Dr Elizabeth Harris, Honorary Research Fellow, Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, University of Birmingham

Isn’t Buddhism just fantastic and isn’t violence just terrible? Buddhist violence in Myanmar will have you confused. You might be tempted, naively, to think that religion seems to make no difference whatsoever to a society.

You wouldn’t be so confused if you had studied these things as much as me. To understand violence, from Buddhists or Christians, requires much thought and wisdom, which I have fortunately acquired, and you probably have not. Suffice to say, it is possible for people such as myself to understand these things.


6 thoughts on “Dr Elizabeth Harris, Honorary Research Fellow, Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, University of Birmingham

  1. For someone involved in the Public Understanding of Religion, ya’d think she’d know how to explain herself rather than avoid tough questions by assuming her experience & learning are self-justifying.
    My own Understanding of Religion is confirmed by such confusion & slipperiness.


  2. Time to put this link up again. Buddhism -inspired violence only looks odd when you only think of Buddhism as the recent version sanitised to placate colonials. Otherwise it’s behaved pretty like any other large-scale religion.


  3. “Why is it that religions of peace have a propensity for violence? How does someone like me, already an adherent of two mutually contradictory religions, square this circle? Am I honest enough to recognise the most obvious and economical answer, or should I ‘Do A Giles’ and dig in, desperately looking for something, anything that looks like the convenient ad hoc camouflage of special pleading, and simply say, ‘It’s complicated’, in a feeble attempt to make my wilful ignorance sound like profound, ineffable wisdom? Yep, that’ll be the latter, then”.


  4. Well summed up by Peter and Liverpudlian above but the confusing phrase that jumped out to me was “Buddhism has taught me to understand violence in a new way, throwing light on violence whenever it happens”.
    Apparently violence is caused by greed, hatred and illusion. Those three are a good start but I think there are several other reasons for violence (ignorance of other cultures, not liking the same football team etc.) and an understanding of Buddhism doesn’t give you a better understanding than a non-religious view of the world.
    Could the reason that violence still occurs in Buddhist societies be that they have an illusion of the supernatural that makes them think they are superior?


  5. It is yet another problem whose solution is only complicated if you have earlier ruled out the straightforward answers. Adherents of the 1+1=3 religion have libraries of <ahref=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summa_Theologica”>dense works by theologians explaining the famous Problem of Arithmetic.

    Here’s an answer to why Buddhism can contain violence. It’s because religions are human, some humans desire power, and this often involves violence. That didn’t seem all that difficult.


  6. I found this woman’s patronising tone extremely irritating.

    Really all she did was undermine any sense that Buddhism might be special among religions. (Its religious hierarchy certainly thinks so: rather like the Haredim, they seem to believe that the virtue they acquire through spending their time in scripture and prayer is enough for the rest of their society to bear all the costs of supporting them). If Buddhism doesn’t actually possess its supposed USP of non-violence, indeed if Buddhists can be just as selfish, violent and xenophobic as the rest of humanity, what’s the point of it?


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