Monday, June 6, 2011

It's Fundamental

The more I think about going back to America, the more I dread the in-your-face religious fundamentalists that ambush the unwary at every turn. It is what I like least about my native land, and one of the reasons I so enjoy living in a country where they are rare. The most offensive in the U.S. are the politicians who feel it is their duty to legislate religious values, in effect ignoring the Constitution. I'm not sure why they insist on peppering me with unsolicited metaphysical lessons, but it reminds me very much of living--as I did for two years--in a Middle Eastern country. There is not a lot of difference: fundamentalism is fundamentalism, only the symbols one displays differ. At least the U.S. does not have a state religion. Not yet anyway.

I have never met or seen a Buddhist fanatic. Devout, yes, but never preachy or with an air of superiority fundamentalists wear when believing they have somehow been chosen by a supreme being over others by virtue of their spouting scripture to the unsuspecting and keeping track of Sunday church attendance. The irony of the gentle nature of Buddhists, who have no weekly holy day (one visits the temple on auspicious Buddhist anniversaries, otherwise they make visits when they feel like it), is that there is no belief in a supreme being. I guess more correctly, Buddhists choose whatever god or gods or spirits they wish to add to their practice, such as Hindu deities or the spirits manifested in luck or fate. Many non-Buddhists assume that Buddha is a god, but as I pointed out to a fundamentalist friend who refused to take a photo of a Buddha statue ("a false god" he called it), Buddha was a teacher, and reminded followers of that. He insisted that they question his words, and to not worship him. Admittedly, many have not taken that teaching to heart. Yet, the result is a very non-judgmental religious practice. Not once in my six years here have I ever been preached to by a Buddhist. Freely given history and explanations, yes, but only if asked.

I do not begrudge anyone their beliefs, but I am offended by what I know is the coming rudeness of the American fundamentalist interruption of my life. I can smile and nod, which seem to pacify them, as they assume I agree with their memorized rhetoric. However, I can't ignore a challenge, and if pressed, will engage them in debate. If it is one thing that fundamentalists can't stand it is the combination of reason and science, neither of which is familiar to them.

1 comment:

Ed Haynsworth said...

Hi John, I'm like
ly to be in Thailand in the near future and was wondering if you were going to be around?