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An Asian religion gains popularity in the New World

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JAIHA

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

JAIHA in reply to Bismarx777

What India could use is some sustainable development, in particular around U.P. and Bihar.
Having not been back to these parts for two decades, I was quite surprised to find them still as backward, if not dysfunctional as they are. Last year only, staying in a Zen monastery on the outskirts of Xi'an, I had talked with the abbot at length about his pilgrimage to India. When he expressed his disbelief at the poverty and neglect that he had encountered on this trip, I had immediately jumped to India's defence.
Well, it's been quite an eye opener for me to revisit these parts I have to say. The world's an interesting and colourful place; it never fails to surprise - and challenge...

Jiang Tai Gong

St Pope John Paul II (Ecclesia In Asia)->>
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“Asia is also the cradle of the world's major religions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. It is the birthplace of many other spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism and Shintoism. Millions also espouse traditional or tribal religions, with varying degrees of structured ritual and formal religious teaching. The Church has the deepest respect for these traditions and seeks to engage in sincere dialogue with their followers. The religious values they teach await their fulfilment in Jesus Christ.”

Fabelhaft in reply to Jiang Tai Gong

Today, America would do well, i.e. better than it has, with more truth. Preferably, as a Christian, I hope more truth comes in the form of Christianity. But truth in America has lost so much value, that if Buddhism can present more of it than America currently projects, it would be better than truth-relative hedonistic-Progressivism.

Jiang Tai Gong in reply to Fabelhaft

Two “thoughts” came to me in reading your reply…
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Blaise Pascal "Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that unless we love the truth, we cannot know it."
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John 14:6 …“I (Jesus) am the way and the truth and the life. …”

guest-wsjloin

Buddhism in America (distinct from in Asia) is part of a trend toward spiritualism and away from organized faiths, and few of these 'converts' will become full-fledged practicing Buddhists. . This article mentioned cherry-picking and that is exactly what this phenomenon is. New American Buddhists are a lot like Sunday-only Christians, except that rather than showing up on Sunday out of duty, they select the aspects and practices that mean the most to them and limit their participation to those practices. When they get all they can from whatever practice they've adopted, they'll move on.

siddsa

Buddhism it's not religion per se but something between philosophy and religion as it was preached by Buddha. Their is no celestial being who grants wishes or rather Buddhism holds the person responsible for himself in way today's existential philosophy does without the absurdism.
Buddhism focus on present and minds over matter is in complete contrast to Abrahamic religions with their promise of heaven for agents and from materialistic culture which promises salvation through buying.
Buddhism's focus on self and inner peace had also let to it's downfall as religion as it never bothered with zealous missionaries ala Islam and Chrisitanity.
However it's focus on inner peace and coming up as thinking people religion ensures that it survives and possibly thrives when people are tired of materialistic and instant culture of today seeking instant gratification.
Science is validating the positive effect of practices like mindfulness and meditation.
As for different branches if Buddhism they are invented as part more suitable for populace resembling already existing regions of the region. What Buddha taught is largely Theravada. Mahayana (Greater vehicle) developed to accommodate the concept of religion teachers (Bodhisattva)who focus on other attaining Nirvana and they have already achieved it. With it came the practice of praying to such Bodhisattva. Vajrayana was founded by Indian Siddhas who try to integrate prevailing mantra chsntung and mysticism with Buddhism.
However all sects/ paths of Buddhism teach about Four Noble Truths and then eight fold path.
The Four Noble Truths refer of Buddhism are
1. We crave and cling to impermanent states and things, which are dukkha, "incapable of satisfying" and painful.
2. This craving keeps us caught in samsara, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth and dying again, and the dukkha that comes with it.
3. There is, however, a way to end this cycle, namely by attaining nirvana, cessation of craving, whereafter rebirth and associated dukkha will no longer arise again.
4. This can be accomplished by following the eightfold path, restraining oneself, cultivating discipline, and practicing mindfulness and meditation.

TS2912

1 - Buddhism is probably the most scientific of all religions today... it does not purport to worship a (mainly tyrannical and utterly petty) human-obsessed 'God'.
2 - Buddhism shares a significant characteristic with polytheistic religions; it does not seek to denigrate other 'Gods' and thereby other's belief systems.
3 - Monotheistic religions have caused the butchery and genocide of untold millions. For example, the much-publicized persecution of Christians by the Romans resulted in (yes it's difficult to accept but absolutely true) a FEW THOUSAND murders. In contrast, Christians have murdered other Christians in the millions for laughable religious differences.
(For example, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 resulted in 50,000+ protestants being massacred in a single day).
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It bodes well that the more advanced strata of modern society seeks religious beliefs other than the Judeo-Christian-Islamic propaganda brainwashed into the general populace over the past 2 millenia.

ashbird in reply to TS2912

I fully agree with what you observe.
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In terms of tenet and practice, there is nothing in Buddhism that focuses on the "badness" of others. Instead it urges a believer to work on his/her own state of virtue or lack of it. This, in my personal algorithm, is the most evolved perspective on Man's struggle with good and evil thus far in human civilization. "Crusades" or "Jihad" are concepts totally alien in that perspective.

Michael Dunne

With these stats, it would have been interesting to hear about the number of converts :
"by 2020 the number of American Buddhists may have risen to at least 4.2 million from 3.6 million in 2010"
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Beyond the point that "converts are gaining numerical preponderance "
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Asians now make up 5.7% of the US population according to the quick facts section of the Census Bureau (see: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045216 _). Many are not Buddhist (like say with the Philippine community, or Catholic Vietnamese, or Christian Koreans).
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However, there are a good number of Chinese and Japanese, many of whom have some ties to Buddhist traditions. For perspective, as of 2016, there was an estimated 4,888,040 Chinese-Americans, not including those from Taiwan, in the US; and 1,469,637 Japanese (https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.... ).
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So the breakout and trends between converts and those coming from family backgrounds tied to Buddhism would be interesting.

leonmen

Maybe some are tired of the Abrahamic religions and their legacy of hate, corruption and hierarchy and sexual prurience on a massive scale. Maybe they are looking for a philosophy that has no hate but only tolerance, has no hierarchy and has these past 2000 years a philosophy towards love that the Abrahamic religions are only starting to cope with.

leonmen in reply to leonmen

Buddhism abhors any kind of violence - against all living things (including those of other faiths). Because of this it is a religion that has never been 'successful ' as a conquering religion - the total opposite of Islam where the philosophy of holy war and the spreading of Islam is considered a holy duty. As it was also to a greater extent with Christianity up until recently especially in Africa and S. America.

ashbird in reply to leonmen

Great point.
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You are quite right about the basic tenet of Buddhism.
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The basic tenet does not draw lines (as many as the human mind can come up with in the case of the Protestant Church, it seems - Google the number of mutually, reciprocally antagonistic "denominations" in the Protestant faith. Last time I checked, 400+ of them, counting all the obscure ones that may have one congregation only - and in Catholicism as well. Erasmus has written exhaustively about theological divisions between Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and the Roman Papacy, and then there is Church of England. All is still fine and dandy. Except each and every one of these "divisions" always seem to be fighting tooth and nail with each another. Two millennia and eighteen years down the road, they are still fighting, in fact, ever more enthusiastically, particularly now joining the fight is the Gonzilla weight Evangelical Mega Churches in America that preach the "Get Rich Quick" Gospel (their tenet: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle) .
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Now bring in the Islam folks - the Sunnis fight tooth and nail with the Shia; the Sufi represents another "branch" said to be less sword-happy. Then there are the Chishti order, the Kubrawiya order, the Mevlievi order, the Naqshbandid dorder, the Ni'matullahi order, the Noorbakshia order....... [I am just copying these names from Wikipedia, havn't finished half of them. Got tired typing ..... Obviously I don't know anything about them. But the parade of the names alone is impressive. How can one Allah give birth to a harem of sons?
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And now let's look at the fight between Christianity and Islam. With all the intra-mural and extra-mural fights that has gone on, again, for 2018 years, they act like they have just gotten started.
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Pope Francis preaches a different thing. He speaks to the humanity in all people, albeit he is bound to some Catholic dogma he couldn't very well change overnight. He excommunicated one German bishop who lived in a mansion fitted with an indoor marble swimming pool and bathrooms fitted with 24-K faucets and tubs. He has said using condom as prophylactic against disease transmission is allowed by the Church; he has said that homosexuals can be good human beings too (he shook hands with them, and to anyone's knowledge, didn't boil his hands to sterilize them afterward), he publicly reprimanded the French paper that makes jokes about Muslims by saying "your mother is a whore and you are a mother-fucker", noting "How would you feel if someone says that about you and your mother?).
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It would be unfair to not mention there is a lot of corruption and horrible deeds in Buddhism and Buddhist clerics as well.
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Sworned to celibracy, some monks keep "concubines" in their private quarters and molest children just like Roman Catholic Clergy do.
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The claim of "extra-human" power over an unquestioning believer (usually these are folks who aren't interested in the "theology" aspect of their faith; they just believe what they are told to believe, and believe in this instance means going through the motion of believing) results in the same human evil - power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
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Religion is divine when it beats the lesser angel (not "better angel" - Abraham Lincoln) in all of us. Unfortunately as it happens, this tug of war goes vastly more often in favor of the "lesser angel", particularly when a politician gets hold of a "God" and tell everybody this "God" talked to him in private and named him Deputy God in charge.

john4law in reply to leonmen

"Buddhist" Cultures have shown themselves capable of tolerating as much Social Violence and Warfare as any other to be found on the Planet. Look at Imperial Japan which killed at least Thirty Million mostly Non-Combatants in WWII and endless feudal violence and senseless internecine fighting in Japan's Medieval Period. Burma, a solidly Buddhist Society, has just executed a Bloody Pogrom against its Muslim Minority. The list goes on and on. What is written in Holy Scriptures and practiced in the Halls of Government are quite distinct. Bottom line: the Human Animal is the Human Animal WHATEVER window dressing he dons as Civilized Veneer!!

ashbird in reply to john4law

john4law,
"'Buddhist' Cultures have shown themselves capable of tolerating as much Social Violence and Warfare as any other to be found on the Planet. Look at Imperial Japan which killed at least Thirty Million mostly Non-Combatants in WWII and endless feudal violence and senseless internecine fighting in Japan's Medieval Period. Burma, a solidly Buddhist Society, has just executed a Bloody Pogrom against its Muslim Minority. The list goes on and on."
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You are absolutely right!!!!! "Hanging up the shingle of a lamb head and selling dog meat inside the shop" is how an astute proverb goes.
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And nowhere is the lamb-head and dog-meat analogy more true of certain "believers" in the Christian faith (within Christian, the so-called "Roman Catholic-ers"). They are probably the most intransigent and sanctimonious of the lot.
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john4law

Buddhism does not necessarily imply religious or spiritual exclusivity. Meditation is utilized in many contexts and mingling meditation with Buddhist based ritual or practice does not make one an exclusive Buddhist. Just are Fusion Cuisine is rapidly expanding, Fusion Spirituality is likely the Future of Faith and Ritual in greater and greater parts of American Culture. Why not PERSONALIZE spirituality to the maximum degree possible?

ashbird in reply to john4law

There are many signs of "Fusion Buddhism", in a bad sense , as in bad "Fusion Cuisine".
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Personally, I never touch any "Fusion" stuff. Neither here nor there and superficial to the bone, if there is even bone to speak of. Draws a good crowd though, who fancy themselves with the "in crowd".
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In most, not all, "Fusion Cuisine", you pay a lot of $$$ for very little to eat. Mostly, it is a lot of "Nothing to Eat" with a lot of garnish surrounding the "Nothing to eat" on a hugely oversized plate (many kitchens reuse the garnish, unless they have touched the sauce) . Folks with a lot of spare change go for it, pretending to be "liberal, enlightened, and 'in'". Dreadful stuff, but that appears to be desirably "fashionable". Who doesn't want to be labeled "liberal" among the "liberal". It has a nice ring to it, and in safe enough distance from a band of "Conservatives" who are indistinguishable from gansters and thugs .
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These would be the self-claimed "Conservative" who openly and proudly break every one of the 10 Commandments - average 8 lies a day, 3 extramarital affairs per head, steal/cheat on taxes, and rob their way to the bank - fancy appellation for this kind of robbery is "White Collar Crimes"; most dumbfounding of all, they see the true enemy of the country as their best friend, assuming "enemy" is defined as "a person who acts in his interest, not yours."
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Spiritual pursuit is serious stuff. People who do it don't brand it on their foreheads like Kobe Beef cattle. In their case, the brand on the forehead is "I am spiritual. I am better than you." Whenever you see that type of thing, you know you are looking at either a willful quack (out to get your $$$) or an innocent , extremely gullible simpleton.
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Words mean nothing. Branding means nothing. What matters are deeds - real life things people do to people.
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john4law in reply to ashbird

Labels are often insincere and self serving. However, just as there are widespread and sensible procedures for nutritious, sanitary and good tasting meal preparations, depending originally on resource and cooking implement givens, not every moral or spiritual system is self consistent and compatible with human nature or general patterns of thought and culture throughout the various societies that comprise Humanity. Sticking or at least STARTING with time tested models is more likely to yield lasting benefits than arbitrary and often ARROGANT the World Began with Me actions and thinking. Your LAST sentence:"Words mean nothing. Branding means nothing. What matters are deeds - real life things people do to people" itself MEANS nothing unless a SHARED Morality and Value System has been PREVIOUSLY established. Ideas and Value Structures DON'T create themselves!! Civilization is a human achievement and took LOTS of time and experimentation to get to even today's PARTIAL Consensus Standards.

john4law in reply to ashbird

Sorry you have had such BAD luck with your Restaurant Choices. There is NO more nor LESS inherent quality in Fusion Cuisine Restaurants than One Cuisine Restaurants. You get the BEST results by offering Proven Dishes from several different cooking cultures than jumbling stuff together!! Fusion Cuisine should be also known as Multi-Culture Cuisine.

ashbird in reply to john4law

Oh, I forgot to tell you the restaurants I frequent, when the mood for a serious gastronomic experience calls, are mostly Michelin starred, from 1 star to 3 stars, or at least a Michelin-mention.
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To my knowledge, no Fusion Cuisine, as yet, anywhere in the world, has made a Michelin-Mention.
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I also eat in McDonalds (love their egg McMuffin) and regular hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop restaurants that serve pure ethnic food, whatever the ethnicity is.

ashbird

I am very pleased Erasmus pointed out there are different strands of Buddhism. In modern lingo, some are known by the names “Chan”, “Zen”, “Tibetan”, etc.
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There are 3 ancient original schools of Buddhism (c. 560 before Christ). They are -
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(1) Theravada, the most ancient, is the dominant school in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos). Its name translates to "Doctrine of the Elders," and it centers around the Pali scriptures, transcribed from the oral tradition taught by the Buddha. Theravada Buddhists believe they will achieve Enlightenment. Strong emphasis is also placed on the monastic community and on heeding the advice of the wise;
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(2) Mahayana Buddhism developed out of the Theravada tradition roughly 500 years after the Buddha was said to have attained Enlightenment. A number of individual schools and traditions have formed under the banner of Mahayana, including Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Tantric Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism focuses on the idea of compassion and touts bodhisattvas, which are beings that work out of compassion to liberate other sentient beings from their suffering, as central devotional figures.
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(3) Vajrayana was last of the three ancient forms to develop. Believers believe that the physical has an effect on the spiritual and that the spiritual, in turn, affects the physical. Vajrayana Buddhists encourage rituals, chanting, and tantra along with a fundamental understanding of Theravada and Mahayana schools, as the way to attain Enlightenment.
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I speak as a student of the religion. My knowledge is far far from complete. But I thought I might add to this very fine Erasmus article by highlighting some basic terms and veins in the development of this faith. Also, perhaps it is appropriate to point out BBC has a great series on Buddhism.

MagicMoneyFrog in reply to ashbird

Tibetan Buddhism falls under the umbrella of Vajrayana Buddhism.
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Probably the most fundamental difference between Theravada Buddhism and the other branches is that Theravada Buddhism equates the attainment of nirvana with the attainment of enlightenment. The other two schools separate the two. They acknowledge that the teachings and practices of Theravada Buddhism are sufficient to achieve Nirvana, but they hold that enlightenment can only be attained by pursuing the path of the Bohisattva. Vajrayana Buddhism differs from Mahayana Buddhism primarily in that incorporates and gives a central role to Tantric rituals.

ashbird in reply to MagicMoneyFrog

Thanks for the addition, MMF. Appreciate it. You know more about the stuff than I.
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The Buddhism I am a bit familiar with is Chan Buddhism or modern Chinese Buddhism. A friend, a Chinese psychiatrist trained in America, translated the works of Yin-Shun Daoshi or Master Yin-Shun into English (involved translating some Sanskrit in addition to Chinese). He did a good job explicating a concept wholly alien to the "Western" mind - the concept of Inter-Dependent Origination. The concept has profound explanatory power - not only in inter-personal and inter-tribal relationships, but the fundamentals of Economics.
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PS: Good to hear from you.

ashbird in reply to ashbird

Allow me to tweak the word "relationships" by replacing it with "affairs". Thus the sentence reads: "The concept has profound explanatory power - not only in inter-personal and inter-tribal affairs, but the fundamentals of Economics." I also add: "... and the developmental psychology in the framework of the history of nations down to the history of a single individual".

LexHumana

"In his view, an adherent is someone who says, 'I am a Buddhist,' and is clearly talking about the most significant part of his or her religious life."
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This notion of "you are whatever you declare yourself to be" has some obvious limitations, most notably the old axiom that actions speak louder than words. I can't tell you how many people I have met who claim the virtues of vegetarianism and the plant-based diet, only to scarf down a burger on their "cheat days". Likewise, there are a great many self-professed "Christians" who read the Good Book and go to church on Sundays, and during the rest of the week engage in a lot of hateful, non-Christian behaviors. Hypocrisy is the fatal weakness of self-proclaimed adherence to a particular philosophical dogma.
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This is not to say that every stumble and sin is a sign of irreconcilable hypocrisy. On the contrary, most religions recognize fallibility in humans and accommodates it accordingly, letting practitioners get back up on the horse and try again.
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However, in addition to hypocrisy, the other fatal flaw to such self-identification is woeful ignorance. Far to many claimed practitioners of far to many religions are grossly under-catechized in their own belief systems. They function in a cafeteria style belief, taking bits and pieces and either outright rejecting those they don't like, or (more often) simply don't know about critical elements of what they profess. When you combine these two fatal flaws, you end up with a population that claims to be religious, but doesn't really know what it believes.

ashbird in reply to LexHumana

Beautiful post! Wonderful post! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! LexHumana!! You have said in 4 succinct paragraphs what I have wanted to say but failed rather miserably ever since I encountered the first of a handful of self-proclaimed "devout Catholic" (the writer's own words) on Erasmus on Erasmus’ first day.
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I quote from you and expand on them -
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(1) "This notion of you are whatever you declare yourself to be has some obvious limitations, most notably the old axiom that ‘actions speak louder than words’". Yes! Folks who have their heart in the faith they believe don't go about with gongs and cymbals (St. Paul’s Epistles Chapter 13) advertising how superior their faith is and how everybody must be converted to it, or else hell awaits. They mistake Erasmus, a religious blog named after a Humanist, for their own church pulpit. A true believer in a faith speak their faith through their deeds. Deeds means “not words”. Deeds means not in the pews, but in the real world. In cyberspace, it means the way the person behaves.
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(2) "Most religions recognize fallibility in humans and accommodate it accordingly". Indeed, it is in recognizing this fallibility that the founders of religions struggled with that fallibility and came up with ways to reckon what makes us human while at the same time find ways to improve or transcend it when what is human points to the way of hate and violence done against fellow humans. Check it out: Did Jesus ever say: “Hate the hell out of X, Y, Z!” where X, Y, Z = targets of the declarant’s seething hatred - Jew, blacks, browns…. list is exhaustive for career haters, and still piling.
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(3) "... in addition to hypocrisy, the other fatal flaw to such self-identification is woeful ignorance. Far to many claimed practitioners of far to many religions are grossly under-catechized in their own belief systems. They function in a cafeteria style belief, taking bits and pieces and either outright rejecting those they don't like, or (more often) simply don't know about critical elements of what they profess." Hear! Hear! Not only "cafeteria style", but the total obliviousness to their own self-contradictions when they tell you on the one hand only God is the Judge, on the other, they know already you are bad from head to toe while they are good from toe to head. In other words, via some most peculiar etiological pathway, they came to see themselves as “God” Himself.
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(4) “However, in addition to hypocrisy, the other fatal flaw to such self-identification is woeful ignorance. Far to many claimed practitioners of far to many religions are grossly under-catechized in their own belief systems” - Here I have an anecdote. I encountered a person in the early days of Johnson (the language blog) who claimed he knew everything about Daoism. What he knew was Daoism is about achieving Nirvana. The person never read a word in Tao Te Ching and did not know the very characters of 道/Tao 德/Te 經/Ching means "The Way to Goodness" and has got nothing to do with “Nirvana”, indeed, is antithetical to “Nirvana”. When I gently pointed out he got Daoism mixed up with some other Eastern religion, he started calling me names (what else!). There is nothing you can do with woeful and willful ignorance. From my experience reading and commenting on Erasmus since Erasmus Day 1, these are the same people who’d troll the hell out of you (double entendre accidental but just as well) with one aim in mind - to pick a fight. That is all their aim. They are fixated on proving they are superior and need a a fight to prove it. Very strange way of doing things from my way of thinking.

ashbird in reply to ashbird

Erratum - 3rd paragraph, (1) in (1) thru (4) -
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"They mistake Erasmus, a religious blog named after a Humanist, for their own church pulpit...." should read, corrected -
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They mistake Erasmus, a Blog on Religion and Public Policy, for their church pulpit and bible study class, and treat it as such.
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ashbird in reply to ashbird

And let's make something plain and clear once and for all.
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There are 10 major religious faiths in the world. True respect for each and every one of them means if a person declines an invitation from any one of them to find "fulfilment" in anyone in the rest, for example, an invitation from the Roman Catholic faith, the INVITER should STOP and DESIST from endlessly sending the INVITE.
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Doing any less is a form of willful harassment, at law, trespass.
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Let alone the act constitutes TOTAL DISREGARD for each of the remaining 9 faiths. That, OR each and everyone of the 9 faiths issues the SAME invite to find fulfillment in their respective faith.
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Reciprocity is a very important thing. That is what makes all humans EQUAL.