Friday, October 21, 2016

Indian Swami on Christianity

A wise Indian swami with whom I once studied Vedanta (the nerdiest branch of Indian philosophy) loved to share the thing he loved most about Christianity, and the thing he liked least. He adored what some might consider a treacly cliché of contemporary evangelical Christianity: "Let go, let God." He'd repeat it several times, with great relish. It was, he believed, up to the standards of the ancient Vedic sages (my version's much clumsier, but perhaps has its charms).

The part that bugged him was a clever bit of theological analysis; he'd precisely pinpointed where it all had gone wrong. There's a fundamental contradiction:
There's only one God (e.g. "The LORD he is God; there is none else beside him," among similar statements).
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
If there's no other God besides God, then everyone's worshipping just right, regardless of the name they do it under. If there's only one God, there's no "wrong God". We're all brothers. Recognition of this would have prevented centuries of intolerance, persecution, bloodshed, and genocide. But someone had to throw in that gratuitous bit of loopy scolding: Don't you dare worship other Gods! All those other Gods are horrible! Oh, and, technically there are no other gods....

From this contradiction have flowed innumerable murders and unimaginable suffering. The scold seems like something which was off-handedly thrown in. But as was sowed, so have we reaped…

Jefferson was right!

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