I’m in a bad mood. It’s cold. And in New Hampshire, at just this time of year, the sun rises at 3 in the morning and sets four hours later.
That’s the only way I can explain my beef with the Dalai Lama.
This morning, I woke up to this blaring headline from the usually awesome Religion Dispatches: Did the Dalai Lama Just Call for an End to Religion? Then this to really hook us:
“The Dalai Lama recommends a radical new approach: a religionless religion, stripped of myth, superstition, and narrow dogmatism, and focused on the practical work of transforming human behavior.”
A radical new approach indeed! If this is 1648, and the savage Thirty Years’ War has just come to a merciful end. Seriously, people — we’ve been working on this for more than 350 years. It’s called the Enlightenment. And in case you haven’t been getting the updates on Facebook, the results, so far, are mixed. I’ll summarize: yay, new forms of knowledge and tolerance! Boo, global warfare and genocide! And guess what? Religion, science, and secularism all deserve credit for the progress and blame for the slaughter, and they’re all here to stay. Re-infusing all of them with wisdom and compassion is perhaps the greatest challenge of the 21st century. It will take the heroic efforts of us all, and we have no time for oversimplifications.
My beef isn’t really with the Dalai Lama. The conversations he’s facilitating about science, spirituality, and human rights deserve our careful attention. But if our reverence for His Holiness makes us abdicate our own intelligence and creativity in facing the challenges of our time, then we have corrupted his message and fallen tragically far from enlightenment — western, eastern, or otherwise.