Foremost Place and State Religion

This is a comment on the discussion below by Wimal Ediriwira, Shyamon Jayasinghe, Dukhinda Jayawardene and Nanda Abeyweera.

There seems to be some confusion as to the meaning of 'Foremost Place' (FP) and 'State Religion' (SR) when considering the place accorded officially to religion in various countries. It is not clear if FP is superior to SR or vice versa. We know that Sri Lanka gives Buddhism FP status, while Wimal claims that all countries where Christians are a majority makes it the SR. This is absurd but Dukhinda gives a list of countries which do make Christianity its SR, but this excludes many European countries where Christians form the majority including the UK of which Wimal is a citizen. (Dukhinda quotes from a publication by Barro and McLeary but it is not clear if this is an article or a book. If it is an article can he state if it is available on the internet, if not in which journal it is published).

In Sri Lanka Buddhism is given FP but it is difficult to see where the status of Buddhism differs from other religions, e.g. Christianity. Both have Ministers and Govt Departments, both have their religious days made Public Holidays, both are taught in schools, both are allowed equal freedom of worship, both are allowed to erect their statues in public places, blessings are given from both on public occasions, etc. So there seems to be absolutely no advantage in being the given the FP status. I feel this FP status is another fraud to deceive the Buddhists that they have something other religions do not have. In fact Christians seem to have an advantage. Thus after his election MahindaR summoned the Bishops to Temple Trees and concluded a secret Concordat with them. But Bhikkhus are invited only to give bana which is rarely followed by anyone even the preacher! MahindaR wanted to make the Pilgrimage to Madhu, and actually went to the Vatican to receive instructions from the Pope.

So when Rosie wanted the FP removed from Buddhism the patriots were up in arms. But none of them asked what extra benefits FP really gives to Buddhism. The JHU wants SR status, so obviously they think that FP is not good enough. But MahindaR will not hear anything of this. The FP status stems from the British who agreed to it at the 1815 Convention (and broadly kept to their promise). This was a departure from Portuguese and Dutch practice. But what position does it now give when every other religion too seem to have the same rights?

The SR status is equally confusing. Any special advantages in countries where Christianity is the SR seems very minor. These countries do not ban the practice of other religions. Some minor advantages like the reading of Bible before Parliamentary sittings may be done. I do not know if SL Parliamentary sittings are preceded by readings from Buddhist scriptures and not others. So those who demand that FP should be converted into SR in Sri Lanka should state exactly what advantages the SR has should be written into the Constitution. As it is the Constitution does not specify what advantages FP gives to Buddhism, that is why Buddhism has no advantages as compared to other religions.

It is only in strict Muslim countries (e.g. Saudi Arabia) that SR has any real meaning. Thus the public practice of any other religion than Islam is prohibited. Even the import of Buddha statues and religious icons is banned. If Buddhism is made SR in Sri Lanka I hope the patriots will say if the Muslim practice should be adopted with respect to Buddhism.

I believe that there is great merit in Shyamon's suggestion that SL should be secular like India. A secular state can more easily ban abuses of religion like unethical conversion. In India several states have enacted laws prohibiting unethical conversion and these have been upheld in the courts. But in SL Mahinda Rajapakse has sabotaged the unethical conversion law as promised in the Concordat with the bishops and following the Pope's Instruction. A secular state can ban other fraudulent religious practices like faith healing more easily than a state which is not declared secular. France, a secular country, has banned the hijab in public schools but in Sri Lanka free hijab cloth is give even though FP is accorded to Buddhism. Why not give free sil outfits under FP?

Nanda Abeyweera has stated the obvious fact that almost all religious people get their religion from the accident of birth. In their next birth some of these Boduhelas may be born as Muslims and then go about smashing Buddha statues! A secular state can even ban the automatic right now given to parents to enlist their children automatically in their own religion. Then people will have deliberately to choose their religion after the age of legal maturity and they are likely to give thought to what they regard as the most reasonable religion, or remain non-religious. This is certainly a more acceptable way of choosing their religion than the current practice.

Today the Helas are divided into the two subcultures of Boduhela and Jesuhela. If the SR issue is made into a major issue the division between these two Hela cultures will increase. The Jesuhelas may even demand their own area of devolution, further splitting the country. At the moment the Kithunu Purawaraya is a hypothetical concept, but if devolution is conceded it could become a real issue.

----- Original Message -----
From: Shyamon Jayasinghe []
Sent: Saturday, June 23, 2007 9:44 AM
Subject: Re: Foremost place given to Buddhism should be removed!!! WANTED: a Buddhist Resurgence Movement

  1. We should on principle avoid abusing our Buddhist monks with adjectives like "gon".It is well-known that we have had and we do have many monks who are not fit to wear the robes-but that is a different matter. Being critical is one thing and abusing is another.
  2. Revd Athureliya in my view is a deeply irrational monk who cannot extricate himslef from the JVP brainwashed days. He was in the JVP with Champika etc. He is the type of personality who will assert himself as a political bhikku in the long line begun in the modern days by Buddarakkitha. That is his make up and I prefer to leave him alone to self-destruct if that is his fate.
  3. Having (with due respect) rebuked Nanda for abusing the priest, I must state that Nanda has made on and oft in this forum the point about the nonsense of a State religion which I totally agree with. Patriot Wimal, in a thoroughly confused and weird logic, has given "instances" of other countries with State religions. I think I am wasting my time trying to convince Wimal or the other patriots in this forum about that except to ask them to look at India with a 85 per cent Hindu population. Founders Gandhi and Nehru rejected the State religion idea as a divisive force in the body politic. Once, Nanda told someone else in this forum that there is no point in fussing about religion as one's religion depends on where one is born.It is a sheer accident. A fundamentalist mind like that of patriot Wimal would have turned, into an extremist Muslim Taleban if he was born in a country like Afghanistan and he would have ( as suggested brilliantly by Nanda) gone around destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas!!
  4. I have always mainatined that if we really feel for our country we should leave behind these divisive issues like religion and race and get along giving economic prosperity to the island so that our people are liberated from the severe stress and humilitaion that poverty brings. Sri Lanka is ready for an economic take off but the war that involves a 450 billion annual expenditure cannot see Lanka taking off in the direction that its neighours have done. Patriots should try hard to awaken their own minds and read what's happening elsewhere. Start with Lee Kwan Yu's "Singapore Story".


----- Original Message -----
From: Wimal Ediriwira
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2007 10:35 PM Subject: RE: Foremost place given to Buddhism should be removed!!! WANTED: a Buddhist Resurgence Movement

Thanks, Dukhinda for giving the schizophrenic Nanda/Shyamon the information that he lacks in his ignorance. He also states " Our gon hamuduruwao like the Athurelya are asking for state religion being Buddhism. Wimal and these hamuduruwos are ignorant and traitors for saying things like these and creating trouble. Sri Lanka has enough trouble with the Tiger fellows"

It is YOU whao are a gon idiot who is making statements out of sheer ignorance - and you do not even know that Christianity is the state religion in many countries around the world. At least if you keep your mouth shut, nobody will know how ignorant, gon and idiotic you are. Since you are such a gon and ignorant person, you may not even know that Catholicism was even forcibly made the state religion by the Portuguese in that part of Sinhale' that they occupied for 163 years (even though there were hardly any Catholics other than themselves and the few people whom them forced or paid money to convert.

Similarly, the Dutch made Christianity the state religion in the the same western strip that they conquered from the Portuguese and held on for 138 years. And the British made Christianity the state religion of the whole Island of Sinhale' - despite there being less than 6 percent Christians even after 130 years of British domination. It is the gon Christian Churches which are ignorant and have aggressively and violently forced Christianity on a large number of peoples around the world during the past 2,000 years by mass-murdering more than 200 millions of peoples of other religions and forcing the rest be convert to Christianity.

Nanda/Shyamon also says "Wimal also says that Buddhism is tolerant but he calls Christianity and other religions superstitius. Similar way other religions call Buddhism superstitius. This is just like goma geheema. How can he say he is tolerant after saying these things?". This exposes the extent of his ignorance. A superstition is a belief without evidence. To believe in a "god" or more than on "gods" is a superstition since there is no evidence or proof at all of them. To believe in one "god" (of whom there is no evidence or proof) and then to claim that the belief of OTHER people who believe in a DIFFERENT "god" is wrong is not merely absurd, it is also arrogant.

But this is what Christians have been doing - and, in order to promote Christianity, have murdered more than 200 millions of people who believed in other gods during the past 2,000 years and have forced their religion on the remaining peoples in those countries threatening to kill them also if they did not convert. Muslims have did the same during the past 1,700 years, murdering more than 150 millions of people who believed in other religions, and have forced their religion on the remaining to allow them to live.

"Reading these things I think Wimal is a foolish type who does not understand. See how intolerant Wimal is when other people write in these emails."

As explained above, it is Nanda/Shyamon who does not understand, but thinks it is necessary to keep writing about things which he does not understand, and does not even understand many words (like "superstition" etc.)

Buddhism does NOT accept such superstitions as "gods" - who are simply imaginary and non-existing. The Buddha insisted that ever thing must be rationally acceptable and must have proper evidence. So Buddhism cannot be called "superstitious" just because an ignorant person like you say so. And it is ecause Buddhism is a very rational religion that tens of thousands of people in the west aree converting to Buddhism and it has become the fastest-growing religion among adults in the West.

So if you do not understand the meanings of words, just don't use them - or go out and buy a dictionary without wasting everyone's time in these email circuits!

Wimal Ediriwira
The Sinhela Centre

Dukhinda Jayawardena wrote:
21st June 2007

Nanda Abeyweera has stated that no country has made Christianity their state religion. Here is a list of Countries with Christianity as the State Religion:-

Catholic – Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Gautemala, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembbourg, Malto, Monaco, panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Venezuela.

Protestants – Bahamas, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Liberia, Norway, Samoa, Tonga, United Kingdom.

Orthodox - Greece.

REFERENCE CAN BE MADE TO THE PUBLICATION – “WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE STATE RELIGIONS” By Robert J Barro and Rachel M McLeary, Harward University - February 2005


----- Original Message -----
From: Nanda Abeyweera []
Sent: 20 June 2007 07:53
Subject: Re: Foremost place given to Buddhism should be removed!!! WANTED: a Buddhist Resurgence Movement

Wimal says that every country where Christianity is majority religion that religion has been made a State Religion. Can you, Wimal, tell the readers which countries have made Christianity the State Religion? No country. Because the idea of a state religion is now rejected all over. It is considered as something pointless and offensive to followers of other religions. It will be creating trouble inside the country. Even India rejected the idea when Independent India was formed . Mind you Wimal and others 85 per cent of India's population is Hindu people but the constitution says no religion is state religion because Gandhi and Nehru and others wanted India to be one united country. Religious conflict is worse than ethnic ones. Our gon hamuduruwao like the Athurelya are asking for state religion being Buddhism. Wimal and these hamuduruwos are ignorant and traitors for saying things like these and creating trouble. Sri Lanka has enough trouble with the Tiger fellows

Wimal also says that Buddhism is tolerant but he calls Christianity and other religions superstitius. Similar way other religions call Buddhism superstitius. This is just like goma geheema. How can he say he is tolerant after saying these things? Reading these things I think Wimal is a foolish type who does not understand. See how intolerant Wimal is when other people write in these emails


On 6/19/07, Wimal Ediriwira wrote:

To counter this Christian fundamentalist aggression, Buddhists need to re-organise themselves into effective defensive positions, rather than just complacently watch the invasion of their rights. Every country in which Christians are a majority have Christianity as the state religion. In fact, in Sinhale' itself, even in those parts which were under the domination of the Portuguese, Dutch and British (the entire Island) Christianity was made the state religion - even though Christians were miniscule numbers.

The aggressive attitudes of Christians were visible when, hardly had he become prime minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe forced tis Buddhist country to celebrate thirty days of Christmas - for which violations of the laws he has still not been prosecuted, nor has he been billed for the recovery of the state funds used for those celebrations.

Buddhism is based on Tolerance, Compassion and Loving Kindness, but Buddhists should also know that one of the main and fundamental bases of Buddhism is the Middle Path. That is, that even virtues - including Tolerance, Compassion and Loving Kindness - should not be practised to EXTREMES where they become irrational and to stupid degrees.

Tolerance, Compassion and Loving Kindness practised to EXTREMES would result in Buddhists and Buddhism being overrun and eradicated in this Buddhist country - as it has already been in South Korea.

Buddhists need to immediately set up a Buddhist Resurgence Movement to protect the rights of Buddhists and Buddhism - and to prevent the spread of primitive superstitious beliefs in imaginary and non-existing 'gods'.

While Buddhism is, today, the fastest-growing religion among adults in theWest, it is absurd that myths and superstitions like in Christianity (and Islam) are being spread (with the use of money) in this Twenty-first Century, acclaimed for scientific advancement.

Wimal Ediriwira
The Sinhela Centre