I will introduce this project by attempting to answer the question: What is wrong with the world today? If were to ask this question to an ancient Greek the answer that you would be given would be something of the lines of Pandora. If you were to then ask them why they might reply that she was the person who opened the box and released envy, anger, intolerance, greed, racism, discrimination, drug addiction and lust into the world amongst other problems into the world which can harm the rest of mankind. Since Pandora herself was a mortal human, all of the problems that affect us in the world today are caused by here and hence the human race.
This is still a true belief today and is the one that I take. For example there were a total of 1, 059, 913 offences of violence against the person recorded by UK police in 2005/2006. All of these crimes have been committed by humans and so humanity can be blamed for all of the violence which takes part in the world. Most fraud and deception is caused by humans as is theft. The following lyrics are from where is the Love? by the Black Eyed Peas and I believe that it demonstrates how badly the world is messed up as a result of humanity.
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight…
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all It just ain’t the same, always unchanged
New days are strange, is the world insane
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don’t belong
Nations droppin’ bombs
Chemical gasses fillin’ lungs of little ones
With ongoin’ sufferin’ as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin’ really gone
So I could ask myself really what is goin’ wrong
In this world that we livin’ in people keep on givin’
Makin’ wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin’ each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin’ on but the reason’s undercover
The truth is kept secret, it’s swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love…
However, there are those people who would consider the role of man on natural suffering e.g. poverty as a result of drought in Africa. I acquiesce that whilst humanity can not be blamed for this suffering, most of us (humanity) aren’t doing anything to alleviate this poverty and hence are just as bad.
Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality
Instead in spreading love we spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity…
People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send us some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love…
Section A: The Environment
Q1) Why do religious believers think that they should care for the environment and promote its conservation?
A1) In the Judeo-Christian account of creation [Genesis] we are told that whilst Man has dominion over all other plants and animals we also have stewardship of the earth and thus we must look after it. As the Earth is believed to have been created by God, it is therefore sacred. Hence by harming the Earth (by not looking after it) we are effectively harming God. The Nicene Creed also takes a similar line to the message concealed within Genesis as it starts with the words “God, Father, Almighty is the maker of heaven and Earth…”
More recently, the World Council of Churches declared that “The dignity of nature as a creation has to be bound up with our responsibility for the preservation of it”. This shows Christians that because like you and me, nature itself is a created entity it too like you and me should be respected and it is hence our responsibility to care and conserve it.
Christians also apply the 10 commandments to their reasoning for the conservation of the environment. One of the commandments given to Man by God was “Thou shalt not kill…” Christians realise that if they do not care for the environment they will not be preventing the unnecessary deaths of animals and plant life and hence going against the commandment given to them by God and hence going against his will which is bad thing.
Hinduism also teaches the importance of the preservation of the Earth. “If there is but one tree of fruit and flowers within a village, that place is worthy of your respect… [Mahabharata]. The above quotation demonstrates that trees are most important form of plant life and hence should be treated with respect. Hindus also believe that trees possess atman (soul) and hence they should not be killed as this will generate negative karma.
The concept of karma also often persuades Hindus to care for and preserve the environment. Hindus believe in samsara (a cycle of birth, death and the rebirth). For this reason doing good things in their current life will build up positive karma and hence will increase their chances of being reborn as something pleasant (assuming that they don’t reach nirvana). However, doing something bad e.g. murder or theft will build up negative karma and will hence decrease your chances of being reborn as something pleasant.
The Bhagavad Gita also teaches the importance of environmental conservation. “For, so sustained by sacrifice, the gods will give you the food of your desire. Whoso enjoys their gift, yet gives nothing, is a thief, no more no less…” As all food originally comes from the earth, we can be said to be enjoying the gift of our desires. However, whilst it is difficult to give something back to the Earth (except through agriculture), the least we can do is protect it. If we fail to do that, Hindus believe, then we may be called thieves and that will build up negative karma.
In the Assisi Declaration of 2002, The Hindu statement on the Environment was “The human role isn’t separate from nature. All objects in the universe are governed by the same spiritual force…” Unlike in Christianity, Hindus are told that we have no dominance over the Earth and hence must respect it like others respect us.
Q2) What conflicts can arise for religious believers between uses of land and water (including the destruction of natural habitats)?
A2) In India, the government’s plans to build large scale reservoirs have had to be put on hold many times in the past due to opposition from Hindus. The problem is that in order to build these reservoirs, the surrounding countryside including trees and animals will have to be destroyed. This is disagreeable to Hindus because it goes against the principle of Ahimsa (non violence) and against some of the teachings mentioned in the Mahabharata. However, Water is an essential for life and so the confusion arises.
Christians would also have problems with the building of dams. As wildlife and trees would have to be destroyed it would go against one of the 10 commandment and the message about stewardship conveyed to Christians in Genesis. However, they can not deny that water is necessary to sustain life and so they have a dilemma.
Q3) What are the religious responses to animal rights and the means of protecting those rights?
A3) For Christians the viewpoint on this topic is very clear and simple. One of the 10 commandments given to them by God is thou shalt not kill. This can be expanded and combined with the idea of the sanctity of life (also believed in by Christians) it can be expanded to thou shalt not harm other creatures. Furthermore as according to the Genesis account of creation [Bible], all creatures were created by God and so are special to him in one way or another and so by haring animals, Christians may feel as though they are harming and insulting God.
In terms of the methods for conserving animal rights, Christians prefer the method of Non-violent protest. They would not usually opt for violence because it goes against agape (unconditional love for your brethren), the 2nd great commandment given by Jesus (love your neighbour as you would yourself). Furthermore if the violent protests resulted in death then Christians would be seen to be going against the “thou shalt not kill” commandment. Non-violent protest avoids all of the aforementioned problems but still allows for the message to be portrayed powerfully.
Hinduism also takes a clear stance on this issue. Hinduism condemns any form of violence to any sentient being (including animals) and through that preaches ahimsa. Furthermore by hurting animals Hindus believe that they are only building negative karma for themselves which will in turn affect their chances of a good rebirth in the cycle of samsara. A final reason is the idea of vahanas. Hindus believe that every god and goddess has their own vahana. A vahana is an animal that the deity uses to travel around the universe (e.g. the vahana of Lord Ganesh is a rat) and hence these animals are regarded as being sacred. Therefore, by harming these animals (there are many of them as there are many deities in Hinduism); Hindus may say that you are harming God which would build up negative karma and affect the cycle of samsara.
Like Christianity, Hinduism believes that the best way to conserve the rights of animals is through non-violent protests. As I have already mentioned, Hinduism preaches Ahimsa (non-violence) because violence generates negative karma. Through non-violent protests these problems can be solved because the message of the important of the conservation of animal rights can still be portrayed powerfully.
Q4) What are the differing religious responses to vegetarianism?
A4) Christians are not 100% sure on the issue of vegetarianism as through religious scriptures and teachings, two different views can be established. According to the Judaeo-Christian account of creation [Genesis, Bible], Man has dominion over all other creatures on Earth. Hence some Christians would argue that since the human race is superior, we should be allowed to eat the flesh of whatever animal we wish.
However, the 10 commandments seem to portray a different message. One of these commandments is “Thou shalt not kill”. Usually you will only eat meat once the animal is dead and usually the animal has to be slaughtered by man. Therefore, it goes against the Commandment and hence God’s divine will.
However, unlike in Christianity, there is no dilemma which arises from this issue. To kill animals in Hinduism you will not be practicing ahimsa. Secondly as most animals are sacred to certain deities (vahanas), killing them may be viewed as an attempt at attacking God. This will build up negative karma which in turn will affect the chances of a person being reborn as something prosperous.
Section B: World Poverty
Q1) What reasons do religious believers give for caring for the poor?
A1) Christians use 4 teachings to justify their reasons for caring for the poor. The first of these is the second of the great commandments taught by Jesus. “Love your neighbour as you would yourself…” This shows Christians that ball people are equal and should be treated the same and hence should in an ideal world be of equal wealth.
The second principle is agape. This is Greek word which symbolises unconditional love for fellow brethren. Hence by helping the poor Christians feel that they are showing love and hence are upholding the principle of agape which is a good thing and also links in with the third of the teachings, the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are found at the beginning portion of the Sermon of the Mount. In the Beatitudes, Christians are told that when we help people that are less fortunate than themselves, they will be praised by God, store riches up for themselves in heaven and hence go to heaven.
The final teaching can be found in the Bible as well, “It is impossible to serve both God and Money…” Therefore, by helping the poor you would by obeying God’s will and hence obeying him you would instead be building up riches for yourself. This in turn would increase your chances of going to heaven after you died.
Buddhists also preach the importance of helping the poor. Karuna is one of the values for which Buddhism is widely admired for. It means Compassion. Hence Buddhists feel that through helping the poor they are showing compassion and hence building up positive karma for themselves.
Buddhists accept that the only way to end all suffering (4 Noble Truths) is through the Noble Eightfold Path. 2 of the 8 folds are Right Action and Right Livelihood. Helping the poor can be seen as fulfilling both of these folds and hence it will help be rid of all of their suffering and help them reach Nirvana which can be described as a sense of total peace.
Q2) How do religious believers care for those in need?
A2) There are many ways in which religious believers can care for the poor although most of these methods aren’t too different from those which would be used by non-religious believers. Some people will give money, food or other material objects to the poor in the belief that they can use it to help increase their quality of life. However, the danger with this materialistic approach is that those who are in poverty may remain dependant on other people’s donations and will not seek their own way at attempting to improve their lives.
A better approach to helping the poor would be through providing services e.g. free education to the poor. This is better because the poor are being taught the skills that they will need in order to find a job with a decent wage and help lift themselves out of poverty. Some people who are unable to help provide services or materialistic possessions can still provide and share their love simply by praying and fundraising.
Q3) Explain the work of a religious organisation which alleviates world poverty
A3) The Karuna Trust is a Buddhist Organisation in India which assists dalits (previously known as untouchables under India’s age-old caste system). The charity has had to split its resources into four main areas such is the poorness of the quality of life of these people. The main branches of the organisation’s assistance are: Education, Healthcare, Culture and Self-dependence.
The Karuna Trust believes that the best way for people to regain control of their lives and climb up the social ladder as it is through education that people can gain the necessary skills to get new jobs and hence earn more money. As a result of this belief, the Karuna Trust is currently supporting 72 kindergartens, literacy classes for women, hostels for the poorest of the poor to complete their education and a wide range of after school extracurricular activities.
Currently over 150 million people still die a year due to a lack of access to free healthcare In response to this problem, one of the most important projects supported by the Karuna trust is the Pune Project which brings primary health care to some of Pune’s 700,000 slum-dwellers. Health workers concentrate on vaccination, family planning and prevention of malnutrition using low-cost and simple methods. On top of the Pune project, the Karuna Trust is also currently supporting the Nagpur healthcare project and a clinic in India’s Dapodi district.
“One of the Trust’s aims is to help people live happier more fully human lives…” [Patron: Dame Judi Dench]. According to the Karuna culture is the best way to achieve this aim. Consequently Karuna is supporting a performing arts project called the Asvagosha Project. Teams of project workers visit villages demonstrating the arts of story-telling, play-making and song-writing. Their performances address the most pressing social issues facing dalit communities such as dowry weddings, and the benefits of education for girls and women. They also train the teachers in the hostels and kindergartens to run story telling and music classes. As well as the Asvagosha project, Karuna is also currently supporting a wide range of after school sport and craft activities.
Karuna also aims to enable people to become self sufficient. Instead of giving material help, which might give rise to an attitude of dependency, they try to create situations where people can come together to find common solutions to their own difficulties. As a solution to this the Karuna trust is currently supporting 14 sewing classes, 3 shops, 2 horticultural and agricultural products and many other social work training schemes.
To conclude this project I shall attempt to answer the question: Is there anything really wrong with the world today? I believe that the answer to this question is both yes and no. I believe that it is yes in the sense that there are still thousands of people needlessly dying each day, beautiful countryside views are being destroyed by office blocks and we are slowly killing the earth with our CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.
However, I also believe that the answer is no as there are many charitable organizations that attempt to alleviate suffering in the world. I have already talked about the Karuna trust which is tackling the plight of the dalits in India. The United Nations has on many occasions stopped wars and promoted peace. Charities such as Oxfam are trying to supply the people of the drought stricken parts of Africa with basic needs such as clean drinking water.
All in all I believe that the world is almost perfect and what goes around comes around. The perfectionisms of the world aren’t always apparent but when love is present they are always visible.