Monday, 15 December 2008

Can any religion be "perfect"? I doubt it ....

“This life’s dim windows of the soul,
distorts the heavens from pole to pole,
and goads you to believe a lie,
when you see with and not through the eye.”

-William Blake
"It will not do to cling to the cause and wish the result away.
Reality does not play mind games.
What is more, to anesthetize the mind in order to abort what comes to birth
when wrong ideas are conceived and borne in the womb of culture,
will only kill the very life-giving force of the nation that nurtures the idea."
- Ravi Zacharias

There were two interesting articles on religion on Malaysia today -
Does Islam Need to be Defended? and Acknowledging failures in religion

I chose to comment on the latter as the answer to the former is pretty obvious (except to the children of lesser Gods).
A commenter (mawi) on Malaysia Today passed a comment that "Islam is perfect" and it is humans that aren't ..... maybe so - what do I know about "perfection" anyways, right?
But can someone please tell me if that argument hasn't been been used ad nauseaum by every barbaric butcher of leaders since the beginning of time?
It's like someone told me that in my past life or something!

It also kinda reminded me of this rhyme by Anne Russell ......

"At three I had a feeling of ambivalence toward my brothers,
and so it follows naturally that I poisoned my lovers.
but now I'm happy I have learned the lesson this has taught,
that everything that I do that's wrong is somebody else's fault".

Anyway's, what goes below is what I wrote in reply:-

What I meant to say was that I suppose, Alloysius himself was trying to say the same thing (though not the "Islam is perfect part") that men have used religion for their political convenience, and claimed that their Barbarism is God ordained, with any number of scriptural spins.

All he says is that religion has brought many evils in its wake, and the fault is always on the men who commit the crimes in the name of the religion, and never the "religion". There must be something wrong with a certain idea, if it has brought so much misery and evil - and if Islam is as you say "is perfect", then all these guys claiming to be Muslims must be wrong somewhere along the line in their preaching/teaching and have misunderstood this "perfection", so much so, it creates hatred and so much misery in their domain.
The question is, "... are they willing to admit their "imperfect" understanding/teachings of their [i]religion[/i], and open their ideas/opinions for debate?"

He (probably) proposes that, there must be something wrong with the "religion" - not necessarily the "theology".
There is a big difference, Mawi - Religion starts with man and ends with God, while Theology starts with God and ends with man. More often than not, one's religion shapes his theology, when in fact it should be vice-versa. Now many who advocate these two things, seem very much wanting in "spirituality", despite their robes or nakedness.
One thing though - "spirituality" needs neither of these!
Herein lies the problem.

Having said these things, I do acknowledge the necessity for some form of organized religion in today's world, as it forms the basis of "primordial" laws of morality. It granted legitimacy to rulers/leaders of old - which is a practice that isn't quite lost on many politicians today. It is the foundation of "Laws" and "Politics", which manifests as "culture", and has evolved into societies, civilizations. There has always been a need for "spin doctors" of the "priestly class" to "explain" events and "signs" to inspire or allay the fears of the people (especially on matters that they cannot comprehend).
It was the "primordial soup" so to speak from which man and thought and philosophy evolved - and history shows that civilizations came and went, depending on the sustainability/validity of their ideas/ beliefs/ philosophy. With time, civilizations based on ideas steeped in superstition and "perceived truths/perfection" eventually crumble when they don't keep up with the onslaught of evolution/ progress (simply out of arrogance).

Although India and China did not essentially have one cohesive organized religion in Hinduism or otherwise in their ancient civilizations, they did have a very loose organization of sorts so as to build a homogeneous culture which was their "deen" - which translated to the bedrock of their civilizations which was open to foreign influences. They only receded into mediocrity when they were exploited or "closed up".
The same fate awaits all other cultures arising from any form of worship/ religion ....

Now about "perfection" ....
If Islam is perfect for you, if that is what you believe, so be it - nobody can say otherwise, as that is how you'd define perfection. However, it has to remain that this perfection is based on love/compassion, goodwill and the golden rule of reciprocity. If this perfection doesn't fulfill these criteria, this "perfection" has to be flawed in some manner.

My perception on "perfection" in any religion/philosophy is a little different. If a piece of rock defines perfection to the hypothetical "village idiot", there's nothing you can do to change that - if you can, it already is imperfect to him. I do not say this to insult anybody who believes in any form of perfection/religion - just an "academic" observation/opinion.
I do not see the point in idolizing an imperfect idea or person ....
As far as I'm concerned, we can only strive for perfection and anything that's "achievable" and can be comprehended by the human mind is imperfect.
Perfection is just an ideal we strive for, a target - that's all.
It's "unachievable", except in the divine.
To me, nothing except "God" can be perfect - and nothing (not even "Islam" as may be knowable to man), comes close to defining "God".
Yes, mawi - as far as I'm concerned, wholly knowing something, renders it imperfect!

BTW, temenggong - there have been spiritual saints/philosophers on all fronts, in all religious practices/disciplines, and a great many since Marcus Aurelius.
Just that you haven't kept yourself updated. ;D

"Where is the life we have lost in the living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information ?
The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries
bring us farther from God and nearer to dust."
- T.S. Elliot

Now for some entertaining news!
Just check out this hilarious post on the JPJ "undang2 "kursus", which I found on a blog ............
The things Malaysia's driving instructors are teaching nowadays ...
(I forwarded it to Malaysia Today - hope they publish it)