Wealth, War, and Religion

In our economic downturn and in this election season, there has been a focus on wealth and the lack thereof. There has also been a focus on selfishness and greed, especially with the philosophy of atheist Ayn Rand being in play. On Monday, August 27, The Washington Post published an Associated Press article concerning a new poll by the Pew Research Center citing most Americans disapprove of the wide income gap between the rich and poor and believe that the rich don’t pay enough taxes.  All this has made me think about religion.

I found that Wikipedia has a page entitled, Christian views on poverty and wealth.  That page says, “John Cobb, Jr. argues that the ‘economism that rules the West and through it much of the East’ is directly opposed to traditional Christian doctrine.” In the 1990’s, I became familiar with  what was called, the Prosperity Gospel. The Rev. Chuck Queen of my fair town, has a rather recent blog post at the opposite end, saying that less is more.

This summer, I reread from Hinduism the BHAGAVAD GITA: A New English Translation by Stephen Mitchell. I especially noted Chapter 16: Divine Traits and Demonic Traits. I quote from there:


Fearlessness, purity of heart,  persistence in the yoga of knowledge, generosity, self-control, nonviolence, gentleness, candor,

integrity, disengagement, joy in the study of scriptures, compassion for all beings, modesty, patience, a tranquil mind,

“Today I got this desire, and tomorrow I will get that one; all these riches are mine, and soon I will have even more.

“Already I have killed these enemies, and soon I will kill the rest; I am the lord, the enjoyer, successful, happy, and strong.

“noble, and rich, and famous. Who on earth is my equal? I will worship, give alms, and rejoice.” Thus think these ignorant fools.

Bewildered by endless thinking, entangled in the net of delusion, addicted to desire, they plunge into the foulest of hells.

Self-centered, stubborn, filled with the insolence of wealth, they go through the outward forms of worship, but their hearts are elsewhere.

Clinging to the I-sense, to power, to arrogance, lust, and rage, they hate me, denying my presence in their own and in others’ bodies.

This is the soul-destroying threefold entrance to hell: desire, anger, and greed. Every man should avoid them.

The man who refuses to enter these three gates into darkness does what is best for himself and attains the goal.

I recently finished reading from the Zen Buddhist tradition, Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book by the Vietnamese-exiled monk elaborates on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha. Toward the end of the book, Thay, as he is called, gives an updated version of his Five Mindfulness Trainings. Since they relate especially to this discussion, I give the first two here:

Reverence For Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

True Happiness

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.

For the sake of our country and for the sake of the world, please consider these things.

I Declare World Peace.


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