When this happened back in July, I wrote a "note" about it on Facebook, but I thought I would shared this with all of you here on GroundReport. It was an opinion piece I wrote related to the Christian Right’s apparent intolerance of Eastern religions when the U.S. Senate invited a Hindu priest to conduct the opening prayer.
When I first heard about this event, I thought it was awesome. I still do. Apparently, this is the first time the Senate has opened a session with a prayer from Hindu texts, and I feel it goes a long way toward making us a more religiously inclusive nation (and this is coming from an atheist).
Let’s face it: our officials are mostly from the Christian sects, with a few Jews sprinkled throughout and maybe a couple of Muslims, so it’s wonderful to see that the Senate is willing to open its doors to a Hindu priest.
Of course, the Christian Right has decided to protest this happening (and fat lot of good that’ll do). This is nothing more than yet another desperate attempt by a group of reactionaries who are losing their grip on the minds of the American people, and who are losing touch with reality. They are hypocrites. They’ll talk of "God’s love" when they try to get gay people to turn straight, but god forbid we show tolerance in our halls of government to those who pray to "strange" deities–singular or plural. These people have chosen to focus on the polytheistic version of Hinduism in order to criticize it, despite the fact that there are many views of Hinduism, be they monotheistic, dualistic, polytheistic, etc.
Many Hindus believe that God has three aspects–Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva–which make up the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity. Sound similar to another religion we all know? Either the Right left that part out intentionally, or someone forgot to study the night before the big test.
The man most quoted in this "Action Alert," David Barton, notes that Hindus make up a tiny portion of the American public. I guess that makes him feel we can squash the voice of every minority group, but I’d be willing to bet he’d keep his mouth shut if a rabbi was to be delivering this prayer.
He also says that Hinduism hasn’t produced a lot of good things in this world, and makes a blanket statement about religious persecution in India and Nepal, where there are Hindu majorities. While I myself don’t know all the details about the issues inside those two nations, I do know that no religion is clean. Christianity has quite a few grease spots on its tolerance record, as do all other religions in this world.
Take this quote from Barton. Here’s his Wikipedia bio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Barton "In Hindu, you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods. And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator — that’s not one that fits here because we don’t know which creator we’re talking about within the Hindu religion." He may think he’s making an intelligent point here, but all Barton does is point out his own ignorance and narrow-mindedness. It’s a shame that a man like him has a Doctor of Letters, because if I were the head of the university that gave it to him, I’d have asked for it back.
These people are worried about the fact that the Senate is receiving the "invocation of a non-monotheistic god" (apparently someone didn’t teach them to write very well), when they should be praising the Senate for being open and for broadening horizons. Sure, this country may have been founded by white Christians, but it was founded on the principle that people shall have the right to practice any religion of their choosing.
Even as someone who does not believe in a god or gods (and has no love for religion either), I respect the Senate’s decision to invite this man into their chamber. It shows a step forward in tolerance, even if it may be a political move more than anything else.
I may not be a fan of religion, but I respect its right to exist in its many forms, because, when it comes right down to it, religion represents a form of free thought.