Breatharianism

THE “AIR CULT” (Practice)

Here is a quick run-down of the cult via THE INDEPENDENT:

…Born in Australia as Ellen Greve, Jasmuheen has herself warned of the dangers of life with no or very food.

“If a person is unprepared and not listening to their inner voice there can be many problems with the 21-day process, from extreme weight loss to even loss of their life,” she wrote in one of her books.

Jasmuheen took part in a monitored fast for Australia’s 60 Minutes news programme in an attempt to prove her claims, but the show’s doctors cut short her attempt to last seven days after she became dehydrated, lost weight and her speech began to slow.

Nevertheless, Castello and Ricardo, who live between California and Ecuador, say they have forgotten what it feels like to be hungry.

They claim they survive on the “energy that exists in the universe and in themselves”.

“Humans can easily be without food, as long as they are the connected to the energy that exists in all things and through breathing,” Castello says. 

“For three years, Akahi and I didn’t eat anything at all and now we only eat occasionally like if we’re in a social situation or if I simply want to taste a fruit…

JASMUHEEN (Founder)

Of course… a cult based around a “diet.” Twenty-one days is also the time in the TV series, Naked and Afraid. Here is some information via APOLOGETICS INDEX:

Breatharianism is a concept which promotes living on light and almost entirely without food and liquids. Jasmuheen, its most prominent promoter, has been exposed as a fraud, but not before several followers of her philosophy died. 

Her book, “Living on Light,” is also titled “Pranic Nourishment,” referring to the Hindu concept of PRANA [see below] – Sanskrit for “breath” or “life-force.”

[….]

New Age guru Jasmuheen, 42, formerly Australian businesswoman Ellen Greve, claims to have 5,000 devotees to her “breatharian” programme. 

She stood by her diet regime yesterday despite the death of disciple Verity Linn.

[….]

“I can go for months and months without having anything at all other than a cup of tea,” she said. “My body runs on a different kind of nourishment.” She said that some people have gone for up to six years without eating or drinking.

[….]

Breatharians believe they are sustained by Pranic light, an ancient spiritual belief in the light of God which is found across the universe and inside everyone. But the organisation has been dogged by scandal. 

In 1983, most of the leadership of the cult in California resigned when Wiley Brooks, its 47-year-old leader, who claimed not to have eaten for 19 years, was caught sneaking into a hotel and ordering a chicken pie. 

The cult originated in China and the Far East. Last year a monk in Bangalore claimed to have fasted for a 365 days, drinking only one cup of hot water after sunrise and another before sunset. During this time he lost more than five stone. Western doctors who monitored his condition said it was astonishing.

(See also: CULT EDUCATION INSTITUTE; and, SNOPES)

PRANA

Sanskrit for “breath” or “life-force.” 


Prana is believed to be universal divine energy residing behind the material world (akasa). Prana is said to have five forms, and all energy is thought to be a manifestation of it. Swami Nikhilananada describes it in his Vivekananda – The Yogas and Other Works as “the infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of this universe” (979:592). Perfect control of prana makes one God. One can have “infinite knowledge, infinite power, now”

(APOLOGETICS INDEX)

A death in 1999 was this one recounted by THE INDEPENDENT:

  • The most recent death was that of Verity Linn, an Australian woman whose emaciated body was found on amountain in north-west Scotland in July. Among her possessions were a copy of Jasmuheen’s book, Living On Light, and a diary revealing that she was taking part in a 21-day fast. Jasmuheen’s books and Internet sites may also have contributed to the fatal fasts of a Melbourne woman, Lani Morris, last summer, and of a German kindergarten teacher, Timo Degen, in 1997.

HOLLYWOOD

There is — of course — a Hollywood connection:

Hollywood seems to be susceptible to the cults, at a higher rate than the general public. One cult that has less influence in Hollywood than say, Scientology, is “Breatharianism.” Michelle Pfeiffer shared recently that she was involved many years ago in the cult when she first came to Hollywood and was very impressionable (Breitbart). She talked about how her first husband, who worked on a movie about the Moonies, helped her see the cult like aspect of this group:

Ellen Greve (AKA, Jasmuheen)

Ellen Greve, the cults leader/”guru”, herself claims to have eaten nothing since 1993, surviving only on air and light.

[Editors note: Bul-l-l-l-shit]

“They worked with weights and put people on diets. Their thing was vegetarianism,” Pfeiffer said. “They were very controlling. I wasn’t living with them but I was there a lot and they were always telling me I needed to come more. I had to pay for all the time I was there, so it was financially very draining.”

“They believed that people in their highest state were breatharian,” the actress added.

According to Pfeiffer, she did not realize she was a member of a cult until she married former husband and fellow actor Peter Horton, who at the time was researching for a role in a movie about the Unification Church, founded by Sun Myung Moon. Members of the Unification Church have traditionally been referred to by the term ‘Moonies,’ though it is today regarded as a pejorative by the current leaders of the church.

“We were talking with an ex-Moonie and he was describing the psychological manipulation and I just clicked,” Pfeiffer told Stella magazine. “I was in one.”

(NEWSMAX)

I am glad she got out, but with many in Hollywood, the New Age is the biggest draw, then Scientology. The French have been vigilant in keeping an eye on the group:

French authorities have put a retreat organised by Australian self-styled guru Ellen Greve [pictured to the right] under surveillance, the Le Parisien newspaper reports.

The newspaper says the authorities are worried that it is a dangerous cult that has had a role in the deaths of three people around the world.

Jean-Michel Roulet, the head of the French Government’s anti-sect unit Miviludes, has told the newspaper that the prolonged fasting preached by Ms Greve is “aberrant”.

Mr Roulet says Ms Greve’s group has used “a veritable attack on an individual’s freedom by way of mental manipulation”.

A seminar in the south-eastern village of Devesset headed by Ms Greve, who calls herself ‘Jasmuheen’, is under “high surveillance”.

However, officials say those attending are all adults and that, barring a mishap during the gathering, there are no grounds for police to break it up.

Ms Greve, 48, teaches that people can live almost entirely without food or water under an approach she calls ‘breatharianism“.

(RELIGION NEWS BLOG)

3-Hindu Philosophies Concisely Explained

  • James E. Taylor, Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 257-259.

JESUS AND HINDUISM

Hinduism may be the most metaphysically diverse of all religious traditions, since its practitioners have been polytheists, monotheists, pantheists, panentheists, atheists, and agnostics. This metaphysical diversity is grounded in the widespread Hindu conviction that the truth about ultimate reality is inexpressible and unknowable.

The Hindu name for ultimate reality is Brahman. In spite of the general skepticism just mentioned, many Hindu scholars have studied the Vedic texts (especially the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma-sutra) to articulate an understanding of Brahman and Brahman’s relationship to the universe. The philosophical/theological systems formulated are called Vedanta. The three most in­fluential vedantic thinkers are Sankara (788-820), Ramanuja (1017-1137), and Madhya (thirteenth century AD).

Sankara’s view is called Advaita (non-duality) Vedanta. According to this worldview, reality is one, and the one is Brahman. It follows that the only absolute reality is Brahman, and therefore every­thing that exists is Brahman. Thus, each individual atman (soul) is identical with Atman (the world soul), and Atman is the same thing as Brahman. Though Brahman may seem to be a personal lord with a variety of divine attributes who is worthy of worship, Brahman is really impersonal (and so not appropriately worshiped) and completely without different and distinct qualities (except for being, consciousness, and bliss). This is clearly a version of pan­theism, which accounts for polytheism at the popular level: The allegedly many gods are just manifestations of Brahman. Sankara says that the assumption that there are many real things (human be­ings, animals, plants, inorganic things, different qualities of things, etc.) is due to ignorance and that this ignorance is caused by maya (illusion). According to his view, salvation comes through eliminating maya and the ignorance based on it by becoming enlightened. Enlightenment in­volves grasping that everything (including oneself, of course) is really (distinctionless and impersonal) Brahman.

Sankara’s interpretation of the Vedas is philosophically problematic, and because of this, it does not provide a plausible chal­lenge to Christian exclusivism. The main problem with his view is that it says, on the one hand, that there is only one thing and thus no distinctions between different kinds of things, and, on the other hand, that there is a distinction between maya and ultimate reality, ignorance and enlightenment, bondage to samsara and liberation from it, and so on. In short, Sankara’s Hindu theology is self-contradictory. Moreover, it does not help to distinguish, as Sankara does, between absolute reality (Brahman) and conventional reality (maya). This too is a distinction between two different things, and if Brahman is all, then there cannot be two different things. An additional problem is that Sankara’s view is inconsistent with the wisdom of collective human sensory experience, which reveals a world of many real things. An appeal to mystical experience does not save his position. There is no good reason to trust such an experience, since insofar as it supports Sankara’s view, it contradicts both reason and sense perception.

Ramanuja is a later Hindu thinker who tried to improve on Sankara’s theology by attempting to be faithful to the theme of unity between Atman and Brahman in the Vedas while avoiding contradiction. His theology is a qualified nondualism. According to his view, the universe is Brahman’s body, which emerges or emanates eternally out of Brahman and through which Brahman expresses itself. As such, the universe is coeternal with and dependent on Brahman, but it is not the same thing as Brahman. Therefore, the universe can consist in many different things, including souls, which are not identical with Brahman. If we take this to mean that the universe is part of Brahman, then Ramanuja’s theology is a version of panentheism. If instead Brahman’s body is not a part of Brahman, then Ramanuja’s view is a version of contingency monotheism. Either way, Ramanuja avoids Sankara’s pantheism. Moreover, whereas Sankara conceives of Brahman as impersonal, Ramanuja believes Brahman is a personal God who has become incarnate in many forms (such as Rama and Krishna)2 and who gives grace to save human beings who love him and are devoted to him (but this salvation does not involve atonement).i

Though Ramanuja’s picture of reality avoids the contradictory antirealism of Sankara’s approach, and though it includes some Christian themes, it faces a problem of evil that is more serious than the one afflicting the Abrahamic faiths. In the first place, if his view is panentheistic, so that the universe is part of God and the universe contains evil, then a part of God is evil. But Ramanuja says that God is perfect. Therefore, the universe does not contain evil, or God is not perfect, or the universe is not a part of God. Since it seems best to affirm the last of these alternatives, it seems best to reject the panentheistic interpretation of Ramanuja’s theology. Second, since Ramanuja affirms the eternality of souls (a consequence of his denial of creation ex nihilo), then those souls that have not yet been liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth have already suffered eternally. But this is an experience equivalent to eternal suffering in hell—at least with respect to length of time. Therefore, all of us still caught in the cycle of death and rebirth have no freedom of choice in this life to avoid eternal suffer­ing. We have already endured it! According to the Christian view, all human beings suffer only a finite amount during the one earthly existence they are granted, and they are given an opportunity to choose freely whether to suffer eternally apart from God. Moreover, there is consequently a much greater amount of pain and suffering for which Ramanuja needs to account than there is in the Christian view.

The third Hindu theologian is Madhya. According to his view, the universe is eternal and completely independent of God. His theology is a member of the cosmological dualism family. Thus, he avoids the problems facing Sankara’s panthe­ism and the panentheist interpretation of Ramanuja. Moreover, he says God is the designer of the universe but not the creator. Therefore, his theology does not have to explain why God either created or eternally generates a universe that contains evil, pain, and suffering. Like Ramanuja, he also affirms that God is personal, has become incarnate in different forms, and offers salvation by grace.

But Madhva’s account of God and the world has two serious problems. First, from the standpoint of Hinduism, it does not affirm the close relationship between God and the universe that is taught by the Vedas. Second, it can provide no satisfying philosophical explanation of the existence of the universe. Since Madhva’s position is that the universe is both eternal and independent, the universe’s existence is a brute fact. But the Abrahamic faiths and the other versions of Hinduism can all explain the existence of the universe as identical with God (Sankara), a part of or dependent on God (Ramanuja), or created by God out of nothing (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Therefore, these other theologies are supe­rior to Madhva’s theology in this respect.

2. In Hinduism, an incarnation of God is called an avatar.

i. RPT’s note. Ramanuja seems close to some theistic beliefs, but one should be aware that he lived around 1017–1137 AD, and so borrowed from Christianity to try and “fix” the glaring problems in Hinduism. 

Gandhi’s Racist Beliefs (or, Fallen Nature) -Referenced & Updated-

I have always quoted this without a real scholarly reference of where it came from, not any longer:

  • “We believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do, only we believe that they would best serve the interest, which is as dear to us as to them, by advocating the purity of all races, and not one alone. We believe also that the white race in South Africa should be the predominating race…” ~ Gandhi

The book this came from is a large work, and the author stated his purpose and the resources he used to write his book:

There is no doubt that the market is flooded with Gandhi literature. The magnitude of Gandhi reading material, even for a Gandhian scholar, is over­whelming. Because of its incredible bulk, the Gandhi literature has been collec­tively named Gandhiana. In 1955 Jagdish S. Sharma cataloged 3,349 entries published by and about Gandhi in ten European languages. By his second edi­tion in 1968, the number of entries had swelled to 3,671. In 1995 Ananda M. Pandiri compiled much of the Gandhian material published in English, listing references for 985 Gandhi biographies. The number of articles published on Gandhi is mind-boggling, as are the number of speeches about him by pastors, politicians, academicians, journalists, and others. The Gandhi literature comes in many shapes, sizes, and formats: some designed for juveniles, some for intellec­tuals, and much for the innocent adult population. It is spread all over the world by Gandhi propagandists. I will concentrate here on only the literature and the films in order to explore biographies, especially those that are known to have left an impact on their audiences. Since I am investigating a particular Gandhi trait­racism—I will target my search on Gandhi’s role toward the black people of South Africa, where he lived almost twenty-one years. It does make sense to scrutinize him as he is depicted in these important biographies with regard to the Zulu rebellion in 1906. I offer a fair selection of biographies and other important articles related to this period, ranging from the earliest ones in South Africa, Gandhi’s autobiographical accounts, early biographies written in the West (con­sidered to be the most famous), and those authored by reputable scholars. Given the incredible number of biographies available and the different publication times, it is easy to get confused while delving deep in the comprehension process. The solution to prevent such confusion and to aid understanding when reading the biographical materials laid out in chapters 2 through 7 is to juxtapose them in the timeline in the appendix. This will help the reader gain a better appre­ciation and comprehension of its historical settings and sequences.

For our discussion, the most important feature in the timeline—and the one often ignored—is the 1906 incident: “June–July: Gandhi participates in war against blacks.” This incident is paramount for those of us who wish to understand Gandhi’s core. Only once we have studied this can we move outward to untangle the rest of Gandhi’s mystery. Unfortunately, what we know of Gandhi is either through the eyes of the apologists or through the scholars. Collectively, they took the information about the 1906 incident from the pages of Gandhi’s autobiographical accounts penned in the mid-1920s, in this case a flawed method. We need to study Gandhi’s behavior toward blacks before, during, and just after the 1906 incident. Much of this book is woven around studying this phase before we study Gandhi during 1908-1909 and other time periods, including his thirty-two years in India.

G.B. Singh, Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity (New York, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004), 26-27.

So, the small portion I started with — the quote I have used in the past to show Gandhi’s core-beliefs that counter the “saint-hood” people afford him — is found within a larger contextual piece below. Enjoy:

…. Gandhi started a weekly newspaper in June 1903 at Durban called Indian Opinion. The paper started with a few stated objectives, including: to bring the European and Indian subjects of King Edward closer together. What was the harm in making an effort to bring understanding among all people, irrespective of color, creed, or religion? Gandhi knew that a huge population of blacks and other colored lived in South Africa. They were simply not in his equation, anywhere. Below, I have provided a few good examples of Gandhi’s racism. In response to the White League’s fear of the possible consequence of Asian mass immigration into Transvaal, Gandhi declared in the September 24, 1903 Indian Opinion: “We believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do, only we believe that they would best serve the interest, which is as dear to us as to them, by advocating the purity of all races, and not one alone. We believe also that the white race in South Africa should be the predominating race…” (CWMG 3, #342, p. 453).

In the December 24, 1903, Indian Opinion, in response to similar fears voiced by the all-white Transvaal Chamber of Commerce Conference, Gandhi cited to his earlier petition, “The petition dwells upon ‘the commingling of the Coloured and white races.’ May we inform the members of the Conference that, so far as the British Indians are concerned, such a thing is practically unknown? If there is one thing which the Indian cherishes more than any other, it is the purity of type” (CWMG 4, #70, p. 89). The Indian underclasses evidently did not share Gandhi’s distaste for “commingling” the races.

In Ferreiras Township, a working-class suburb of Johannesburg, the popula­tion breakdown in late 1904 was listed as 288 Indians, 58 Syrians, 165 Chinese, 295 Cape Coloureds, 75 blacks, and 929 whites. Gandhi could do nothing about a place like the Ferreiras Township, but he claimed the right to speak on the racial composition of Indian locations. In February 1904, he informed the Johannes­burg Medical Officer of Health, Dr. C. Porter that, “Why, of all places in Johan­nesburg, the Indian Location should be chosen for dumping down all the Kaffirs of the town passes my comprehension…. Of course, under my suggestion, the Town Council must withdraw the Kaffirs from the Location. About this mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians, I must confess, I feel most strongly. I think it is very unfair to the Indian population, and it is an undue tax on even the prover­bial patience of my countrymen.”

Ironically, the BIA backed away from its persistent demands about blacks from being removed from the locations, because many merchants profited from the black rental income; Gandhi had to follow suit. Similarly, in March 1906, in a clear contradiction of his previously stated principles, and on behalf of the BIA, Gandhi protested the proposed removal of blacks from the Pretoria location on the grounds that was harmful to merchant interests. He went out of his way to shield his vested interests from any encroachment. Maureen Swan aptly states:

He [Gandhi] strenuously protested against the proposal to import indentured Indians into the Transvaal, particularly if their contracts included a repatriation clause. He referred to the proposed scheme as slave labour. But his major con­cern was evidently the belief that the Indian “problem is complicated enough without their presence,” and that hostility to Indian traders would be fed by a vast influx of Indian workers. That his concern was for the future of the mer­chants, and not the “slave-labourers” per se, is obvious in that he offered sincere congratulations on the decision to import Chinese instead of Indian workers. In 1906 he actually recommended to the Colonial Secretary that Natal merchants be allowed to bypass the Immigration Restriction Act and import Indian clerks and domestics on the understanding that they must leave the colony at the end of the service with their masters. This was an attempt to break what was described as the “monopoly” created by local Indian clerks and domestics, and cannot be described in any other way than an indenture scheme complete with below market wage rates and a repatriation clause.

His views on Indian immigration were also exacerbated by another bizarre concern of his paranoid prejudice against black people, “Let us have a few of our best men to teach us, to bring the highest ideals with them, to advise and shepherd us, and to minister to our spiritual needs, that we may not sink to the level of the aboriginal natives, but rise to be, in every sense, worthy citizens of the Empire.”

Regarding work ethics, Gandhi held a low opinion of blacks, and even with time he never wavered on this issue, “It is one thing to register Natives who would not work, and whom it is very difficult to find out if they absent them­selves, but it is another thing and most insulting to expect decent, hard-working, and respectable Indians, whose only fault is that they work too much, to have themselves registered and carry with them registration badges” (CWMG 4, #152, p. 193). Commenting in an editorial on the Natal Municipal Corporation Bill, in the March 18, 1905, Indian Opinion Gandhi was not enthused with the term “uncivilized races” being used to denote not just blacks but also the Indians. Gandhi was vehemently against including Indians (even underclasses) with blacks: “Clause 200 makes provision for registration of persons belonging to uncivilized races (meaning the local blacks), resident and employed within the borough. One can understand the necessity for registration of Kaffirs who will not work; but why should registration be required for indentured Indians who have become free, and for their descendants about whom the general complaint is that they work too much?” (CWMG 4, #319, pp. 379-81 [my italics]).

G.B. Singh, Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity (New York, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004), 191-193.

For a clear contrast one need look no further than Jesus:

The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great religious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strong-minded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been worshipped, even with multitudinous idols.

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances.

Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the comprehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.

Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.

 

Buddhism “Hashed Out” To Its Logical Conclusions

Originally Posted May 24th, 2010

A partial portion from my proposed book and an old post elsewhere:

Aren’t All Religions the Same? from Papa Giorgio on Vimeo.

I wish to illustrate with a conversation (unfinished by the way) between myself and a Zen Buddhist.  This conversation can almost happen with any religious Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or the like. The conversation takes place after an interesting post by the person on his blog about self-defense, the Dalai Lama, WWII, and the Buddha. I will post my reply to his original thought, and then he responds, followed again by me.  (Keep in mind I am using our “blog” names, they are almost like “handles” like in the movie Top Gun):[1]

My initial engagement:

Does the idea of “violence” as a moral good or a moral evil truly exist in the Buddhist mindset? What I mean is that according to a major school of Buddhism, isn’t there a denial that distinctions exist in reality… that separate “selves” is really a false perception? Language is considered something the Buddhist must get beyond because it serves as a tool that creates and makes these apparently illusory distinctions more grounded, or rooted in “our” psyche. For instance, the statement that “all statements are empty of meaning,” would almost be self refuting, because, that statement — then — would be meaningless. So how can one go from that teaching inherent to Buddhistic thought and say that self-defense (and using WWII as an example) is really meaningful. Isn’t the [Dalai] Lama drawing distinction by assuming the reality of Aristotelian logic in his responses to questions? (He used at least three Laws of Logic [thus, drawing distinctions using Western principles]: The Law of Contradiction; the Law of Excluded Middle; and the Law of Identity.) Curious.

They Call Him James Ure, responds:

You’re right that language is just a tool and in the end a useless one at that but It’s important to be able run a blog. That or teach people the particulars of the religion. It’s like a lamp needed to make your way through the dark until you reach the lighthouse (Enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.) Then of course the lamp is no longer useful unless you have taken the vow to teach others. Which in my analogy is returning into the dark to bring your brothers and sisters along (via the lamp-i.e. language) to the lighthouse (enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.)

I respond:

Then… if reality is ultimately characterless and distinctionless, then the distinction between being enlightened and unenlightened is ultimately an illusion and reality is ultimately unreal. Whom is doing the leading? Leading to what? These still are distinctions being made, that is: “between knowing you are enlightened and not knowing you are enlightened.” In the Diamond Sutra, ultimately, the Bodhisattva loves no one, since no one exists and the Bodhisattva knows this:

“All beings must I lead to Nirvana, into the Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind; and yet, after beings have been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana. And why? If in a Bodhisattva[2] the notion of a “being” should take place, he could not be called a ‘Bodhi-being.’ And likewise if the notion of a soul, or a person should take place in him.” (Comparative Religions – Buddhism)

So even the act of loving others, therefore, is inconsistent with what is taught in the Buddhistic worldview, because there is “no one to love.” This is shown quite well (this self-refuting aspect of Buddhism) in the book, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha. A book I recommend with love, from a worldview that can use the word love well. One writer puts it thusly: “When human existence is blown out, nothing real disappears because life itself is an illusion. Nirvana is neither a re-absorption into an eternal Ultimate Reality, nor the annihilation of a self, because there is no self to annihilate. It is rather an annihilation of the illusion of an existing self. Nirvana is a state of supreme bliss and freedom without any subject left to experience it.”

My Final Response

I haven’t seen a response yet. Which is fitting… because whom would be responding to whom? Put another way, would there be one mind trying to actively convince the other mind that no minds exist at all?

Here’s another way to see the same thing, Dan Story weighs in again:

It may be possible that nothing exists. However, it is impossible to demonstrate that nothing exists because to do so would be to deny our own existence. We must exist in order to affirm that reality doesn’t exist. To claim that reality is an illusion is logically impossible because it also requires claiming that the claim itself is unreal—a self-defeating statement. If reality is an illusion, how do we know that pantheism isn’t an illusion too?[3]

Another author put it thusly, “if pantheism is true (and my individuality an illusion), it is false, since there is no basis by which to explain the illusion.”[4] The challenge then becomes this: “if reality is an illusion, how do we know then that pantheism isn’t an illusion as well?”[5] You see…

…most people assume that something exists. There may be someone, perhaps, who believes that nothing exists, but who would that person be? …. no one ever consciously tries to defend the position that nothing exists. It would be a useless endeavor since there would be no one to convince. Even more significantly, it would be impossible to defend that position since, if it were true, there would be no one to make the defense. So to defend the position that nothing exists seems immediately to be absurd and self-contradictory.[6]

Another problem in pantheism is God’s inability to deal with or solve the problem of evil.[7] Dan Story points out what should be becoming obvious, “He is the cause of it (remember, all is God).” Mr. Story continues:

Pantheism and the New Age may try to ignore this problem by claiming that sin and suffering is merely illusion.  But let’s bring this philosophy down to the real world.  Try to convince a man dying of cancer or a parent who has just lost a child that evil and suffering are illusion.  Even if evil is an illusion, the illusion itself is real.  In either case, evil exists.  As Geisler noted, “If evil is not real, what is the origin of the illusion?  Why has it been so persistent and why does it seem so real?…  How can evil arise from a ‘God’ who is absolutely and necessarily good?”[8] The answer must be that if pantheism is true, God cannot be good, and He must be the source of evil.[9]

Between karmic destiny and the god[s] of pantheism and its dealing with pain and suffering (and consequently the promotion of it) by claiming everything is an illusion is not an answer at all.  Must we not live as if this illusion is reality?   In other words, “look both ways:”

As the professor waxed eloquent and expounded on the law of non-contradiction, he eventually drew his conclusion: “This [either/or logic] is a Western way of looking at reality. The real problem is that you are seeing contradictions as a Westerner when you should be approaching it as an Easterner. The both/and is the Eastern way of viewing reality.”

After he belabored these two ideas on either/or and both/and for some time, I finally asked if I could interrupt his unpunctuated train of thought and raise one question.

I said, “Sir, are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and system of logic or nothing else?”

There was pin-drop silence for what seemed an eternity. I repeated my question: “Are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and logic or nothing else? Have I got that right?”

He threw his head back and said, “The either/or does seem to emerge, doesn’t it?”

“Indeed, it does emerge,” I said.  “And as a matter of fact, even in India we look both ways before we cross the street – it is either the bus or me, not both of us.[10]

Pantheists may pawn this inane philosophy on people, but no one can live it out consistently as Ravi pointed out.  Moreover, when a large population tries to live it – like in India – one can see the fruits it produces, the destruction of the family a case in point.[11] The promulgation of suffering and the inability of the religious Hindu to stop and help a suffering child or the rampant infestation of disease ridden — crop eating — pests, is all a loud refutation of trying to live an unlivable religious proposition.  A lie.


[1] I use quite liberally in this exchange two resources, they are follows: Michael J. Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within, 212-214; Ernest Valea, “Possible difficulties in Buddhism,” Many Paths To One Goal? Found at: http://www.comparativereligion.com/Buddhism.html (last accessed 8-11-09), the main site is: http://www.comparativereligion.com/index.html

[2] “One who has taken a vow to become a Buddha.” David Burnett, The Spirit of Buddhism: A Christian Perspective on Buddhist Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003), 329.  “Celestial” Buddha’s and bodhisattvas are said to be able to assist in guiding believers towards salvation as supernatural beings.  These bodhisattvas vary in their rolls and offices as the many gods of Hinduism, from which Buddhism comes.  See: Michael D. Coogan, Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Toaism, Confucianism, Shinto (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 133-139.

[3] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[4] Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish, See the Gods Fall: Four Rivals to Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), 210.

[5] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[6] L. Russ Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 70.

[7] Michael J. Murray critiques quickly the Ramanuja and Madhya philosophies:

Stated in terms of Christian terminology, Ramanuja’s view implies that every soul that has ever existed endured an eternity in “hell” (i.e., the cycle of rebirths) before it could enter “heaven” (i.e., union with God). Now unlike Madhya, Ramanuja claims that God freely, and beginninglessly, created the world, and all existing souls, out of his own being. This latter claim, however, presents Ramanuja with a very severe problem of evil: that of reconciling his belief that God is perfectly good and all-loving with God’s ultimate responsibility for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of sin and suffering. The problem of evil faced by Ramanuja here is much more severe than that faced by Western theists. First, unlike Western theists, Ramanuja cannot say that this evil is a necessary consequence of God’s creating creatures with free will. Although the suffering of a soul in any individual life could be blamed on the bad karma resulting from its free choices in previous lives, the fact that the suffering is beginningless — and hence infinite — cannot be blamed on free choice. The reason for this is that, no matter what free choices souls make in this life, or have made in any previous life, they cannot change the fact that they have beginninglessly endured an infinite amount of suffering; but one cannot be responsible for what one was powerless to change. Followers of Ramanuja, therefore, do not seem to have recourse to the traditional free will theodicy invoked in the West to explain evil. Second, the amount of evil that needs to be explained is infinitely larger than that faced by West­ern versions of theism, since, according to Ramanuja each soul has committed an infinite number of evil acts and endured an infinite period of suffering. Unfortunately, as Julius Lipner points out, neither Ramanuja, nor any other orthodox Hindu theologian, ever attempted to address this particular problem of evil since they took the eternality of the world and souls as an “unquestioned datum for life and thought.” Unlike Ramanuja (and Western theism), however, Madhva’s theol­ogy largely avoids the problem of evil. The reason for this is that in his theology God is neither responsible for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of bondage, nor for the fact that they continue to remain in bondage, this being ultimately the result of their inherent, uncreated na­ture. Nonetheless, his system suffers from two drawbacks when com­pared to Ramanuja’s view. First, Madhva’s system leaves one with a plurality of ultimates — souls, matter, and God — without accounting for their existence. Although this is not a devastating criticism of Madhya, everything else being equal, views that hypothesize a single, unified source of everything (such as God), are in virtue of their simplicity, philosophically more satisfactory. Second, even though Madhya claimed to base his view on scripture, from the perspective of many orthodox Hindus his theology seems to contradict both those passages of Hindu scripture that appear to imply a deep sort of identity between God and souls and those that appear to imply that the world emerges out of God.

Reason for the Hope Within, 200-202.

[8] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 189 (emphasis added).

[9] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 113.

[10] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 128-129 (emphasis added).

[11] Rabi R. Maharaj, Death of a Guru, 13 and 14:

No matter how fulfilling life becomes, there are always cer­tain regrets when one looks back. My deepest sense of loss involves my father, Chandrabhan Ragbir Sharma Mahabir Maharaj. How I wish he were still alive! Nor does the fact that this extraordinary man died so young and under such mysterious circumstances entirely explain my regret. So much that is even more remarkable has happened since then. I often wonder what it would be like to share it all with him, and what his reaction would be. To share it with him! We never shared anything in our lives. Because of the vows he had taken before I was born, not once did he ever speak to me or pay me the slightest heed. Just two words from him would have made me un­speakably happy. More than anything else in the whole world I wanted to hear him say, “Rabi! Son!” Just once. But he never did.  For eight long years he uttered not a word, not even a whispered confidence to my mother…. “Why is Father that way?” I would ask my mother when I was still too young to understand. “He is someone very special—the greatest man you could have for a father,” she would reply, always patient with my persistent questions and puzzled expression. “He is seeking the true Self that lies within us all, the One Being, of which there is no other. And that’s what you are too, Rabi.”


I want to leave the reader with this thought by Robert Hume. In his book, The World’s Living Religions, he comments that there are three features of Christian faith that “cannot be paralleled anywhere among the religions of the world”  [I can add here, the cults either].  These include the character of God as a loving Heavenly Father, the character of the founder of Christianity as the Son of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Further, he says:

The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great re­ligious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strongminded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been wor­shipped, even with multitudinous idols.

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their prac­tical policies under change of circumstances.

Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a con­sistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the com­prehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.

Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.

Icons of Pluralism Examined: Elephants and Geography Mantras

John Piippo has this great insight from Dinesh D’Souza:

Dinesh D’Souza, in his new book Life After Death: The Evidence, talks about the genetic fallacy as used, he feels, by certain atheists. For example, it is a sociological fact that the statementReligious diversity exists is true. If you were born in India, as D.Souza was, you would most likely be a Hindu rather than a Christian or a Jew (as D’Souza was). While that sociological statement is true, its truth has (watch closely…) no logical relevance as regards the statements such as The Hindu worldview is true, or Christian theism is true. D’ Souza writes:

“The atheist is simply wrong to assume that religious diversity undermines the truth of religious claims… [T]he fact that you learned your Christianity because you grew up in the Bible Belt [does not] imply anything about whether those beliefs are true or false. The atheist is guilty here of what in logic is called the “genetic fallacy.” The term does not refer to genes; it refers to origins. Think of it this way. If you are raised in New York, you are more likely to believe in Einstein’s theory of relativity than if you are raised in New Guinea. Someone from Oxford, England, is more likely to be an atheist than someone from Oxford, Mississippi. The geographical roots of your beliefs have no bearing on the validity of your beliefs.” (38-39, emphasis mine)

  • [Dinesh D’Souza, Life After Death: The Evidence (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2009), 38-39.]

…and this from Theo-Sophical Ruminations:

Religious pluralists often claim that religious beliefs are culturally relative: the religion you adopt is determined by where you live, not the rationality/truth of the religion itself.  If you live in India you will probably be a Hindu; if you live in the U.S. you will probably be a Christian.  One’s personal religious beliefs are nothing more than a geographic accident, so we should not believe that our religion is true while others are not.

This argument is a double-edged sword.  If the religious pluralist had been born in Saudi Arabia he would have been a Muslim, and Muslims are religious particularists!  His pluralistic view of religion is dependent on his being born in 20th century Western society!

A more pointed critique of this argument, however, comes from the realm of logic.  The line of reasoning employed by the pluralist commits the genetic fallacy (invalidating a view based on how a person came to hold that view).  The fact of the matter is that the truth of a belief is independent of the influences that brought you to believe in it….

See more at Wintery Knight and Apologetics Index:

(Mainly from Paul Copan’s “True for You, But not for Me“)

People have used this old parable to share their opinion or viewpoint that no one religion is the only route to God (pluralism). Pluralists believe that the road to God is wide. The opposite of this is that only one religion is really true (exclusivism).

What could a thoughtful person say in response?

  • Just because there are many different religious answers and systems doesn’t automatically mean pluralism is correct.
  • Simply because there are many political alternatives in the world (monarchy, fascism, communism, democracy, etc.) doesn’t mean that someone growing up in the midst of them is unable to see that some forms of government are better than others.
  • That kind of evaluation isn’t arrogant or presumptuous. The same is true of grappling with religion.
  • The same line of reasoning applies to the pluralist himself. If the pluralist grew up in Madagascar or medieval France, he would not have been a pluralist!
  • If we are culturally conditioned regarding our religious beliefs, then why should the religious pluralist think his view is less arbitrary or conditioned than the exclusivist’s?
  • If Christian faith is true, then the Christian would be in a better position than the pluralist to assess the status of other religions
  • How does the pluralist know he is correct? Even though he claims others don’t know Ultimate Reality as it really is, he implies that he does. (To say that the Ultimate Reality can’t be known is a statement of knowledge.)
  • If the Christian needs to justify Christianity’s claims, the pluralist’s views need just as much substantiation.

If we can’t know Reality as it really is, why think one exists at all? Why not simply try to explain religions as purely human or cultural manifestations without being anything more?

[….]

If you had been born in another country, is it at all likely that you would be a Christian?

Eric looks back at his family—devoutly Christian for four generations in Europe and America, twelve pastors among his relatives, an inner-city schoolteacher and Christian writer for parents—and readily acknowledges that his environment made it easy for him to become a Christian. Still, his faith was exposed to severe challenges as he rose to the top of his university class and as he lived in Asia as a college student. And he knows it took a conscious series of wrenching decisions in his teens and early adult years for him to choose to remain a Christian. Oddly, one of the biggest influences on his faith came from outside his culture through Chinese Christian friends.

John Hick has asserted that in the vast majority of cases, an individual’s religious beliefs will be the conditioned result of his geographical circumstances.1 Statistically speaking, Hick is correct. But what follows from that scenario? We saw in an earlier chapter that the bare fact that individuals hold different views about a thing doesn’t make relativism the inevitable conclusion. Similarly, the phenomenon of varying religious beliefs hardly entails religious pluralism. Before becoming a religious pluralist, an exclusivist has a few equally reasonable options:

  • One could continue to accept the religion one grew up with because it has the ring of truth.
  • One could reject the view one grew up with and become an adherent to a religion believed to be true.
  • One could opt to embrace a less demanding, more convenient religious view.
  • One could become a religious skeptic, concluding that, because the process of belief-formation is unreliable, no religion appears to really save.

Why should the view of pluralism be chosen instead of these other options?

An analogy from politics is helpful.2 As with the multiple religious alternatives in the world, there are many political alternatives—monarchy, Fascism, Marxism, or democracy. What if we tell a Marxist or a conservative Republican that if he had been raised in Nazi Germany, he would have belonged to the Hitler Youth? He will probably agree but ask what your point is. What is the point of this analogy? Just because a diversity of political options has existed in the history of the world doesn’t obstruct us from evaluating one political system as superior to its rivals. Just because there have been many political systems and we could have grown up in an alternate, inferior political system doesn’t mean we are arrogant for believing one is simply better.3

Furthermore, when a pluralist asks the question about cultural or religious conditioning, the same line of reasoning applies to the pluralist himself. The pluralist has been just as conditioned as his religious exclusivist counterparts have. Alvin Plantinga comments:

Pluralism isn’t and hasn’t been widely popular in the world at large; if the pluralist had been born in Madagascar, or medieval France, he probably wouldn’t have been a pluralist. Does it follow that he shouldn’t be a pluralist or that his pluralistic beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief-producing process? I doubt it.4

If all religions are culturally conditioned responses to the Real, can’t we say that someone like Hick himself has been culturally conditioned to hold a pluralistic view rather than that of an exclusivist? If that is the case, why should Hick’s view be any less arbitrary or accidental than another’s? Why should his perspective be taken as having any more authority than the orthodox Christian’s?

There is another problem: The exclusivist likely believes he has better basis for holding to his views than in becoming a religious pluralist; therefore he is not being arbitrary. John Hick holds that the religious exclusivist is arbitrary: “The arbitrariness of [the exclusivist position] is underlined by the consideration that in the vast majority of cases the religion to which a person adheres depends upon the accidents of birth.”5 But the exclusivist believes he is somehow justified in his position—perhaps the internal witness of the Holy Spirit or a conversion experience that has opened his eyes so that now he sees what his dissenters do not—even if he can’t argue against the views of others. Even if the exclusivist is mistaken, he can’t be accused of arbitrariness. Hick wouldn’t think of his own view as arbitrary, and he should not level this charge against the exclusivist.

A third problem emerges: How does the pluralist know that he is correct? Hick says that the Real is impossible to describe with human words; It transcends all language. But how does Hick know this? And what if the Real chose to disclose Itself to human beings in a particular form (i.e., religion) and not another? Why should the claims of that religion not be taken seriously?6 As Christians, who lay claim to the uniqueness of Christ, we are often challenged to justify this claim—and we rightly should. But the pluralist is also making an assertion that stands in just as much need of verification. He makes a claim about God, truth, the nature of reality. We ought to press the pluralist at this very point: “How do you know you are right? Furthermore, how do you know anything at all about the Ultimate Reality, since you think all human attempts to portray It are inadequate?”7

At this point we see cracks in Hick’s edifice.8 Although Hick claims to have drawn his conclusions about religion from the ground up, one wonders how he could arrive at an unknowable Ultimate Reality. In other words, if the Real is truly unknowable and if there is no common thread running through all the world religions so that we could formulate certain positive statements about It (like whether It is a personal being as opposed to an impersonal principle, monotheistic as opposed to polytheistic, or trinitary as opposed to unitary), then why bother positing Its existence at all? If all that the world religions know about God is what they perceive—not what they know of God as he really is, everything can be adequately explained through the human forms of religion. The Ultimate becomes utterly superfluous. And while It could exist, there is no good reason to think that It does. One could even ask Hick what prevents him from going one step further and saying that religion is wholly human.

Furthermore, when Hick begins at the level of human experience, this approach almost inevitably winds up treating all religions alike. The German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg writes, “If everything comes down to human experiences, then the obvious conclusion is to treat them all on the same level.”9

In contrast to Hick, the Christian affirms that the knowledge of God depends on his gracious initiative to reveal himself.10 We read in Scripture that the natural order of creation (what we see) actually reveals the eternal power and nature of the unseen God. He has not left himself without a witness in the natural realm (Rom. 1:20; also Acts 14:15–18; 17:24–29; Ps. 19:1). God’s existence and an array of his attributes can be known through his effects. His fingerprints are all over the universe. The medieval theologian-philosopher Thomas Aquinas, for instance, argued in this way: “Hence the existence of God, insofar as it is not self-evident to us, can be demonstrated from those of His effects which are known to us.”11 What we know about God and an overarching moral law in light of his creation, in fact, means we are without excuse (Rom. 2:14–15). (We’ll say more about general revelation in Part IV.) So rather than dismissing the observable world as inadequate, why can’t we say that what we see in the world serves as a pointer toward God?

Thus there is a role for Christian apologetics to play in defending the rationality and plausibility of the Christian revelation.12 This role—especially in the face of conflicting worldviews—shouldn’t be underestimated.13 While Christians should be wary of furnishing arguments as “proofs,” which tend to imply a mathematical certainty, a modest and plausible defense of Christianity—carried out in dependence on God’s Spirit—often provides the mental evidence people need to pursue God with heart, soul, and mind.

Deflating “If You Grew Up in India, You’d Be a Hindu.”

The phenomenon of differing religious beliefs doesn’t automatically entail religious pluralism. There are other options.

Simply because there are many political alternatives in the world (monarchy, Fascism, communism, democracy, etc.) doesn’t mean someone growing up in the midst of them is unable to see that some forms of government are better than others. That kind of evaluation isn’t arrogant or presumptuous. The same is true of grappling with religion.

The same line of reasoning applies to the pluralist himself. If the pluralist grew up in Madagascar or medieval France, he would not have been a pluralist!

If we are culturally conditioned regarding our religious beliefs, then why should the religious pluralist think his view is less arbitrary or conditioned than the exclusivist’s?

If Christian faith is true, then the Christian would be in a better position than the pluralist to assess the status of other religions.

How does the pluralist know he is correct? Even though he claims that others don’t know Ultimate Reality as It really is, he implies that he does. (To say that the Ultimate Reality can’t be known is to make at least one statement of knowledge.)

If the Christian needs to justify Christianity’s claims, the pluralist’s views need just as much substantiation.

If we can’t know Reality as It really is, why think one exists at all? Why not simply try to explain religions as purely human or cultural manifestations without being anything more?


NOTES

1. An Interpretation of Religion, 2.

2. Van Inwagen, ”Non Est Hick,” 213-214.

3. John Hick’s reply to this analogy is inadequate, thus leaving the traditional Christian view open to the charge of arrogance: ”The Church’s claim is not about the relative merits of different political systems, but about the eternal fate of the entire human race” (”The Epistemological Challenge of Religious Pluralism,” Faith and Philosophy 14 [July 1997]: 282). Peter van Inwagen responds by saying that Hick’s accusation is irrelevant to the charge of arrogance. Whether in the political or religious realm, I still must figure out which beliefs to hold among a number of options. So if I adopt a certain set of beliefs, then ”I have to believe that I and those who agree with me are right and that the rest of the world is wrong…. What hangs on one’s accepting a certain set of beliefs, or what follows from their truth, doesn’t enter into the question of whether it is arrogant to accept them” (”A Reply to Professor Hick,” Faith and Philosophy 14 [July 1997]: 299-300).

4. ”Pluralism,” 23-24.

5. This citation is from a personal letter from John Hick to Alvin Plantinga. See Alvin Plantinga’s article, ”Ad Hick,” Faith and Philosophy 14 (July 1997): 295. The critique of Hick in this paragraph is taken from Plantinga’s article in Faith and Philosophy (295-302). 

6. D’Costa, “The Impossibility of a Pluralist View of Religions,” 229.

7. Hick has claimed that he does not know but merely presents a ”hypothesis” (see his rather unilluminating essay ”The Possibility of Religious Pluralism,” Religious Studies 33 [1997]: 161-166). However, his claims that exclusivism is ”arbitrary” or has ”morally or religiously revolting” consequences (in More Than One Way?, 246) betrays his certainty. 

8. This and the following paragraphs are based on Paul R. Eddy’s argument in ”Religious Pluralism and the Divine,” 470-78.

9. ”Religious Pluralism and Conflicting Truth Claims,” in Gavin D’Costa, ed., Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered: The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1990), 102.

10. On this point, I draw much from D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God, 182-189. 

11. Summa Theologiae I.2.3c.

12. Two fine popular-level apologetics books are William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1994) and J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1987). A bit more rigorous but rewarding is Stuart C. Hackett, The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1984). Three other apologetics books worth noting are Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994); Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976); and Winfried Corduan, Reasonable Faith.

13. Some well-meaning Christians have minimized the place of Christian apologetics for a number of reasons. But their reasons, discussed by C. Stephen Evans, tend to be inadequate: (1) ”Human reason has been damaged by sin,” but reason is not worthless, only defective. (2) ”Trying to use general revelation is presumptuous”: Seeking to persuade a person with arguments from general revelation doesn’t assume unassisted and autonomous reason (after all, reason is a gift from God); any such approach ought to rely upon God–just as presenting the gospel message should. (3) ”Natural revelation is unnecessary since special revelation is sufficient”: This argument wrongly assumes that God cannot use the world he created and the reason he gave us to interpret that creation to draw people to himself. (4) ”The arguments for God’s existence aren’t very good”: The Christian apologist should recognize that God has made the world in such a way that if a person is looking for loopholes to avoid God’s existence, he may do so, but it is not due to a lack of evidence. It seems that God would permit evidence for his existence to be resistible and discountable so that humans do not look like utter nitwits if they reject God. There is more to belief than mere intellectual reasons; people often have moral reasons for rejecting God. (See Evans’ fine essay, ”Apologetics in a New Key,” in Craig and McLeod, The Logic of Rational Theism, 65-75.) 

Example of the failure of the Genetic Fallacy:

Even if they are skeptical of their faith, which should be/is a natural human tendency and should be encouraged in an environment where one feels safe. I do wish, before the larger post of studies below, that there was another fallacy presented in the above video. And it deals with the genetic fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_fallacy). It was pointed out that some people are born in places where Christianity is the dominant philosophy, and so they are Christian. Others are born in places where they have a Hindu influence, a Buddhist influence, or like in many parts of Europe, a secular influence. This however does nothing to disprove a religious belief as true or not true. I will give an example.

In the West we accept the truth of Einstein relativity as a scientific fact (or close to a fact). In fact, many theories based on this are shown to work out with these assumptions of fact in mind. Fine, we are born into a culture that believes this truth to be true. Now, if you were born in Papua New Guinea, the general populace may reject the truth of this since as a whole their culture is not steeped in this belief or the scientific method. This has or says nothing about the truth of Einstein’s theory. Which is why this is a fallacy and should be rejected.

Hindu Temple Cache

I doubt you will ever hear detractors bring up the wealth left over the centuries at these temples… just the wealth the Catholic Church has accumulated.

Yahoo News has this amazing story!

A treasure trove of gold and silver jewelry, coins and precious stones said to be worth billions of dollars has been found in a Hindu temple in southern India, officials said on Saturday.

The valuables have an estimated preliminary worth of over 500 billion rupees ($11.2 billion), said Kerala Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar, catapulting the temple into the league of India’s richest temples.

The thousands of necklaces, coins and precious stones have been kept in at least five underground vaults at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple which is renowned for its intricate sculptures.

“We are yet to open one more secret chamber which has not been opened for nearly 140 years,” Jayakumar told AFP.

The actual value of the treasure haul can be ascertained only after it is examined by the archaeological department, said Jayakumar.

The temple, dedicated to Hindu lord Vishnu, was built hundreds of years ago by the king of Travancore and donations by devotees have been kept in the temple’s vaults since.

A necklace found on Thursday was 18 feet (six metres) long. Thousands of gold coins have also been found.

Since India achieved independence from Britain in 1947, a trust managed by descendants of the Travancore royal family has controlled the temple.

But India’s Supreme Court recently ordered that the temple be managed by the state to ensure the security of valuables at the shrine.

Until now, the Thirupathy temple in southern Andhra Pradesh state was believed to be India’s richest temple with offerings from devotees worth 320 billion rupees.


Free Tibet? Human Rights and Eastern Thought (Borrowing Worth from the Judeo-Christian Worldview)

Religion News Blog updates an older story about Christian persecution by Buddhists

THIMPU, Bhutan, February 1 (Compass Direct News) – Bhutan officials have given assurances that freedom for Christians to worship “within the cultural norms” of the tiny Buddhist nation in the Himalayas will not be violated, but they remain ambiguous on whether and when the miniscule community will obtain legal identity.

The cultural norms include a prohibition against proselytizing. But Bhutan Minister for Home and Culture Lyonpo Minjur Dorji told Compass there are provisions in the Constitution of Bhutan that can be interpreted as allowing room for Christianity in “the Land of the Thunder Dragon,” as the country is called.

The country’s agency regulating religious organizations was expected to make a decision last December on whether it could register a Christian federation representing all Christians, but an official at the agency said the matter requires further investigation. Meantime, Home Minister Dorji indicated no change was necessary.

“What else do you need?” he said. “Ask Christians if they have been prevented from meeting together for worship. Two of our parliamentarians are Christian. Christians need not fear the government.”

…(read more)…

In case you are note aware of the situation, there has been some pretty extreme reactions to showing Christian DVDs:

A human rights organisation has learned that Bhutanese police are preparing to arrest two more Christians for their involvement in showing a movie about Jesus.

Bhutan is a small country in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by India and to the north by China.

International Christian Concern (ICC) reported that Prem Singh Gurung has been sentenced to three years imprisonment for showing the film. He has been jailed in the town of Gelephu.

On October 22, ICC wrote a letter to the representatives of Bhutan at the UN protesting the sentencing of Gurung.

ICC said that Gurung has the right, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to express his religious beliefs. That includes the right to receive and exchange information and ideas through any media.

…(read more)…

Here is an example for those who want to free a nation or stop persecution using an Eastern philosophy in doing so (Example taken from my chapter in my book):

….If you are born into a family that is well off, and you have a good family relationship, then you are being rewarded for some good work[s] from a previous life. If you are born into a famine-ridden area, destitute, or mentally or physically incapable of caring for yourself, then you are in retribution for the “cause and effect” law of karma. This is the reason that there is no firm “right or wrong” in this life according to Eastern thought.  All people who are treated unfairly or unjustly — like slaves were in America, racial wars, famine and disease in undeveloped nations — are merely reaping what they sowed in a previous incarnation. In addition, to interfere with this process — outlaw slavery, end racial strife, feed and heal the hungry and sick — is to interfere with a person’s karma, which is strictly forbidden in the eastern philosophies! (Alternatively, doing so has no intrinsic value – e.g., no real positive moral benefit, as any benefit must be illusory as well.)

It is laughable that some defend this doctrine tooth and nail.  However, if really believed, they would come to realize there is no real good or evil!  The Inquisitions, the Mumbai terror killings at the hands of Muslims, as examples, were merely the outgrowth of the victim’s previous karmic lives.  Therefore, when those here defend karmic destiny in other posts speak of the horrible atrocities committed by religion, they are not consistently living out their philosophy of life and death, which are illusory.  The innocent victims of the Inquisitions, terror attacks, tsunamis, or Crusades then are merely being paid back for something they themselves did in a previous life. It is the actions said people did prior that creates much of the evil upon them now. So in the future when people who are believers in reincarnation say that Christianity isn’t what it purports to be because of the evil it has committed in the past, you should remind them that evil is merely an illusion (maya – Hinduism; sunyata – Buddhism) to be overcome, as karmic reincarnation demands.

Even “Love” is a foreign concept to Buddhists. In a conversation about this exact fact you will see that theism, specifically Christian-Theism is a far superior concept in that it presupposes “love” as a reality. And in fact, “love” existed eternally in the triune Godhead n Christian theology:

I wish to illustrate with a conversation (unfinished by the way) between myself and a Zen Buddhist.  This conversation can almost happen with any religious Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or the like.  The conversation takes place after an interesting post by the person on his blog about self-defense, the Dalai Lama, WWII, and the Buddha. I will post my reply to his original thought, and then he responds, followed again by me.  (Keep in mind I am using our “blog” names, they are almost like “handles” like in the movie Top Gun):[42]

 

  • My initial engagement:

Does the idea of “violence” as a moral good or a moral evil truly exist in the Buddhist mindset? What I mean is that according to a major school of Buddhism, isn’t there a denial that distinctions exist in reality… that separate “selves” is really a false perception? Language is considered something the Buddhist must get beyond because it serves as a tool that creates and makes these apparently illusory distinctions more grounded, or rooted in “our” psyche. For instance, the statement that “all statements are empty of meaning,” would almost be self refuting, because, that statement — then — would be meaningless. So how can one go from that teaching inherent to Buddhistic thought and say that self-defense (and using WWII as an example) is really meaningful. Isn’t the [Dalai] Lama drawing distinction by assuming the reality of Aristotelian logic in his responses to questions? (He used at least three Laws of Logic [thus, drawing distinctions using Western principles]: The Law of Contradiction; the Law of Excluded Middle; and the Law of Identity.)  Curious.

 

  • They Call Him James Ure, responds:

You’re right that language is just a tool and in the end a useless one at that but It’s important to be able run a blog. That or teach people the particulars of the religion. It’s like a lamp needed to make your way through the dark until you reach the lighthouse (Enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.) Then of course the lamp is no longer useful unless you have taken the vow to teach others.  Which in my analogy is returning into the dark to bring your brothers and sisters along (via the lamp-i.e. language) to the lighthouse (enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.)

 

  • I respond:

Then… if reality is ultimately characterless and distinctionless, then the distinction between being enlightened and unenlightened is ultimately an illusion and reality is ultimately unreal. Whom is doing the leading? Leading to what? These still are distinctions being made, that is: “between knowing you are enlightened and not knowing you are enlightened.” In the Diamond Sutra, ultimately, the Bodhisattva loves no one, since no one exists and the Bodhisattva knows this:

“All beings must I lead to Nirvana, into the Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind; and yet, after beings have been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana. And why? If in a Bodhisattva[43] the notion of a “being” should take place, he could not be called a “Bodhi-being.” And likewise if the notion of a soul, or a person should take place in him.

So even the act of loving others, therefore, is inconsistent with what is taught in the Buddhistic worldview, because there is “no one to love.” This is shown quite well (this self-refuting aspect of Buddhism) in the book, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha. A book I recommend with love, from a worldview that can use the word love well.  One writer puts it thusly: “When human existence is blown out, nothing real disappears because life itself is an illusion. Nirvana is neither a re-absorption into an eternal Ultimate Reality, nor the annihilation of a self, because there is no self to annihilate. It is rather an annihilation of the illusion of an existing self. Nirvana is a state of supreme bliss and freedom without any subject left to experience it.”

(http://www.comparativereligion.com/Buddhism.html)

 

  • My Final Response

I haven’t seen a response yet. Which is fitting… because whom would be responding to whom? Put another way, would there be one mind trying to actively convince the other mind that no minds exist at all?

Here’s another way to see the same thing, Dan Story weighs in again:

It may be possible that nothing exists. However, it is impossible to demonstrate that nothing exists because to do so would be to deny our own existence. We must exist in order to affirm that reality doesn’t exist. To claim that reality is an illusion is logically impossible because it also requires claiming that the claim itself is unreal—a self-defeating statement. If reality is an illusion, how do we know that pantheism isn’t an illusion too?[44]

Another author put it thusly, “if pantheism is true (and my individuality an illusion), it is false, since there is no basis by which to explain the illusion.”[45][46] You see… The challenge then becomes this: “if reality is an illusion, how do we know then that pantheism isn’t an illusion as well?”

… most people assume that something exists.  There may be someone, perhaps, who believes that nothing exists, but who would that person be?  …. no one ever consciously tries to defend the position that nothing exists.  It would be a useless endeavor since there would be no one to convince.  Even more significantly, it would be impossible to defend that position since, if it were true, there would be no one to make the defense.  So to defend the position that nothing exists seems immediately to be absurd and self-contradictory.[47]

Another problem in pantheism is God’s inability to deal with or solve the problem of evil.[48] Dan Story points out what should be becoming obvious, “He is the cause of it (remember, all is God).”  Mr. Story continues:

Pantheism and the New Age may try to ignore this problem by claiming that sin and suffering is merely illusion.  But let’s bring this philosophy down to the real world.  Try to convince a man dying of cancer or a parent who has just lost a child that evil and suffering are illusion.  Even if evil is an illusion, the illusion itself is real.  In either case, evil exists.  As Geisler noted, “If evil is not real, what is the origin of the illusion?  Why has it been so persistent and why does it seem so real?…  How can evil arise from a ‘God’ who is absolutely and necessarily good?”[49] The answer must be that if pantheism is true, God cannot be good, and He must be the source of evil.[50]

Between karmic destiny and the god[s] of pantheism and its dealing with pain and suffering (and consequently the promotion of it) by claiming everything is an illusion is not an answer at all.  Must we not live as if this illusion is reality?…

…(read more)…

footnotes:

[42] I use quite liberally in this exchange two resources, they are follows: Michael J. Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within, 212-214; Ernest Valea, “Possible difficulties in Buddhism,” Many Paths To One Goal? Found at: http://www.comparativereligion.com/Buddhism.html (last accessed 8-11-09), the main site is: http://www.comparativereligion.com/index.html

[43] “One who has taken a vow to become a Buddha.” David Burnett, The Spirit of Buddhism: A Christian Perspective on Buddhist Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003), 329.  “Celestial” Buddha’s and bodhisattvas are said to be able to assist in guiding believers towards salvation as supernatural beings.  These bodhisattvas vary in their rolls and offices as the many gods of Hinduism, from which Buddhism comes.  See: Michael D. Coogan, Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Toaism, Confucianism, Shinto (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 133-139.

[44] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[45] Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish, See the Gods Fall: Four Rivals to Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), 210.

[46] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[47] L. Russ Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 70.

[48] Michael J. Murray critiques quickly the Ramanuja and Madhya philosophies:

Stated in terms of Christian terminology, Ramanuja’s view implies that every soul that has ever existed endured an eternity in “hell” (i.e., the cycle of rebirths) before it could enter “heaven” (i.e., union with God). Now unlike Madhya, Ramanuja claims that God freely, and beginninglessly, created the world, and all existing souls, out of his own being. This latter claim, however, presents Ramanuja with a very severe problem of evil: that of reconciling his belief that God is perfectly good and all-loving with God’s ultimate responsibility for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of sin and suffering. The problem of evil faced by Ramanuja here is much more severe than that faced by Western theists. First, unlike Western theists, Ramanuja cannot say that this evil is a necessary consequence of God’s creating creatures with free will. Although the suffering of a soul in any individual life could be blamed on the bad karma resulting from its free choices in previous lives, the fact that the suffering is beginningless — and hence infinite — cannot be blamed on free choice. The reason for this is that, no matter what free choices souls make in this life, or have made in any previous life, they cannot change the fact that they have beginninglessly endured an infinite amount of suffering; but one cannot be responsible for what one was powerless to change. Followers of Ramanuja, therefore, do not seem to have recourse to the traditional free will theodicy invoked in the West to explain evil. Second, the amount of evil that needs to be explained is infinitely larger than that faced by West­ern versions of theism, since, according to Ramanuja each soul has committed an infinite number of evil acts and endured an infinite period of suffering. Unfortunately, as Julius Lipner points out, neither Ramanuja, nor any other orthodox Hindu theologian, ever attempted to address this particular problem of evil since they took the eternality of the world and souls as an “unquestioned datum for life and thought.” Unlike Ramanuja (and Western theism), however, Madhva’s theol­ogy largely avoids the problem of evil. The reason for this is that in his theology God is neither responsible for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of bondage, nor for the fact that they continue to remain in bondage, this being ultimately the result of their inherent, uncreated na­ture. Nonetheless, his system suffers from two drawbacks when com­pared to Ramanuja’s view. First, Madhva’s system leaves one with a plurality of ultimates — souls, matter, and God — without accounting for their existence. Although this is not a devastating criticism of Madhya, everything else being equal, views that hypothesize a single, unified source of everything (such as God), are in virtue of their simplicity, philosophically more satisfactory. Second, even though Madhya claimed to base his view on scripture, from the perspective of many orthodox Hindus his theology seems to contradict both those passages of Hindu scripture that appear to imply a deep sort of identity between God and souls and those that appear to imply that the world emerges out of God.

Reason for the Hope Within, 200-202.

[49] Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 189 (emphasis added).

[50] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 113.