Religion and sexuality have been closely related in most cultures of the world throughout history. As a result, the images and vocabulary of human sexuality have often been used to express, and to experience, religion.
Priorities differ. Near the end of our time in Greece, I wanted to see the battlefield of Marathon, where the Greeks defeated the Persians in 490 BC. Marathon is an hour’s drive from Athens, and all that remains is a burial mound in a large field, and a few historical displays. Anna wanted to buy presents for friends and family, admittedly a higher priority. So I went to rent a car and Anna visited the Dimotiki Agora (Public Marketplace). Anna likes to shop, and is good at it. Amidst the panoply of scarves, table runners, wooden spoons, and other treasures, Anna encountered a rack of large, brightly painted, wooden penises, also known as phallic symbols. Amused, she took a photograph, and finished her shopping. I joined her at the market, and she joined me for the drive to Marathon.
Continue reading “Adventures in Athens – Sex, Imagery, and Religion”
A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism.
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world, emerging out of a mix of Aryan and Dravidian animism in about the second millennium before Christ. Its earliest forms, as described in the Rig Veda (Samhitas), were polytheistic. Such polytheism was consistent with the religious practices of Rome, Greece, Egypt, the Nordic peoples, and most other nations at that time. By the time of the Upanishads, Hinduism had morphed into a pantheistic monism. The caste system divided people in four classes: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors, kings), Vaisyas (merchants, landowners), Sudras (servants, later Dalits – untouchables). Accepting this system and performing the duties of one’s class was the primary evidence of being a Hindu. In the Christian era, Hinduism became more monotheistic, with Vishnu, Shiva and other gods being perceived as manifestations of the One God. Adherents were called to love Vishnu or Shiva as Christians are called to love God, as revealed in Jesus Christ. This monotheistic view, too, is evolving. Liberal pluralism in the past two hundred years has attacked the caste system, emphasized the spiritual aspects of Hindu belief, but denied that any part of Hinduism, or any religion, is objectively true.
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How do the religious practices of immigrants to the Western World affect their integration? How does the process of immigration affects their faith?
The Syrian Civil War and the advent of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have caused a human disaster of the highest degree. According to recent media estimates, 300,000 have died and 10 million have been made homeless since demonstrations began in the fateful “Arab Spring” of 2011. A terrible situation has become worse. US, Kurdish and Iranian forces are attacking ISIS, but Russian forces in Syria are also targeting US-backed Syrian rebels who are trying to overthrow Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. There is no end in sight.
Unsurprisingly such misery has generated millions of refugees. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have accepted 3.5 million between them, but a tide of refugees is beginning to roll towards Europe. Many countries have absorbed some, and Germany has agreed to accept 800,000. Libya, sub-Saharan Africa, and many other failed states also send tens of thousands of migrants to Europe, and the United States, every year.
Continue reading “Immigration, Religion, and the West”