Over the last year I’ve written several articles and a book chapter trying to demonstrate the moral ambiguity of spiritual practices like yoga and meditation. In other words, I’ve argued that these practices won’t lead one to be aware of or challenge the injustices in their surrounding culture. They are ethically and politically neutral. Furthermore, the increased presence, clarity and focus gained from these practices can and has been used to support war, killing and racial hierarchies. In response to my recent article “Why the Dalai Lama is Wrong to Think Meditation Will Eliminate Violence,” my writing colleague Matthew Remski (see the new book 21st Century Yoga) challenged my assertions.
This quote by the Dalai Lama is going viral on the internet, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Marianne Williamson shared this quote via her Facebook account and it received a tremendous reception. Google the quote and you will find tens of thousands of web sites, Facebook pages and twitter feeds where it has appeared. Needless to say, the enthusiasm over the Dalai Lama’s statement is profound. It has struck a cord for sure.
I’ll be leading a 3-week online course beginning June, 19th that explores the theological and intellectual influences of Dr. King. We’ll look at how he interpreted the Christian doctrines, his experience in seminary and higher education, the role of the African-American Christian religious experience in his life and some of the key ideas and people that shaped his thinking. See www.radicalking.com for more information. Do you remember the news story in September of 2010 about President Obama and a misquoted phrase on his new Oval office rug? The rug contained a popular line that Dr. King used frequently.
Natalie Reed, an atheist who is transgender has a new article called “God Does Not Love Trans People” over at Free Thought Blogs. It’s a very long post and raises numerous issues, many of which I simply can’t address for the sake of brevity. However, I do want to spend some time on her main assertion: transgender people should not believe in God or participate in religion because these are both harmful and dangerous and they enable the transphobic oppressive religious institutions. She states, “I honestly believe that religious faith is inherently dangerous and harmful.” For anyone who seeks to redefine God or say that God loves transgender people you are guilty of strengthening and bolstering a harmful and dangerous institution.
One of the central tenets of my work has been to combine “spirituality” with more justice oriented work. Far too often in the new age meme there is a complete lack of acknowledgment of issues of oppression and racism. My newest website Beyond Whiteness is my latest attempt to provide more awareness around these crucial issues. It features dozens of videos, documentaries, articles and resources related to anti-racism and white privilege work. Enjoy!
Perhaps one of the most widespread claims by the New Atheists is that religion is harmful. For Richard Dawkins it is a virus that spreads and infects the mind and is comparable to child abuse. For the late Christopher Hitchens religion “poisons everything” and is a “menace to society.” Greta Christina claims that the belief in supernatural entities makes people “more vulnerable to oppression, fraud and abuse.” Sam Harris likens religion to mental illness.
Tim Wise has done it again. As America’s leading anti-racist educator and writer he’s identified the next greatest threat to racial justice. It’s a new group of people, that according to Wise, enable a similar world-view as that of the legendary racist and Nazi David Duke. He believes they are “are empowering the reactionary, white supremacist, Social Darwinists of this culture.” For even the most timid members of this group - the ones who utter a few words of support – Wise offers no sympathy.
The thing wrong with America is white racism. White folks are not right…It’s time for America to have an intensified study on what’s wrong with white folks. – Dr. King
There may be periods where segregation may be a temporary waystation to a truly integrated society…We don’t want to be integrated out of power; we want to be integrated into power. – Dr. King
I am inclined to think that they [white moderates] are more of a stumbling block to the Negro’s progress than the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner. – Dr. King
The “Decent White Majority”
The standard narrative regarding Dr. King’s approach to racial issues says that he was simply an integrationist who believed that with persuasion, nonviolence and love the conscience of the white majority could be won over and racial justice would be achieved.
The American Academy of Religion held its annual conference in San Francisco this past weekend. A large gathering that attracts many of the big shots — both progressive and conservative — in religious studies, the AAR meeting provides a space for critical dialogue about religion and the world. Not surprisingly there was a lack of discussion about atheism. But I was pleased to find one panel discussion on Monday morning called, “Beyond Atheistic and Religious Fundamentalism: Imagining the Common Good in the Public Sphere.” However, my excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I realized they forgot to do one important thing: include an atheist.
On Thursday, Sept. 29th over 1,000 people marched in San Francisco to voice their frustration against the corrupt financial institutions that have been harming the lives of millions. It was the latest effort in what is a quickly spreading movement. While New York is the largest, there are Occupy movements cropping up in every city – Chicago, Miami, Seattle, LA, Boston and Reno just to name a few. For those who missed it, the SF march was energetic and filled with passionate, yet frustrated voices.