Friday, 19 October 2012

# 10: "..My brain and my heart are my temples. My Philosophy is kindness.." - Dalai Lama

 My Sermon from the Garden...

So, About Religion....

While I can accept that the human brain seems to be wired to develop and practice a system of spiritual belief and I respect the choices of those who wish to practice their own chosen religion, I find it increasingly difficult to accept or respect the role that religious organisations play in our world and the influence they, collectively, wield.
   Within 1km of my little cabin, on a road running along the Sangkae River, between all the bamboo and corrugated iron, one room shanties that have no running water, no electricity, usually no windows at all, definitely no glass, and absolutely no protection from the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever, I've seen a Mosque, a Buddhist Pagoda..or 10, a 'magnificent' Catholic Church complex and today I took a different route home from town and spotted a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall.

The front fence/wall..

 The Catholic Church is a 
whole complex of buildings, 

pavilions, class rooms and tree lined paths, built on several acres of beautiful, lush gardens.

There's the obligatory Bell Tower..

and then, of course, there's this priestly abode..

with it's impressive 'backyard...

           Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall

It offends me that every one of these religious organisations, with their access to extraordinary wealth, is allowed to feed off the ignorance and poverty of people like the Khmer, in search of new souls to convert.

I'm beginning to think they should only be allowed to enter an underdeveloped country to do charitable work, and that it should be done incognito. If they really do believe what they preach, they don't need to advertise their presence, they don't need to build monuments to their own vanity, they don't need to 'save the souls' of these people before they've addressed the needs of their bodies, they just need to offer help when and where it's needed.

At present, over 60% of the Khmer population are under 20 yrs of age !
As a rule, they are not well educated and are, therefore, extremely vulnerable to the proselytizing of religious "missionaries".

In an interview aired on a Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) program called "Where God Weeps", Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Vicar Apostolic of Phnom Penh made the following statement:

"..We start with the youth. The youth are very effective missionaries: 
Because my friend goes to church, I too would like to go to church, even if I do not understand what the church is about'¹...I think in Cambodia, during the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign of terror under Pol Pot, everything was destroyed - culture and all forms of religion including Buddhism² and Catholicism. Then under the 10 yrs of post-Khmer Rouge, Vietnamese occupation, again no form of religion was permitted.
 Over the past 20 years, the Cambodians have started rebuilding their traditions as well as their religious practices and now, I think, the people are more open than before. This is very beneficial, especially for the Catholic Church³.
The people have accepted us very well because we have a kindergarten..."

 ¹ After all, who needs to understand when Blind Faith is what we're really asking you for...

 ² Now, clearly Buddhism was not destroyed, there are Pagodas and monks everywhere you look, there are shrines in every home - even in the poorest shanties and the Khmer still follow their traditions with a fervour the catholic Church must truly envy!

 ³ If by "open" you mean "impressionable", then yes, they are and that's what worries me. Of course this is beneficial for the C.Church, they are after all, the authority on 'virgin' soil...

- and yes, if you bribe the poor by providing a kindergarten for the children of your new parishioners, they will come to you. If you tell them that their Naraka is false and that a wonderful place called 'Heaven' awaits but only IF if they get baptised AND have their children christened AND attend Sunday Services, they'll do that too.

In my 'humble' opinion, what the Khmer need more than anything else is education. Let them decide their own beliefs once they have some solid knowledge upon which to base those beliefs.

If your particular version of religion is everything you claim it to be, there should be no need for bribery or cajoling or coercion, the people will come to you because you speak to their own beliefs...


  1. Kingdom Hall Ca$h Cows

    Jehovah's Witnesses Church (Kingdom Hall) construction is not a direct sign of growth.In the US they build 3 churches a week and SELL 3 a week often to other religions.The wealthy Watchtower society is in the real-estate construction game as a sideline.
    Jehovah's Witnesses go door to door with a false Gospel (Gal.1:8) they teach Jesus 'return' or his 'invisible' second coming October 1914 (98 years ago this month).
    I myself did this JW proselytizing for 33 years before I left the cult.
    --Danny Haszard

    1. It is a little disturbing when you see them in their crisp, white shirts, visiting the shanties. They can't knock on doors...often these homes only have a curtain, so the people can't ignore them (or pretend there's no one home...) and they're too polite to say they're not interested.

  2. Another very well written post. It is one of the things that has always bothered me about religious organisations in developing countries. To take advantage of the uneducated and poor and justify it with "charitable works" has always seemed distinctly non religious to me.
    The quote by the bishop is such an infuriating indication of the mindset of such religious organisations mostly because he seems to be totally oblivious to just how undignified, uncharitable and unjustifiable his words make the presence of his church seem.
    The ridiculous displays of wealth exhibited by church groups is also completely infuriating.
    All of these things are reasons why Tara's work and yours is so important. More needs to be done to teach these people to really think for themselves. To not be so vulnerable to those who attempt to use their circumstances to enhance their own agendas.

    1. Well said Baby girl! It isn't the Khmer way to argue with a person they see as an authority figure, so they will accept what these smooth talking preachers tell them, at face value.
      I find it so infuriating that the major religions seem to have no respect for the culture or beliefs of anyone who practices a different faith to there own.
      btw, I Love You xxx

  3. xo ma. Its interesting - Ill bet it is way harder to deal with it in person than to simply read about developing countries being taken advantage of by such unscrupulous organisations.

    Thanks for overcoming the sensitivities around writing on this stuff.

  4. mwa.. you can't come here, have a soul, a brain and a heart and not notice the machinations of the churches. Some of the nuns are here to genuinely do what they can for the 'poor and needy', but the church hierarchies need a good BITCH SLAP !!

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  6. [edited]

    I actually think there may be unique opportunity in developing countries through teaching ethics and philosophy and through generally encouraging critical thought. No doubt this is why such programs are funded.

    With such educational precepts, we might see a culture evolve which is friendly to the notion of religious belief being allowed, as well as being far more accommodating toward the criticism of religious belief than is so in any other developed or developing country so far.

    Sam Harris has said
    " one is ever faulted in our culture for not respecting another person’s beliefs about mathematics or history. When people have reasons for what they believe, we
    consider those reasons, and when they are good, we find ourselves believing likewise. When they have no reasons, or bad ones, we dismiss their beliefs as a symptom of ignorance, delusion, or stupidity. Except on matters of religion."
    and he is dead right. We cannot comfortably question religious belief in Australia, because of the false status we afford it (which I have ranted about before) however, through these well placed educational programs, perhaps the Khmer will in time enjoy a more rounded culture than our own in this respect.

    Similarly, Christopher Hitchens succinctly wrote, "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." and again, through teaching critical questioning and thought, we might be enabling cultures to move in leaps and bounds toward a culture where more people can weigh up the evidence and feel free to dismiss superstition

    1. Exactly what I think Dear One! My, but haven't I raised a pack of little atheists...
      The Khmae are such a beautiful people it would be magnificent to see them blossom into a tradition of true critical thought. It's hard to imagine being a critical thinker and still accepting any religious doctrine, even Buddhism, which does promote Naraka as a fact and the need to appease the suffering souls of one's ancestors even if one can't support the still-living members of one's family..
      Without doubt, Buddhism does teach valuable lessons in being a contented, loving Being, of being the best person you can be, of respecting all life and of helping anyone, anywhere you can. Sadly though, whether taken out of context or not, it also encourages the desperately poor to accept their lot in the completely unproven belief that we all have many lives and as long as you are as good as you can be this time around, your next life will be better and that belief, in turn, causes them to accept whatever their leaders (or monks or priests or educated westerners)tell them.

  7. Haha mum "a pack of little atheists". You crack me up! But I find it interesting that before there was a label attached to the teaching of it, ethics and philosophy is the doctrine on which we were raised. There is value in all religions but as I think I've told you before, I find if you put the religious texts and "How to win friends and influence people" side by side, they make many similar points. In my humble view, religion often puts into words what we we all instinctively know, thereby giving validity to our own inner beliefs.
    We were raised to trust our own opinions and instincts because we were taught to have educated and well thought out arguments to support our own ideas. You have been teaching us the ethics and philosophy curriculum from birth! That should give you some confidence in your ability to teach your current students. xxxxx

    1. Aaaaw baby girl, you made yo mama cry... I NEED YOU BOTH RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW !!!

  8. That is so sweet of you to say to your Ma, Jassie - and 100% right-on too!
    I have just read through your's and Jay's Comments and can't help but see the connection in your wonderful upbringing and the well-thought-out intelligence and commonsense you both display - you guys are an absolute credit to your gorgeous Mumma Bear, whom you know I love to bits too.

    Wow, Di! What a mission (pardon the pun!!) you have ahead of you, but as these guys have said, it is a fabulous thing that there is a CCT and other organisations like it around the Globe to try and combat the infiltration of the religious sects and bring about independency of thoughts, belief and speech.

    It made my blood boil to read what that crook Bishop dribbled on about - Blind Faith for sure. So sad, but it makes your Organisation's work all the more valuable.

    And nevermind with the Atheists tag - in line with all things philosophical and ethical, you have certainly done an amazing job of teaching your own children HOW to think, not WHAT to think - hats off to you :)

    Thanks again for this latest Post, take care and much love
    ♥ Shell

    1. Aww Shell, your such a sweetheart. xxx. It warms my heart that ma has such wonderful and supportive people as your good self surrounding her.

  9. Daughter-in-Heart, you just brought more tears to Old Mumma Bears eyes..
    I don't know that I really deserve such beautiful praise, even though I seem to have raised extraordinary children. I was so young when I had Jas & Jay that we more or less grew up together - they taught me as much as I taught them, but I must say it does this old soul good to hear it.. Thankyou