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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 77)...

    A Zen Buddhist friend can't see why in THE STORY OF B you've lumped Buddhism in with "the others." As she says, our teacher would say," If you have a question, go ask a tree." It's true that Buddhism and the other major world religions are involved in attempts at ecumenicalism, but I'm not sure that this counts for much. I suspect that Jews and Buddhists are only involved in ecumenism because they're afraid of being swallowed up whole by Christianity in particular and maybe Islam too. What do you think?

    ...and the response:

    None of them likes to be "lumped with the others" or as one Buddhist put it "tarred with the same brush." They can ALL find saving graces (as your friend did) that should exempt them from being "lumped with the others." Ask them, and they'll all produce the requisite sample quotes. The fact remains, however, that they're all products of the same culture and all view humans as the very "subject" of religion, innately flawed, doomed to suffering and misery, and in need of salvation (whether it be eternal life in heaven or release from the cycle of death and rebirth). Together, they function as our culture's harem of scolding wives: always moaning about their greedy and materialistic husband, always trying to get him to lift his eyes to higher, nobler things.

    Ecumenism among our culture's religions is not about reducing competition among themselves but rather about standing shoulder to shoulder against the common foe---modern skepticism and contempt. They would like to be perceived as no longer squabbling among themselves over petty differences but as together representative of some great, undeniable fundamental truth that the common foe MUST respect. These cultural siblings would smile on my work if I was willing to introduce animism into their company as a sort of retarded little brother, but they're certainly going to object strenuously to my identifying it as humanity's ancient, mighty mainstream and relegating them to a ver recently-formed (and now stagnant) backwater. Luckily I don't need (or even want) them to smile on my work.


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