Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Are the Buddhists So Much Nicer Than the Other Religions?

They're not.

Like many atheists in the West, I used to have a special place in my heart for Buddhism.  It doesn't seem politically aggressive, and it seems empirically not involved in power-seeking, gender-oppression, and general evil like the other major religions. But then I learned about things like the untouchable caste in Japan created by Zen Buddhists to allow trade in leather and beef to continue; I was reminded of the ambitions of earlier Japanese Buddhists that caused the Japanese Emperor to move the government from Nara to Kyoto to escape them; and the fact that Asoka was a Buddhist king of India who had wiped out his enemy Kalinga.  (There's plenty more in God is Not Great by Hitchens.)  Want something more recent?  Okay, how about in the past year in Burma?

Building up for years, the hatred peaked last June after the murder and rape of a Buddhist Rakhine girl. Ten [Rohingya] Muslims, totally uninvolved, were killed in retaliation. In just a few days, the violence spread to Sittwe. Thousands of houses were torched in clashes with sticks and machetes -- only the intervention of the Burmese army brought calm. But in October the violence reignited, in areas not involved in the June riots. Officially, the total death toll reached 167; according to many, the figure may be at least three times as high.

...Each community only has space for their own truths, often with beliefs beyond any logic.  The fires that burned down thousands of Rohingya homes? They were caused by the same Muslims who have ignited world attention but they tell you it’s the Rakhines. And on the other side, to find a Rohingya who admits to having destroyed the houses is impossible: “It’s the wind that brought the fires to our houses around them,” says Maung Aye, the boy from the ghetto.

Even Theravada Buddhist Aung Saan Suu Kyi has apparently not been very concerned about this.

Well that's super!  At least we don't have to scratch our heads about Buddhism anymore.  It can inflame the same unquestionable, violent in-group/out-group tribal urges that any other religion can and does.

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