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tv   Democracy Now Special  LINKTV  November 5, 2012 9:00am-10:00am PST

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welcome to another session of beliefs and believers. i'm dr. john simmons, and as happens, we are moving into another dimension, the ethical dimension. and in many ways, when we speak of ethics, it cuts to the core of this course, as you probably know by now, because we're talking about behavior. what people believe- well, we've seen many, many different examples of it. but how they behave- proper patterns of action- that's what we want to look at as we move through this very,
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very important dimension, because you know, believing, i mean, it's an important part of identity and relationship. but how one behaves affects us all, and we've been linking the doctrinal and the ethical and the social dimension together as we've been moving through this, and we're going to do some more formal notes on the ethical dimension. but how people behave certainly does affect us all. and you know, we're supposed to not date the teleclass, but i don't know, when really tragic events occur, i don't think it necessarily dates them to bring it up. and of course, as we are involved in this class, you know, we've just had a hugely tragic worldwide event in which american embassies were attacked and many, many people died. now we have to hold off here because this just occurred and we don't know if there is religious implications behind this, though, you know, most people suspect that we're once again looking at the tension between the secular west
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that we'll look at certainly in our next class, and the quest for the islamic world to hold off against that and to take just about any measure in that. so it's an extraordinary power- we have to be very careful here because we don't know yet who is responsible for this attack. but we've seen in the name of religion- not to pick on islam by any means- but in the name of most all religions down through history, we've se a tendency to act in a way that can somehow justify spiritually or religiously violent acts. and that's a scary point because when you think about religion, in its most beautiful form- and i hearken back to our look at the experiential dimension and mysticism when we hear these wonderful words like unity and oneness and love and interconnection- that seems to be the grounding of the ethical precepts in the various religions-
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love your neighbor, be kind, don't harm other people. but for me- and i wrestle with this stuff; you know, i'm not just the talking head up here, i struggle when i see violence done in the name of religion- and i began to think it's- you know, can you really teach ethical precepts? i mean, isn't it ultimately experiential? i mean, as long as you think you or your group is the center of the world and everything else revolves around you, then it's possible for you to do things that don't create the good, the beautiful, the enduring. but you know, it's a troublesome issue and we want to look at some of that today. sure, virginia? >> we don't have to go back very far. what about the serbs and the croats? here we have three religions- two of them christian- in one country where they have for quite a while dwelt side by side, although without warfare, certainly without any great friendship. but they have in the past been able to coexist, until something sparked this terrible tragedy.
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>> and you see, and this is where i want to get very careful here because we have to remember something i've said before in this class, you know, there's not good and bad religions or good and evil religions- they're human beings under all kinds of complex pressures. if you want to think of a theological concept, which we rarely do in here, but original sin, if you think of sin as alienation, it's that pulling apart. well, go back to the buddhists- you k now, our sense of pulling apart and wanting to be separate. well, you mix that in, as virginia said, with the situation in what was yugoslavia and you see lots of political elements moving in here. you know, we're talking about religion as identity and relationship- powerful stuff- but can it be pristine? can it be clearly coming down from the divine? no. you know, we've got cultural factors- animosities, hatreds- that mix in here. and you know, it just makes the religious effort a constant struggle in these cases t o overcome. northern ireland is
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another case. fire away, yeah. >> i was going to say, is it really the religions or is it their governmental undertone that's really causing the whole thing? >> and that's so true and so frustrating, and in the next class we'll look specifically at israel because we had the opportunity to go there. and how incredibly complex, because on one hand, from the zionist movement, israel is a secular state. but how do jewish people define their identity, they're so diverse? well, it's usually through religion. and so even within israel, that creates a tension. i mean, is it possible outside of the monastery for people to live up to the highest ideals that we want to look at in the ethical dimension. and here we're thinking about in judaism and christianity the ten commandments or the eightfold path in buddhism, or any of the ideals, the precepts in religions- but how hard it is. >> my friend who's jewish said that she feels that it's-
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the people in that area do get along well; it's just strictly the government and that that's causing- you know, they get along well in their private lives, but the other thing enters into it and causes the whole situation, the havoc and the killing and such. >> and i've experienced that personally in a number of instances, that a group of people, a person who's different from me who in the group setting i'm not supposed to get along with- and maybe you even had this as a kid; i remember this- you know, in the group setting, that group hates this group. but one on one, you find yourself out in the backyard playing, you're okay, you're good friends. it's something about, you know, we're working on this idea of unity here and belonging and how that is a fundamental human desire, but when it seems to be concretized around a specific group that forms its identity over and against the other- you know, the negative other, then we get into a situation where any amount
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of violence can occur. i think about reinhold niebuhr, a great book, i believe something like, moral man and immoral society, that when we bind together in a collectivity, we have a tendency to define our identity and our relationships in a way that says they're different, we don't like them, and we see that so much in these different settings. sure, virginia. >> i'm going on a trip to europe with the alumni club here in october, and when we had our general meeting to explain the trip, the agent said that they originally had booked their travel with a certain airline- i won't tell you which one it was. but they found out later, in talking to the people with the airline, that they had found out that governor state had high diversity and they didn't like us. they came right out and said, "we do not like diversity."
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we transferred to sabina. isn't that terrible? >> what we're talking about here in terms of the ethical dimension, well, let me take us through just a few of these notes first off, and then we'll come back to this, to get us all on the same page in terms of some ways of defining the ethical dimension. i mean, we use a term like ethics and it's rather wide open- it means a number of different things to different people. but for our purposes, looking at it from a classic religious studies analysis of ethics, let's go through some of these graphics and i'll try to stress the points that will then help us perhaps come around and not resolve but make more sense of- the frustrating thing, i guess, with religion, and when i get to the ethical dimension, is there's so much good and so much beauty expressed in the religions of the world- why are people so rotten in the name of religion? it is so frustrating!
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and when we hit the ethical dimension, it's one reason why, you know, it's not my favorite one to teach because it makes me sad in a way, even though it raises up such a possibility for hope, you know, for the human race. but anyway, let's just- to run down through these, keeping in mind that we're thinking of the interconnection, especially, between doctrine, ethics, and the social dimension. you know, we're in this outward-moving mode here. but it's the key to the values-behavior relationship in any world-view, and you know, we're beliefs and believers, but it could well be called the three b's- beliefs, believers, and behavior- because, from our perspective, we're very interested in how religions affect individual and then collective behavior. so it's a key there, and it does provide that link between beliefs and right action- what is proper action. so that gets us going
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in terms of it. now on the next graphic, if you want to see a rather long-winded definition, but a good one, let me run this by you, and i kind of point out some of the- the heart of it is what i like to focus on. religious ethics is that aspect of religion concerned with- and here we go- if i had done my graphics right, i would have underlined this and put it in neon and done whatever. but for me, this is the heart of the ethical dimension- proper patterns of action. no so easy, but what are proper patterns of action? and look where they come up. according to this definition, in situations and circumstances in the human life cycle in social interactions- i mean, we're back to rites of passage. any place that touches on identity and relationship- and we're beginning to see that just about everything does in human cultural activity- there you're going to find the ethical dimension.
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it's so simple: how do i behave? now what's the motivation? it's not just any way to behave, because a good mugger probably has his act down and knows exactly how to behave in a mugging situation- you know, where to hit, where to punch, how to threaten. so there's lots of proper patterns of action that one can, i guess, get training to do. but we're talking about the proper patterns of action that guide us towards the good, the beautiful, the enduring, the true- in other words, if everyone behaved in this manner, we'd live in a kind of a heaven. sure. >> what happens when your religion says anything is possible and anything is proper- proper behavior is die in the pursuit of what is right in accordance with the religion? so if i die blowing up an embassy building or if i die committing suicide for my religion, that's good.
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what happens when a chinese mother decides that after the birth of her second girl that she's not going to do that for the sake of the society and allow that? so i guess my question is where does the definition "proper" fall here? >> and that is the real- that's the sticky point, that's the hard one, because what defines the proper patterns of action? well, again, it's within that context, that cultural context. and part of the theme, why we wanted to go through our initial notes in this class and then come back and then look at a very real situation- we didn't go to serbia or croatia but we went to israel. and now there's a very interesting situation in which three major religions are defining proper patterns of action, but sometimes those actions conflict, and you know, therein, we see- as a matter of fact, i'm glad i didn't know
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this until i returned, but while we were there, as an american film crew, there was an edict from the conservative wing of the islamic group out there that had- i forget what the actual terminology for it- but it's an edict that says it's right to kill american civilians- we were in a lot of tension there. and so we- and we were easy targets, and i'll tell you some stories in the next class when you get there that are pretty unnerving, that obviously, we made it back alive. but you know, you asked me is it proper patterns of action to throw a bomb on my bus and blow my brains out? well, i think i might disagree. but then again, you know, somebody from that situation might do it. helen, you had your hand up. >> i have a really, really brief definition of ethics. ethics is the theory of ends and the choice of means appropriate to those ends. period. >> and good, because it's dynamic,
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but therein, the definition of the ends- and that's the struggle, that's what we want to look at. but towards those ends- well, let me show you these patterns here on the notes, because i want to get into this idea of patterns, because that may help us sort out your good question and helen's good question on where is the direction coming from? i mean, how do we know what the good is or where we're going. but patterns is a key term here, because there's a thing about ethics- and i love the word aesthetics- you know, the word that means beauty but more than beauty, harmony, you know, interconnection, something that we need to attain but don't quite have. and the idea of these patterns is that if followed by a group, they will contribute to a life that is beautiful, for the lack of a better word- an aesthetic life, a life of rhythms, of style, of structure, of images that all combine together to make the community
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beautiful and positive and hopeful- something that's obviously evaded us. and religion has helped some, but usually you see it when people separate off into a group; like a monastery, and then- when we were in st. makario's monastery, oh, did you feel the rhythm, the aesthetics of that life. just in the way the monk talked and how people moved, and you know, that's what we're talking about is those- they've got their proper patterns of action down, but is that what you have to do? that doesn't leave us sitting out here in the cold, or working at a u.s. embassy somewhere in the world in real good shape, but that's the tough question. anyway, let me run through these patterns, and then we'll have plenty of time for some good questions on these. these will all hit home; these will all be very familiar to you- as they should be, because we live this. given that we don't have instinctively this ethical
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dimension embodies in us that makes us move naturally towards the harmonious, the good, the enduring, we have patterns of obligation that set standards for proper action. so the first one is obligation, and most of us in this room were at one point children. many of us in this room have raised children. many of us in this room are raising children, and that's what you spend a whole lot of your time doing is inculcating in your little fuzzy headed "chillens" obligation towards proper patterns of action- we get it right from the start. a second pattern we have- since we don't measure up ethically- and i hearken back again to that buddhistic idea that we all want to pull apart- selfishness; i want my piece and i'm willing to get it at your expense- because of that, we have laws. you know, another pattern in societies that guides right action-
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in other words, if the obligation isn't enough, then we'll provide methods and punishments and rules and regulations for it. now, you know, when the speed limit was 55 miles an hour on the interstate, i never went above 55 because i instinctively have this ethical sense- but i saw a lot of people doing it. and so that's why we have the good old state police out there to reel them in, so you've got a lot of that. and you believe that- i don't lie either. anyway, a more troublesome one- obligation comes from religious community, comes from family- we're having a lot of trouble with that in our society. laws come from the power of the state usually, but also, for instance, in islam, the sharia, the islamic law that governs things. in israel, in a funny kind of twist, although it's a secular state, jewish- a religious law governs many of the aspects there. so laws are out there. the one that's more difficult is
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values- another kind of pattern. we hear a lot about values lately. these set the standards for good action, and here we're talking about morality- what are the proper mores; how are we to conduct ourselves? and you know the great ethical debates in our society, and there's a lot of difference in a free society- religion stepping in, in many cases, to determine issues about morality such as suicide, the right to die, the right to life or abortion issue is another one, capital punishment- we all know the story here- but these are the issues that people struggle with in terms of defining what's going on. so anyway, ethical behavior is, in fact, guided in any society by laws and by customs and by morals, and each of these forces impact on these patterns of action. so already, it's getting kind of confusing.
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and the point i'd like to make, or i'm struggling to make, and thinking through as i stand here, is if religion, if that aspect of religion that made someone truly sense an interconnectedness was there, would we need these other forces guiding patterns of action? i just have two- i've been thinking about these two events over the past week as i was considering ethics, and i just want to share them with you and maybe you can help me connect them. the first one, i'm talking here about instinctive lack of selfishness. we've talked about the ramtha school of enlightenment, and when we were out there for that conference, remember i mentioned where jz was redeemed by the press- she was not a fraud; in other words, these tests were- i'm seeing some smiles here. so the jury may be out in this class on that, but anyway, the major press in the seattle area said jz is legitimate. well, that just made the group, as you can imagine.
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you met pavel and a few other people, but the devotees were so thrilled with that. and it was a sunday morning, so a bunch of us had gotten in the van because we were going back out to the ranch there, and so we pull up- you know, it's like 6:00 in the morning- we pull up in front of a local drugstore, and everyone wanted a paper, because it made the front page of the seattle paper, with this big story about how jz was doing a great thing. so there was, you know, like five or six of us in the van, and someone- you know, it's a machine, you know, one of those machines, you open them here. so why not put, you know, $1.50 in, and take all 25 papers? well, no, i didn't suggest that! it's the theological thing to do, but you know, one of the more crasser academics in the bus said, "hey, we all want a paper- just grab them!" and one of the- in fact, it was the woman who was teaching me about doing a card there- diane- it was just, "no, you can't do that." and it wasn't because stealing's wrong,
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like a law, or as a custom; it was more, "no. because we're whole. because you can't steal; you don't steal." it was something that i just, you know- it wasn't forced, it wasn't some, like, "well, my religion says, ramtha says, 'never steal newspapers, so i'm not doing that." it wasn't that at all. it was something about her experience of interconnectedness that prevented this. and i'm not sure how this connects, but last week- i'm president of phi kappa phi chapter at wiu, which is the national honor society, and i was out in penn state- that's why i didn't read the papers- i was at penn state at a conference, a national conference, and flew into harrisburg. and i don't know what you call god's country, but harrisburg, you know, near the amish and all that, is kind of like god's country. these weren't amish people, but i walked by the restaurant, and there's an elderly couple, and they're sitting at a table, and the woman has a little bowl of soup in front of her,
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and she's sitting there quietly, and her husband is praying grace for her, you know, and just sitting there. that's- she doesn't pray the grace; the man- the man's not eating. but she wanted some soup. so they're sitting at the table, she's just very piously sitting there waiting for him to finish his prayer. and i watched him. you know, it went on for, you know, a good four or five minutes of praying, and while the soup's there. and i thought, you know, in an airport restaurant, you know, the freneticness, you know, modernity travel, and here are these people that- you know, was it a law, was it custom, or was it something that aesthetically grew out of their experience together? i wish i had a video camera- i mean, it was so beautiful. so i guess the point i'm getting at here when i struggle with ethics is- and this is new stuff; i'm always learning stuff in this class. you know, i mean, this is brand new and i'm going around in my mind on it. ethics are never going to work in terms of knowing these proper- well, you can know the proper patterns
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of action, but you will not really successfully do them unless you have this essential religious experience that plugs you into an interrelationship with the world around you. and the problem is that- your good question is brought up- is what happens when it plugs you into only your group, and then you still have other groups? i mean, it's the constant struggle to find a legitimate consciousness of unity and interconnectedness that throws the whole ethical dimension off. and so we end up, in the name of religion, doing horrible things to each other. i mean, that's the only way i could figure. because you know, you look at these little incidents like the man and the wife there praying, and then this new age devotee- of course, they wouldn't like that term- but who had made some kind of turn of inner consciousness that allowed her to do that. yeah, jamie? >> i was thinking of how the ethical extremists get that way, and the thought occurred to me that it may even be a literal
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acceptance of language that we've all heard- be a warrior for christ. i can remember a song, "on the battlefield for my lord." so if the extremist accepts this lock, stock, and barrel, maybe he thinks he should be out there doing some kind of warrior type fighting. >> i know, and what can one say in a detached, open-minded religious studies class about that? you know, i guess one can call for the roll-in and change the subject or something like that. but you know, it's very troubling to me. that's why this issue is, because- well, let's take, you know, "onward christian soldiers" and other traditions, but there are obvious traditions. you know, we have in the bible the holy war in deuteronomy, where holy war is described and what you do. it's one thing to have a war- well, that's okay- but when you're in a holy war, nothing lives- you kill everything; you know, you destroy it. in fact, i wish i could remember the biblical story, but one- maybe some of you can help me out- the great leader who got in trouble because he was kind
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of kind and let some of the people actually live. i can't remember the king, but he got in serious trouble for not killing everybody. so it's biblical, coming out of the jewish tradition. the jihad that we've heard about in islam, this is qur'an-based. i mean, this is- you know, islam came with a sword; i mean, it's the fight to rid the world of polytheism so that the true faith can exist. and you know, my problem is that no experience that i've had, going back to the experience of anything that i've eked out in terms of the divine, has ever even remotely suggested to me that the deity- god, allah, whatever- wants me to kill in her name, you know. so it's a mind blower. yeah, mark? >> i heard a muslim scholar and he was saying that the idea of the holy jihad is not-
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in the qur'an- is not the outward battle; it's an inward battle that a person has with their own true self, so to speak. >> and thank you for bringing that up, because it's a balance, though, of both areas, that the inward struggle is certainly very much a part of it, but there's also the outward struggle, and we hear some of that in our interviews in the next class. but historically, the mind set is that you go outward to struggle for the one true faith. and christians and jews were allowed to- they had secondary citizen requirement, but they were people of the book, so christians and jews could live and practice their religion in an islamic world, but under islamic political control. now people who would not convert- and there's a phrase in the qur'an along these lines- that you know, "allah is merciful. we'll send a messenger first. you've got a few days."
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you know, "here's your choices: convert or die." you know, so you get some choice, you get a little time. but that was the idea, so there's an inward and an outward-moving force- patterns of action. you know, you want to think of our sufi muslim- of course he thinks of it as an inward working, a jihad for total love and unity and love of allah and seeing it everywhere in the world. from someone who has suffered terribly, a muslim who, let's say in the palestinian area who has been cruelly subjected to political oppression, which we'll hear some muslims speak about, this muslim takes a different view- you know, strike back; this is the battlefield. as is the case- we talked a bit about david koresh and the christian context- you know, the end of the world mode that we're seeing out there- amazing. well, let me finish up these graphics and then we can keep on going here. on the next roll-in here,
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or the next set of graphics, the last one i had here on the graphics is to tie it all up and say that doctrine is belief, ethics is the behavior, and the impact on the social dimension is real. and that's one of the lessons we want to take out of this class. see, it's frustrating that we don't get to resolve these issues- you know, we don't get to resolve them in a situation like this, but to be aware of them, and to try to begin to have some facility to speak about them and be aware of them. and one reason i wanted to bring up this patterns of action is because what's driving the patterns, what's determining them? well, it's that constant human quest for identity and relationships, and as we've seen in the earlier graphic, it's the obligation to perform those, and that can come out in a ritual way, it can come out in a behavioral way,
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and then we see law and morals and these other systems coming in, to keep this all on the same level. so that's the end of our formal graphics on this, but i wanted to go to a roll-in here that's most unusual. anybody know any lawyer jokes? let me tell you about this roll-in, why i wanted to do this. we live in a society here in the united states that is just being ripped apart by the tendency for people to want to sue. if laws can't be determined, if customs and morals don't determine proper patterns of actions, there's become a mind set that says, "well, i'll sue you!"- you know, if i don't like it, i'll sue you. and it's having a terribly detrimental effect on the country in general. well, when we were in san francisco, we met a lawyer,
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harrison shepherd, who's making quite a national reputation for himself, because he is coming out to say that the legal profession has it all wrong, that instead of being a profession that is fighting, that is constantly suing, that is constantly creating tension and conflict in society, what lawyers are meant to do is to understand those ethical patterns of action, see how conflicts can be resolved, and in fact, he goes so far as to say that the legal profession, essentially, is a spiritual practice. pretty far afield, but i thought, you know, why don't we do a shocker- imagine having a lawyer speak about his profession as a spiritual practice. so if we could, let's just take a few minutes and listen to harrison shepherd, our lawyer friend in san francisco. >> you know, originally, traditionally,
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there were three professions. there were three professions- they were the professions of theology- the clergy; the profession of medicine- the doctors; and the profession of law. and these three professions, what it means to be a professional is to profess your faithfulness to a particular service to humanity- to spirit, body, and community, the human community. there's no doubt that law, in its highest function, is designed to bring order and community out of diversity and disorder. and the thing that i'm most concerned about in terms of what's happened to american legal practice is that the ideal of the rambo lawyer who is advocating a winner-take-all solution for a client is in fact a betrayal of the deepest roots of what the law is. one way i've said that is
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that i think that lawyers really should be- and are, ideally- the secular ministers of american democracy. our society, which is one of increasing diversity and increasing conflict, certainly needs a professional group able to see the harmony that can be distilled out of this diversity- that is the function of the american lawyer at his or her best. and to the extent that the legal profession has become simply a warriors' profession, it's lost that most fundamental ideal of what human law is supposed to be. >> harrison, we're talking about a very ideal social vision. if this could happen, in your perspective, how would society look? >> if the american republic, if our democratic republic is going to survive well into its third century, we need to find more effective ways of reconciling this diversity, and that's the function that i see of the american lawyer. if that function is successfully
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achieved, i think we can anticipate a third or a fourth great century of american democracy and preservation of our liberties. if, however, that function is not followed through, then as alexis de toteville said- the great student of democracy in america- the likelihood is this country will either be moved to anarchy or authoritarian rule. so the short answer to your question is, yes, i think that lawyers play an indispensable role with this model of legal practice toward the harmonizing and reconciling of diversity in this country, and the continued prosperity of the american experiment. >> grisham, right down the line. >> what we're seeing here is he's a lawyer, but i think what he's speaking about is a problem in terms of the ethical dimension and the social dimension that this particular country's facing, and that is diversity. you mentioned that that particular airline
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said, "i don't like diversity." well, unfortunately, folks, if you live in this particular country, you're going to see more and more diversity. and i think what harrison shepherd is saying is that all the professions have to begin to find ways of overcoming these differences. to put it in our religious terms and our ethical terms, we can no longer rely on separate or disparate definitions of proper patterns of action- we have to begin to see, in a broader, wider range about how it is that we can live a harmonious life. and the law is obviously just one of them, but- susanna, fire away. >> i was going to say, actually, my daughter received an award when she graduated law at vanderbilt two years ago that very much characterizes- >> she's a lawyer? >> yes. i'm very proud of her, as a matter of fact. and this award was the only one that was voted on by the entire faculty, and it spoke- i don't remember the exact words now, but it was something not- not the student that's in your class who not only had sort of a clear
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and good grasp of the profession of law, but who was also most likely to practice it with something- and mercy. mercy. and it spoke very much to the ideals that this gentleman is talking about. there are lawyers in law schools who do that- there are. there is something- it's just more pervasive than any of that. i think one thing that makes our people lawsuit happy has to do with the whole climate we live in. you know, i still have recipes that call for a one-pound can of tomatoes- there aren't any anymore. they went to 15 ounces. no, but i mean, it just- it has the feeling of being cheated, of being ripped off- that the prices continue to climb, and the size of the cans continues to shrink. i think now what used to be a one-pound can of tomatoes is about 13 and a quarter ounces. now, you just run into that all the time- the idea that more and more stores like walgreens and some of these big ones,
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they only want to stock the items that have a very short shelf life. so if you happen to be in the habit of using something that's maybe not the fastest-mover of a maybe a medium mover, or heaven forbid, a slow mover, you know, you can't get it anymore. and i think when you live with this kind of- a mind set that no one's really thinking of you- we're not customers anymore who are always right; we're consumers, whose mission, in the eyes of the television commercial, is to buy, buy, buy, consume, consume, consume. yeah, we're not vacuum cleaners for what they produce. >> but what's your point? i mean, that's capitalism. i mean, we're not talking about an ethical issue here unless you're talking about- the difference between a spiritual approach to commerce versus a greedy approach to commerce, for want of another word. >> okay. greedy's bad, in my view. >> ah! ah-ha! in your view, it's bad. but that's what we're talking about- right and proper action. >> okay. and here's the other thing. one of the best documented times when christ lost his cool was not the samaritan woman at the well who'd had a few husbands- divorce was not
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that major for him; it wasn't good, but it wasn't anything that- he talked to her, sent her off as a disciple. but it was cheating merchants at the temple, and he made a very definite physical- one of the few times that you saw him engaged in what you would call violent behavior. >> but you're talking about one religious- >> yeah, but that is the exact kind of thing that i'm talking about with merchants right now. >> but you're talking about one religious viewpoint, or one- is that christianity? >> no. i think it's in the old testament where you're going to find good measure is shaken down and running over. >> well, how does a daoist appropriate that, or how does a buddhist, you know, view that? how do some sects of the muslim practices view that? no matter what we do here, we're trying to find some commonality
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about whether there is an ultimate good and an ultimate right, or whether we're going to accept cultural diversity, and all the religious practices that that kind of environment will propagate. >> and let me jump in there to try to- to put it in the framework of the class. that is the difficulty. that is the difficulty, because we have, you know, from an ethical point of view, where we're moved towards an understanding that is inclusive- we're being asked to treat other human beings in a way that is not so self-centered. but both of you, actually, i think are saying very similar things, which is there seems to be a problem in that inherent selfishness finds its way into any culture in any religion. what you're saying, susanna, really strikes me with the law profession, is that if you're- and we're back to the experiential dimension- if you conceive of yourself
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as the spoke in the wheel, you're the hub, the world revolves around you and everybody else is going to ultimately be after you, then it's very difficult to not take the newspapers, to not want to find a way to get ahead, to jump ahead. but you know, that's the way it is in society. warren, go ahead; you've had your hand waving. >> i always hear that this is a very litigious society that we live in, but my experience has led me to believe that there's not enough litigation. i have known many people over the years who had cases who were really abused by doctors- mostly doctors- and would not sue them. but i mean, it was a clear case of neglect or malpractice. and i think some people i think cannot sue because, you know, the law is against them or something. but i know two people that had dead-bang malpractice
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committed on them and they wouldn't sue- real problems. >> let me show you one other- i knew we had other graphics. i just said we'd finished the graphics, but i knew there was one more set of graphics i want to bring up that i think touches on these issues of okay, well, how are we going to resolve these? you know, how might we begin to think about ways to rectify this? i'm not saying it's the answer, but it's a way to begin to at least approach a problem, the kinds of problems, the facts or the anger or the selfishness that we see, and see if there isn't a way to sort it out ethically - at least the way that religion presents it. the ethical process- this is something that occurs in all societies, and if you can kind of sense this, it's something every single person in this room has been through. the process goes something like this: our patterns of action, our teaching, our upbringing create a sense of obligation- how should we act?
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and to go back to this interesting exchange we had here, it's confusing, because we get two different kinds of patterns, especially in a society like this. now religion may step in, whether it's christianity in our society predominantly or islam or buddhism or daoism, they may give you a different sense of obligation. nevertheless, following up on obligation comes responsibility- if you're obligated to do something, then you have the responsibility in order to act on that. but we find that for whatever reason- you know, whether we want to go theological and say it's simply original sin or we're just selfishness or, from an evolutionary point of view, it's survival of the fittest. nevertheless, the third step in this is dissonance- it's kind of the opposite of harmony. we do not live up to our obligation, we do not follow through on our responsibilities, and it puts us into a state of wrong, of guilt, and anxiety.
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and one of the frightening things is in our current society, we're finding younger and younger people grow up who don't have that sense of dissonance, who can do the most frightening kinds of acts. nevertheless, you have this sense of dissonance. ethical process ends then with religion in particular, but society, whether through punishment, through law or whatever, needs to step in and find some way of harmonizing, some kind of harmonizing mechanism in order to do this. a classic one in roman catholicism is confession- those of you who are from that tradition know that here's a ritual possibility for going through and confessing- and that relieves you, brings you back into harmony. so what may be missing in our society- you know, the thing that may be creating such negativity from an ethical point of view- is, you know, first, we may not have any clear definition of what obligation and responsibility entails. that leaves open a wide range
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of one person's dissonance is another person's good time- you know, you have that kind of element going on. and then finally, how do you- what means do we have? you know, i'm thinking about- you've seen the things in the paper about the super maximum security prisons; i mean, solitary confinement- is this the way to go? punishment- all these issues raise up. now the question is, in a religiously diverse society, how do we go about doing this kind of thing? we've all had experiences of this, of guilt coming on. i remember when i was a kid- perhaps you did something like this; you know, seven, eight years old, nine years old, i don't know what- hanging around, as boys will do, you know, getting in trouble on a saturday. we decided to go out to the shopping center- didn't have shopping malls then- and we were going to shoplift, you know, to try it out. so we went in and got a yo-yo and got a water gun and got some lighter fluid because we were going to burn some ants later and that kind of stuff. and in the act, "ooh,
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we got away with it." but bam! you know, about 9:00 at night, you know, you wake up in bed, "i stole"- you know, you broke that pattern, you're in dissonance, you're in guilt. and i went to my mother and i said, "don't tell my father, but i stole." and she said, "here, dad, listen to this!" so there had to be some kind of- you know, there had to be some way of redemption. so the next morning, yeah, he calls the other kids' fathers, we get trooped down to the store, and we have to apologize and make amends. now as bad as- that was okay, though, because that feeling of i've really violated a rule exists and we've all been through that kind of thing. where does that come from? well, maybe it's part instinctive, maybe it's part training. i think the issue that's difficult and harrison shepherd raises here is that the major professions, particularly law professions, ought to be working towards finding a way of bringing people who are in a state of dissonance because they disagree over responsibility and obligation- in a major way-
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how do you bring them back into the fold. what role does religion play in that? a difficult one. but you know, you're all well-educated people, and certainly leaders of the media and newspapers, we know how intense these ethical disagreements are, and how strong a role, particularly in our culture, conservative christianity plays in trying to define what all these proper patterns of actions are. so it's a difficult situation. one more roll-in we have in the class, and then we're going to just follow it on out here with the questions. professor robert moore makes a fascinating statement. he is the president of the institute for world spirituality; he's a jungian psychoanalyst; he's a professor at chicago theological seminary. we were able to catch hold of him just after a conference that he'd had with this world spirituality center that he's directing,
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and he just nails it down in this short interview that unless religion- and your good comment about, well, is it buddhist religion, is it daoist, is it christianity?- unless religions which have been, for better or for worse, the guiding force in determining ethical patterns of action, unless they begin to come together first, and work with other aspects of society, well, it's another doomsday scenario, that we'rere just simply not gog to make it, not just as a nation, but as perhaps even a species. he went a bit longer in our private talk after the interview, but this is an educated man, very well known, quite active in things such as cult activity. but he doesn't see the survival of any kind of orderly human race unless we figure out collectively as a species, globally, some kind of way of agreeing
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on ethical patterns of action. now i say that because clearly, as we're in the ethical dimension and moving towards the social dimension, we want to see just how much impact religious thinking has. and its diversity is fine- you know, i'm not going to throw anybody out for playing because gsu's diverse- but at the same time, real appreciation of multiculturalism means finding, on a continuum, someplace where we can begin to agree on what proper patterns of action are, at least at a minimum level, or we're just going to continue blowing up each other's buildings and other horrific acts. so anyway, let me let professor robert moore share his great wisdom with us. >> it always has amazed me that people of faith of the different traditions have done so poorly in organizing for cooperative action toward
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justice and toward the sustainable human future. the encouraging thing to me is that in 1993, right here in chicago, a thing happened which the media did not really widely report- that is, for the first time in history, the religious leaders that we could locate came together at the world parliament- the centennial of the world parliament religions. and rather than merely wanting to get together and discuss the niceties of different points of view theologically in terms of their belief systems, they together raised the question, "what can we do together to begin to try to secure our human future, and an ecological, sustainable environment?" that was a miracle, in many ways, in my view. i'm a kind of a hard-nosed person, i'm not easy to impress, but as i stood out in grant park down here with the dalai lama
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and thousands of religious leaders from every one of these spiritual tribes that we could find, from the tibetan buddhists to the roman catholics to the wiccans and the neopagans and all of the various groups that joined together, and there in one accord, asking the right question, for the first time in history, and that is, "how can we cooperate to turn a corner in human history?" and through the work of the institute for world spirituality, and other groups like us around the world, we are now trying to bring people of faith, men and women of good will together to face what must be done if our grandchildren and their children and their children's children- as the indigenous peoples of the earth often say, "we have an obligation to the children of the seventh generation
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in front of us." >> now that's a perspective that's asking a hell of a lot- if we can say hell in a religion class- but it's asking a lot. but the thing there is i don't know where else to go with it. you know, we study religious diversity, we're well down through the semester, we've listened to wonderful, beautiful statements from believers of lots of different faiths- you know, we'll be looking more at different religious organizations in the social dimension. but finally, as this gentleman said in a very short period of time, "wait a second, folks. if we're talking about the ethical dimension, if we really want to focus on our survival when you look at a world and we come to an end of a century that has been so bloody and very often it has been religion that has played a role in that, what are we going to do folks? you know, when are we going to sit down? how are we going to come to do it?" and i love his observation that the religious people have
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to come in, first off, join in a conversation- not just how neat it is that there are buddhists and there are christians, and you know, not that wonderful cross-cultural thing that's also very important, but where do we find common ground? and so this gentleman has set up this institute for world spirituality, which will function along those lines. we may get to hear from him a little bit later in the semester. he speaks about the fact that nobel prize winners in the last go-around had a special meeting with religious leaders on the level of the dalai lama because they take it that seriously. and here, we're not talking about social sciences and humanitarians, necessarily, but the physicists, the hard scientists see the need to sort out what we are talking in this class as those ethical patterns of action. in other words, it may not be so much that we create a heaven on earth- you know, that we're going to have this mystical, beautiful, aesthetically perfect society; maybe we're just talking about, as he says, survival, and a place
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that our children's children's chdrenyou know, will have an opportunity to survive. sure. >> and so much of the conflict is territorial. in israel, they want the land they feel god has given them, and then pakistanis want certain land, and yugoslavia, they want the land they had before world war ii. so a lot of it is territorial, and religion is shoved aside. >> you know, the nationalism- you know, you want to talk about "isms," but the rise of nationalism in our human cultural experience has been, you know, a two-edged sword, to say the least. and that brings up- it's a wonderful segue into our next class because we have a whole rather lengthy segment on how land in israel- sovereignty, identity, relationship-
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is linked to land. and for those of us who have grown up in the united states, this is very hard for us to realize- it's not something that's necessarily been challenged- but there, it's such a link. and we see people, you know, that form an identity around nationalism. now you see, maybe that's a very powerful way that people create identity and relationship. you see what's going on in the united states in the militia movement that we talked about and some of these patriot movements, in which their focus is the evil united states government taking our land away- this is our land, it's our constitution. so these ideas about land and religion are very, very volatile. i'm certainly not prepared. i mean, that's why i'm glad we have a robert moore, who's obviously well-funded, who started an institute at a prestigious place like the university of chicago to head up the parade, because i think someone needs to head up the parade. how you, you know, disarm the kinds of intensity
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about land we see in kashmir between the pakistanis and the indians- how do we disarm that? you know, we saw what happened in the serbian area- these are the tensions- and land is part of it; you know, land is part of it. but as we'll see when we look at the middle east closer, there's also that religious element, and to have really sat down, as you'll see in the next class, and talk with on-the-street muslims about the threat of the western secular values- patterns of action- upon the islamic way of life, you can't blame them for the anger that they feel; it's truly a threat. we've heard in the media that the united states has been called the great satan or something along that line, but in many ways, to their way of thinking, it is. so the challenges are immense, and all we can say, as we move through this first class on the ethical dimension, as we so often do, is just- let's- you know, you sort of stand back and say,
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"look at the power of this kind of dimension, in its religious form, in its political form, as it affects our human relationships. other good comments you might have? yeah, susanna? >> i do think that parliament of world's religions was organized religion at its best. and i think that the increase of diversity, not just in our country, which is the one, of course, we're in a position to notice the most, but in every country, i think it's happening. and so if- anyone who isn't feeling at least a little bit uncomfortable probably is not in touch with what's going on. >> well, said, yeah. >> deep changes are happening all over the world that way, and i think both of these gentlemen are correct- it's going to have to be a very different kind of mind set for the world, and a global philosophy, a spirituality, in a sense of being able to go beyond just the desire to acquire more. >> it's been an uncomfortable
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time to be alive. i don't know how- i don't want to speak for everyone, but it's just generally not been comfortable. sure. >> but that energy- the moving toward wholeness, or the sense that the world religions want to try to move toward wholeness, as stated by their leadership, is the same kind of energy on the other side of the coin, that moves for divisiveness. it's where the roman catholic church, post-vatican ii, suddenly wants to revert to pre-vatican ii types of practices. it's where the episcopalian- let's say the episcopal and lutheran leadership either rejects or accepts gay marriages, same-sex marriages, and others move toward the more
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conservative elements. and i can see that that aim to wholeness, which- you know, personally, couldn't be better- is also among the followers- just good reason to create another- maybe sect is too strong a word- but certainly something that's down a slightly different path than what the mother belief is. >> and that's such a great segue into two or three classes down we see exactly why we have sect and cult formation. but your point is really well taken, that there's two dynamics here with this quest for unity. one is the dynamic of "let's be unified," but there's fear with that, because what happens is as you get unified, you lose your uniqueness. now we want to see how that plays out in israel
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in the next class, where we're going next.
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