Thursday, November 8, 2007

Who's Holier? The Dalai Lama, or Barack Obama?

More and more, leadership is all about having an in with the big guy upstairs. We took two wildly popular leaders, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and the junior Senator from Illinois Barack Obama, and asked you to decide who, when the chips are down, could most effectively play the divine favor card?

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
— Dalai Lama

You know, my faith is one that admits some doubt.
— Barack Obama

I hope no one minds too much that I closed this poll a few hours early to make room for the epic Nickels/Rickles debate. While the Dalai Lama handily beat out Barack Obama for the title of Most Holy, the biggest vote getter of all was "There is no God." Something to think about.


Dr. Wes Browning said...

OK. First of all, as Buddha would tell you if he weren't dead, choices C and D are irrelevant. Holiness means whole-iness. It has nothing to do with gods or God. It's about how whole the man or woman is.

The fact of the matter is, the Dalai Lama is one solid dude, dude. No contest. I would vote for Obama for president, but Mr. Lama is the one I'd want to share a beer with. He's the wholiest, by far.

njb said...

On the other hand, holiness or (wholeness though they are not quite the same) only makes sense because of God. After we are all dead like Buddha (and death is after all a certain type of unwholeness) God (who is the definition of holiness and wholeness) is the only one left who will care about the beers we had, and what little justice we were able to accomplish in this little broken piece of the timeline our lives consist of. But God cares a lot about our little bit.

The question is misleading. By answering "who is holier", of course it is you who MAKE God irrelevant by taking God's place, the Judge. But after you are dead like Buddha, you will find out how God assessed the situation, and who really is holier: who fed more people, who fought injustice harder, who ushered in more joy into the world, in short, who was more a child of humanity and child of God, in one whole soul.

Personally, I think the answer will probably be Dr. Wes.

Anonymous said...

The notion of God as Judge is a creation of the human imagination. It has no basis in reality. It's an expression of white male domination that has wreaked nothing but havoc and death throughout history, not to mention causing ages of unnecessary spiritual anguish for frightened, child-like people.

The notion of death as a state of un-wholeness or unholiness is similarly nonsensical. There is no evidence that death is anything more than a continuation of life, as night continues day and sleep continues waking.

Further, holiness has nothing to do with "goodness", "justice", or "joy". Holy ecstasy is equal parts light and shadow, joy and dread, goodness and evil. We choose!

Dr. Wes Browning said...

The Online Etymological Dictionary says holy is from Old English halig. Its primitive root in hypothetical Proto-Germanic is *khailagas. Its probable root meaning among the then non-Christian Germanic peoples, such as the Angles and Saxons, was "that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated," and it is closely related to the English word health and German heil.

It referred originally to a pagan ideal of completeness. Someone is whole who has all their proper parts and faculties. Once someone achieved the ideal, it would be wrong to violate that wholeness. It would be a defiling of a natural good.

When parts of the Bible started to be translated into Old English, the Latin sanctus and its relatives got rendered as holy, even though the meaning didn't quite match the Latin idea of consecration.

Within Christianity, sanctification is something God does through His agents the Church. The Church con-secrates by a ritual sacre-ment the sancti-fication which God con-fers.

Wholeness is at the root of holy, but plays no essential role in the idea of sanctity. Therefore, as a non-Christian who believes that all sentient beings are co-equal to any sentient deities, and who believes that gods are, if anything, inferior even to dogs and small children, I prefer to use the word holy in its pagan pre-Christian sense, and use the word sanctity for the idea that English-speaking Christians would convey by holy.

So, if the question should be taken that way, I would have asked it like this: "Who's the more sanctified, The Dalai Lama, or Barack Obama?" In that case my answer would be, quoting Marx (Groucho), "One of its legs is both the same."

Dr. Wes Browning said...

That was a tad muddled. What I should have said was, I don't believe gods are whole. I believe they are not whole sentient beings. We would be co-equal with them if they were, but in fact, all gods are fractions of what we are. We are the templates that indicate what wholeness could mean for the gods. The gods don't demonstrate whole-ness, they demonstrate incompleteness and blind one-sided-ness. You always know when someone is possessed by a god -- they start to act stereotypically, and their thinking follows a rut. Gods are lame.

Anonymous said...

Barak only mentions faith because his market researchers have told him that this will bring in a greater market share. He is icky. I feel sad when I think that something as important as faith and beleif are things that are talked about and disected more often than they are experienced. But who am I to judge? I think that holiness is found furthest from political affiliation.

Anonymous said...

But when I re-read the question -who could most effective play the divine favor card, I want to change my vote. Hands down it is Barak - he seems to be able to effectively play oh so many cards.

Mark said...

I did the google
3,250,000 Barack Obama, and 2,220,000 Dalai Lama.

njb said...

You say, "God is a creation of human's imagination."

Truth says, "You are a creation of God's imagination." (And a clever creation at that, and you are funny saying that the one who created you is a product of your imagination.)

Your job is not to figure out how people are holy without God (really a meaningless thought anyway) but to figure out how God's holiness is of some benefit to you or the Dalai Lama or Barak Obama, or anybody.

If death is not un-wholeness, then there is no such thing as anything that is "un-whole". Psychology has shown us that all of what we think of as human "unwholeness", "unholiness", is a result of humans' fear of death. If death is not really the end of life, than right now you are not really you. And the Dalai Lama is not really the Dalai Lama, let alone a holy Dalai Lama.

Anonymous said...

Make some argument that does not assume the existence of God. You cannot start with God because the Universe was here before anyone said or wrote the word "God".

You believe in something you call "Truth." I believe in something else that I call nothing. Why is your "Truth" more real than my nothing?

You said: "...right now you are not really you. And the Dalai Lama is not really the Dalai Lama". I agree, and I bet His Holiness would agree, as well.

Dr. Wes Browning said...

njb, Truth didn't say "You are a creation of God's imagination." You just said it, and put your words into Truth's mouth.

Is Truth not God? Because if so, you're postulating two gods, not one. The God god, and the Truth god. Both talk to you, hmm? You're a polytheist then.

If you want to identify Truth with God, or the word of God, then you would relieve God of any obligation to prove His truth to us humans. You would believe in a God who is the very model of unaccountability.

Anitra said...

Njb, I think you believe in a god who is the very model of unaccountability because that gives you the license for total unaccountability. You do not have to understand anyone else's point of view, or question your own, because you do not consider yourself to be describing a human understanding of reality. You are describing *reality itself*, and anyone who disagrees is disagreeing with *reality*, not with njb.

I do not give you that credit. Whatever you think about God is what a human being thinks about God, and bears the same relation to whatever the Ultimate Reality truly is as whatever one of my blood cells believes it understands about The Truth Of Anitra Freeman.

What intrigues and endlessly entertains me is that all the human beings who are willing to be "freethinkers" – to question themselves and let others think independently – all end up converging in a common core of beliefs; while all those who insist on a rigid set of beliefs that are "true because God said so" splinter into tinier and tinier subsects of subsects. The gods of those who are willing to doubt grow larger and larger, while the gods of those who insist on absolute faith grow smaller and smaller.

That is one sense in which both the Dalai Lama and Barack Obama have large souls; they are both willing to let reality be larger than their own understanding of reality, and let other people have ideas about reality that are different than their own.

Anitra said...

I love Barack for having a faith that includes some doubt. Paul Tillich wrote that doubt is an essential component of a living faith. The only way we can cheerfully question whatever we believe about reality is when we have a secure faith that there is a reality to be found.

Personally, I am absolutely certain that God exists; therefore, I have no need whatsoever to cling to any one image of God. Any mental image I form of God would be a human construct, therefore lame and limited, as Wes claims all gods are. I do need some construct; in order to relate to anything – the physical universe, another person, or God – we need a personal image of the thing. We ALSO need an awareness that our image is not the thing-itself.

I have my own image of Wes that I know is not the same as Wes-himself. Wes has his own image of me, which is not the same as me-myself. We can relate to each other through these images *because* we know that the image is not the thing itself.

God help any of us when our friends begin to think that their image of us is really us, and the only real us.

Anitra said...

My own answer is 3: God Can't Decide. Because it is not UP to God to decide.

I think that both the Dalai Lama and Barack Obama are friends with God, because both of them know they do not contain God within their own understanding. They are not only willing to let God have an existence that they do not understand, they are willing for other people to have ideas about God that they themselves do not understand.

Whether either of them is a "whole being" is a question I think only they themselves can answer; a question that is perhaps only relevant to they themselves. If God is not something we ourselves make up, if God has a reality that transcends us, if God is truly Other – then God is not responsible for our personal wholeness. In order to have a relationship with a real God, we must not only let God be an independent being with God's own reality and God's own understanding of God's self -- we must also be independent beings with our own reality, and our own understanding of ourselves.

Anitra said...

And furthermore, njb, your amateur psychology is as bad as your amateur theology. Fear of our own death affects humans very little. It is the fear of losing those we love, and the trauma when we do lose them, that is the foundation of all our death-rituals and death-beliefs.

Other human beings are essential to our survival, and the ones most essential to our survival are also the biggest danger to us. Interaction with other human beings is essential to us becoming an individual, to developing a personality and identity, even to learning to think and speak. Interaction with other human beings is also the one thing that can most distort our personality, destroy our identity, warp our lives.

In the very best, the "whole-est" expressions of religion, we use gods to bring us closer to other human beings, to relate more fully and health-fully together. In the very worst and "unwhole-ly" expressions of religion, we use gods to avoid relating directly with other human beings.

njb said...

I am not opposed to free-thinking, nor other points of view, quite the opposite. I am fascinated by all your views of God, and want to hear more about them. I would especially like to hear why you don't like referring to what God does, as in creating holy people and blessing us with their lives.

I only find it curious that the common conclusion of you who call yourself freethinkers is that those freethinkers who believe in God are in some way delusion. I am not putting my word above yours or anyone else's, but you don't seem to allow mine even the validity of yours, simply because I do believe in a God who actually makes people holy. It's a good thing, especially for those of us who lack some of this holiness. But if you've never acked holiness and not been able to do anything about it, I guess it makes sense that you think God wouldn't matter. Personally I try to be holy with rest of you. God doesn't excuse me from that. But my trying isn't all there is. And neither is yours. Blessings, friends.

Tim Harris said...

Wow. We're debating the existence of God on my blog. I always knew that eventually we'd start to get to the really big issues. njb, that last post was a perfect combination of the "victimized person of faith under attack despite being a member of the majority religion that enjoys privilege" position we've seen so much of from the right, and the classic "I'm such a good person I'm going to rise above all of this to be better than you" passive-aggressive position that we typically see from Seattle liberals. Impressive.

Anonymous said...


Anitra said...

Njb, even while claiming to be "fascinated" with what the rest of us think, you demonstrate that you don't care diddly about it. If you were really paying any attention, you would have noticed that I am a freethinker who believes in God. I do not consider that to be delusional. I do not consider you to be delusiopnal. I consider you to be an asshole.

Do not even try to claim that it is your beliefs that I am irritated with. I know too many people with the same beliefs who do not act snide toward people who disagree and then whimper persecution when others criticize them. I know too many passionately devout men and women who are not assholes to let you hide behind the skirts of God and claim that the only reason people dislike you is that you we don't want to think about what you are saying.

You are getting honest feedback here, telling you what you look like to people who aren't you. You can use this to your benefit, or not, as you will. You are the only one responsible for what you do. Not God.

Anitra said...

Tim, I'm not myself arguing the existence of God, and I'm not sure anyone else is. The argument seems to be over what role that which we call "God" plays in human character and relationships.

It is my argument that humans are and always have been solely responsible for our own character and relationships. Using God to justify ourselves or to better ourselves does not prove the independent existence of God one way or the other; we humans use anything and anybody to justify what we were going to do anyway, why not God?

There are several dangers in identifying someone's character with their beliefs: 1) we let them avoid responsibility; 2) we turn from a just response to unacceptable behavior to an unjust infringement on freedom of belief; 3) we are blinded to the same dangerous behaviors in people who voice other beliefs, even the same beliefs we do.

Whatever the existence of God is, a solid dude is still a solid dude and an asshole is still an asshole. In my experience, those who claim responsibility for their own behavior instead of crediting the responsibility to God (or any other outside force) are more likely to behave like solid dudes, and those who claim that God is the one who "makes people holy" are more likely to behave like assholes. Odd, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that njb would qualify as an "asshole".

I'm sure it's annoying to him or her to have the existence of "God as Judge" criticized as a "creation of the human imagination," which one can read as "delusion." So the persecution is real.

If you read his or her first post, it's not really snide at all. He or she only gets snarky after I said that God does not exist (which is pretty snarky itself, in context.)

I guess it's the whole judgment thing that gets to me, big time. Because folks like njb (and there are billions of them!) would have us judged (after death) against something called "Truth". But who knows the Truth? Sadly, it's largely mean white men who want to condemn me to eternal torment for not following their rules.

And that's really what it's about: the rules. But the rules came from the original White Man, Moses himself, raving from the mountain after having a vision. I've had visions too, and I have to tell you they rarely hold up to careful scrutiny after a couple of days of sober consideration.

So they started with these weird rules, and they've expanded them into a system of laws backed up by the most ruthless and cruel punishments that can be conceived by the mind of man. Whatever this is, it's not God as I understand any notion of what that word might want to refer to.

Sorry if I've given offense!