Buddhism Final Reflection 2020

I’ve been drawn to Buddhism since I first encountered it in undergraduate school. I was truly hooked when I read Matthieu Ricard’s book, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. It was a transformative moment for me, which served not only to give me a deeper respect for Buddhism, but also lead me out of a bout of serious depression. Although my affinity for, and desire to learn about Buddhism is great, I have not done formal study beyond reading a book here and there and attending infrequent Dharma talks. Some of the dharma talks included a semi-regular sitting with my family at a Los Angeles Buddhist center as well as a sitting with the well-respected teacher Kusala Bhikshu. A consistent meditation practice is also something I have desired for years but still remains suspended in the planning stages.

The Curious Relation of Judaism and Unitarian Universalism: An Investigation

In attempting to construct a thesis explaining the relation of modern Jews and Judaism to Unitarian Universalism (UU), I was flummoxed. On the one hand, UU originated from two religions of Christian origin, one appearing in the sixteenth century, evolving out of the Protestant Reformation and the other in the eighteenth century, an indirect product of Enlightenment thought. On the other hand, Judaism is over 3000 years old. It is a pre-Christ, orally transmitted, interpreted set of commandments, interspersed with mythology and dogma that is as much an ethnic identity as it is a religion. Yet today, despite the seeming disparities and incompatibilities, Judaism and Unitarian Universalism tread much common ground and there are individual Jews who find themselves more comfortable in a Unitarian Universalist congregation than a Jewish synagogue, including myself. In order to undertake the task of formulating and supporting a thesis that explains this, it is reasonable to start with an investigation – proposing questions and exploring answers. This paper will begin such an investigation by asking and answering two questions and formulating a preliminary thesis.

Mining Common Ground: Propagating Humanism Through Concord

In an interview about his book, The God Argument, the humanist philosopher, A.C. Grayling is asked by a fellow atheist, Sam Harris, about the proposition that atheism is just as dogmatic as religious fundamentalism. He gives the following response.
"There are two components to the answer: One needs to explain what “dogma” means, viz. a teaching to be accepted on authority not enquiry, and one needs to explain that robust opposition to religion in its too-common forms of bigotry, anti-science, anti-LGBT, anti-women, to say nothing of terrorism (and to ‘moderate’ religion as the burka for all this, as you point out), is justified, and cannot be effected [sic] by compromise and soft-speaking. Slavery would never have been abolished by such means."

Pro-life Tactics: An Ethical Reinterpretation of New Testament Teaching

“I can’t vote for Hillary because she kills babies.”
This was the response I received from a highly intelligent, compassionate Christian when asked about their voting intentions for the 2016 United States presidential election. The statement, of course, is not factually true. However, as a self-identified “pro-life” voter, it was their powerfully-held conviction. It was their truth, motivated and informed by their faith. This person believed vis-à-vis the bible, that abortion is murder and, as a Christian, murder cannot be condoned under any circumstances. They were informed by an eisegesis of scripture that has been carefully crafted over time, acquiring a convincing verisimilitude, especially compelling to many compassionate people of strong Christian faith.

The Equivalent of Religious Experience for the “None”

What is religious experience? Is it sui generis? Or is it an aspect of other kinds of experience? In order to answer this question, it is first necessary to accept some facts. The meaning of the word “religion” and its associated lexicon are immoderately subject to interpretation and influenced by perspective and bias. It is an English phrase of Latin origin and, when translated across languages and through the agency of multiple cultures results in significant semantic variances. The manifestations and forms of and catalysts for what is understood by many as “religious experience” are varied and possibly infinite. The Western concept of “religious experience” is subjective, unique to the individual experiencing it. What is considered “religious” is widely understood, in my experience, as inextricably connected to a belief in the supernatural as elucidated through a doctrinal lens. This definition would not apply to nonbelievers, those who are not disciples or adherents to any denomination or creed.