[I recently discovered the following article in my manuscript files. It is obviously dated; however, it is quite interesting and thought-provoking. If the author recognizes the piece and wishes attribution, I will be more than happy to oblige.]
I just read an article from the September, 2009 issue of Atlantic with the above title. The island of Ceylon, which was renamed Sri Lanka, on May 18, 2008 declared the end of a war–a war between the Buddhists and the Tamil Tigers (Hindus). A religious war in which 70,000 people have been killed since 1983. Ten percent of them in the last few months of 2008 were civilians.
The article describes the Temple of the Tooth (Buddha’s tooth) within which is an “immense layout of gardens lined with striped Buddhist flags, the BLUE stripe signifying loving-kindness, the YELLOW the middle path away from extremes; RED, the blessings of practice, ORANGE, the Buddha’s teachings, and WHITE, the purity of the dharma or universal truth leading to liberation. Blue, yellow, red, orange, white–what a beautiful flag. What a horrible war.
To think that in the year of 2008, such atrocities are still going on. It is a miserable comment on the advance of society under the impetus of religion. Having just finished hearing President Obama’s eulogy of Ted Kennedy within the grand splendor of a High Catholic service in Boston, I am more than ever convinced that religion can simultaneously be the highest plane of human mental activity and the most reprehensible provocateur of grisly, inhumane, physical atrocities. Color, race, ethnicity all pale in comparison with RELIGION! Today, with instant communication permeating the globe and beginning to saturate the world’s population, religion is in some places being seriously questioned and examined. Ignorance, the bedrock of faith, is perhaps finally being subjected to the sunshine of enlightenment. Education is a possible solution to most of the world’s ills but, unfortunately, in the areas of the greatest need, it is controlled and distorted by the religious leaders. I would like to wipe out religion–all religion.
There is one great problem: THERE MUST BE SOMETHING TO REPLACE IT. But what? Art? Music? Drama? Meditation? These appear poor substitutes. Perhaps ART creates [gives birth to] religion.
Consider Bach. Spiritual people claim this music could not have been composed without direct communication with heavenly beings. Isn’t it likely that Bach’s music created that heavenly feeling? Heaven didn’t write the music but Bach’s music created that other-worldly ambience? Such music transports the soul into a serene, peaceful place. I think heaven did not create the music; the music created heaven.
[Consider] Architecture, the great stone cathedrals. St. Peter’s in Rome, Westminster Abby in London and dozens of others. How majestic–with spires pointing skyward. How reverence instilling! Ignoring the pain, hardship and cost in construction, they are truly magnificent! Inspired by heaven and creating an aura of humble reverence by their soaring elegance. Who has not stood transfixed? All built to the glory of an unseen God.
There are even more humongous edifices–the pyramids, built by slaves to the glory gods or worldly kings. Even more beautiful, the Taj Mahal, built for an Indian queen by a skilled architect inspired by–what?
Paintings of the Renaissance. The Sistine Chapel. The Last Supper. These paintings are said to rise above the secular treasures of this world; they are judged to be other-worldly. Created by skills beyond human competence–by divine edict! Is it their beauty that inspires this sensation of religion? Which created which? The art we see and hear or an unseen, imaginary “heaven?”
[NOTE: Columnist With a View is open to all thought-provoking, interesting, informational and interpretive articles. We welcome diverse and sundry points of view. Picture of Buddhism courtesy of Google Collection under “Buddha.”–the Editor]