Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: spirituality and religion

Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: spirituality and religion
Monday, 08 April 2013 00:00

My God?

Taiwan is often cited as one of the most tolerant states in terms of religion so this month eRenlai decided to approach the topic of personal faith from a variety of perspectives, to examine the differences in beliefs that appear nominally the same, and the rich diversity behind umbrella terms like "Buddhism", "Atheist" or "Christian", which give the illusion of uniformity to our personal gods, or indeed our individual conception of the world.

First we look at how different people have come to their beliefs or lack of beliefs - whether through reason or by a more spiritual approach. We then look at what faith means for these people, whether it means living faith in a higher being or simply faith in human perception. Following on from this we examine the different ways that people, believers and non-believers conceive of the world around them, and how their faith or lack thereof goes to shape this; how they imagine god in terms of physical shape; how they interact with God; if their morality is shaped by their belief or lack of belief; and what it is like to be religious in Taiwan

Photo: Lu Kamiao

 

 

Published in
Focus: My God?

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 14:23

(Dis)belief in Taiwan

This series of videos explores the diversity of personal beliefs that lie under the way we declare our beliefs (or lack of beliefs). In this video the experience of people from different cultures of faith or lack of faith in Taiwan is explored.

Published in
Focus: My God?

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 14:19

(I believe therefore) I'm moral

This series of videos explores the diversity of personal beliefs that lie under the way we declare our beliefs (or lack of beliefs). In this video we look at what role faith and religion has in the formation of our morality whether directly or indirectly, and whether or not morality goes beyond a utilitarian social contract.

Published in
Focus: My God?

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 14:14

The form of (In)divinity

This series of videos explores the diversity of personal beliefs that lie under the way we declare our beliefs (or lack of beliefs). In this video we explore the different images people have of god, and how this changes with time and with the progression of our journey through life.

Published in
Focus: My God?

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 14:09

Divine In(ter)action

This series of videos explores the diversity of personal beliefs that lie under the way we declare our beliefs (or lack of beliefs). In this video the way different people conceive of the way in which any god might interact with the world and with humans is explored as well as the different ways that people try and communicate with their god.

Published in
Focus: My God?

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 14:04

Living (Dis)belief

This series of videos explores the diversity of personal beliefs that lie under the way we declare our beliefs (or lack of beliefs). In this video the trials and doubts undergone by those who have already committed themselves to a belief or life without belief.

Published in
Focus: My God?

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 13:42

(Dis)ordered World

This series of videos explores the diversity of personal beliefs that lie under the way we declare our beliefs (or lack of beliefs). In this video we look at how different people structure their world in relation to or apart from their belief system, and the link between the two.

Published in
Focus: My God?

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 13:39

I Believe(d)

This series of videos explores the diversity of personal beliefs that lie under the way we declare our beliefs (or lack of beliefs). In this video the personal journey that people living and working in Taipei undergo to determine whether or not they have faith is examined and discussed.

Published in
Focus: My God?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013 15:27

Preaching Tenderness

When you are playing Word Association I guess that "Papacy" usually does not trigger the response "Tenderness" - neither does "Tenderness" elicit the word "Papacy"...

Still, "Tenderness" was the central word in the homely pronounced by Pope Francis at his inaugural Mass on March 19. He repeated the theme several times, saying: "We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness! Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!"

Let me say something that will sound strange to many people: I think that Francis has learnt something about tenderness not only in his family and through his whole life (which is obviously the case) but also in St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits... Strange indeed! Most of the time, the Jesuits do not have the reputation to indulge in tenderness. Stern, rigid intellectuals – such goes the cliché even up until this day, and I must confess that sometimes the cliché is not without truth, at least in part... But I have found in many of my brothers a real, discreet and truly delicate tenderness. Let me recall here René-Claude Baud, a big, strong tower of a Jesuit whom I got to know during my noviciate in Lyons – Rene-Claude had spent most of his active life as a caregiver in the emergency room of a hospital, and the delicacy of his presence was a testimony to the humaneness he had fostered while confronted daily by the naked presence of Life and Death.

Ignatius and his first companions had not given to the Jesuits a more precise task than the one of "helping the souls" as they were fond of saying, when the Order was founded, in and around 1530-1540. Early in the history of the Jesuits, this general direction translated into tasks that have been called "ministries of consolation." "To console" was a master word for Ignatius: Console when you preach and confess, when you visit prisoners and sick people, when you reconcile enemies (those were indeed the first missions that the Jesuits embarked upon) and even – yes- when you teach...

There was a spiritual, even mystical foundation to this focus on consolation. The experience that the "Spiritual Exercises" (the spiritual guide for advancing in spiritual life) that Ignatius wanted to nurture was the one of the Consoling Christ, the one who comes to heal our most secret pains and mourning when one progressively opens up to his presence in our heart. When inviting meditation on the Resurrection, Ignatius asks the one doing the Exercises "to consider the office of consoling which Christ our Lord bears, and to compare how friends are accustomed to console friends." Deep, real, overwhelming, often unexpected consolation is indeed what the Spiritual Exercises are meant to bring to the soul. It comes with a refining and an enlargement not of our reason but rather of our emotions. Ignatius himself was a man of emotions, as testified to by his friends, who recalled him sitting on the roof of the Jesuit house in Rome at night and looking at the stars, tears rolling down his cheeks. One of his companions wrote: "From seeing a plant, foliage, a leaf, a flower, any fruit, from the consideration of a little worm or any other animal, he raised himself above the heavens." Tears of consolation were so abundant in Ignatius that he asked for the grace of not experiencing them anymore, fearing for his sight.

For sure, such an inspiration – which was actually very close to the spirit of St Francis of Assisi, a saint most dear to Ignatius – was often betrayed in the history of the Society of Jesus. But it always remained present, at times hidden like a spring under the ground. Pope Francis seems to me to have drawn from the spring, and now shares its water with the whole world. I rejoice deeply that what he is proclaiming first is nothing else than the centrality for life and faith of tenderness, and of heartfelt consolation.

Image source: Wikimedia


Thursday, 04 March 2010 00:00

Cup of tea, TV and religious dialogue

The plane on which religious dialogue occurs is too often conceived as occurring at a high level.  Leaders of faiths occasionally meet in public, be it in front of an audience or a camera.  Within a community, a church may come together with a mosque or temple as part of a festival.  At a lower level, it is not uncommon for neighbours of differing faiths to discuss matters of faith with each other.
 
Dialogue within the family is an additional part of the spectrum of religious dialogue that deserves attention.  The construction of family units can be incredibly diverse.  While several generations might live under one roof, it is not uncommon for family ties to stretch across countries and even between them.  Within the myriad of family dynamics that exist, there are a few key concepts that I wish to focus on.

Whether through choice or destiny, many of our closest bonds are with our family members.  Our family members are the ones who we see on a daily basis, the ones with whom we share the tribulations and triumphs of day-to-day life.  For most of us, the support, understanding and care provided by family members is the necessary foundation for a happy life.  Shared religious conviction can form much of the basis of this stability.  When family members have a faith in common, religious dialogue can almost appear to be a given.  However, when family members have different beliefs or varying levels of commitment, religious dialogue can become an issue.  In the close confines of the family, this can be particularly acute.

In recent decades, religious mobility has become increasingly common, both in Asia and across the world.  New religious movements (NRMs) continue to appear, either offering fresh interpretations of established beliefs or something altogether new.  And beyond the more organised NRMs, there are the nebulous sectors of new age beliefs, self help and spirituality, concepts that are expounded in books and seminars rather than in more established places of worship.

Not only do religions continue to innovate, people across the world are switching their religious allegiance or modifying their beliefs, often in the face of long-established family tradition.  This is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”.

Such lofty ideals do not necessarily filter down to day-to-day reality.  Conversions can cause schisms in the family.  When someone—be they parent or child—converts to a new religious belief, the rest of the family can be traumatised.  The faith of the convert, something that had always been taken for granted, has changed, calling many things into question.  When a member appears to have turned his back on his family, it can be as if they are cutting off the chance for dialogue, rejecting an important part of the family’s identity.  In many cases, this is true, especially when the convert conscientiously chooses to distance himself from his family.

[dropcap cap="T"]he reasons for converting are manifold.  The once common notion that members of NRMs had unhappy relationships with family members has been debunked.  There is just as much likelihood that the convert is from a happy family as from a troubled one.When someone adopts a new faith, it is not always an attack on his family.  [/dropcap]While the convert might be more content with his newly chosen faith, family members too can be happy that their kin has found a faith that suits him better.  However, such realisations can only be reached through discussion and demonstrating the love that the family members hold for each other, not an inherently easy task.
 
 
Intra-familial religious dialogue is not limited to circumstances where one family may have members of two or more religions.  Tension can arise when members share a faith but differ in the extent to which they adhere to the set beliefs or scripture.  Agreement on financial matters and reproductive health are fundamental to family stability.  If one member interprets (or ignores) his family’s faith on a matter such as these in a way that upsets or alienates other members then it can be unsettling.  For the family to continue to remain together, or at least do so fruitfully, dialogue must occur.  Where one point of view is taken as an absolute, either through doctrinal definition or mere tradition, then it can be difficult to find middle ground.  However, when the long-term well being of the family is at stake, these absolutes should be given a bit of leeway, at least in as much as it can help reach a point of understanding.

Religion can be a powerful force for bringing families together.  However, if the stability of a family’s religion is shaken by a member either not sharing the same level of devotion or leaving the faith, and possibly converting, then there is a risk of a serious breakdown occurring.  For there to be continued coexistence and hopefully a point of agreement, the members must come together through dialogue.  For members to challenge, and possibly change, long held (or in the case of converts, newly acquired) beliefs is no simple task.  But to help ensure the chances of the family’s ongoing happiness, this dialogue is essential.

 

Thursday, 04 March 2010 00:00

What is 'dialogue'?

The use of the word 'dialogue' is remarkably elastic. Does this mean that it should be abandoned in favour of a more rigorous concept? Actually, the flexibility of the term might stem from the variety of our experiences of exchange and communication, while finding within them some commonalities.

The very term dialogue introduces us into the field of verbal exchanges. Exchanges test knowledge; they check the agreement of stakeholders on the content of the knowledge they are supposed to share and in some cases they are testing the validity of knowledge itself. Knowledge may be of two kinds - either it refers to a given science such as physics, or else it refers to human beings considered in their nature and their social setting. In the first case, dialogical exchanges are at the same level of reality as those induced by mathematical formulas by which the progress of knowledge on the material world is ensured. In the second case, the truth is not primarily mathematical. The locus of truth is set into histories and cultures, a setting to which only dialogue gives access. Thus, dialogical exchange is no more a mechanical process, it centres on establishing relationships between "Others": verbal exchanges imply experiencing listening as a transformative process that cannot be separated from the one through which truth is reached.

[dropcap cap="I"]n other words, the determination of 'categories of truth' is intrinsically linked to that of dialogical styles. Let me suggest the way through which categories of truth may be associated with an array of dialogical styles:[/dropcap]- Dialogue understood as a logical exercise will generate propositions that are meant to be universally valid and part of a truth system based on the principle of non-contradiction. It does not differ fundamentally from the soliloquy that a scientist would lead with himself in order to determine the truth of a scientific demonstration.

- Dialogues within philosophical or theological schools work along similar principles except that the reference to 'universal' principles grounded on the natural light is replaced by a reference text - the one accepted by the school. The principle of non-contradiction is exercised within the reading of these texts.

- In contrast, the type of dialogue initiated and exemplified by Confucius’ Analects is first a dialogue of life which seeks to ensure that the disciple’s deeds coincide with his system of moral and cosmological beliefs. Dialogue is the gateway through which to match truth and life.

- The Gospel’s dialogical style is somehow similar to the preceding category, with the difference that the stress is put less on acquired wisdom than on the transformative process through which a decision is to be reached by the one who enters into a dialogue of life.

- We can group together several cultural and literary settings in which dialogue is meant to lead to enlightenment, as shown in the peculiar dialogical styles found in Zhuangzi, in Zen writings and in some Indian schools: the dialogue is pushed to a breaking point that challenges the principle of non-contradiction, bringing one of the participants to a sudden transformation of his consciousness or worldview.

- And there is of course the broad category that gathers variants of 'democratic dialogue', which applies not only to politics but to some models of inter-religious dialogue for example: the point here is that the process of listening is supposed to be mutually transformative for the partners once they enter an empathic understanding of the argument and experiences vis-à-vis the other, this in order to find a position on the basis of which to allow a common decision or, at the very least, ensure continued coexistence.

[dropcap cap="I"]n conclusion, true dialogue is always 'performative'. It does not merely determine one true position among all the ones championed; other procedures might lead to this result better than dialogue does. Instead, dialogue leads to a change in worldviews, practices and situations - and the depth of the change that dialogue generates is the real measure of the 'truth' it contributes in bringing to light.[/dropcap]

 

 

 

 

Friday, 26 February 2010 00:00

The changing nature of inter-religious dialogue: A lesson from history

No matter the time or context, inter-religious dialogue is rarely a simple endeavour. Throughout history, occasions on which Christians and Muslims have met have unfortunately most often been ones of tension, conflict and misunderstanding - a situation which, in many places, is little improved today. And yet, more than one thousand years ago, in and around the currently volatile cities of Basra and Baghdad, Christians and Muslims lived side by side in a context where they were able to debate openly and defend their respective faiths, resulting in an awareness and understanding of each other’s traditions which is largely unparalleled in today’s world.
 
The period in question is that of the early ninth century C.E., barely two centuries after the expansion of the Islamic Empire, which by that point stretched from Southern Spain in the West to the borders of China in the East. In doing so, it incorporated a number of native Christian populations, who remained the majority for a number of centuries, and who provided essential skills to their Arab conquerors, with many Christians being employed as physicians, bureaucrats and translators. Indeed, under the patronage of the ruling caliphs, it was Christians who were responsible for transmitting Greek philosophical thought into Arabic and Islamic thinking. It is in this context that we find the first generation of Christian theologians who wrote in Arabic, and who were faced with explaining Christian beliefs and practices in a language closely intertwined with Islam and the Qur’an.
 

From the texts available to us, it is evident that Christians felt the need to defend a number of elements of their faith, one of the most fundamental being that of their expression of God as Trinity; that is to say Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For their Muslim counterparts, whose central tenet was that of tawhīd (declaring the oneness of God), the idea of the divine being as one God in three persons or hypostases was completely unthinkable.
At the same time that Christians were looking for ways to explain the Trinity to their Muslim neighbours, an internal Islamic debate was taking place, which centred on the nature of God and His ninety-nine ‘beautiful names’ (ʾasmāʾ allāh al-Ḥusnā). These names are considered to be the names of God revealed to Muhammad in the Qur’an, and are accordingly given as a list of nouns, such as; ‘The Living’, ‘The Knowing’, ‘The Wise’. Some Muslims began to question what these names actually meant, both semantically and metaphysically speaking. Were they purely nominal, that is to say were they simply empty terms which pointed to God Himself and therefore identical with Him? Or should they be conceived of as real meaningful characteristics or entities present alongside God? The Christian theologians, who were clearly deeply involved in Islamic society, witnessed this internal debate taking place and saw the opportunity to use it in order to explain the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that their Muslim counterparts might understand. The way they achieved this was to say that if Muslims accept that God is ‘speaking’ and ‘knowing’, then they must accept that He has ‘word’ and ‘life’. This, they state, is what the Christians mean when they talk about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit: His ‘word’ is the Son and His ‘life’ the Holy Spirit. Whilst they did not succeed in persuading their opponents to accept the doctrine, the exchanges they experienced provides the twenty-first century reader with much to take away.
 
Although these representatives of the two faiths were engaged in polemic against one another, what one can see is that both groups are asking similar questions about the nature of God, and having very similar internal as well as external debates, even though the final outcomes are different. In the context of interfaith dialogue today, this observation is highly important.
 
Early attempts at inter-religious dialogue were geared towards finding common ground. The Second Vatican Council (1965) issued a declaration about Muslims, stating that it has respect for Islam and listing a number of common features between Christianity and Islam such as belief in one God and reverence towards Jesus. This highlighting of similarities, however, whilst being a positive first step, can only achieve so much. For as soon as members of different faiths reach a fundamental difference (for example, Jesus being the Word and Son of God for Christians, and no more than a human prophet for Muslims) those in 'dialogue' either come to an impasse or attempt to 'paper over the cracks', as it were, by ignoring fundamental and important differences between their two faiths.
 
Recently, however, a significant shift has been taking place, whereby dialogue increasingly involves recognising each other’s differences and accepting them. In order to do this one has to put oneself in the shoes of the other and understand their faith in its own terms, not looking in from the outside, or viewing the other as holding a distorted version of one's own beliefs. A huge part of this endeavour requires understanding how the other person came to hold a certain belief: the processes they went through, questions they asked, possibilities they dismissed, and so on. Only then do we begin to see that actually we are not that different at all: we are all trying to answer the same questions and achieve the same goals. And this is exactly what the Christian and Muslim scholars of ninth century Iraq were doing, genuinely attempting to understand the beliefs of the other. They may not have come to an agreement; yet their deep awareness and appreciation of one another allowed them to live side by side for centuries in relative harmony.
 
The message for us today, over a millennium later, is clear. Yes, we may ultimately have different beliefs, but at least in understanding another's journey we are able to be more accepting of his or her destination - something which is applicable to all faiths, societies and belief-systems.
 
 

 

Page 2 of 3

Help us!

Help us keep the content of eRenlai free: take five minutes to make a donation

AMOUNT: 

Join our FB Group

Browse by Date

« August 2018 »
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

We have 7437 guests and no members online