Category Archives: Philosophy

If murder was socially acceptable…

…would we still do it?

Personally I can only see it being used for life-or-death circumstances. We wouldn’t go around killing people just because it’s socially acceptable. Besides, if people just kept killing each other for the most trivial of reasons there’d be nobody left!

Would it be socially acceptable to kill a pet, a child or somebody who is pregnant? I don’t think so. Taboos against harming pets, children and the pregnant are ingrained in most societies. It would take a MASSIVE extenuating circumstance to do so in my opinion.

Would murder motivated by a factor of identity- for example, race or sexuality, be accepted? Definitely not. And identity-motivated killings cannot be successfully excused away as “self-defence” or “my finger slipped while I was calling sem some racial slurs”.

Of course this is an unlikely scenario. Most modern religions prohibit murder and that has become so ingrained even in the most secular of societies. This won’t change for a good long time, perhaps even forever.

Jesus didn’t die on a light-up cross

There’s a market stall which sells little trinkets, mostly of a Christian nature. They have rosaries, necklaces, icons- but what really caught my eye was a light-up crucifix.

And I thought “what would Jesus think”?

Sometimes I think the Mormons have a point in their resistance to using the cross as a symbol- if Jesus was to return tomorrow, what would he think of people walking round wearing the thing he died on? He would probably think it to be trivialising his death, especially when they light up. Or come in 24 karat gold. Or are worn with some very “unchristian” outfits. I have seen Christians get offended- and understandably so- at cross “tramp stamp” tattoos due to their proximity to the rear end. So why do these same people hoard such tacky, cheaply-made crosses?

Believe me, Jesus wouldn’t like that either.

Ye olde meme

When Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in 1976, he had no idea that it would explode like it did in the internet era.

Neither did he know that memes existed in the prayerbooks of Anglo-Saxon England.

Here is an interesting writeup by Kate Thomas of the University of York about Anglo-Saxon memes, much in the “share or you will die in 10 days” mould. Of course, similar benedictions are to be found in every world religion, threatening people with hell or extreme punishment for not doing an unusually specific activity. This kind of meme has like the very word made a major comeback in the 21st century, but this time taken ironically rather than seriously.

It could be argued that religion in itself is a meme in that one is believed to gain a spot in heaven by doing certain things, whether believing in Jesus as lord and saviour of mankind or abstaining from pork. And like these memes, many people now refuse to take religion seriously and those that do are mocked. The extreme legalism seen in many sects could be the reason why. Practices that even theologians are at a loss to explain are said to get you a ticket into heaven. Many of these practices don’t even appear in the main texts, and are customs for the sake of it.

Krishna and the WASPs

Today I saw a lone Hare Krishna chanting the mantra and peddling copies of the Bhagavad Gita. He was a white man who looked to be in his 20s. And it got me wondering- what is the attraction of eastern religion to westerners, especially WASPs?

First of all, attraction to cultures outside one’s own is seen around the world. They are seen as exotic and something different and refreshing. WASPs are the default in British and American society. Even those of us not from WASP backgrounds have a “WASP affinity” for this reason. Anything outside the sphere of white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism is infinitely more attractive than a Christian background because a Christian background is the default- even if raised completely secular, most people will still celebrate or know of Christmas and Easter. Not to mention there is also a hint of rebellion against the “accept Jesus or go to hell” thinking of conservative/evangelical Protestants. The Bhagavad Gita has passages such as this:

“With whatever motive people worship Me, I fulfill their desires accordingly.”

Such a far cry from evangelical thinking and a perfect statement of the ultimate goal of all faiths.

I would like to finish by saying that this is not an attack on WASPs. I have many great friends who are WASPs and recognise that not every single WASP’s thinking falls into the discussion above. It just interested me that most ISKCON/Hare Krishna converts are WASPs and I set out to find out why.

 

What is freedom?

Tonight, Jews around the world are honouring the first night of Passover, a festival celebrating Moses freeing the Israelites from Egypt.

Judaism is the oldest Abrahamic faith, and a theme common to most sects of Abrahamism is that free will can have consequences. This is illustrated best with Genesis and the forbidden fruit of Eden. For acting on their inclination and eating the fruit, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden. The opinions on freedom amongst followers of these sects therefore range from a “negative freedom” to a belief in total and utter submission to God. Negative freedom appears to be the most common view, a free will existing in obedience of holy laws.

The west today is largely secular, and negative freedom has been replaced with total freedom. The rules of religion have been cast off even amongst many laity of the Abrahamic faiths. It is common to see a Jew eating leaven during Passover as well as pole dancers for Jesus. Are these people sinners? Yes, according to many religious opinions. However, to both this laity and those totally secular there is little satisfaction in the laws of the Bible and satisfaction in modern issues including social justice and ensuring equality for all.

So what is freedom? Your personal conclusion will differ depending on many factors, including your position on the spectrum of extreme piety to total atheism. You have the freedom to formulate your own opinion and the freedom to criticise other views.

And that’s what freedom is.

PS, I will be at Whitby Goth tomorrow so apologies if there’s no entry for the 23rd. It’s a long way there and back.

 

How powerful can words get?

The famous Kabbalistic text, the Sefer Yetzirah, inextricably links the letters of the Hebrew alphabet to the creation of the universe itself:

Second, from the Spirit he (God) made Air and formed for speech twenty-two letters, three of which are mothers, A, M, SH, seven are double, B, G, D, K, P, R, T, and twelve are single, E, V, Z, CH, H, I, L, N, S, O, Tz, Q, but the spirit is first among these. Third, Primitive Water. He also formed and designed from his Spirit, and from the void and formless made earth, even as a rampart, or standing wall, and varied its surface even as the crossing of beams.

If letters are that powerful, what about words? We already know words to be powerful. Words can create and words can destroy. Words can change the world. But is this the limit of their potential?

I think not.

Their full power is beyond my feeble human brain. And yet I can imagine their maximum power being harnessed in a revolution spreading beyond this tiny universe.

I cannot wait.

Musings from St. Patricks mass

So I attended mass today for the first time in what seems like an eternity. Just for the parade though (kilted pipe band! Yay!). As I am impatient and sitting through a sermon is rather dull, my mind began to wander.

I got nothing from this sermon, very much in the “official” Catholic viewpoint. I am well aware that the Catholic religion, like every other religion and philosophy out there is a human attempt at grasping the lifeforce that permeates us. And it dismays me that some people will damn me for thinking that. Being forced into following the official interpretation of a religion with empty threats of hell is no fun at all. The viewpoint I have developed is that religion is a selfish thing, in the best way possible. It is a communion between per and the entity referred to as the Lord by Christians, Allah by Muslims, Adonai by Jews, Brahman by Hindus and many more names. It can only be fully grasped by testing it against others.

Furthermore, when it comes to mysticism, beliefs begin to merge together no matter how different they may look on the surface. Many parallels can be drawn between Kabbalism and Sufism, Pure Land Buddhism amd Rosicrusianism. This just further proves that people are worshipping one and the same, no matter what they call sem.

And nobody wants to go to hell, do they? 🙂