Saturday, January 7, 2006

Religion & the Concept of Exclusion

We increasingly find ourselves in an "us against them" world. While the Bush cabal uses this concept in an attempt to manipulate the American public to give their blessings on an ever-growing list of nefarious purposes, we would be shamely wrong to lay the burden of this mentaility at their feet. Neither Bush, Cheney nor Rove invented the "us vs them" scenario.

The Islamic fundamentalists who are warring against most things American utilize the very same rhetoric. And, if you look at almost any armed conflict throughout the eons of history, the "us vs them" theme is played out over and over again.

From whence does it come? Is it simply part and parcel of the human condition?

I'm sure there are many theories out there, but, for me, the impetus for this concept is borne of religion. While the Jews/Christians seem to hold a copyright on the term "the Chosen People", almost every religion sees their adherents in the same light (there are some exceptions like the Quakers or Unitarian Universalists). It should go without saying that, if their are CHOSEN people, then there are also UNchosen people.

(From a fundamentalist Christian perspective, this drive toward exclusivity has manifested itself both in the "war on terror" and the attempt to cast down the separation of church and state doctrine.)

In order to join the exclusive clique of true believers, one must purchase the moral cookbook and explicitly follow the recipe. If you decide to add a pinch here when it calls for a dash there, then you're informed that your souffle will fall and you can't even get a stinking refund!!

If, however, you're a good little boy or girl and you follow the recipe to a T, you're given the secret password to allow you into the celestial country club. Because you made it in, it's natural to look down on those who -- because of ignorance, apathy or willfulness -- didn't work as hard as you to follow the instructions.

You and your mates become the chosen people. Anyone not in the fold becomes a leper. By choosing to exclude all others, YOU have created your own enemies. If you look at what's going on in the world today, this explanation goes a long way toward defining the reason for the large amount of animus afoot.

This ongoing problem of willfull exclusion is one of the reasons I patently reject religion. Rather than bringing people together, it is a mechanism used to separate. Instead of being a methodology to create harmony, it is used to bring discord.

There is another way. Taoists (and others who completely eschew labels) view all of creation as being of one fabric. There is no genuine us or them, only we. There are no recipes to follow or, put another way, there are as many recipes as there are beings.

You can believe in Tao or reject it completely. You can try to live your life in harmony with Tao or ignore it. You can try to move close to it or run away from it. You can call it whatever you want.

In the end, none of these things matter. Tao just is and ALL of us are part of it.

We are ALL members of the same circle.


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