No, no, it’s not Mel Gibson’s new movie, it’s just that once again a swift reply from Carl astounds me in its coherence and insight, and after a busy weekend I can reply… and this is it. I decided to make this a new post though as Carl’s original comment and this reply have some good ideas in it that I think would be interesting.
Apologies again for a post on religion. If the previous post bored you, just skip this one – however, there are some good philosophical points you may find interesting.
If you are going to continue, it’ll be worthwhile reading Carl’s comment first.
The Don Imus account and the question on how one should react to it brings to mind a quote I heard a long time ago. It was by Morgan Freeman on ’60 Minutes’, and he said that “the only way to stop racism is to stop talking about”. Obviously not to be taken literally, to me this is more of a MLK stance towards racism, but instead of taking the route of non-violence you apply it verbally in a non-reactionary way. To not react verbally can imply complacency, whereas lashing out and countering claims can make people -as you say – unknowingly complicit. It can too, just simply weaken their stance of being a ‘freedom fighter’ as it suggests hypocrisy. However, being accused of acceptance through inaction is surely better than hindering your ’cause’, whether it gives you further grief or not?
It’s like the old adage usually applied to children: if a child misbehaves or says something ‘wrong’ and is scolded for it, this reaction can bring an onlooker to say “Don’t encourage him” or “Ignore her and she’ll stop”. But then, if the child was to later repeat this behaviour in front of another person (who didn’t hear this previous exchange), they could likely say “So, you think that’s acceptable behaviour do you?” – damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The problem is though, if one goes through life blindly accepting a certain traditional viewpoint (everything from social and class attitudes, moral standpoints and religious views) rather than questioning them, surely that is being truly closed-minded? Closed-minded by not accepting that your interpretation of the ‘truth’ may be wrong. Take Carl’s example of a provocateur saying “humans are animals” and then being accused of being closed-minded and of spewing hate speech from the conservative, religious masses. Surely this reaction itself could then be construed as hate speech and naivety from a Buddhist’s standpoint, where humans can be reborn as animals?
To answer the second question raised first, as to how I will draw a line between hate speech and inquiry, it’s simple: I don’t plan to. To do so would be closed-minded in itself, in my opinion. If confronted I can explain my views on a certain topic from a religious or moral viewpoint, otherwise I shall happily get on with my life. (Carl, is this what you meant? Am I making sense, or did I misinterpret this?)
In reply to the first question however; no, I do not think I need a religion to dictate my values for me, and have actually now started to make a conscious effort not to do so. Instead I’m adapting my religion to integrate my own beliefs into it rather than denouncing it entirely just because my views are not ‘classically accepted’.
I don’t think this is unusual – religion has always had an ‘adapt to survive’ mentality. Look at how, with advances in physics and astronomy, the ancient view of a physical God controlling the world from the clouds changed to become the current accepted view where there is a God ‘out there’ somewhere in a more non-physical manner; consider Galileo who was imprisoned by the church for his heliocentric views (that the earth rotates around the sun), and even more recently; look at how Catholicism has renounced limbo just this very week – after 800 years of believing it.
As a liberal Christian with a philosophy leaning towards a mix of non-theism, agnosticism and existentialism, I’ve taken a lot from John Spong (what an awesome name), John Robinson and Paul Tillich. Evangelicals and other conservative Christians believe that these theologians and philosophers were heretics preaching extreme, controversial theological views. I believe them to be some of the most intelligent and important religious philosophers in history, of whose ideas I take great influence from. Again, it’s say what you believe and be damned, or say nothing and deny who you are.