet I. Tu of The Seattle Times, Armstrong says that one of the factors leading to the origin of Confucianism and Daoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, monotheism in the Mideast, and philosophical rationalism in Greece was violence, "which in all four regions had reached unprecedented heights. In every case, the catalyst of religious change was revulsion from that violence."

So, why does religion seem to lead to so much violence and bloodshed in the modern world?

"Doctrine, ritual practices, endless discussions," says Armstrong. "All of which masks the (central teaching of) compassion. Because people don't really want to abandon their personal (way of life). It's easier to say: I believe in certain articles of creed. Not many people actually want religion to change them. They expect religion to give them a little mild uplift once a week, so they can then return to their normal lives of getting and spending with renewed vigor.

"The sages emphasized behavior because that's what worked. Belief doesn't do anything for you really."


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