Friday, November 09, 2007

Religion cannot be divorced from politics, society or culture

I find this letter to be rather amusing. The religious persuasion to which the write subscribes is self-evident. I never knew that the Chinese character for boat (chuan2) is related to the story of Noah's ark, which any sensible person knows is, at best, allegorical.

The religious nutjobs you find in Singapore...

Religion cannot be divorced from politics, society or culture

MR JANADAS Devan in his article, 'What place religion in a secular society?' (ST, Nov 9), rightly pointed out the relevance of Matteo Ricci in today's Singapore society.

Our Government, though a secular government, has Cabinet ministers who are Buddhists, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus and freethinkers. Religion cannot be divorced from politics, society or culture though it may transcend ethnic groups.

CCTV has always referred to Hezbollah (literally Allah's Party) or Party of God as 'zhen1 zhu3 dang3' as this was a political party which emerged in Lebanon in the early 1980s and became the region's leading radical Islamic movement, determined to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon. Chinese Christians refer to God as 'shang4 di4' (literally the Supreme Being). The Chinese word for ship is 'chuan2' and as a pictorial language the word is composed of a boat and eight mouths. This is due to the fact that during Noah's time only eight souls were saved when he built the ark (Genesis 6:14).

The early English Christian missionary Hudson Taylor spent 51 years in China and established the China Inland Mission which sent 968 missionaries to China by 1911. One day, a man asked Taylor to explain why he had buttons on the back of his coat. Taylor realised that his Western-style dress was distracting his listeners from his message. He then decided to dress like a Mandarin, a Chinese teacher. He was amazed at how dressing Chinese allowed him to travel more freely and be accepted more readily by the people. Taylor's goal was not to have the Chinese become like English Christians, but to have them become Chinese Christians.

The Chinese refer to the Italian Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) as 'Li4 Ma3 dou4'. Ricci could speak Chinese as well as read and write classical Chinese (wen2 yan2). He appreciated the indigenous culture of the Chinese. He found that Chinese culture was intertwined with Confucian values and therefore decided that Christianity had to be changed to fit Chinese culture in order to be attractive to the Chinese. He called himself a 'Western Confucian' and the credibility of Confucius helped to make Christianity take root in China.

Religion basically teaches peace, love, harmony and accommodation but the radicals and the extremists have turned it into a militant movement to serve their own ends.

Heng Cho Choon


YCK said...

He must have read this book.

I think it is very important to some believers to use the Bible as a unified way of understanding the entire world. This is part of subsuming Chinese genealogies and history as part of the record in the Bible.

Following James Ussher's calculation Noah would be a contemprary of one of the legendary Chinese emperors.

It certainly ignores what a Chinese scholar of the Han dynasty thought is the way the Chinese language came about.

It has spread over to Chinese linguisitics, humanities in general and for some even to geology, biology and other branches of natural sciences. There must be a place to draw a line before religion misinforms these human endeavours.

If I remember correctly according to the book, Kang was based in Singapore and I was pointed to the text by a Singapore Christian friend. He certainly has quite a following among this group.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

In Darwin's Cathedral David Sloan Wilson wrote about the distinction between "factual" realism, which is based on literal correspondence with reality (the real world) and "practical" realism based on behaviour adaptiveness (a world of social consensus).

A myth such as the global flood is categorically false as factual truth, but in this spectacular example, readily accepted as practical truth. This is possible because of the real material wealth and power of the congregation, that can deeply entrench absurd beliefs using social dynamics such as mutual affirmation and availability bias.

At the end, people in huge, powerful religious groups can create their own reality by social prowess alone. The rest of us is just dust in the wind.

Fox said...

Hi Leng Hiong,

I happen to be one of the people who subscribe to the factual truth. I have no use for the 'practical truth' other than its utility as a fact about people's beliefs.