No religion, culture or mythology should be granted immunity if they are used to make others suffer without their consent. No country or community should be able to get away with racism, oppression, or child abuse in the name of a religion, majority, local laws, classes, or other constructed social norms and cultures.
Above are two sets of excerpts from Pannikar, a Hindu-Christian theologian. Though belonging to the same author, the first excerpt impressed me with its brilliance and the second dissappointed me with its fallacy.
As a person who is familiar with the philosophical discourse and has developed a fair sense of smelling contradictions and logical fallacies, I think that relativism is a lousy idea doomed to commit suicide. As for the competing theory, universalism, it is either destined to become a tool of cultural imperialism or destined to accept a healthy dose of pragmatism seasoned with some relativism.
As an individual I have many components. I can define myself in many ways depending on the context. I am a homosapien, a monotheist, Yahya’s and Matine’s father, a husband, a Turkish author, a philosopher, a lawyer, a skeptic, a believer, a democrat, a conservative, an American, a political activist, a reformist, a chess-player, a copywriter, a poet, a handyman, a Macintosh user, a teacher, . . . and I am also a Kurd. I am not sure how being a Kurd ranks among the manifold ingredients that makes up my personality, but recently it became one of the important characteristics. Why? Because I have realized that I am denied of this identity. I have also witnessed that many others who share the same culture and heritage are oppressed and killed just because of being born in a Kurdish family.
I believe and argue that humans are “rational self-interested utility maximizers.” This is the primary reason why we are on the top of the food chain. The animalistic nature “self-interest” promoted and guided by “reason” forces rational humans to cooperate and maximize the utility. The rational human being has discovered, through the course of thousands years of trial and error, that optimum utility is obtained when each individual enjoy their personal desires and goals in a delicate balance with the desires and goals of other individuals.
In a world that is becoming smaller and smaller by the dramatic advance of modern technology and inter-continental nuclear missiles, we are compelled to be concerned about the plights of those who live in other countries. We are intelligent and experienced enough to fear from the tyrannical governments that treats their subjects badly. We know very well that dictators are not intelligent and trustworthy; they harm their own people, themselves and others. Equal rights for every single human being is the ultimate goal to live in a peaceful world.
Militant clerics, whether they are the collaborators with the totalitarian regimes or are the dissidents, should be taken seriously. Using the language of religion, the proverbs of their forefathers, they can mobilize gullible masses to bloody conflicts. The best way to deflate the power of militant clergymen is (1) to support intellectuals who promote democracy and freedom, and (2) denounce and punish the oppressive leaders without favoring one to another, through international legal devices such as, freezing their assets in foreign countries and trying them in international tribunals during their reign or after they are ousted from power.