Political adepts and affected pieties.
Posted on November 6th, 2012

R Chandrasoma

The masking of professed religious beliefs to secure political ends does disservice to both politics and religion

That politics is a game that calls for some duplicity and strategic flexibility is a thesis that is widely acknowledged to have the ring of practical truth.  A known miser may call for open-handed generosity when addressing crowds of his supporters. Corruption is condemned  by demagogues of all stripes  while this very failing seems to be a  feature of politics almost everywhere. Given this pressing practical need to be chameleon-like in interactions with the public, few will find fault with politicians for posing as paragons of goodness and sound judgement when addressing crowds or lambasting the opposition in legislative bodies. It must be conceded, however, that certain personal beliefs are sacrosanct and cannot be “ƒ”¹…”traded’ for political gain however  advantageous such “ƒ”¹…”flexibility’ might be. In the USA no Presidential candidate can declare himself to be an Atheist if he hopes to receive nomination from a major political party. Any “ƒ”¹…”shamming’ on this issue will be quickly detected and the offender  routed from politics. A person with known homosexual or paedophilic tendencies will run into trouble if he parades a bogus concern for child safety and  sexual hygiene as part of his political activism.

In this context, consider the case of an orthodox  believer in a particular faith participating in the prayerful ritual of a faith with beliefs and loyalties that are directly opposed to those of his own. Thus Buddhism resolutely rejects the idea of a caring personal Creator and finds the notion of redemption through participatory prayer a great deception. It follows that a sincere Buddhist cannot “ƒ”¹…”worship’ in a Christian Church or receive “ƒ”¹…”blessings’ from an officiating priest. Similarly a Mosque  or Kovil  has no religious significance for a true Buddhist and a politician or public figure known to be of this faith figuring in an alien ritual in these sanctuaries is a high level fraud. It cheapens the faith that is supposed to be inalienably one’s own while the other or “ƒ”¹…”adopted’  faith is “ƒ”¹…”energized’ through the participatory patronage of the ruling elite of the land.

It is true that “ƒ”¹…”bogus religiosity’ is a widespread failing and most politicians  are guilty of this sin. However, there is a kind basic honesty that true religion demands –  it is, perhaps, only in Sri Lanka that the political leaders and other worthies indulge in “ƒ”¹…”serial prayer’ in a multiplicity of competing Godly Institutions with no thought of the long-term fall-out. It is the religion described in our Constitution as having  “ƒ”¹…”the foremost place’ “”…” Buddhism “”…” that is cheapened by this strange ecumenism. No Christian or Muslim leader will wholeheartedly endorse and admire the precepts of another religion in felicitatory messages “”…” but this is routine in Sri Lanka where the leader of the land feels it his public duty to be one with those professing beliefs that are strange and nonsensical  to the great majority of Buddhist in Sri Lanka. Let us conclude with a reference to historical realities that impinge powerfully on current events. While the large majority of our citizens are Buddhists, power still resides with a well-heeled Christan elite and this is reflected in the ceremonial obeisance that our Buddhist leaders are compelled to pay to Alien Gods. The same is true with respect to Islam “”…” now a global force that our leaders find it expedient to deal with caution and great respect. While cognizant of these realities, it is the basic honesty of this stance that is questioned.

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