In an age of rapid technological and population changes it is natural for individuals to feel useless and left behind. They may be naturally drawn to institutions that offer security without threatening their self-esteem, while meeting their innate aggressive instincts. Religious institutions offer all this. Nations offer these three, but in return demands that you join an army and shedding real blood. Or preach patriotism. A bit too real and crass for most people. But religion is not so tainted. What bloodshed they shed, it is due to the other religion’s actions and ideas. This unholy cocktail can be found in the suburb of Richardson. I have written about it here and here. The Bikram Yoga studio there is owned by Yassi Maige, the last time I checked.
The studio location is perfect for a war zone, Christianity of the suburban variety and distribution, an Islamic mosque and cultural center, a wealthy Indian community from Andhra Pradesh with their own temples distributed nearby, a Jewish synagogue (maybe two) and an orthodox Christian church.
But not a war zone between these religions.
A war zone between reason and faith.
This is what I wrote a few blog posts ago. I’ve also made reference to the account of Dhamma Brother, Grady Bankhead, in those posts. There is a remarkable similarity between Mr. Bankhead and that pastor-cum-father of many, many children in our neighborhood.
Do they have a similar background, with a mother abandoning them to the cruel fates? Do they have a similar baggage of unearned guilt for being saddled with the survival of another human being without the provision of adequate means? I honestly don’t know. As I was reading and then re-recording the account of Mr. Bankhead, his picture struck a familiar chord. And that instance of unearned guilt pointed to an interesting psychological aspect, that maybe worthy of further investigation by someone more qualified than myself.
But then there is another point of similarity that is actually more disturbing than this:
Previously I have mentioned that I was one of four or five girls in my neighborhood to have been sexually abused. Among them was a girl called Viju, who was two years older than I. She came from a large family that hailed from the East Coast of India, specifically from the state of Andhra Pradesh. There were two parents, of course, six siblings older than me and three siblings younger than I. There were a total of nine children and two adults (total eleven human beings) living in a tiny tenement consisting of a kitchen, a bathroom, a sitting room and a sleeping room (for lack of a better term). Toilet facilities were shared in common with other tenements.
From among the nine children, four were girls and five were boys. There was about an even balance between the number of boys and girls. You could say, that the parental strategy for their future consisted of an almost even bet between forming alliances through opportune marriages for their four daughters and fighting tooth and nail for resources through the agency of their five sons in a highly competitive religious environment, with a slight tilt towards the latter strategy. The country had only gained independence in 1947. Not enough time had passed to determine if the Union of 25 distinct languages going back at least four to five hundred years if not at least a thousand, co-mingled with four distinct religions, three of whom were dominant numerically or in youthful energy, would hold in a new secular environment. Some fighting was anticipated by most people (the fear) with some hope for the British legacy of a common foreign language, namely English, to hold the centrifugal pieces together. In that large family in my neighborhood, one girl was smart and hard-working. Another girl who was highly susceptible to social currents. Consequently she was slower than the rest in academics, sports, social interactions and other abilities necessary to live as an independent adult. Viju was balanced between these poles.
Since the 2000s I have learned that Viju died of a heart attack in her mid to late forties. And that highly susceptible girl died of AIDS. These two events happened within a few months to a few years of each other. The latter was working in a restaurant or some similar eating facility. Her job paid well and supported her family. For both, reasons of personality and financial need, she remained unmarried. So when I heard of her death due to complications resulting from contracting AIDS, I immediately recalled the old scandal associated with the chain of Indian restaurants based out of California, with branches (or franchises) in Texas and other states. The scandal was about the women waitresses being used in the flesh trade. When I heard of my neighbor’s death due to AIDS I thought it was most likely due to a similar situation with her place of employment.
Turns out that those five sons could not support the family adequately, so they were negligent (to say the least) about where their unmarried simple minded daughter worked. They were used to her coming home late – after all, restaurants are usually patronized in the evenings. In Bombay they remain open till at least 12 midnight, if not later. The money was good. The family sent all their children to school and college depending on their abilities and inclinations. But remember that all this was embedded in a milieu of religion, both within the family and in the larger society.
The disturbing parallel between them and that large family of the pastor is that the eldest son in the Indian family also resembles the pastor and/or his son. Another aspect is the ratio of boys to girls. There are significantly more boys than girls in the American family. And the total number of children in the family is also large. There were eleven of so when we moved into our home. There have been additions since then.
Unlike the Indian family this family is highly religious, enough to run a church. The preponderance of boys over girls is indicative of their strategy for their future. War and conflict! No alliances! This is very strange in a predominantly Christian community, city and state. Who are they expecting to fight? Those who threaten them? Those who resist them? Those who want to be left alone? Those who want to pursue knowledge and its applicability? And what might be the fate of the few daughters, if they are not already married off?
Personally I find their presence a disturbing reminder of that family from my neighborhood in India growing up and what may therefore be highly probable. There are way too many similarities between them. In addition the girls in the American family do not seem to be encouraged to pursue academics for fear of “contaminating” their minds with heresies such as the theory of evolution and other scientific ideas and concepts. I suspect the same goes for the boys also. Too many items seem to parallel to be the result of mere coincidence. In conclusion it is not the facial resemblance as much as the combination of facial, behavioral and mental resemblances that are disturbing and merit concern.
Previously I have mentioned that Swami Narayan girlfriend of mine. As I was thinking about the parallels between these two families, I recalled an accident she was involved as a student of architectural. In the first year of the course, she badly cut her hand or wrist on the wood cutting power machine. I presume her attention flagged for a moment long enough for this to happen. Apparently her Hindu evangelical upbringing was insufficient to teach her to pay attention in dangerous situations. Another likely explanation is that the parent from whom she would learn the use and advantage of such a skill was himself deeply embedded in the bowels of their faith. He was a fine artist, who painted religious themes for his temple and its wealthy members. When he was not painting he was proselytizing. So all she learned from him is to pander to those in authority, sketch and paint very well, and proselytize. Neither of them sought to analyze those wealthy patrons at a more psychological level, in order to discern larger patterns. Doing so involves using their rational faculty. With this is mind, I wonder about the social pressures my friend was subject to when she decided to pursue becoming an architect. The designs and ideas taught were cosmopolitan, even modern. I am sure that when she related their nature to her family and fellow faith members she may have set off alarm bells within her community. Her lack of attention to danger from mindless machines and naivete regarding men from outside her restricted community points to strong dangers of belonging to a restrictive faith. Such restrictive faiths tend to be adversarial in their attitude to the larger world around them.
Religious pressure to conform does not occur through the medium of ghosts and spirits, but real live human beings. Whether you like it or not, you become influenced by them and censor yourself accordingly. Besides the examples I have given on my website, I find a similar pattern in the writings of Ayn Rand. For all her combativeness she was strangely hesitant to criticize Christianity’s role in the numerous essays and stories she wrote of what ailed her native country of Russia and her adopted country of America. She spent copious words in speeches and print on the evils of socialism, communism and fascism. She didn’t spend nearly enough on the evils of faith and religion, except to say that they bored her. As a daily practitioner of Bikram Yoga I know that when the mind is resistant to some task, it usually indicates a rich and disturbing source of new insights that may prove iconoclastic yet simultaneously integrative to one’s development.
It is a difficult thing to do. Most religions are not as obviously restrictive as Islam in its patterns of behavior. They prefer to dominate the minds of those within their circle of influence through the use of social and political connections, so that the victim remains unaware of the string puller behind the puppet human being creating obstacles and causing difficulties. In case of Ms. Rand the more she wrote books and articles clarifying the issues at stake and the stakeholders responsible, the more virulent hatred and vilification she received at the hands of intellectuals, political leaders, social celebrities and morality upholders. Recall the trajectory of her career: by the time she wrote and published Atlas Shrugged she was in her fifties, exhausted with using reason to answer the mindless slings and arrows let loose from multiple directions. Throughout her hope remained that appealing to her opponents’ rational faculty was the way to win them over. Thing was they didn’t want to be won over. They wanted to be left alone or fellated in abject gratitude for allowing her to be naturalized in her favorite country. Ironically she was held dumb by her own sanction – she granted them a nobility they didn’t want to possess or didn’t possess (I don’t care which).
FOREWORD continued from the installments published in the series Faith Against Reason. …
… Volumes can be and have been written about the issue of freedom versus dictatorship, but, in essence, it comes down to a single question: do you consider it moral to treat men as sacrificial animals and to rule them by physical force? If, as a citizen of the freest country in the world, you do not know what this would actually mean – We The Living will help you to know. …
Personally I find the idea of crucifying a man on the cross for other people’s sins (the idea of Jesus dying on the Cross on behalf of everyone else) as abhorrent as that of an innocent man forced to accept a woman carrying another man or spirit’s child as his son (the idea of Joseph marrying or keeping his wife Mary who is carrying a child not his own). In both cases neither of the guilty party has to atone for anything. Compassion is one thing, but when a faith or religion turns a blind eye to injustice being meted out to the innocent, it takes evil to a level difficult for any thing else to surpass.
… Coming back to the opening remarks of this foreword, I want to account for the editorial changes which I have made in the text of this novel for this present reissue: the chief inadequacy of my literary means was grammatical – a particular kind of uncertainty in the use of the English language, which reflected the transitional state of a mind thinking no longer in Russian, but not yet fully in English. I have changed only the most awkward or confusing lapses of this kind. I have reworded the sentences and clarified their meaning, without changing their content. I have not added or eliminated anything to or from the content of the novel. I have cut out some sentences and a few paragraphs that were repetitious or so confusing in their implications that to clarify them would have necessitated lengthy additions. In brief, all the changes are merely editorial line-changes. The novel remains what and as it was. …
I find it fascinating to see how often and how painstakingly Ms. Rand gives her critics the benefit of the doubt, attributing to ignorance what ought rightly to be attributed to sloth and fear.