Saturday, 9 January 2010

Collateral damage

Xenophobia or militant secularism?

In earlier posts I blogged about the danger of the rising European backlash against Islam producing collateral damage to harmless 'foreign' faiths such as Buddhism, due to guilt by association and cultural xenophobia (here and here) ...

"... Nevertheless Buddhism may suffer collateral damage from the growing European fear and hostility towards Islam. Xenophobes who know little about Buddhism may suspect it of being a similarly violent and barbarous Eastern cult, purely on the grounds of originating 'somewhere east of Suez, where the best is like the worst, Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments and a man can raise a thirst.."

A plague on both your houses
Well, now there is hard evidence that hostility to Islam is indeed causing collateral damage to other religions. However the surprising aspect is that Christianity is being hit, according to The Telegraph:

"The British public are concerned at the rise of Islam in the UK and fear that the country is deeply divided along religious lines, according to a major survey.

More than half the population would be strongly opposed to a mosque being built in their neighbourhood, the study found.

A large proportion of the country believes that the multicultural experiment has failed, with 52 per cent considering that Britain is deeply divided along religious lines and 45 per cent saying that religious diversity has had a negative impact [...]

David Voas, professor of population studies at Manchester University, who analysed the data, said that people were becoming intolerant towards all religions because of “the degree to which Islam is perceived as a threat to social cohesion” [...]

While 55 per cent say that they would be “bothered” by the construction of a large mosque in their community, only 15 per cent would be similarly concerned by a large church.

Nevertheless, the research found considerable suspicion towards those of any faith who hold deeply religious views, while there was a widespread reluctance to see matters of faith intruding into the public sphere.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of Britons believe that laws and policy decisions would be worse if more politicians were deeply religious - almost double the number who think that they would be better. "

Threat or opportunity?
So rather than driving British people back to their Christian roots, the anti-Islamic backlash is making them increasingly secular and hostile to all religions. It may be that in Islam they see an exaggerated caricature of the worst features of the other Abrahamic religions, which they subconsciously tar with the same brush.

Whether this represents a threat or opportunity for Buddhism is difficult to interpret. It certainly makes a case for Buddhism marketing itself in Europe more as a philosophy and/or psychotherapy, and less as a 'religion'.

Also, as people become more aware of the other Abrahamic religions in addition to the one they were brought up in, they realise that each of these faiths makes exclusive truth claims that invalidate the others.  Of the six Abrahamic religions (Protestantism, Catholicism, Sunni, Shi'ite, Judaism, Mormonism), at most only one can be true, and no amount of interfaith dialog is going to alter this. And if at least five of these faiths are false, maybe all six are.


Rational Buddhism

Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation adopted by British Health Service

Islam will Dominate

Shared Heritage - Hellenism, Humanism and Rationalism

What next... Zenophobia ?




Anonymous said...

As an atheist I certainly rejoice that people have finally woken up to the fact that religion isn't as beneficent as it portrays itself to be. Look at dark age Europe - this was a time when the Church had total control - and was there happiness and peace on Earth? To say no is putting it mildly.
But having said that, I must also say there is certainly a touch of xenophobia, or at least cautiousness, at play here. And I believe the media is responsible for hyping the fears of the people.
The fact is fundamentalists make good headlines. Fanaticism is topical, so of course fanatics feature in news reports more than mainstream and moderate "believers". But in reality fanatics are never in the majority - the media just manipulates us to believe it to be so.
I'm not a great fan of the majority of organized religions. They're bigoted, hypocritical, sexist, homophobic, manipulative, repressive, and usually corrupt.
Buddhism on the other hand is a little different. True it suffers from the above corruptions inherent in religion, but it's also a religion unlike other religions in that it is always open for doubt. Buddha himself was never one for blind faith, but for practical empiricism - this sets Buddhism well apart from religion and closer to science and philosophy. Surely only Buddhism can ride these winds of change if the others cannot.

Anonymous said...

It's partly the fault of the media. Just about every time a muslim commits a barbaric act the press refer to them as an "Asian".

WomanHonorThyself said...

thank u for having the courage to speak the Truth...not politically correct to say the least ..which is what makes u so much braver for it!