2 December, 2020

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Battling The Gods: Atheism In The Ancient World

By Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan

Prof. Charles Sarvan

Prof. Charles Sarvan

The “Socratic dialogue was never aggressive; rather it was conducted with courtesy, gentleness and consideration. If a dialogue aroused malice or spite”, it had failed (Karen Armstrong, The Case For God).

At root, I think my opposition to militant atheism is based on a commitment to the very values which inspire atheism: “an open-minded commitment to the truth and rational inquiry”. Hostile opposition to the beliefs of others combined with a dogged conviction of the certainty of one’s own beliefs is antithetical to such values (Julian Baggini, Atheism).

Tim Whitmarsh, Battling The Gods:                                                  Atheism In The Ancient World, London, 2016.

Tim Whitmarsh, Battling The Gods: Atheism In The Ancient World, London, 2016.

It has been suggested that human beings created god(s) out of fear, ignorance and wishful-thinking: fear because we were confronting fierce animals, armed only with primitive weapons; ignorance because we couldn’t understand and explain most of natural phenomena; wishful because we couldn’t face the thought of our individual, final, extinction, plus other temptations such as justice in another world, and reunion with loved ones. As both our domination and understanding increased, so god decreased in size. However, as this book’s dustjacket states, “Long before the Enlightenment sowed the seeds of disbelief in a deeply Christian Europe, atheism was a matter of serious public debate in the Greek world. But history is written by those who prevail, and the Age of Faith mostly suppressed the lively free-thinking voices of antiquity.” History being written by the winners, the author aims to recover the suppressed voices of the minority (p. 8).

Generally, polytheism is more hospitable and accommodating than monotheism with its sacred scripture which is seen as a non-negotiable contract with the divine (p. 29) demanding orthodoxy – and with orthodoxy comes the politicization of religion. (The Greeks had no sacred texts.) But in ancient Greece, the work of priests was to carry out religious rituals: the idea of priests trying to “sway public debates” (p. 21) was unthinkable. “Legal judgement was never theologized in ancient Greece” (p. 22): Whitmarsh is Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge. Philosophy celebrates the critical spirit, the willingness to question received beliefs and values: when the Greeks pondered the nature of the world, they did so through philosophy and religion, and not through organized religion (pp. 54 & 52). Religion was not used by the Greeks to drive and justify historical events. “No war was ever fought for the sake of a god, no empire was expanded in the name of proselytization, no foe was crushed for believing in the wrong god” (p. 193).

Thucydides, author of the ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’ (432 BCE), is known as the father of Western “scientific history” because of his strict standards of evidence-gathering, and his analysis of cause and effect without reference to intervention by the gods. Ancient Greece was an honour-based society, and honour was generated through success in competition, be it physical or mental and verbal. Competition led to theomakhia, battling the gods, which could mean the gods battling it out among themselves or a mortal challenging one of the gods: for example, in Euripides’ play, The Bacchae, Pentheus (“Sorrowful”) rejects the divinity of Dionysus. However, battling the gods was a crisis of power, not a manifestation of sinfulness. (For sin, see my review of Kyle Harper’s From Shame to Sin in Groundviews, 13 February 2016.)

The earliest “philosophical articulations of scepticism toward traditional religion” (p. 7) are in the writings of Xenophanes, circa 570 BCE: “atheism has a tradition that is comparable in its antiquity to Judaism (and considerably older than Christianity or Islam)”. Xenophanes argued against the anthropomorphic idea of god: if horses could draw, their god would have the shape of a horse. (The followers of Pythagoras thought human beings could be reincarnated in animal form. This accounts for their strict vegetarianism: p. 63). Socrates urged his listeners not to accept inherited wisdom about anything: question everything, and live only according to principles you can justify rationally (p. 133). This chimes in well with the attitude the Buddha advocated, namely, not to believe or accept anything simply because he said it but to exercise our independent judgement so that it becomes our truth. The Skeptics also took aim at belief-systems: religion is a form of dogma (p.133). “The formative role of Skepticism in the creation of philosophical atheism cannot be overstated” (Ibid). Though not atheists, the Epicureans were strict naturalists: “When we die, our souls immediately dissolve, as the body will in time. There is, therefore, no afterlife. Death is nothing to us for that which is dissolved has no feelings” (p. 173). The gods live remote from our lives: we must take responsibility for the choices we make, and not blame some external factor (ibid). When Christianity became the state religion; when religion conjoined with imperial power, it marked the end of ancient atheism. Religion being one of the pillars of society, an attack on religion was now viewed as an attack on society and the state. Atheism, in Orwellian language, became a “thought crime”.

Turning from the West to the East, the classification of Buddhism is not uncontroversial. Since there is no creator god, nor the existence of a timeless soul, is Buddhism an atheistic religion? Or is it nontheistic, rather than atheistic? Are Buddhists believers or agnostics? – see the Buddha’s famous parable of the man wounded by a poisoned arrow. Be that as it may, given that the Buddha is reputed to have been born circa 563 BCE, his thinking was remarkably revolutionary, albeit that Buddhism has now been made into a form of henotheism, with the Buddha being at the head of the hierarchy. Hinduism too has its strand of atheism. For example, the Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas, deals with, inter alia, significant skepticism around the fundamental question of a creator God and the creation of the universe.

To conclude, the author states that it is not his aim to prove or disprove the validity of atheism: “I do, however, have a strong conviction […] that cultural and religious pluralism, and free debate, are indispensable to the good life”.

Addendum

As for polytheistic societies being tolerant, I quote (having got his permission) lines from a message written to me by Graham Fuller, author of A World Without Islam:

“I have been interested for some time in the Sri Lankan case. Despite my Christian upbringing, it is ultimately Buddhism which has contributed to my personal, most basic world and spiritual views today (although I don’t claim I am Buddhist as such.)  I had initially tended to think that Buddhists were of course something of an exception to the bloody links between religion and violence. Yet I discovered in later years that in Sri Lanka Buddhists too (not really surprisingly) still fall prey to the same human instincts…”

Mr. Ranjan Fernando in a paper presented in Sinhala to the Kandy Rationalist Association, October 2013, recounted the following incident. I thank Mr Fernando for sending me the English translation:

“A French nuclear physicist who had become a monk told me that when he came to Sri Lanka in July 1983, he was shocked by the annihilation of Tamils. ‘Once in Colombo I saw a gang led by a well-known priest attacking the Tamils. I left your country thinking that this is not the Buddhist country I wanted to visit.’”

During the riots between Hindu and Moslem (Sikhs too) that accompanied the ‘Partition’ of India, it is thought that as many as two million were killed, often in a horrible, revolting, manner. About 14 million were displaced, making it “the largest forced migration in human history”. As always, it’s not religious teaching in itself but our interpretation and, of the utmost importance, our expression of it. As Gandhi said, the essence of religion does not lie in the label (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim etc.); not in vehement protestation but in the actual practising of morality.

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  • 1
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    “…..As Gandhi said, the essence of religion does not lie in the label (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim etc.); not in vehement protestation but in the actual practising of morality.”

    Charlie,

    The essence of religion, or for that matter of atheism, lies nowhere because there are no essences. In any case no one says it is in any label.

    However f you like essences, the “essences” of religion lie in the numberless practices – the erotic, the animal sacrificing, the ascetic, the hedonistic , the bribing, the abjectly servile, iconoclastic, idol worshipping etc., etc. –
    of those who call themselves by religions of various names.

    Xenophanes, whom you refer to, remarked how the gods of Homer and Hesiod did things that are a shame and disgrace among mortals – stealings, and adulteries and deceivings of one another. To make a necessary connection between between morality and religion is to betray the thrall of evangelical christianity over many english “educated” sub continentals.

    Unless you mean by morality everything humans do with one another.

    2. The nuclear physicist your friend quotes had of course taken leave from his discipline and deserved his lesson for his trip into essences, something the Buddha warned against.

    3. Xenophanes also said that the Ethiopians make their gods black and snub nosed and the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red hair – something to remember when next time we look up at the images in our homes and temples of a god from the middle east. Another instance perhaps of value-addition by the middleman.

  • 4
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    The Greeks with their polytheism, never practiced caste-system, like the Hindus. They might have had slaves, but the salves were by-products of wars, and not bound to slavery like the Hindu dogma. That is the shameful difference between the Greeks and the Hindus.

    Buddhism, unlike Greek philosophy and atheism, acknowledges worlds of the unseen, even if these worlds are connect to the mind. Once craving comes into being, multitudes of worlds become possibilities.
    Sinhala Theravada Buddhism is therefore non-theistic and not atheistic, and places some value upon scientific enquiry (ancient and modern…on whatever system humans invented to understand and test the wider world), for understanding Karma and Samsara.

    At the time of the Greeks, there were no conflicting religions. Hence religion was a non-issue when wars were fought.

    In Sri Lanka, in the absence of rational understanding of distressed conditions after colonization, and the inability to form solutions, a small percentage of Buddhist priests stuck out like sore thumbs (with the yellow robes), inciting violence against Tamils – Tamils whose caste system gave rise to high ones attempting to influence financial and political outcomes, and multitudes of low ones taking up the spaces where disadvantaged Sinhala masses (due to colonialism), suffered even worser.

    • 5
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      Reply ramona

      ramona therese fernando submits that Tamil Hindus have this caste system but the Sinhala Theravada Buddhists do not have this and this is the shameful difference.

      Trying to put down Tamils (albeit stupidly) is her obsession and she seems to have attained enlightenment in a state of denial.

      • 1
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        K.Pillai ,.

        Some caste-system was naturally learned from our closest neighbours, the Hindus.

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          What I am saddened by is how even some sects of Monkhood have this caste based system. For example Siam Nikaya, if I am not mistaken only admits Govigama people. That is totally anathema to Buddhist teachings. Siam Nikaya may have come from Thailand in the days of Royal sponsorship; I do not know but if they still restrict people on basis of what apparent sub group you are born into, then it subverts his teachings.

          • 0
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            It’s a temporary thing, based on what the Hindus brought down to us, and became more entrenched after colonists took over Govigama lands for colonial tea and rubber estates. Time to change things to pure Theravada Buddhism.

            • 0
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              Mano Ratwatte pointed out “……Siam Nikaya, if I am not mistaken only admits Govigama people.”

              For which the learned (or is it mis-learned?)ramona comes up with the puerile excuse “………. based on what the Hindus brought down to us,……….”

              She goes on to say that “it is a temporary thing”. Temporary for last 2500 years? And how much longer?

              Come on ramona – do not let down Buddhism.

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                “On the initiative of Ven. Weliwita Saranankara (1698–1778) the Thai monk Upali visited the Kingdom of Kandy in 1753 during the reign of Kirti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy (1747–1782), and there performed upasampada for a group of Kandyans. ” (Siam Nikaya, Wikipedia).

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siam_Nikaya

                And Kirti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy (1747–1782), was Nayaka king who came from Hindu India.

  • 5
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    Najjaja wasalohothi, Najjaja hothi brahmano.
    Kammana wasalohothi, Kammana hothi brahmano which translates into

    No one is born superior to another and no one is born is born inferior. it is only our actions that make us superior or inferior beings. It is revolutionary because Hinduism is steeped in caste and Brahmins are supposed to be top of the ladder. So when the Buddha(a human being) said those words they caused a revolution.

    He also said we are responsible for our actions and the consequences of our actions.

    Clearly, there are strong links between Hinduism and Buddhism in terms of accepting Karma just the way “god” or “gods” are used in theistic faiths.

    Very interesting article. One may classify Buddhism as per teachings is a way of life and a non-theistic theology. Anyone of any theistic faith can adapt and practice the teachings. But in reality very few people are probably practicing Buddhists.

    Also in the Western world, sometimes people try to smear people for being atheists or agnostics. I find it frightening to see people kill in the name of gods or deities and acting as they are self appointed guardings of a faith system X , Y or Z. That is why I feel BBS are also a cultural racist phenomenon in Sri Lanka and not a Buddhist group. Same with ISIS who by the way have committed far more heinous crimes around the world in name of their deity including killing far more muslims than anyone else in the 21st century(Saddam perhaps when he went to war with Iran and also killed thousands within his secular nation; so Saddam was a secular tyrant in a sense).

    “Let children learn about different faiths, let them notice their incompatibility, and let them draw their own conclusions about the consequences of that incompatibility. As for whether they are ‘valid,’ let them make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.”
    ― Richard Dawkins

    “Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.”

    • 5
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      “”“Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.” “”

      yes yes ayn rand for the new nibbana.

      The bounce is back.

      Donald Trump comes out of his convention ahead of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, topping her 44% to 39% in a four-way matchup including Gary Johnson (9%) and Jill Stein (3%) and by three points in a two-way head-to-head, 48% to 45%. That latter finding represents a 6-point convention bounce for Trump, which are traditionally measured in two-way matchups.

      Cleveland, Ohio (CNN)Donald Trump would use the power of the federal government to “change labor laws” to ensure companies pay women and men equally, and he would pursue universal childcare policies if elected president, according to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who spoke Thursday at the Republican National Convention.

      Who said it: Ivanka Trump or Hillary Clinton?

      “Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career,” Ivanka Trump said before introducing her father on the convention stage. “He will fight for equal pay for equal work and I will fight for this, too, right alongside of him.”
      The promises made by Trump’s eldest daughter on the gender equality issue reflect a departure from traditional federal labor policies emphasized by Republican leaders. If true, it would put her father’s agenda closer to that of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, than others in his party.
      ‘Focus on making quality childcare affordable’
      Ivanka Trump: “As president, my father will change the labor laws … and he will focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessible for all.”
      ‘Make it easier to pay for childcare’
      Hillary Clinton: “I will do everything I can to make it easier to pay for childcare.”
      ‘… fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave’
      Hillary Clinton: “If fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman’s card, then deal me in.”
      ‘American families need relief’
      Ivanka Trump: “As a mother myself of three young children, I know how hard it is to raise a family and I know that I am far more fortunate than most. American families need relief. Policies that allow women to thrive should not be novelties, they should be the norm.”
      ‘Women are paid equally for the work’
      Ivanka Trump: “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.”
      ‘In 2014, women made 83 cents for every dollar earned by a man’
      Ivanka Trump: “In 2014, women made 83 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Single women without children earned 94 cents for every dollar earned by a man, whereas married mothers made only 77 cents. As researchers have noted, gender is no longer creating the greatest wage discrepancy in this country, motherhood is.”……
      http://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/22/politics/ivanka-trump-hillary-clinton-women/index.html?iid=ob_lockedrail_bottomlist

      • 0
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        Not sure if this was the gist of this article here on religion. It was about religions that Mr. Sarvan speaks.

        • 4
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          pity you then what is ayn rand ???

  • 5
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    Mr. Sarvan, in 1984 after Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard Beant Singh in revenge for the disastrous BlueStar operation in Amritsar.(October 31, 1984). Those were Hindu Congress I gangs massacred thousands of Sikhs. It was terrible. This barbaric savagery was as terrible as the targeted pogrom against Tamils againt by Govt sponsored goons during Black July 1983. Sikhs and Hindu Punjabis both speak the same language but it did not matter. Any and all Sikhs were targeted for State sponsored Hindu murderers like how the ambush of a military patrol led to the subsequent massacre of innocent people in Colombo and suburbs by Govt controlled gangs.

    As in Sri Lanka, after the 1983 massacre the LTTE consisting of Hindu and Christian combatants massacred so many Sinhalese and Muslims. In India after the Khalistan movement took hold of Punjab State, many Hindus were also targeted and massacred in many incidents. There were two train massacres in the city I lived in where Khalistani terrorists like LTTE terrorists pulled out Hindus and massacred over 120 people in two incidents in 1988. From 1986 during the Khalistan movement, so many Hindu families were targeted and massacred.

    In Bagalpur Bihar in 1989, over a 1000 Muslims were massacred by Hindus simply on rumors spread just like in Sri Lanka in 1983.

    In Kashmir, Muslim terrorists engaged in ethnic cleansing of Pandit Hindu Kashimiris. In the 1990s nearly 200,000 Kashmiri Hindus were forced to abandon their farmlands.

    Then look at the Hindu massacre of Muslims after the Ayodhya incident.

    Truly Black July was Sri Lanka’s Kristallnacht multiplied by a thousand times. Same in New Delhi, Haryana State etc when tens of thousands of Sikhs were raped, burnt alive and their houses razed and looted by Hindu gangs. So humans have an amazing Gene in their system I guess to transform from a temple going pious person to a raging killing machine the next day. Look at ISIS.

    So perhaps as Karl Marx said “religion is the opium of masses”. But then you look at that evil monster named Pol Pot and the class envious deranged Khmer Rouge or Stalin or Mao. So I think basically Humans have two trigger DNA strands . The good guy trigger DNA which works day in and day out and that latent bad guy trigger that kicks in and people because such savage tribal animals who kill for the sake of killing. Other Mammals kill to eat but we kill just because. I think all religions have failed people. Look at ISIS.

    • 6
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      “” Those were Hindu Congress I gangs massacred thousands of Sikhs. It was terrible. “”

      lapiti old goat.
      hello kandian govi- gamma, insomnia,

      those very hindus have a caring side which is lankawe sinhala buddhist give bamme anathema.

      Dr Manmohan Singh, Sikhs became one of the greatest PM’s – economist and his legacy Dr R.R. (1/2 Trillion Foreign exchange reserves all incl.)

      • 1
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        What I am saddened by is how even some sects of Monkhood have this caste based system. For example Siam Nikaya, if I am not mistaken only admits Govigama people. That is totally anathema to Buddhist teachings. Siam Nikaya may have come from Thailand in the days of Royal sponsorship; I do not know but if they still restrict people on basis of what apparent sub group you are born into, then it subverts his teachings.

        • 0
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          The Thais have never been ruled by any foreign power so their buddhism is still held with regard. Above all they have a monarchy like england unlike lankawe plantation workers.
          the monks is an attribute the aunty weeping widow` revved in `radala`
          from `banda island` It seems they did not like you being the diyawadana nilame??

          ban the stupid thing buddha God, that espouses emotions, blood and gore.

          There are many teachings and many subjects to study and the minority group of study is better for peace the rest is `pure politics of exploitation, murder at will.
          America is in a spin because of religion.

      • 1
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        Hey Nalin (Sabha lane?) I do not disagree with you. First, that second quote is also from Richard Dawkins and not from Ayn Rand. Also there is a whole stanza by the Buddha which also argues for rational thought based on evidence and facts. That is why this “auspicious time” stuff is also nonsense in my view. Buddha said an auspicious time is a time that is most suited for us to carry out our tasks and not based on some blooming planetary line ups.

        Yes Dr. Manmohan Singh was an incredible guy. This article by Dr. S was not about that. He was a US trained economist and a very good PM. Not sure your name calling and insults are based on any religion but I can talk about that too. Sadly for example when Laxman Kadirgamar was considered for PM ship by CBK it was some sections of the SLFP that objected to it. Terrorists killed him too. Sorry if I irked you but this article by Dr. S was about religion. In my view Religion has failed those they claim to guide by not speaking out when they had a chance to stop violence in SL or India. If only SL had some brilliant smart EDUCATED people like Manmohan instead of opportunistic and expedient politicians it would not have had so much war and hatred. MS got his PhD at Cambridge. Too bad he was in the Cong I.

        Not sure why Trump was in this discussion. If you are Sabha lane Nalin then you know reality is he is generating so much dislike of immigrants all darkies like us will not be viewed nicely either no matter who deferential we become. He is bombastic engaging in insults of even disabled people and talking totally opposite to free trade Republican philosophies. What are the demographics of those voting for him? Angry lower educated white males. This is their last chance to “take america back” in their view.

        . I am sure he will win because the candidate running against him is lousy and not been honest with the american people too. I am voting for Gary Johnson. Try to keep it civil but as you know, I believe in what Voltaire said “I do not agree with what you say but defend to my death your RIGHT to say it”.

        I do not believe in any crappy caste. I am who I am based on what I do and only my actions decide that and not because I was born into some effing intangible thing. I enjoy your insults. My students knew that about me. They love me. That is the love I need.

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          “Hey Nalin (Sabha lane?) I do not disagree with you. First, that second quote is also from Richard Dawkins and not from Ayn Rand. “”

          Don’t brand me as i do not have your lankan dna or left baggage. I never lived in lanes.Conservatives are more or less Ayn Rand objectivist ( i read them all at campus) unlike SirMao Ratwwate leftist that needs others wealth to plunder and run the island- nationalisation. Do still see lefties/ publishers reviewing these books of her philosophy which are turning out to be real- Murdoch, Bill Mark etc.

          You will never let a tamil be president unlike India- singh after the slaughter or Rao or any southern state. yours is the culture of the plantation settler and even america has permitted a black. your 2500 is a lie to yourself and westerners who cant be bothered about culture or history of others because they are not sure of theirs either.

          “”Sadly for example when Laxman Kadirgamar was considered for PM ship by CBK”
          I knew LK and there was nothing like that but as a sacrificial goat` the same style Vijaya went into Samsara. SirMao and daughter both have blood in their hands of sinhalese tamils and humans in general- goes without doubt- Video Woman. So are you working on her extended Viper cord??

          ” MS got his PhD at Cambridge.
          ” Most Indians prefered Cambridge and USA after independence.

          Trump is out to take America out of the Spin The rest is your personal issue a- colour, culture etc. When he pulls the money back/purse strings 800 billion all the hidden assets from WW2 comes to light.
          the crooked world becomes cannibal and once the meal is complete the island would reform. America stop funding the communist rot who are masquerading as democrats.
          Roosevelt was wheel chair bound so he could not smell untill 2 weeks before his death that Stalin, Mao . Then Reagan, Portugal, Spain, Lanka the fascist regimes.

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      Dear Mano Ratwatte,
      Please come out with the whole truth and not half truth. You say after the 1983 massacre, LTTE consisting of Hindu and Christian combatants massacred so many Sinhalese and Muslims. Nobody is denying this. You are conveniently hiding the truth about massacre of many more Tamils by Security forces mainly of Sinhalese, and Sinhala and Muslim home guards. Why are the Sinhalese trying to cover up this atrocity by refusing to accept and international inquiry. Still lands appropriated from Tamils by murder and ethnic cleansing by the security forces and home guards have not been returned back to Tamils who are languising in refugee camps in Srilanka and Tamil Nadu. Also the government is continuing the racist policy of changing demography of Northern and Eastern provinces. Do you deny that security forces entered hoiuses and shot dead Tamils and bombing and shelling of Tamil arears were committed by them as an act of revenge. Please impress upon Srilanka Government to return the power and lands that Tamils pocessed in the past and allow them to live in peace as first class citizens.

  • 3
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    “All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts. If a man speak or act with an evil thought, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the hoof of the beast that draws the wagon…. If a man speak or act with a good thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.”
    ― Gautama Buddha

    I am so grateful to my teacher Mrs. P Liyange for teaching us some real valuable lessons. To this date, I remember the lessons from the Dhammapada. I regret I could not thank her before she passed away.

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    Basically man is an animal or half animal. Religions tried to tame him by believe in an almight god and compassion and love towards fellow human beings. These efforts failed because man could not shake off the instincts of an animal. It is in his DNA. This is the reason no matter what a man’s religion or religious believes he attacks his religious opponents. Today, we find the Sunnis killing Shiites or vice a versa though both believe in the same Allah, same Muhammad and same Quran. The carnage taking place in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan etc is due to the killer instict in human beings. Buddhism is heavily influenced by Hinduism because Buddha himself is a Hindu by faith. Buddha who is a Ksathiriya by birth rose against the Brahmins who had a strangle hold on the society. Hence, Buddha’s assertion One is not a Brahmin nor a non-Brahmin by birth: by his conduct alone is he a Brahmin. Buddha also rejected the four Vedas sacred in Hinduism. However, being born a Hindu he too believed in karma and re-incarnation (re-birth) or transmigration depending on the accumulated karma both central to Buddhist theory. Karma as being the force behind the cycle of life and rebirth and it includes good deeds and bad deeds. Religious practices including praying, chanting, meditating, making offerings and going on pilgrimage are common to both religion. Where the two religions differ is in the believe of an almighty god or a creator. Buddhists don’t believe in an almighty god, and when Buddha was asked about god told them, “I have not come to teach about God but I have come to relieve human suffering.” Hence Buddha is called an Atheist! There is place for atheists in both Hinduism and Buddhism. In India Buddhism declined when Hinduism accepted Buddha as a reincarnation of Vishnu.

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    Prof. charles Savan:

    IF you are a strong meditator or at least you socialize with such strong meditator, you will find certain Scientifica theories are B. S., simply are either wrong or incomplete. Big bang, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory are two of those. by Saying I do not support creation theory or any such related theories. Those are crap.

    there is no creator. In that sense, Buddhists are agnostic. Most of the western theories are presented by Catholics and christians to support the creation theory.

    Stepahn Hawkings and many other modern theoretical physicists who presented theories not supporting big bang are accused to so called athiests.

    On the other hand, Rationalists are another group of stupid people who believe only in materialistic perspective of life.

  • 0
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    Jim Softly writes: “Rationalists are another group of stupid people who believe only in materialistic perspective of life.”

    Can an atheist be spiritual? I suppose it depends on one’s definition of “spiritual”. If it literally means a belief in spirits, ghosts etc, then an atheist can’t be spiritual but if by “spiritual” is meant things that are not material – love, some higher cause, the pursuit of thought and the Arts, making the world (however slightly) a better place; striving for social justice; the alleviation of pain etc – then atheists can be very spiritual indeed; perhaps, even more than some so-called believers. “Why must I be good, if there is no god?” And the answer could be: “Precisely because there is no god! It’s only us, human beings, and it is all up to us. We carry the burden and the responsibility.” I offer the above not to contest but only for consideration.

    If I may add, I deprecate the use of the word “stupid”: discussion can, and should be, conducted without resort to insult: hence the two quotations chosen by me as epigraphs. Personal insult, jeers and jibes are not helpful. Besides, in a cricketing country, one plays the ball [the argument] and not the player.

    Sarvan

  • 0
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    Knowledge of indus vally and ganges taken over by late migrants (?Ariyans). they formed the Vedas with cast, to keep them in the highest position and made it as religion. Disappointed suppressed people started to follow Buddhism and Jainism. Ancient knowledge was named as religion. If at present someone may have named theoretical physics!. Buddha not mentioned about aathma because simply he didn’t know. without knowing he believe in next birth. and he couldn’t explain it.

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