Category: Religion


Comparing two biblical commentaries on Adam and Eve

John Wesley’s explanatory notes on Genesis-3 throws light on the intricacies of the relationship between Adam and Eve. At the outset, the choice of Serpent as the incarnation of devil is explained. The serpent is a sly creature that can operate with subtly in capturing its prey. Since the serpent can strike a fatal blow, its choice as the agent of Satan is apt. The first few stanzas of Genesis-3 also states how reason and speech are deceptive and can lead humans on the path of immorality. Adam and Eve, our first parents, were thus deceived by the serpent’s persuasive discourse of words. Eve, having thus been seduced by the power of reason, bit into the forbidden fruit, thereby condemning all further generations of humankind as bearers of that sin. Wesley’s interpretation is elaborate, in that, he lays out the methods of logic employed by the serpent. For example, the serpent spoke the following falsities in convincing Eve to commit the original sin:

“He . . . Read More

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McCabe on Faith and Reason

In the first chapter titled ‘Is Belief Wishful Thinking?’ Herbert McCabe throws light on the evolution of faith. According to McCabe, one of the lazy pretexts for religious belief is its comforting illusions. People have a tendency to want to believe in a fair and wise God who dispenses justice to all. But this is nothing more than wishful thinking. Yet, the validity of religious belief does not stand negated just because some of the faithful indulge in wishful thinking. Unlike scientific facts, religious beliefs have two components – fact and interpretation. So a combination of literal truth and metaphoric suggestion is at play in the system of beliefs that comprise a religion. In Christianity for example, “beliefs do entail certain simple factual historical beliefs, and in their case it is certainly possible to show what scientific evidence would count against them.” (p.2) McCabe cites the resurrection of Christ as an example of a belief that can be scientifically . . . Read More

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St. Anselm’s version of the Ontological Argument and Gaunilo’s objection to it

Anselm of Canterbury was one of the early promoters of the Ontological Argument supporting the existence of God. He argues that God exists on the basis that ‘something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought’ should necessarily exist in reality. In other words, just as anything a painter can conceive of can be materialized into a painting, the conception of God is a terminal point for human imagination. To the extent that it is imaginable, the object exists. To the extent that it is the ultimate in the scale of imagination, it must be God. Anselm goes on to claim that that God cannot be thought not to exist is further proof. He says, ‘something-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought’ exists so truly that it cannot even be thought not to exist. If a creature is able to think of something better and bigger than God, it would have to be above its Creator and be judging its Creator. Since this is logically impossible, it is only God who not only truly exists but also exists to . . . Read More

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Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg

It is important for all of us to have spiritual moorings. To be able to negotiate the vagaries of life, a spiritual support is essential. Sharon Salzberg’s informative book Faith is a personalized account of the necessity of faith. Talking from her experiences as an American Buddhist teacher, Salzberg offers readers several insights on the subject.

One of the main concepts spoken by Salzberg is the ‘discovery of truth’. Citing Buddhist understanding of cognitive processes, she reckons that human senses are not adequate to comprehend spiritual insights. To be able to get enlightened, disciplined pursuit of truth is necessary. Salzberg talks about how her own spiritual journey was marked by phases of doubt and confusion. Indeed, it is these challenges which make knowledge concrete, pulling away from its conceptual abstractions. In her own case, she encountered confusion whether to follow the Burmese or the Tibetan tradition of spiritual contemplation. She states that such . . . Read More

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The considerable overlap between Buddhism and Neuroscience

Following the thesis of Weisman’s article for the Seed Magazine, this essay will further furnish evidence in support of its claims. This essay will argue that much of the distilled wisdom of Buddhist thought is congruent with modern findings in neuroscience.

Of late Buddhism has found a following in the West. The major reason is that it is seen as a practical and philosophical system than a dogmatic religion. For example, the practice of meditation is far from being an esoteric mystical aspiration. There are palpable everyday benefits arising from regular meditation practice. Just as working out in the gym is good for the body, the daily practice of meditation is seen as a mind-exercise. To the extent that the mind is a manifestation of the physiology of the brain, meditation can also be seen as a brain exercise. Neuroplasticity is the term used by neurologists for describing the mutability of brain structures. Just as a body builder can shape and grow his muscles . . . Read More

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Stalin’s Barber by Paul M. Levitt

Consciously or not, Stalin conjoins religion and politics. Why?

Religion, especially the monotheistic religions profess the idea of damnation and divine retribution for sinners. Stalin must have thought that where bullets and the baton are inadequate in suppressing dissent, the fear of God would serve as a complete deterrent. Another explanation for Stalin’s mixing of politics and religion is to develop cult followership. In religion, we find how the revealed word of God is never contested. It would suit Stalin’s totalitarian agenda quite well to have the citizens worship him as a cult figure. By encouraging religion, Stalin is promoting certain personality traits that are complementary to running a totalitarian regime.

What is the point of having numerous Stalins? (the plaster of Paris busts in the basement)

Although Stalin was a man in possession of enormous political power, deep inside he was very insecure. Some consider . . . Read More

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Comparing Two Texts: Faith by Sharon Salzberg & Get out of the House More Often by Jim Wallis

Both the chosen texts talk about the importance of faith in our social lives. The two authors, Jim Wallis and Sharon Salzberg, do not strictly equate faith with religion. While basing their arguments on Christian and Buddhist doctrines respectively, they attempt to portray faith as a communal activity. Moreover, they both suggest that, though religious faith is a subjective experience and springs from one’s heart, it is crucial to shaping politics and culture of a society.

Jim Wallis’ Get out of the House More Often is an invocation to be a social being. Too often, too many of us are so accustomed to living in our comfort zones, that we lose out on growing our spiritual selves. Based on his first-hand observations and experiences as a priest, as well as drawing from numerous anecdotes of his peers and friends, Wallis constructs a powerful essay on community service. But instead of serving our own interests and inclinations, he argues, it is only when we serve the . . . Read More

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The Spaces between Stars by Geeta Kothari: An interpretation based on Hindusism

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions of the world. It evolved in the Indian subcontinent over 5000 years ago and has a rich body of literature. Unlike monotheistic religions such as Christianity or Islam, Hinduism is polytheistic, with thousands of deities and gods being worshipped. Even in terms of ethnography and culture there is a rich diversity of Hindu expression. The sacred rituals and beliefs related to Hinduism vary across ethnic communities in India. The Hindu scriptures explain morality in the form of legends and myths. More than a religion per se, Hinduism can be looked at as a philosophical system. The key themes of this system are that of the interconnectedness of life, repercussions of good and bad deeds (karma), the temporariness of earthly existence and the aspiration toward liberation from it (moksha). Texts such as the Upanishads and epics such as Ramayana and Mahabaratha serve as mediums of this philosophic discourse.

In Geeta Kothari’s short story the . . . Read More

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Desiderius Erasmus: A Brief Biographical Sketch

Desiderius Erasmus is one of the most influential Catholic theologians in the entire history of the faith.  He is remembered not only as a prominent member of the Church but also as a great Humanist.  He took a middle path approach to resolving conflicts between religion and rationalism.  He was despised by both sides for his preference for compromise over conflict. But his positions and views were based on pragmatism and not cowardice.  The proper way, for Erasmus, was to never resort to fanaticism even if one is right.  He understood well the nature of evil and he too hoped to see truth replace error and right triumph over wrong. But

“he showed discretion in his choice of tactics. If you wish to bring about peacefully true and lasting reforms, you do not, like the fanatics, indiscriminately attack not only the ideas you oppose but also the honesty, integrity, and sincerity of those who hold them. If you wish to convince a person he should change his ways, . . . Read More

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Mythological Creatures from Dante’s Inferno

The Inferno (Hell) is the first part of The Divine Comedy, followed by the Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Heaven). It is a classic Christian theological text that uses strong poetic imagination and allegorical allusion.  Though originally written in Italian between 1308 and 1321 AD, the work is widely translated and its themes are drawn upon by generations of writers since.  Written in first person narrative, the comedy is about the imaginative events and experiences of Dante (and his companion poet Virgil) as he traverses through Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso in his afterlife. Dante meets both mythological and real people during his long voyage.  He also comes across mythological creatures that pose moral dilemmas and questions to him.  By successfully resolving such challenges, Dante (and by extension anyone with faith in Christ) steadily attains spiritual salvation.  The rest of this essay will dwell on the mythological . . . Read More

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