Post Modernism (c)

Camille Paglia says (as Jordan Peterson nods along) that Post Modernism is a rejection of:

  • 1960s radicalism (few radicals have gone to graduate school)
  • India, Hinduism, consciousness, psychedelics
  • genuine multiculturalism
  • the body and sensory experience

What are everyone’s thoughts on the psychological basis of Post Modernism?

Post Modernism (b)

Post Modernism (a)

Intellectual Dark Web (a)

Intellectual Dark Web

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Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (e)?

This is a follow up to:

The video of ISNA’s recently held meeting in Houston interviews many muslims supportive of, respectful of or interested in dialogue with atheist muslims and ex muslims. An accelerating trend among muslims who live in North America, India, South East Asia and Australasia.

Sadly many nonmuslims [anecdotally almost all caucasian] are interviewed who are deeply hostile to atheist muslims and ex muslims. The ex muslims are kicked out of Starbucks. The extent of hostility on the part of nonmuslims is hard to understand. Sadly this attitude of backing extremist Islamist or Jihadi muslims against reasonable muslims and reasonable people of muslim heritage is a serious “THING” among the world’s 6 billion nonmuslims. In this next clip Armin–protector of the Arya peoples–tries to engage in dialogue with many different hostile nonmuslims. Mostly unsuccessfully. Even atheist nonmuslims engage in xenophobic personal attacks against ex muslims and atheist muslims:

Nonmuslims are also demonizing a moderate muslim, the fabulous Wajahat Ali:

Mr. Subramanian Swamy is one of the few prominent global nonmuslims who publicly acknowledges that moderate muslims are afraid of getting killed if they publicly critique extremists. Nonmuslims need to stand by moderate muslims and protect them from extremist muslims. So far Hindus (including Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs), Taoists, Christians, Jews, atheists and post modernists have been during a terrible job at it.

Continue reading “Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (e)?”

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Hinduttva (a)

This is a follow up to:

Kushal Mehra is one of Hinduism’s and atheism’s greatest thought leaders and scholars. Kushal does not identify as Hinduttva and describes himself as non left. However he is deeply respected by Hinduttva people and knows many of her leaders. He is a Hindu Atheist. Of the 10 ancient Darshanas (or sights or views or philosophies) of Hinduism he follows Chaarvaaka. [Other philosophies include Buddhism, Jainism, Samkhya/Yoga, Purva Mimaamsaa/Uttara Mimaamsaa, Nyaaya/Vaisheshika, Ajivika]

Ali and Armin are two heroes of the world’s 1.6 billion muslim heritage global community. I am only 4 minutes into the above video but intend to watch and comment on it.

Edit:

Adding Saurav’s comment from another thread:

This is to address some of the comments here about hinduism/vedanta/enlightenment etc made here, twiter and the other article about Hindutava by Annan.

I am frequently surprised by how much difference there is in “web” hindutva/hinduism (including this blog) and on the ground Hinduism/Hindutva. Let us be very very clear the ethnicity and traditions from which on the ground hindutva is driven. It isnt driven by high level intellectualism which has been professed here/ twitter etc. Its driven on the ground by Hindu conformists/ conservatives of North Indian stock. There is nothing problematic about it. But let us be at least honest about it. In India because every “hindu” community is so large that they feel what they profess is real “Hinduism”. I have met Bengali “hindu” and Tam Brahm who possess no electoral power back in their own state go on and on teaching others about Hindutva/Hinduism. The hindutva world does not run for better or for worse on Tukaram/ Adi Shankracharya/ Vivekanda/Charvaka. Had it been then Arya Samaj would have been bigger than RSS. It runs on Ram /Hanuman and for females(Durga). It projects masculinity(again not a value judgement) and not on “enlightenment” values/intellectualism. Its not run by hindu “free thinkers” like the ones we find over the internet. The web space is not projecting the real face (positive or negative) of the movement on how its conducted on the ground. Please lets separate what we want and our own projection over the movement and our analysis on what the movement really is. The day some other “Hindu” movement (led by Slapstick Teasari and Annan) becomes bigger than the current one i will happily accept that.

What are everyone’s thoughts?

Hinduttva

Global alliances and wheels within wheels

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Hinduttva

This is a follow up to Global alliances and wheels within wheels:

What is Hinduttva? Is it Hindu + Tattva  (Hindu quality)? Or is it something else? I still have no idea. Three of the four panelists in this discussion are widely ridiculed and vilified by self described “liberals”, “secularists” and “progressives” as hard right, bigoted, prejudiced, sectarian, Hindu extremist and Nazi:

  • Pavan Varma, Former MP Rajya Sabha and Author
  • Prof. Makarand Paranjape, Professor & Poet at JNU
  • David Frawley, Vedic Scholar
  • Sadia Dehlvi, Columnist & Writer

46 minutes 26 seconds in: “the problem in India is that we have thought phobia as Sri Aurobindo said in his letter to barendra in 1920; hundred years later I am at a university and I find that people have an incapacity to think clearly, because they immediately reduce every debate to a political position”

Is this the reason for the cries of “Nazism”, “racism” and so forth? Is this partly a difficult to reconcile debate about freedom of art and thought. If so, how can this issue be resolved? Eastern philosophy (Arya Varsha plus Bon plus Toaism) is based on freedom of art and thought. Without freedom of art and thought, there is no eastern philosophy.

Did the panelists say anything else that is controversial or offensive? Is their Sarva Dharma [all religions are authentically divine and true, all paths lead to the same goal, all is love], their celebration and eulogization of  pluralism, diversity and universalism the problem? If that is the problem, what does “secularism” mean? What should “secularism” mean?

For example why do so many self described “liberals”, “secularists”, “progressives” and “leftists” find videos such as this so offensive?

Note, I am not criticizing anyone. I can’t criticizing them because I have no idea what they believe and why. I am thoroughly confused.

Recently there was a world Hindu conference keynoted by the Dalai Lama. It had many Jain, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu delegations from all around the world and was not an “Indian” or “nationalist” affair. [Does anyone know if Sufi and Shiite delegations participated?] In addition to the Dalai Lama, many other Mahayana Buddhist delegations came. Along with delegations from many different Latin American, European, African and Asian countries. [Lebanon for example has had a Hindu community that is over 3,000 years old. They believe that they date from 4400 years back when they helped construct and operate the Baalbek temple. Similarly, there are ancient Hindu communities throughout the world.]

Note that Tibetan Buddhists (Vajrapani Mahayana Buddhists) in particular have been members of Hindu Akharas for thousands of years and have significant influence on intra-Hindu affairs. Maybe because Tibet was close enough to India for the Tibetan Buddhists to send delegates to meetings. By extension this applies to all Mahayana Buddhists. But the ones in China and Japan were too far to be more than intermittently involved in day to day affairs in India. But they were involved:

Japanese Buddhists were significant stakeholders in the Khmer empire Hindu establishment and Angkor Wat. The beginning of this video on Angkor Wat describes deep continual involvement of Japanese Buddhists in Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Hindu affairs going back to the sixth century AD.

I generally avoid Desi conferences because they usually don’t have a spiritual or religious focus. Many use it for business networking, tech networking and partner networking (“romance” for home-gamers). But I don’t know about the World Hindu Congress this year.

Many prominent Indian Americans and Tulsi Gabbard distanced themselves from it:

“However, to quote Representative Tulsi Gabbard — the first Hindu elected to U.S. Congress — it was a “partisan Indian political event.” Neither was the WHC merely a benign political event. It was, rather, a platform for modern India’s most extreme sociopolitical figures and organisations to propagate their supremacist ideology, Hindutva, which is a form of religious nationalism.”

Activists challenge World Hindu Congress over links to global fascism

Political speakers from the U.S. establishment who were invited to speak at the WHC ran the gamut from left to right. Several progressive Democrats who had been invited to attend the conference eventually backed out after being targeted by an AJA letter-writing campaign.

“Do I think all attendees were Hindu Nationalists?” AJA organizer Ashwin Khobragade asked. “No, I think that many of the attendees are looking to use their faith as a platform to give back to their communities.” There were many community service organization that also attended the gathering.

At the same time, those in AJA believe it is imperative to push back against what it identifies as a move to co-opt well-meaning organizations into a fascist agenda. “We wouldn’t want people with social justice values sitting down with people who are like Richard Spencer,” Khobragade explained.

Among the politicians who declined an invitation was Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an icon of Bernie Sanders Democrats, who cited “ethical” concerns with “partisan Indian politicians” on the speakers list. Gabbard has been known to be an admirer of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been accused of being linked to the Gujarat genocide and Hindu nationalism more broadly. She has also come under scrutiny for other relationships with the far right and her support for the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, another progressive Democrat, also became the focus of AJA’s accountability letters. Unlike Chicago State Senator-elect Ram Villavam and Alderman Ameya Pawar, Krishnamoorthi has not disavowed the WHC. He has continued to insist that the gathering promotes “acceptance,” despite the links to the far right that protesters have elucidated.

Continue reading “Hinduttva”

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Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (c)?

Please watch this short excerpt from a conversation between my main man in the house Veedu Vidz and Shaykh Shabbir Ally.

Veedu Vidz is one of Hindustan’s brightest sons, hottest heart throbs, most talented thesbians, funniest comedians, most enlightened leaders, wisest Islamic theologians and Brown Pundit favorites. He now lives in the UK with his beautiful wife and youtube sensation Mimzy VidzShaykh Shabbir Ally is also one of Hindustan’s greatest lights. He is one of the world’s leading Murdhids or Islamic scholars.

This post is aimed at not so bright nonmuslims who back Islamist extremists against reasonable muslims (such as Shaykh Shabbir Ally) and muslimish leaders (such as Veedu Vidz and the ever elegant Mimzy Vidz). Let me summarize the wise Shaykh Shabbir Ally for you:

  1. Blasphemy and apostasy laws (such as those that require the recitation of pbuh after the name of the holy prophet, or don’t allow visual depictions of the holy prophet pbuh) are unislamic and should be ended.
  2. The holy Koran is consistent with freedom of religion, art, thought and speech.
  3. Mohammed pbuh use to follow Jewish law in absence of specific divine guidance since Mohammed pbuh considered Jewish law to be divinely ordained and better than nothing. Many of the Hadiths show Mohammed pbuh following Jewish law and can be discarded.
  4. Mohammed pbuh probably stopped stoning adulterers when the Koran revealed that the punishment for adulterers should be different [and in AnAn’s opinion lighter].
  5. Many Islamist interpretations of the Islamic Shariah jurisprudence are not based on the holy Koran and can be discarded.

I 100% agree with the wise Shaykh about all of this. All global hate speech laws, demonetization of videos, or removal of videos regarding Islam should be ended immediately. All discussion of Islam and criticism of Islam should be allowed. The nonsensical phrase “Islamaphobia” needs to be retired. Muslims are mature enough not to be offended and engage in respectful dialogue. Muslims don’t need to be condescendingly pretentiously patronizingly infantalized or “protected”.

Every muslim in the world is entitled to freedom of art, thought, intuition and feeling. Once this happens Muslims and spiritual nonmuslims will automatically engage in dialogue with Islamist jihadi extremists and melt their hearts with the sweetness of love. The fourteen century Islamic civil war will end and the world will sing with joy.

Nonmuslims; first understand . . . then adjust. Please be slightly curious about Islam and learn the slightest bit about Islam before trying to “help” muslims. Please try to transform and improve yourself so that you have the ability to help others. Now you might ask, how can I learn about Islam and muslims? Good question. Right question. Please watch this discussion between six of the world’s leading Islamic theologians (I would rather our very own Brown Pundit resident Murshid Razib Khan was included too but it was not to be):

  1. Milo  Yiannopoulos
  2. Richard Dawkins
  3. Jordan Peterson
  4. Mehdi Hasan
  5. Maajid Nawaz
  6. and the ever innafable Zakir Naik

Still confused nonmuslim friends? Well, music is Haram:

Any more questions?

Continue reading “Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (c)?”

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Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (b)?

Canada’s parliament passed Motion 103 by a vote of 201–91 on March 23, 2017. The vote is nonbinding and some might allege that Tarek Fatah [an important leader of the global minority and liberal muslim movement] is over-concerned with it. This bill was pushed by the nonmuslim post modernist global intelligentsia in collaboration with the Arabist Lobby and soft Islamists as a way to support soft Islamists against moderate and minority muslims. Many of the Canadians duped into supporting Motion 103 are well intentioned useful idiots.

Tarek argues that Motion 103–which he believes is on the pathway to bringing blasphemy and apostasy laws to Canada–is precisely what most of Canada’s muslim immigrants came to Canada to run away from. I would add that this brings chills of fear down the spines of Canadian muslims and muslims who want to move to Canada. If Motion 103  ever became binding, it could be used to severely limit the freedom of art, thought, intuition and feeling of Sufis, twelvers, sixers, other minority muslims, moderate Sunnis, atheist muslims, ex-muslims; on the grounds that their practices, songs and sayings are Islamophobic and offensive to “muslims.”

Tarek Fatah said:

  • “it is almost as if you say Hindu or white man is an abuse now a days.”
  • when the muslims [Umayyad dynasty] tried to kill all remaining blood descendants of Mohammed’s pbuh family, the only country that protected the prophet’s pbuh family was Hindustan. For which Hindustan was attacked.
  • the holy Koran is not currently sequenced in the order Allah and Gabriel revealed it to the holy prophet.
  • Usman [and Fatimah] assembled the holy Koran in its current order twenty years after the holy prophet pbuh passed away.
  • Usman burnt three hundred copies of the holy Koran that didn’t exactly match his preferred written Koran.
  • muslims murdered the first four rightly guided muslim Caliphs.
  • the guys we are expected to follow got murdered by the very guys telling us we should follow them
  • my Hindu, Christian and Jewish friends make jokes . . . but when I do I can be killed
  • Hindus laugh all the time because Hindus have 50 million Gods so Hindus can pick a God and make fun of Him (the God they picked) because the other guy doesn’t even know that is a God.
  • [Hindus] have 50,000 books. No one can read them all. So no one knows how to get offended.
  • Just by holding the Koran [in a public talk] someone can get offended
  • Our greatest [muslim] saints . . .  are celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus, not by muslims
  • Hindus are too busy getting MBAs or becoming CEOs to notice
  • All Islamaphobes in Iran die
  • Mansur Al Hallaj was beheaded for speaking the truth in Iraq 922 AD.
  • Nizammuddin Auliya said I have two doors in my house, when the mullah and the king enter from the front door I leave because evil comes from the front door with the ruler and the mullah come together [I would strongly recommend that everyone visit his Dargah in Delhi during their next trip. It is a life altering visit.]
  • There is a fatwa against the same microphone which is used to broadcast the morning prayer across the world.
  • Holy Land Foundation trial revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan internally said in 1991 that “these are our organizations that we run under different names”:
    • Islamic Society of North America or ISNA
    • Muslim Student Association or MSA that has a presence in every urban high school in Canada and the United States
    • The Muslim Association of Scientists
    • seven others
  • We are waging a civilization jihad against western civilization by infiltrating and destroying from within
  • Not a single Indian muslim volunteered to fight on behalf of the Mukti Bahini [this is unfair . . . they were asked not to volunteer by Indira so that the Bangladeshi freedom struggle was not discredited. The mistake is Indira’s if there is a mistake.]
  • War between Mullah’s Islam and Allah’s Islam
    • There was no “Mullah’s Islam” during the life of the prophet pbuh.
  • The middle east was the only part of the world to not side against the Nazis in WWII.
    • many Nazis went to Egypt and Saudi Arabia in 1945
  • Soviet muslims defeated Hitler in WWII
  • Islam owes a lot to the Eastern Orthodox Church, to the Zorastrians and to the Hindus
  • Islam is Judaism planted on pagan Arab culture
  • We will eliminate Jihad in India before we do it anywhere else.

    • India is the only country where a muslim can speak the truth and survive [I would add the United States]

  • Despite a bounty on Tarek Fatah’s head with an Imam saying I will slit your throat was conquered by a million Indian muslims protecting Tarek Fatah.

Continue reading “Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (b)?”

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Post Modernism (b)

Please watch this short Joe Rogan [Intellectual Dark Web extraordinaire] interview clip. Only about 29% of US High School graduates meet the minimum academic, physical health and IQ requirements to join the US military. Note that if high school dropouts were added the percentage would drop markedly. Less than 10% of US High School graduates are qualified for many branches of the US military. Note that the physical fitness requirements to join the US military are a joke, to put it very politely. Is America in the words of Charles Murray “Coming Apart” across class lines? Physical health and exercise are strongly correlated with academic performance, career and business outcomes:

Figure 1.18a: Adult Obesity Rates by Age and Education Level, 2008

The interview discusses how health outcomes, exercise, sports (including formal JV and Varsity High School Sports) are declining rapidly among American children. Sadly this deterioration of physical health might be leading to an increasing percentage of people around the working in “Bullshit Jobs” that don’t add value to society:

What is worse they are forced to pretend to add value and lie, which contributes to growing depression and mental health challenges (an article series on this is planned):

Global workers in “Bullshit Jobs” are not allowed to take psychedelics either. [Eastern philosophy has discussed how psychedelics can deepen meditation to achieve deeper states of consciousness.]

In eastern philosophy for thousands of years it has been believed that physical health (Sharira Siddhi), mental health (Chitta Shuddhi), and intelligence (Buddhi) can be increased by exercise, stretching, breathing, meditation (which I believe simulates the effect of modern brain therapy), sound brain therapy (Naad or Mantra Yoga), and serving others. [My hope is that researchers vigorously test all these hypothesis with data:]

Intellectual Dark Web

This is why PM Modi of India is trying to offer Yoga classes in every school student in India:

Why is America not similarly pushing for sports, martial arts, dance, gymnastics, exercise, stretching, breathing, meditation (brain therapy),  sound brain therapy and better nutrition among poor children and the children of the lower middle class? Is it because of fear of the post modernist mostly caucasion intelligentsia? Is it for fear of being accused of victim blaming, racism, bigotry, sectarianism, prejudice, Nazism, Fascism, hegemony, exploitation, oppression, imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy, male misogyny, hate? Does anyone have any ideas on how to encourage character and good behavior among children without being accused of peddling an oppressive meta narrative and universalist norm? There is incredible fear to discuss culture in America:

Is American culture sharply increasing crime?

 

It is possible that I am misunderstanding the zeitgeist and that there are other larger factors preventing American K-12 kids from eating healthy, exercising, meditating and listening to transcendent music?

If so, please let me know through your comments. This article, the fifth in the Post Modernist article series, is a plea for understanding rather than arguing a specific causation. Thanking all readers in advance for your insights and wisdom 🙂

Post Modernism (a)

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A Profile in Courage

I am not adding anything extra with this short news item, I think the news speaks eloquently and voluminously by itself. I just want to add that I feel utterly humble when I consider how much courage and determination people like  Jibran Nasir possess to do what he is doing day after day in a place like Pakistan.

Rare secular candidate in Pakistan hounded by angry mob

Labaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said his party “did not send anyone to do this”, adding that people running in elections should declare their faith.

Nasir gained nationwide prominence in 2014 after staging protests against the Red Mosque, the Islamabad center of a militant network with links to Pakistani Taliban strongholds in the northwest and in neighboring Afghanistan.

The mosque was the site of a military standoff in 2007, but within two years its chief cleric was freed from detention and was once again calling for strict Islamic rule across Pakistan.

The mosque campaign earned Nasir a phone call and death threats from a high-ranking Taliban commander.

“We are doing it for the millions of Pakistanis … who right now are forced to choose amongst the lesser of evils, who are willing to embrace different political leaders with all their biases and religious bigotry,” he said.

“Every day I am carrying on with my mission, they are making a fool of themselves.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-election-independent/rare-secular-candidate-in-pakistan-hounded-by-angry-mobs-idUSKBN1KD1L7

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A “carvaka” perspective historicity of myth and religion

A comment thread below discussed the issues relating to the historicity of Jesus, Muhammad, and Hindu figures such as Ram and Krishna. The assertion is that while Jesus and Muhammad are historical figures, Ram and Krishna are mythological.

To some extent, this is a religiously fraught topic. People from Abrahamic backgrounds are wont to dismiss Dharmic tradition as pagan, heathen, and yes, mythological. In many Abrahamic traditions pagan gods, a class into which Hindu deities are often bracketed, are emanations of true supernatural powers, but demonic ones. In the West, this tendency within Christianity has been pushed to the background. But it still exists in more conservative denominations and traditions.

Therefore, those who adhere to false and marginal religions have “myths.” Those who adhere to true and cultural dominant religions have “stories” or “narratives.” That is the cultural context which we must admit. Even in places where non-Abrahamic religions or traditions are dominant, the past few centuries of European cultural and imperial hegemony have imposed certain interpretive frameworks which are Abrahamic.

And yet that being said, as someone who believes all religious supernatural claims come from the realm of our minds, as opposed to reality, there is a qualitative difference between Jesus, Muhammad, and Ram and Krishna. If Ram and Krishna did exist, they are individuals who lived in “prehistory.” That is, from a period not accessible to us even at some remove through non-religious text. In this way, they are like Abraham or Zoroaster. In contrast, the Buddha, Confucius, Mahavira, and various figures in Hebrew legend and myth such as David, Solomon, and Jeremiah are liminal figures. The world in which they lived was stepping out of prehistory and archaeology, and into the written word, but it was not a fully-fleshed world.

Finally, you have the prophets and religious leaders who are “of history.” Jesus, along with Muhammed and Mani are generally agreed to be figures of history. But we don’t have contemporaneous records of their lives outside of religious traditions, and even in that case only from texts dated to later periods from when they flourished. This means that the context and the details of who these figures were may not align with what current religious tradition suggests and argues for their significance (though since Manichaeanism is dead as a living religion that is a separate case).

A common revisionist case for the nature of the “historical Jesus,” is that he was a Jewish reformer in the tradition of Rabbi Hillel. The emergence of a religion of universal salvation, as opposed to a different form of Judaism, was a process which then developed in the generations after the death of the historical Jesus, the Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef. Roman Christianity as a sect cannot be understood without appreciating its birth in an Empire where syncretistic “mystery cults” were revolutionizing popular religious life (e.g., Mithraism). The elite Roman Christianity of the 3th to 6th centuries cannot be understood without the cultural priors brought to the religion by converts from aristocratic or educated backgrounds steeped in Greek philosophy (e.g., Origen, Athanasius, and in the West Augustine).

In short, a person around whom the legend and myth of Jesus grew almost certainly existed. But the Jesus of myth is to a great extent the creation of a Christianity which developed long after he died.*

Much the same can be said of Islam. A certain legend exists of Muhammad the warlord within Islamic traditions. But outside of these records, in the contemporaneous ones of the Byzantines, he is not noted (little remains of the records of the Persians and Ethiopians). This would not be surprising, because outside of modern Yemen, and the liminal zones of the Levant and the fringe of the desert on the western shore of the Euphrates, Arabia was of little consequence. So long as the spice flowed (e.g., frankincense), the goings on of the Arabs were not of note unless they impinged upon the civilized world.

And yet that did happen indeed, with the defeat of the Byzantines at Yarmouk and the Persians at al-Qādisiyyah. But as highlighted by revisionist scholars, the Byzantines took many decades to perceive in the Arab armies as anything but heretics and schismatics. This is also echoed in some ways in particular Islamic traditions which emphasize the relative impiety of the Umayyad Caliphate, denigrated in some sources as the “Arab Kingdom” due to its ethnocentric nature.

Compared to the later Abbasid period we don’t know much about the Umayyads. Part of the reason is that the winners write the histories, and the Abbasids won. In Hugh Kennedy’s The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In, he argues that Muawiyah was clearly a far more influential and important figure in Islamic history than one might think from the attention he receives from classical scholars and thinkers. But that’s because the Shia detest him, while the Abbasids and the Sunni Islam which evolved under their aegis minimized him.

But there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence that compared to the Abbasids the Umayyads were very much a skeletal barracks-state where Arabs imposed an ethnic dominion, rather than a religious one. Even in the Islamic histories, there are attestations of Christian Arab tribes who were exempt from the jizya tax, while mawlā individuals of Persian origin were subject to the same indignities of non-Muslim Persians.

In fact, archaeological evidence shows that Umayyads in Syria patronized the creation of mosaics which continued the Late Antique Hellenic visual tradition, depicting both humans and animals. And, Greek was the administrative language of the Umayyads for the first few generations. The last of the Church Fathers, John of Damascus, was a Greek-speaker of Syrian background who served as a civil official under the Umayyads in the years around 700 A.D.  In contrast, the elite Barmakid family which was so prominent under the early Abbasids were of Buddhist background, but had to convert to Islam to become part of administrative apparatus which was becoming distinctively Muslim by this period.

All this is to set up the contention that Islam as we understand it, just like Christianity as we understand it, may actually not be the product of the first few decades of its flourishing as commonly understood, but of a later period when certain orthodoxies were understood and internalized, and grand narratives were later retroactively imposed. This aligns with the arguments in Lost Enlightenment and Warriors of the Cloisters that Islam, as we understand it today, was fundamentally shaped by the shift to the east initiated by the early Abbasids.

Which brings me to Mormonism, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unlike Jesus or Muhammad, there is no great debate about the details about the life of the Joseph Smith, the prophet of the religion that became Mormonism. Smith was born in Greater New England, and the Mormon church emerged as a sect in the Restorationist Protestant tradition. Its cultural context was among the Yankees of the American North. Smith’s family had been involved in radical Christianity, in particular, the Universalist Church.

Over the decades of Smith’s life as leader of the church, and later after his death, his sect became a new religion, fundamentally different from the Protestant milieu in which it emerged. Mormon religion early on took a jaundiced view of Nicene Christianity, holding to the Restorationist perspective that all other Christian churches were fallen and corrupt. But Mormonism deviated by innovating and transforming its theology, away from the dominant orthodoxy as articulated by early thinkers such as Bishop Irenaeus.

Due to secret revelations late in Joseph Smith’s life, Mormon leaders developed a Christology which was fundamentally different from that of other Christian traditions. Rejecting Trinitarianism and much of Greek metaphysics, Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was God the Heavenly Father’s bodily son, with Lucifer being his rebellious brother. Additionally, God the Heavenly Father has a Heavenly Mother, who is his wife. Father and Mother live on a planet in this universe in physical bodies.

There is much more which is exotic and strange to non-Mormons, whether Christian or not, in their theology. But, because Mormonism has existed in the light of history non-Mormons can look upon its claims with a much more critical eye. It is obvious, to many, that early Mormonism was just another Restorationist Christian church. Why did Mormonism deviate so far from mainstream American Christianity in its beliefs and practices?

It is important to remember that Mormonism is simply the westernmost and most successful offshoot of Joseph Smith’s religion. The Community of Christ, previously known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, remained located in Missouri when most of the community migrated west. Under the leadership of the descendants of Joseph Smith, the midwestern Mormons eventually merged back into the mainstream of liberal Protestant Christianity. Why?

I suspect one of the reasons that this occurred is simply the fact that the western Mormons became a very distinct ethno-cultural community, geographically separated from other Americans. In contrast, the Midwestern Mormons remained just another church among churches, albeit with a peculiar origin. And, like many “independent churches” in Africa founded in the 20th century, as it matured and stabilized, it slowly moves back into the mainstream of the dominant tendency of American Protestantism (with a few doctrinal quirks).

Since I began talking about Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions, to Hinduism we come back. A lot of the discussion online (and on this weblog) is difficult to follow because there is Hinduism, and then there is Hinduism. Hinduism as the religion of the people of India is an old concept, and a generic one. But elite philosophical schools of Hinduism, such as Advaita Vedanta, crystallized much later, even down into the period when Muslims began to first make incursions into India.

I have alluded to here to the book The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. The focus on Greeks and Indians is due to the fact that aside from the Chinese these were the two ancient cultures which developed a fully elaborated philosophy that we in the modern world would understand, from metaphysics to ethics (Jewish and Persian philosophy in a distinctive sense tended toward religion).

Though they exhibited different biases and emphases, but it is clear that the Greeks saw in Indian “gymnosophists” kindred souls. The great Neoplatonist, Plotinus, reputedly inquired into the nature of Indian philosophy through meetings with scholars in Persia according to his classical biographers. The correspondence between Advaita Vedanta and Neoplatonism is rather clear, and probably due to a common set of monistic ideas which were in currency across the trading network between Alexandria and southern India, as well as through Persia, which spanned the edge of Roman Syria and into modern Pakistan, as well as ruling substantial Buddhist domains in Turan.

One of the generalizations often made about the development of Hinduism in the subcontinent over the past 1,000 years is that it is as if Islam did not even exist. That is, the indigenous religious traditions persisted and maintained themselves at such a remove that their evolutionary development was unperturbed by the exogenous cultural intrusion.

Crossing the Threshold: Understanding Religious Identities in South Asia, presents the argument that both Muslims and Hindus exhibited much more religious fluidity until the past few centuries. This is often argued in the context of peasant folk religion, where this is obviously true. But the author makes the case that groups like Hussaini Brahmins were much more numerous in earlier periods, especially before the emergence of a later Mughal orthodoxy under the aegis of Naqshbandi Sufis. Not only did this mean the forced conversion of many Ismailis to Sunni Islam, but also the shift of some liminal groups away from Islam and toward adherence to a Sanskritized Hindu identity. The reason for this is obvious: heretical or ghulat sects of Islam are viewed far more negatively by Sunni enforces of orthodoxy than Hindus, who were outside of the pale of Islamic writ in any case. This is analogous to the early decades of the Christian Roman Empire, when persecutions were directed primarily to heretical sects, rather than the pagan majority, which was neglected.

As must be clear by this point: Christians, Muslims, and though I have not addressed it, Jews, seem to have “cleaned” up their history.** In fact, one might even say they “retconned” their history so that present beliefs naturally lead from ancient beliefs, even though that is hard to see logically and empirically quite often where the ancient leads to the modern (e.g., reading the Synoptic Gospels, and then the Athanasian Creed, is confusing without any historical context).  I believe that many modernist Hindus, living in a world of explicit and demarcated confessions, and formal beliefs and portable and digestible holy texts, have attempted to do something similar.

First, Hinduism becomes a religion of deep antiquity, despite its historical development over the past 2,000 years. Just as modern Muslims, Jews, and Christians look to the legendary Abraham, who lived 4,000 years ago, outside of the gaze of history, so modern Hindus look to the mythos of Ram, Krishna, and the Vedas, and built their house upon those rocks. This, despite the detachment of multitudinous folk Hinduisms from this ancient foundation, as well as the relatively tenuous connections of highly intellectualized philosophical Hinduism to the concrete and corporeal character of the early Vedas (Vedas venerated by vegetarian “Hindu fundamentalists” which clearly depict vigorous beef-eating warriors!).

Second, the localized diversity of Hinduism becomes flattened in an atomized world characterized by anomie. Just as ‘traditional’ Javanese Hinduism tends to flourish in the village, but not in the urban centers, so ‘traditional’ Hinduism of locality is not portable or plausible in the great fleshpots of modern India. Urban Hindus need something that gives them religious succor and is also in keeping with their understanding of their traditional origins. Something that is not a rupture from the past, but an extension and evolution. A “perfection” as Christians would say of Judaism and Salafi Muslims of traditional Islam.

Just as urban Indonesian Muslims who shift from abangan Islam to a more “orthodox” world-normative santri Islam view themselves as reclaiming a more pure and primal Islam, so it strikes me that modern Indians who adhere to a “Vedic religion,” stripped of locality and universalized and extended, create a mythos and narrative of reclamation, not innovation.

Over the 21st century, India will urbanize, and the villages will fade away in memory and with time. It is plausible that as this occurs modern urban Hinduism will produce a relatively standardized, and yes, deracinated, a spirituality which is more amenable to a people who move from one end of the country to another, as their professions take them on peregrinations over their lifetime.

To some extent the Abrahamic religions, and Buddhism, have already been through this. Torn away from a specific soil that nurtures them in a distinct local culture, these religious traditions have developed portable variants, which eventually become normative, uniting disparate peoples with distinct folkways. As India becomes its own world, and different cultures within it synthesize and merge, a need will develop for a more portable and flexible Hinduism. Both secular Hinduism and Hindu fundamentalism are faces of this transition, and both are likely the seeds of sectarian traditions which will wax and elaborate over the coming decades.

* Reading the Gospels, this is most clear in the writings of “John.” A grand and conceited figure, in contrast with the modest Jewish prophet of Mark.

** Orthodox Judaism as we understand really congealed in the 6th century with the Babylonian Talmud. Therefore, I argue it is a sister religion to Christianity, with both deriving from sects of Classical Judaism. Some scholars have in fact argued that Christianity is an extreme derivative of a form of Hellenistic Judaism!

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