Religion 101: The Limits of Love… or Why the West needs Buddhism—and Islam

We all know what it’s like to be in love: that crush—of feelings and desires and… and… suffering, yes, suffering (we’re talking about passion, remember, as in the Passion of Christ OR the passion of hot steamy nights). There’s nothing like it in the world, absolutely nothing. It will make you do the craziest things or go to the craziest lengths, all for love, or the act thereof…

But is this something to base a religion upon? If I remember correctly (from last week or last month or last year) there were two (2) equally effective ways of dealing with love’s ‘crush’: acting on those desires directly or simply waiting for it to pass (time heals all things, remember, including random bouts of passion). It usually does. That was one of the rites of passage in ‘growing up’, after all, wasn’t it? You never really wanted to ‘die for it’, now, did you? That’s just an expression, you know…

Passion as a basis of religion is another matter. All sufferings of Christ aside, isn’t the willingness of various fundamentalist Islamic ‘jihadis‘ to die for their religion something we Westerners generally abhor and chastise them for, accusing them of all sorts of perversions and misinterpretations of divine intent? Yet it was Jesus, only one of Islam’s many prophets, who clearly saw such actions as appropriate. Muhammad (Mohammed, Mehmed, etc.) didn’t die for anyone’s sins, after all.

It’s funny (not so funny, really) how the West abhors the actions of ISIL above all else, while simultaneously playing right into their hands. They never simply execute a prisoner, for example, something the US does routinely, they always behead him, a fact always noted in the foreign press, the better to gross you out with. They must have studied in France. The Western predilection for dictating terms to other lesser cultures (hear me out) is at best misplaced, at worst criminal, especially when all they’re really guilty of is beating us at our own game.

I didn’t grow up learning the words to “Onward Muslim Jihadis”, for example; it was “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Westerners went to the Mideast and founded Crusader states, remember, not vice-versa, and in the process we reinvigorated our own culture; go figure. What goes around, etc. History is all about ethnic cleansing. Religion at its worst is still generally better than that. We were the barbarians in the year 1000. All world cultures were more or less equal in 1492, I figure.

Since then it’s been a Western-dominated world that has brought us to the brink of species-extinction in 2015, victims of our own success. The future is unimaginable, simply because few have yet imagined it. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be driving Pontiacs down eight-lane freeways through cities of concrete and steel skyscrapers for much more than about another hundred years. So what will we be doing? I doubt we’ll be flying around with jet-packs, either. But it doesn’t have to be ugly. Cities full of pedestrians and bicycles don’t sound too bad to me, but I doubt the bankers will like that.

The West offers only “God’s love” to soften the effects of unbridled capitalism, that and a bottle of Jack and a little strange on the side. I think we can do better than that. ‘Buddhist wisdom’ may be something of a cliché’ but not a bad one in this day and age of mindless hyper-consumption. There are worse things in this world than getting all philosophical a little bit too often.

Yet Buddhism is easily criticized for being too passive, and not unjustly so. Then there’s the Asian obsession with ‘saving face’, not their brightest moment, I reckon, and easily mistaken for Buddhism. Score one for Christian redemption. Still philosophy may have come too little and too late to save us. For that it may take a little more determination, a little more will, a little more je ne sais quoi...

It’s funny (not so funny, really) that the two great scourges of our age—godless Communism and god-awful Islamic fundamentalism—are so opposite in their philosophies while being so similar in their totalitarian methods. It’s even funnier (almost) that it may take the two of them together to save the rest of us from the consumptive excesses of our own precious freedoms. Life’s weird.