A Right Course of Action
1 week ago
“The object of ultimate concern has many names. And we call all what is not concerned with the truly ultimate — that is something finite but worshiped as ultimate — we call that idolatry.”Tillich also adds:
“…the decisive thing is that even monotheism can be idolatrous, which means that the God of monotheism, the theistic god…can become an idol.”We tend to worry about the speck in another’s eye, not seeing the beam in our own. I remember growing up and hearing and believing that Catholics were idol worshipers because they had statues of Mary and the saints and so forth. Likewise the many gods of the Hindu tradition were idols. I later realized that I misunderstood how those icons functioned. They were not idols. They were not ends in themselves but vehicles to the Mystery, the Ultimate Concern, beyond them.
I live inside my religion because it is sensible, simple, and it teaches good things like forgiveness, generosity, tolerance, and compassion. I live in America because I believe it can be a nation of many faiths. As people of all religions have urged, it is time for genuine understanding and dialogue, not media hysteria and anti-Islamic racism. If we can separate the daily distortions from the reality, perhaps we can break out of that medieval framework of domination and hostility. Instead of working toward a "clash of civilizations," perhaps we can avoid a "clash of ignorances." (p. 247)
Alas, the sense of community that a common faith brings to a people spelled trouble for me. In time, my religious doings went from the notice of those to whom it didn’t matter and only amused, to that of those to whom it did matter—and they were not amused.The conversation that develops represents religion at its most divisive and superficial.
“What is your son doing going to temple?” asked the priest.
“Your son was seen in church crossing himself,” said the imam.
“Your son has gone Muslim,” said the pandit.
Yes, it was all forcefully brought to the attention of my bemused parents. You see, they didn’t know. They didn’t know that I was a practising Hindu, Christian and Muslim.
After the “Hellos” and the “Good days”, there was an awkward silence. The priest broke it when he said, with pride in his voice, “Piscine is a good Christian boy. I hope to see him join our choir soon.”And on and on it goes with each religious leader insulting the others’ religion by piling on the stereotypes and simplifications.
My parents, the pandit and the imam looked surprised.
“You must be mistaken. He’s a good Muslim boy. He comes without fail to Friday prayer, and his knowledge of the Holy Qur’an is coming along nicely.” So said the imam.
My parents, the priest and the pandit looked incredulous.
The pandit spoke. “You’re both wrong. He’s a good Hindu boy. I see him all the time at the temple coming for darshan and performing puja.”
My parents, the imam and the priest looked astounded.
“There is no mistake,” said the priest. “I know this boy. He is Piscine Molitor Patel and he’s a Christian.”
“I know him too, and I tell you he’s a Muslim,” asserted the imam.
“Nonsense!” cried the pandit. “Piscine was born a Hindu, lives a Hindu and will die a Hindu!”
The three wise men stared at each other, breathless and disbelieving.
Lord, avert their eyes from me, I whispered in my soul.
All eyes fell upon me.
“Piscine, can this be true?” asked the imam earnestly. “Hindus and Christians are idolaters. They have many gods.”
“And Muslims have many wives,” responded the pandit.
The priest looked askance at both of them. “Piscine,” he nearly whispered, “there is salvation only in Jesus.”
“Balderdash! Christians know nothing about religion,” said the pandit.
“They strayed long ago from God’s path,” said the imam.
“Where’s God in your religion?” snapped the priest. “You don’t have a single miracle to show for it. What kind of religion is that, without miracles?”
It was hard to tell whose face was more inflamed. It looked as if they might come to blows.But they all agree on one thing. Pi cannot practice all three religions. He cannot be a Muslim, a Christian, and a Hindu. He must choose. Pi says:
A silence fell heavily on my shoulders.It is with that mixture of amusement, sympathy, and sadness that we recognize ourselves in the character of Piscene. He just wants to love God. His heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, his idealism for and his embrace of the beauty and truth to which our religions point crashes into the stone wall of intolerance. He meets the real world in which religions represent not a search for truth but instead reveal our fearful tribalism.
“Hmmm, Piscine?” Mother nudged me. “How do you feel about the question?”
“Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God,” I blurted out, and looked down, red in the face.
In reference to the letter from Dr K.J. Awan, he states all good things are in Islam, and all evil is rejected by Islam. Re. demanding a woman cover herself from head to toe, just so men will not lust after them or decide to rape them, why don’t men practice self-control? Brainwashing young men and women to murder women and children, even their own people, with the foolishness of getting 72 virgins when they get to heaven. Do the women get 72 male virgins? Forcing Islam on people just because you have control of them. Saying Christ is not the son of God. And anyone that says he is, is committing an unforgivable sin, and also committing the worst crime, even more so than murder, rape, or any crime.The author here could be one of the religious leaders in the Life of Pi.
I have read the Koran. I got only fear, indifference, and uncertainty out of it. Jesus Christ said to watch out for false prophets.
In reference to columns…and letters…my suggestion to all parties is to take a breather and relax. Let’s act like responsible adults….I thought that second letter was pretty good. Especially the line,
….When I discuss Islam with someone, I do not recommend he read the Koran right away. Even some Muslims have interpreted it incorrectly. Therefore, it is unfair to expect a novice to comprehend it accurately.
The Koran is a marvel like no other. Millions study it and find guidance because it is the book of guidance. Others read it and get lost. Intention is extremely important. We find in it what we look for. There is certain etiquette and some prerequisites for receiving guidance from the Koran. Without them, one cannot benefit from it.
“Intention is extremely important. We find in it what we look for.”I know I need to ask myself when I read the Qur’an or the Bible for that matter, what is my intention? Where is my heart? If my intention or my heart is in finding fault, strengthening my prejudice, or demonstrating the text’s inadequacies, I will find plenty there to justify my presuppositions.
And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah.The Qur’an reading presents Jesus and his disciples as Muslims. That does not refer to the Muslim religion as such, but to those who submit to God—those with purity of heart, of right intention.
And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah.Piscene will have to find his own path. And we will have to find our own paths. Beyond (or perhaps through) the outward forms of religious belief and practice, may we find its heart and in its heart, ours.