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.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  A known miser may call for open-handed generosity when addressing crowds of his supporters. Corruption is condemnedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  by demagogues of all stripesƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  while this very failing seems to be aƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  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 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”tradedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ for political gain howeverƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  advantageous such ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”flexibilityƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ 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 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”shammingƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ on this issue will be quickly detected and the offenderƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  routed from politics. A person with known homosexual or paedophilic tendencies will run into trouble if he parades a bogus concern for child safety andƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  sexual hygiene as part of his political activism.

In this context, consider the case of an orthodoxƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  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 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”worshipƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ in a Christian Church or receive ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”blessingsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ from an officiating priest. Similarly a MosqueƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  or KovilƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  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 oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s own while the other or ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”adoptedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  faith is ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”energizedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ through the participatory patronage of the ruling elite of the land.

It is true that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”bogus religiosityƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ is a widespread failing and most politiciansƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  are guilty of this sin. However, there is a kind basic honesty that true religion demands -ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  it is, perhaps, only in Sri Lanka that the political leaders and other worthies indulge in ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”serial prayerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ 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 havingƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”the foremost placeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” Buddhism ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” 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 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” 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 nonsensicalƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  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 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” 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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