Purpose: Politics, Buddhism, and Tibetan Survival

  • John Whalen-Bridge


Every day or two a friend posts something on Facebook to the effect that religion is backward, violent, ignorant, and out of touch with reality—the irony of atheist fundamentalism appears to escape the attention of the new atheists intent to follow in the tracks of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. This new vocal brand of atheism may obscure the obvious fact that not every society is having a culture war with itself in which religious traditionalism squares off with progressive secularity. In response to Bill Maher’s rant comparing Islam to the mafia, Reza Asian wrote an op-ed in the New Tork Times to point out that religion cannot be reduced to those beliefs that nonbe-lievers like to poke fun at:

What both the believers and the critics often miss is that religion is often far more a matter of identity than it is a matter of beliefs and practices. The phrase “I am a Muslim,” “I am a Christian,” “I am a Jew” and the like is, often, not so much a description of what a person believes or what rituals he or she follows, as a simple statement of identity, of how the speaker views her or his place in the world.


Soft Power Chinese Authority Cultural Autonomy Tibetan People Tibetan Community 
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  1. 2.
    See Benn’s “The Lotus Sutra,” 2009.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    See Lopez’s Prisoners of Shangri-La, 1998.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    See also Moynihan’s “Lobsang Sangay: ‘Chinese National?’ 2014Google Scholar
  4. Elliot Sperling’s “Self Delusion,” 2014; Sperling, 2014Google Scholar
  5. and Christophe Besuchet’s “Lobsang Sangay’s Wrong Churchill Quote,” 2011, which casts Sangay as a turncoat. Besuchet takes issue with Sangay’s association of himself with other historically significant liberation movement leaders in Sangay’s opening policy speech (announcing his Mddle Way Approach) upon becoming Prime Minister:Google Scholar
  6. 22.
    Regarding the motives behind Tibetan plans for self-modernization, see Whalen-Bridge’s “Multiple Modernities and the Tibetan Diaspora,” 2011.Google Scholar
  7. 27.
    The Dalai Lama has used the word genocide several times; for example, see Sengupta’s “Curbs on Protest in Tibet Lashed by Dalai Lama,” 2008.Google Scholar
  8. 33.
    See Kazmin’s “An Exclusive Interview with the Dalai Lama,” 2013.Google Scholar
  9. 36.
    Newland is a good guide in this area. See Newland’s Introduction to Emptiness, 2008:Google Scholar

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© John Whalen-Bridge 2015

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  • John Whalen-Bridge

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