Racism Hurts


Pychologist Elizabeth-Page Gould concludes from her research: “if the racist person then has to go through this every single day, the repeated stress can become a chronic problem, which places them at heightened risk for disease in later life.” [August 9, 2010]

Maybe. But in my view racism is to be repudiated because it is morally repugnant and scientifically unsound.
I am not convinced that racists inherently suffer because of this mental and cultural ailment.
All through history and in practically all societies there have been (as there still are) racists of various shades who are perfectly happy and self-satisfied in the bliss of their ignorant cocoons. Not all of them are always vicious or even stressed out.
It is important to teach society and our children that racism, like  lying, hurting, and infidelity, is morally wrong, and should therefore be rejected, rather than threatening them with unhappy consequences, real or imaginary, should they engage in it.
Science-based morality is one of the weakest genres of moral behavior, no different than  asking people not to steal because, if they did, the cops will catch them or God would send them to an uncomfortable place some day.

August 9, 2010

On Hate


Hate is an important human emotion that needs to be analyzed and understood if we wish to avoid or eliminate it as a negative force in human life and society.
Scholars and philosophers, psychologists and (evolutionary) biologists have discussed the phenomenon.
Hate is an intense and extreme form of dislike in which we wish to harm and/or destroy that which we hate.
We dislike an entity (person or thing) for one of two reasons:

(a) We fear it will hurt and harm us, and cause of our own end.
(b) We feel uncomfortable with the framework and symbolism which the person or thing represents because it is very different from, and even appears to be threatening to, our own framework and symbols. So long as the entity in question is not a serious threat to us, we merely dislike it. When the threat becomes, or appears to be, too close to being
actualized, the dislike evolves into hate.
Given that hate has great potential for harm and hurt, both to the target and to the source, it is important to make every effort not to be overcome by it. Some of the steps that may be taken to accomplish this:
(a) Try to understand why the target of our hate is trying to harm us. If there is a legitimate reason for this, try to minimize or eliminate the cause of the opponent’s hate. As a wise man said in ancient times, “Take care no one hates
you justly.”
(b) If there is no legitimate reason, try to persuade the target that we have no
intention or desire to harm it.
(c) Recognize that it is not impossible even for mutually incompatible frameworks and symbols to coexist in harmony, as along as there is mutual respect and understanding.
Since fear of being attacked is deep-rooted biological, hate is a natural instinct. Its opposite, namely love (of the stranger and the different) is not as natural. This is perhaps why many religious systems preach explicitly and often that we should foster our capacity for love.

August 29, 2002

On the success of religions


I was once asked: “In your opinion, theoretically for a religion to be most successful, what should be the right balance between standard versus innovation, as a religion evolves through out time?>
My answer: “Much depends on what one means by <successful>.
If success in this context is measured in terms of:
(i) Retaining current adherents, then the religion should continue to be meaningful, inspiring, and least demanding.
(ii) Getting new converts, the religion must offer what competing religions don’t.
Both these depend on the intellectual/educational sophistication of the people whom the religion addresses. The less sophisticated/educated a populace it, for a religion’s <success>, the theology should be very straight-forward: one God,
take him and you’ll go to heaven, reject him and you’ll go to hell, one Holy Book: all else is wrong and false and dangerous, etc.; its ethical framework should be blunt and simplistic: (categorizing everything in terms of good & bad, right & wrong, and without any shades in between, no questions asked). Under these conditions, a religion can more easily retain and get more members.
On the other hand, when the population gets more educated, sophisticated, science-literate, and questioning, religions (theologies, ethical principles) should also become more sophisticated. This is why Christianity is facing a crisis in the Western world, and why Christian theologians are trying to approach issues  in a modern scientific framework. It is only in such contexts that what one  calls innovation (actually enlightened interpretations) become  important. In  static stagnant cultures, where the leaders, religious and secular,  are untouched and uninformed about newer ways of understanding and evaluating things, there is no need for any change to function successfully. Such cultures can become dangerous if they spill into others and try to impose their narrow visions on reluctant outsiders.

The right balance for any enlightened religion will be to preserve the aesthetic, poetic, joyous, societal, spiritual aspects of a religion in its worship modes, to be aware of and encourage its faith community to think and act in responsible and caring ways in the complex world in which we live, and to refer its adherents to science for all explanatory aspects of the world-experience. If, where, and when this is done, most traditional religions can be successful: i.e. worthwhile and meaningful to its (sophisticated) adherents.

August 23, 2002

On Blending the Secular and the Sacred


It is important to blended the non-religious with the religious, the secular with the sacred, and be persuaded
to a loftier humanistic view of the world and experience.
But there still are the constraints of language, the narrowness of dictionary definitions, and the divisive images wrought by ardent adherents to one mode and the other.
Anti-religion secularists would havenothing to do with the sacred, and religious old-timers tend to look down upon
low-level atheists who know not the glory of the God lauded in Holy Texts.
We must strive to bridge the opposing camps: make the traditionalists aware that one can experience the sacred in matter and mind, in crystals and chrysanthemums, in trees and telescopes too; and instruct die-hard secularists that there can be much humanity in religious ethics, joy in celebrations, meaning in rituals, and poetry in psalms and symbols, as I
sometimes try to do.
To recognize mutual merit is not to give up what is meaningful and sensible to oneself, but to enrich communities that adopt different paths for self-fulfillment, and thus bring about more civilized modes of coexistence.

August 21, 2002

On Time


There are at least three aspects of time: experiential, conceptual, and physical. Experiential time may drift ever so slowly (often for the young, who are impatient for adulthood) or flee all too fast (especially as one approaches the precipitous terminal cliff at an advanced age). Experiential time is perhaps the most insubstantial element in human consciousness. It is with us all through our waking hours, apparently drifting silently and ceaselessly in the external world as well as within the very core of our being.
Conceptual time is like an imaginary straight line that can extended to infinity in either direction, taking us to realms way beyond the bracket whose bounds cosmologists proclaim as the big bang and heat-death. It has no beginning and no end, just an imaginary stretch the mind constructs.
Then there is the steady flow of physical time in a given frame of reference, the sort that is measured by physicists and chronometers, taking advantage of periodic changes, either at the lunar and stellar levels or at the microcosmic domain of atomic transitions. Physical time, as per current cosmology, had its birth with the big bang and was nonexistent prior to this ignition of the physical world.
Theologians have argued about whether God created time. The simple answer could be, “Of course God did, for did not God create everything?” Or, “Certainly not, since there was no God prior to thinking man.” In other words, the two simple answers depend on whether a person is a theist or an atheist. The Svetasvatara Upanishad describes God as the “architect of time”: kâlakâro. For Pythagoras, time was the soul of the world.
What is relevant to recognize is that experiential time plays a role when we are bored or having fun, conceptual time comes into the fore when we are logically analyzing the nature of time, and physical time matters when we are doing serious physics or cosmology.
Shakespeare once described time as both our parent and our grave. Indeed, each one of us tastes a slice of time, and when the lights go off in conscious life, we drop out of the steady stream in which we seem to be drifting. It is conscious life that perceives the presence of the stream. When we are thrown into the invisible stream of physical time, it turns into experiential time, a portion of a stream that continues indefinitely. What we do during that interval is what really matters.

20. Crime and Punihsment


1.         Pity the man who once had fame;

Which, having lost, now lives in shame [1].

2.        Punishment follows not always the crime;

Save when one is caught in time [2].

3.         Religions say that somehow

We’ll pay for the wrongs that we do now [3].

4.         Lawyers’ wits are what decide

The outcome when a case is tried [4].

5.         Justice must for all be done:

Not the same penalty for everyone [5].

6.         If no one steals and no one robs,

Police and lawyers will have no jobs [6].

7.         Crimes no doubt have their roots,

As roots may lead to rotten fruits [7].

8.         The lawyer who does better argue

Shows the Truth, in a jury’s view [8].

9.         Society gets into a sorry state

When the crime-prone in government permeate [9].

10.       Some say it’s murder weird and wild

When a woman wants to abort her child [10].

Notes

1. More than ordinary criminal,  when persons who once had pride and position in society are caught and punished for a crime, much shame and humiliation is added to the pain of the penalty.

2. Contrary to the demands of moral justice, many people get away with murder, as the expression goes.

3. It is to compensate for this that religions developed the post-mortem consequences of one’s action, such as the Day of Judgment and the Law of Karma.

4. Though, in principle a court of law is meant to decide the guilt or innocence of a person accused of a crime, in a good many cases it is the ability or lack thereof  of the defense lawyer that leads to his acquittal or conviction.

5. Equal justice is not the same as equal punishment. The severity of the punishment is often a function of the status, age, previous record, and such other factors of the culprit.

6. We seldom recognize the role that criminals play for giving jobs to hundreds of thousands of people: from policemen and lawyers to judges and prison wardens. If we imagine a society where non one ever commits any crime whatever, a good many people will be thrown out of work. Thanks to the 9/11 criminal act, practically every one who takes a plane has become a suspect: and this has led to the employment of hundreds of thousands of people in various airports in the elaborate security system that have been installed,

7. Psychologists and social scientists often trace criminal behavior to experiences in childhood. But one seldom emphasizes the role that proper guidance and inculcation of values play is keeping adults from criminal behavior.

8. Truth, in the minds of the jury, lies not so much in facts, as in to which interpretation of the facts the more effective lawyer slowly guides them.

9. The worst thing that can happen to a country is when its political leaders and elected representatives themselves are law-breakers. The only way this can be minimized, if not avoided, is if there is a non-corrupt law-enforcing agency in the country.

10. Abortion is such a controversial topic because some people associate a personhood to the unborn even at a very early stage of conception.