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Sri Lankan Government Overtly Pushing Religious Doctrine

17 June 2011

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The Sunday Leader, 12 June 2011

A Government’s Immoral Religious Policing

by Frederica Jansz

Governments are not elected to dictate religious doctrine to its people. We elect our legislators to run the state. We elect legislators to make the decisions we cannot.

They are expected to make laws, play a crucial role in the country’s political and social system, helping to articulate group aims, nurture political leadership, develop and promote policy alternatives, and contribute towards efficient government.

What they are not expected to do is to propagate and literally shove down everybody’s throats, religious doctrine. The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is doing just that with an intensity which is not only overbearing but plain dogmatic and stupid.

By a very large margin, more people have been killed by fundamentalist governments than by any other. Politicians in this country, in the name of compassion and pluralism, are now shoving religion, politics and morality down the throats of Sri Lankans both here and abroad, in ways that would have shocked any of the contenders of the 18th century.

Last week, a programme was initiated to hand over Samadhi Buddha Statues to Sri Lankan foreign missions to mark the Sri Sambuddhathva Jayanthi. The Buddha statues were escorted in a vehicular procession from the ancient Matara Bodhiya to the Independence Square in Colombo amidst pirith chanting by the Maha Sangha. The programme was a joint effort by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) and the Presidential Secretariat.

The Buddha statues are to be placed in Sri Lankan foreign missions. It is being implemented under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s guidance with Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera in charge of the proceedings.

The question Mahinda Rajapaksa needs to ask himself is this: Just How Many People Has Religious Fanaticism Killed?

A popular legend is that religion has killed more people than any other emotion, and therefore the world would be a lot more peaceful place, were it not for religion. The top three largest examples are thought to be the Crusades of the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, and the burning of witches. Kirk Durston, National Director, New Scholars Society states that Scholars estimate that the Crusades of the middle ages cost from 58,000 to 133,000 lives. The most realistic figure for the Spanish Inquisition puts the total killed from AD1480 to AD1808 at up to 31,912. Finally, records indicate that the number of witches killed may be over 30,000. Some argue that records don’t tell everything and suggest that maybe even 100,000 were killed. These three events, totaling over 264,000 killed, are thought to be the largest atrocities perpetrated by one or another form of Christendom. The problem is not God or religion, but coercive force — which is what civil government is all about. The issue is how to restrain the use of coercive force so that it will be used for the benefit, not the abuse, of the people.

When churches or temples run government, they run the same gamut of problems as when political parties run government, and for the same reasons. People with power let it go to their heads. Government is all about power. Government does everything at gun point – though you do not see the gun unless you break the law or go against the grain, in some instances.

If all authority comes from God or the Buddha, and thus the Declaration is right, then it follows as a logical fact that secular folks who want a free people under a free government can have what they want only at the cost of something they are not willing to grant – the sovereignty of God.
Indeed, there is a potent change taking place in this country’s domestic and foreign policy, race and religion is intertwined together with its role in projecting – military power. There should be a public debate on whether there is a God, Religion or not. and if so, what He or the precepts would or might have said as to how the modern day people follow the principles vis à vis the practise of politics. Sri Lankans ought to be fostering this debate in an intelligent and graceful manner – a task at which we have done very poorly. We Sri Lankans have been our own worst enemies in the matter of public debate.

One of the ways to counter the attack on Sri Lanka’s Constitutional principles being tied to religious rights is to address their revisionism, misinformation and distortions. Important also is their psychological motivation which is based in religious zeal and used for political advantage.
They don’t seem to know how to separate law from heritage and tradition. They have invented an unwritten constitution which they prefer over the real one. Their tactic is to cherry pick the quotes that fit their agenda.
Differing ideas are forbidden so speaking or writing them has always led to persecution and much of the time, horrific violence. Modern principles of liberty are humanist principles that arose in opposition to injustice of Biblical and ecclesiastical decrees. Tolerance of other faith, or acceptance, democracy and liberty are not the ethics of justice found in the Bible, Quran or Tripitaka. It is a fact that people who have nothing better to do with their lives, try to convert everyone they encounter to their beliefs, and are generally a little over bearing in their cause. Groundviews recently carried an excellent article which in a nutshell encapsulated what we are talking about today.

The article in Groundviews pointed out how unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, Wesak the most revered celebration in the Buddhist calendar is today led by a small group of sanctimonious humbugs followed closely by a larger herd with self inflicted ignorance. Their mutual objective being the public display of religious fervor through the performance of religious observations at the obvious expense of the practice of Buddhist precepts. It appears that they are trying to create an image of high standards of moral and ethical conduct despite their very apparent behaviour to the contrary.
The article further asserted that it is indeed sad that the few intellectual elite who have acquired their education at the highest founts of western learning and currently serving the leadership in the international arena are unable to advice the leadership to act in a credible and responsible manner. Is it because their thirst for position and power exceeds their concern for national interest?

The leadership’s behavior is undeniably not in keeping with what the Buddha taught and is particularly glaring to many. Which is why, it is time the Rajapaksa government stops riding a wagon of religious hypocrisy and gets down to the real business of governance and addresses why they were elected.

The UPFA was certainly not elected to force religious and moral values and thrust them down our throats. We all have our churches, temples and kovils which we choose to worship at. We DID NOT elect Mahinda Rajapaksa and his legislators to police us religiously or morally. It is time the President reads the writing on the wall – or just watches CNN – use the Middle East as an example – to ensure he does not make the same mistake.