Saturday, November 22, 2008

How Absolutism Breeds Insecurity

Religion in the modern era is turning out to be something of a 'social petri dish' these days for studying what happens when any one ideology starts to think that they have 'all the answers'.

For your consideration, Malaysia has outlawed yoga for Muslims:

Malaysia's National Fatwa Council said it goes further than that and that elements of the Indian religion are inherent in yoga.

Announcing the decision, the council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said practices like chanting and what he called worshipping were inappropriate and they could "destroy the faith of a Muslim".

The ruling is not legally binding but many of Malaysia's Muslims abide by fatwas.


But, before you go off thinking this is a unique to a country ruled by Islam, let me show you the Christian side of the same debate:

From Westminster's Exorcist: Yoga is equivalent to soft drugs and worse:

"The thin end of the wedge (soft drugs, yoga for relaxation, horoscopes just for fun and so on) is more dangerous than the thick end because it is more deceptive - an evil spirit tries to make his entry as unobtrusively as possible."


Our friends over at Wingnut Daily have been hard at work on the subject as well. They are also "documenting" the spiritual dangers of the practice.

What does this all boil down to? Fear. Not really fear of the activity itself, but rather a fear of losing control over the members of the religion. Instead of looking at it in a practical, rational sense, we see all sorts of oogedy-boogedy accusations made:

...America has more than 70,000 yoga teachers working in 20,000 locations. Although viewed primarily as fitness instructors, these trainers are in reality the leading missionaries of eastern religion in the west.


Ummm...no...not so much. Most people who practice yoga do so for the exercise benefits - if it has any other benefits for them, they are more in the 'head clearing' that good exercise brings to all of us. Perhaps that is one thing Hinduism has right - you cannot look after your mind and spirit adequately if you are not also looking after your body at the same time.

But both fundamentalist Christianity and Islam appear to have missed a key point in their responses to Yoga - namely the challenge of adapting to something new. Christianity in particular spent most of its first centuries absorbing and adapting the customs of the cultures it encountered, making it easier for them to accept Christianity as equivalent to their faith. In this case, it is time to absorb some aspects of Yoga.

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