Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ethical and religious conundrums

Polling is a bit of a "garbage in; garbage out" business. If you ask people dumb questions, you are likely to get dumb -- or simply weird -- answers. Or so I suspect.

Case in point: a recent Public Religion Research Institute/Religion News Service Survey that asked people in the U.S. whether they "believe the Bible's admonition not to 'rejoice when your enemies fall' applies to how Americans should react to [Osama] bin Laden's death." About 60 percent of us agreed with this formulation. Interestingly, the group least likely to agree were white mainline Protestants. Perhaps we're not accustomed to turn to Proverbs for our everyday moral instruction?

"Minority" -- presumably that means non-white -- Christians of whatever denominational persuasion were the most likely to think there was something unseemly, unwise, or even wrong (motivations are not specified) with celebrating the death of an enemy. Some communities may have had too much experience on the wrong end of this sort of thing. A Native American friend concurs in this.

My favorite finding from this oddly designed poll was this:

Nearly half (49 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated agree that bin Laden will be eternally punished for his sins in Hell.

I have to wonder where these folks think they themselves are going beyond the grave?
A more challenging clash of perspectives on how to deal with evil in the world seems to have happened at a recent Newark Peace Education Summit. The big draw at this talkathon was the Dalai Lama. (I get that; I'd go a good ways to hear the gentleman.) Among the other speakers was Jodi Williams, also a Nobel Peace laureate, celebrated for her work to rid the world of land mines. His Highness urged attendees to seek inner peace in order to promote peace in the world. Williams on the other hand was "quite blunt:"

“It’s anger at injustice which fires many of us.”

Smart move on the part of the organizers to include both voices. I can't speak for anyone else, but I need both.

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