"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Ultimate 747, or, Why We Believe What We Are Told

At The Chronicle:

Social scientists...have long considered religion as sui generis, not as a behavioral predisposition that arose because in some way it contributed to the survival and reproduction of its participants. ...Or it could be a nonadaptive byproduct of something adaptive in its own right. For example, children seem hard-wired to accept parental teaching, since such advice is likely to be fitness-enhancing ("This is good to eat," "Don't pet the saber-tooth"). In turn, this makes children vulnerable to whatever else they are taught ("Respect the Sabbath," "Cover your hair") as well as downright needy when it comes to parentlike beings, leading especially to the patriarchal sky god of the Abrahamic faiths.

So, did you eat your vegetables today? Or were you busy praying? Read further to see why God is "the ultimate 747." I find it troubling that some self-described religious people use religion for self-aggrandizement, while insisting that that is in fact what secular types are trying to do. As much as I like that 747 phrase, I'm going to stick with the Zen point of view, which I think is, that no matter whether there is a God or not, it is most important to be ethical, a good person, aware of and concerned for others and the natural world.

Here is the Zen story: An old man asks a Zen master for the secret of life. The master says, "You have to be good." The man says, "That's it? Even a child of four knows that." "But even a man of eighty doesn't do it," the master replies.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Great article! I really miss Carl Sagan.
I've been doing a bit of casual research today on Inuit culture and of course ran across the famous quote from Rasmussen's journals, an Inuit response to the question, "what do you believe?", "We do not believe.We fear."
Interesting idea in the Chronicle article about a "god-shaped hole" in the human spirit. I think such any such hole is pretty elastic and accomodating.