On the Paris Bombings: A Word from Voltaire

“Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities”—Voltaire

VoltaireVoltaire, the clearest of Enlightenment thinkers wrote those words in his 1765 essay, “Questions sur les miracles.” And they resonate as much now, 250 years later, as they did then.

That’s why I guard against Buddhist extremism and absurdities, like “You do not exist; nothing exists in the absolute sense.” Or the notion that “Nothing I do is inherently good or bad; it just is; everything is ultimately pure.” That kind of doctrinal extremism can lead to “It doesn’t matter if I kill you–you do not actually exist and neither do I. I can do no wrong.” Buddhist extremism has been used in the past to justify Buddhist wars and genocide of other religious minorities. Ambedkar devised a Buddhism that avoided doctrinal extremes, that could not be used to justify hatred and maltreatment of others, whether because of ethnicity, race, gender or religion.


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