A striking thing about Eastern religions is their humility. They recognize that they are addressing human needs, which many other paths can also address. They are philosophically shy. Buddhism may be right, but if not, then no big deal.. it is just an offered solution to human suffering, and an expression of spiritual values and emotions that can take other forms. Hinduism offers more gods than you can shake a stick at ... take your pick and be happy. Shintoism has no truth at all, other than a conviction that nature, in its spiritual guise of Kami, is worthy of veneration- an almost pure biophilia.
In contrast, Western religion, at least in the monotheistic tradition as it developed out of late Judaism, (with additions of Greek philosophy), is obsessed with truth. We are right, our model of invisible reality is right, or else we will kill you. This appalling combination of spiritual and philosophical malpractice has led to monumental amounts of suffering.
On the other hand, this same obsession with correctness, truth, belief, and ontological competitiveness had one silver lining, which is that it led to Western science. At some point, crypto-theologians like Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Charles Darwin, who were interested in truth perhaps a little more than tradition and theology, struck out to new intellectual territory, away from received explanations and ontologies, and lo and behold! Truth with a capital "T" emerged, far more powerful and durable than the mouldering not even half-truths of theology.
It is terribly ironic that Western religions, faced with (let us call it Darwinian) competition from its offspring- a truthmaking tradition vastly more effective than their own, are banding together in hopeless ecumenical projects and rear-guard actions like conservative political tantrums and denialism, after having spent centuries evolving a kaleidoscope of divergent and often violently antagonistic confessions, each with its own "truth". I guess this is how it ends ... with a whimper.
Nevertheless, religion as a whole is surely not dead. What is dead are its claims to "philosophy", "knowledge" and "truth". As the Eastern traditions understand, (as do those few Western traditions that confine themselves to spiritual emotions), the human need remains for ministering, for belonging, and above all for deeply felt appreciation of the wonder of existence, particularly human value. All that remains, once all the "truth" has been burned away one way or another, is love.
- Populism- the empty vessel.
- More commentary on the South.
- Crony capitalism thrives when laws are enforced selectively, at the discretion of prosecutors and regulators.
- Economics quote of the week, From Michael Moran, on declining US influence:
"Longer-term, however, this [Japan and China denominating their mutual trade in local currencies rather than dollars] is a part of the long game played by Beijing. Since American financial “creativity” nearly threw the world into Depression in 2008, China, Russia, Malaysia, South Africa and others have called for the creation of a new global reserve currency not beholden to the dysfunction of the US political scene."