Ironically, while the Supreme Court was debating the role of religion in American public life and whether the monuments of the Ten Commandments could stand on public property, one group of Americans has settled the question for themselves. Medical students in
Did I mention that all this chanting and candle-lighting was in accordance with Buddhist ritual? You didn?t really think that it would be Christian, did you?
The rites followed the final exam in Gross Anatomy on the
The obvious question here is: What if Christian, not Buddhist, rites had been used? As columnist Terry Mattingly asked, how would the university have reacted if ?rose incense? and ?Byzantine? or ?Gregorian? chant had filled the air? What if students had been told to ?go in peace to love and serve the Lord??
I?m not begrudging Buddhism its place in the public square. Nor I am particularly bothered by the obvious double standard. What does bother me is the denial that there is a double standard.
The question of ?whether or not to welcome religion to the public square? is really about whether or not to welcome Christianity to the public square. As the rites in
Part of the reason why is that what usually passes for Buddhism in American popular culture has already been modified to suit American tastes. Whereas in classical Buddhism salvation consists of escaping the cycle of death and rebirth, Americans revel in the possibility of reincarnation?25 percent believe in it. While the Buddha believed he had been a monkey and a goose in previous lives, Americans all think that they were Pharaohs or princes or kings.
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