Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Taoism Is Not Namby Pamby

I usually don't address statements left in the comments section in a separate blog post. However, I'm going to make an exception. In the previous post, "Ill-Gotten Gains," a fellow by the moniker Mark M left the following:
I have been following your blog for a month or so because I wanted read your views on the Tao. Your anti-christian post do not seem in the spirit of the Tao. We do not increase light, truth, or peace in teh world by attacking others' beliefs. I am not saying I disagree with your reasons; I just don't think it is the Way.
I've run into this sentiment before when people take exception to a critical comment or statement lodged by a philosophical Taoist, Buddhist or follower of Zen. I'm not sure why, but many people view eastern philosophies or religions as feel good, always look on the bright side streams of thought.

Taoism, in particular, emphasizes balance. While I will certainly agree that too much emphasis on yin or yang will lead to disharmony, neglecting one altogether will lead down the same path. I guess what I'm trying to say is that philosophical Taoism is not a namby pamby belief system.

Just take a look at the Tao Te Ching itself. Most scholars now posit it was authored during the Warring States period of Chinese history. This was a time of much ruthless bloodshed as different clans and families fought each other for control of vast swaths of land. Lao Tzu and his followers were speaking out against the character and mores of their time. In advancing the Taoist philosophy, they were concurrently criticizing the contemporary personal, ethical and political landscape.

In a manner of speaking, the TTC can be viewed as a protest document like the Communist Manifesto or the Declaration of Independence. It set forth a vision of how the world might be different under a certain set of beliefs.

Now, anyone who reads this blog for any length of time knows that I am openly critical of religion, in general, and Christianity, in specific. I believe that a good deal of the problems US society, in particular, faces is the result of our religious legacy. So, while I spend a lot of words promoting a belief system -- philosophical Taoism -- that I believe would transform society in a positive and beneficial direction, I also spend many words criticizing the system we're under now. It's next too impossible to promote an alternative to the status quo without showing why one thinks the status quo is flawed.

By and large, I think I'm presenting a balanced approach.


  1. I'm sure I'm biased, but I think you present a fair and balanced approach as well. More importantly, to me anyway, is that you are expressing part of who you are. If you were previously a Christian, then it is very reasonable to express your feelings about that. To do otherwise would be to deny that it is part of you, even if you have moved on from it. It is generally those with past experience in something who are best able to critique it.

  2. Hmmm.. I am a Hindu, and I don't gain anything by saying that I am not comfortable with the anti-Christian tone, not only here, but anywhere. If you are attacking belief, please attack all systems of thought, all belief- to single out only a set of beliefs and say it is damaging people, puts faith (in a universal sense) out of balance.

    It is as easy to perpetrate injustice in the name of Tao as it is to kill in the name of Bible or Gita.

    It is what people decide to do, texts by themselves have no power over us.

    Sorry to contradict you, I learn Taoism from your blog, and this tone of anti-Christianity is a bit jarring, because it has nothing to do with what Tao is.

    It is like saying, "This girl, X,she is loving and beautiful, she is nohow like that girl Y, who has all those ugly scars and big teeth and grating voice, she is also selfish. I hate her, actually. But, X, she is an angel."

    You get the idea that if Y was like X, you would love her, and you like X only because Y does not measure up to what your idea of what Y should be.

  3. Well, all you can ever say is that something is not YOUR way. There is no THE way. ;^)

    The great secret of Tao is discovering that the only "path" you can walk is your own. ;^)

  4. In other words, all is Tao, and nothing can be excluded from it -- even criticism.

  5. 'If the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else's.' By Joseph Campbell

    Well, we human still dissociate alot about our lifes and beliefs. It's still hard to learn that good and evil are reflex of each other (and at some point is perhaps a necessary exercise for our level of comprehension) and we're constantly battle between judging them, and we get unconciously trapped in the game of reason. Hmm... thinking this better, at the end X religion itself is not the real culprit, we unstable humans are, using beliefs as tools or perhaps as façades, who knows. It'd be better if we don't get attached to any belief, including Tao; learning the best of each and then drop them.

    If someone get offended, is attached, and attachment is ego not even faith, and then we fight for our attachment or... our ego?. And now, what happened with our beliefs?. Really, really... we humans are troublesome. :D

  6. I had my ego saying that Taoism was superior to Christianity loud the other day. As I was saying it my intuition sensed I was wrong.

    Core Christianity is fine; it is the way it has become that it is not acceptable. This has also happened to Taoism and therefore an non-mainstream approach to beliefs/philosophies is the correct way, I think. That is: discover the teachings on your own through the ancient texts and you will be closer to Tao/God/whatever.

    Look into Tao Te Ching
    "All in the world recognize the beautiful as beautiful.
    Herein lies ugliness.
    All recognize the good as good.
    Herein lies evil."

  7. I've noticed that a pretty large amount of people are so very mistaken about Taoism's themes of acceptance. They tend to take it way too far, to a point where it's just rediculous.

  8. i think a lot of people get offended because they take the identity of their religion and apply it to themselves... therefore people ascribe comments against "christianity" to comments against "all christians" and etc... (since christianity is a very diverse religion with many adherents who differ radically in beliefs and thought process, this is boggling to me.) i know a lot of people who are christians who i respect very much, and i respect their religious beliefs. however the christianity i was taught in church i have little respect for. it's not wrong or "non taoist" to speak out against detrimental ideas. i do think it shows ignorance to speak out against "all christians" but that's not what TRT is doing here in this blog, as he mainly speaks out against the ideas presented as mainstream christianity, and also against the actions of a few radical christians, or the reasoning of fundamentalists. he also speaks out against capitalism, but people generally don't get offended by that because they don't take the identity of "capitalist" and apply it to the whole of their being. christians do.
    i consider my beliefs in line with taoism, but i don't take up the mantle of "taoist" and apply it to my whole person. i assume no identity, no stereotype, no label, and thus am not offended. if people insult the tao, i don't really care, because people offend dogs all the time by calling each other "bitch" and "dirty dog" etc... but the dogs don't care, they just are themselves no matter what other people think of them. i do not think jesus would be offended by anti-christian sentiment... in fact he frequently spoke out against his own religion (judaism), strong adherents to judaism (such as priests and rabbis), and even his own ethnic group as a whole! indeed he offended many people. i think if jesus were here today, he would speak out most strongly against christians as well.

  9. Thanks for all your wonderful comments -- good, bad or a mixture. You've each provided me with much food for thought!


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