Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Religious Procession


Last week I had the great luck to stumble across a religious procession that was cutting through an alley just as I was cutting across it, camera in hand. Ok, so the second part isn't luck, as the camera is always in hand.

I don't know much about local religious stuff, as local religious types never show up at my door to convert me to whatever version of Disembodied Other Minds With Magic Powers they happen to believe in, ask me to discriminate against people because they don't like what they do with their genitals, or demand that we give up our democracy because it is incompatible with their love of power. One of the great things about Chinese culture is the widespread and serene tolerance of the religious beliefs of others -- a tolerance I heartily subscribe to -- coupled with a reassuring lack of the missionary impulse, except among Buddhists (for whom tolerance is also an important value). Hence, I haven't looked into local religous belief because it is (1) a hugely complex field of study and (2) no threat to any of the freedoms I believe in.

So, sadly, although I can offer you pics, I have nothing intelligent to say about what they mean. Consult your local anthropologist.


The brightly-lit vehicles emerge from around a bend in the alley.


A troupe of female drummers provides sound effects.


The procession was endless.


A close-up of one of the vehicles.


Such processions are always accompanied by police who shut down traffic. At the speed of the marchers on foot, the parade took about 15 minutes to pass by.


A vehicle pushes through smoke from fireworks.


A marcher prepares to launch fireworks.


Parading the temple god around.

15 comments:

STOP_George said...

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Those floats (or ones similar) are used in the festival of lights parade in Keelung each year (August). It's a wonderful and huge parade. Every year, the parade is sponsored by one particular name-clan. Everyone with that particular surname (for example "Chen") is involved and is part of the parade itself.
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Maoman said...

Tolerance or apathy? Oh wait - we;ve had this discussion before... ;-)

WoSuBaiChu said...

Looks like a procession in honor of the temple's birthday. I love those. Once in a while, the procession will be accompanied by a 'backbeater'-nuttiest of the nutty religious nuts. Those dudes will chop, poke, and basically bludgeon themselves until bloody, all in the name of their faith...but not without the help of a lot of Taiwan pi-jiu.

juancho said...

I think your site is pretty groovy, but, man...when the subject of religion comes up, I just don't get your slant. You cringe at the thought of someone ripping away 25 seconds of your or anyone else's precious time in an attempt to share their beliefs. Ok. Understandable. But hey, stopping traffic for 15 minutes, blaring music, and fanning smoke from about 16,000 firecrackers into the air for the sake of a religious celebration doesn't get to you? I mean, at least you can say no to the proselyting...or is it just a matter of 'foreign' religions vs. 'local' religions? I'm curious.

STOP_George said...

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Maoman:

Some of my Taiwanese inlaws have faith in Christianity, however, most are Taoist. I am, myself, agnostic. We get together with each other all of the time -- I would have to say it's "tolerance". And may I also say that the Taiwanese are one of the most tolerant societies I've ever encountered
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STOP_George said...

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juancho:

Let me ask you something...

During that parade, does anyone preach about or ask anyone else to convert or share their beliefs?

The only people to do that in Taiwan for me have been a couple of evangelical christians who have knocked on our door.
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Michael Turton said...

Exactly. I don't mind the parade at all because the paraders aren't out to change society so that everyone holds their beliefs and no others. They didn't talk to me, but simply marched on. As a foreigner I find all such stuff interesting, although if I had been driving I would not have been happy!

You cringe at the thought of someone ripping away 25 seconds of your or anyone else's precious time in an attempt to share their beliefs.

Because, Juan, (1) the flow of people who want to spend 25 seconds with me to share their beliefs is never going to stop. It has been that way since I was born and it will be that way until I die. Christianity is a giant machine that goes on and on grinding away everyone else's beliefs, regardless of the particular kindness and tolerance of individual Christians. At what point will Christianity say "OK, enough converts, we'll stop bothering you!"? That will never happen. It is a terrifying phenomen, a boot stamping in a human face forever and ever, world without end, amen. I can't say "No" to prosyletizing because it never stops, Juan.

And finally, I'm delighted when people show up at my door to convert me. I always invite them in and talk to them. But for some reason they never come back. Can't think why... :) You're always welcome to come to my door and talk about your religion or lack thereof....

(2) Many Christians want to change my society and are unwilling to live in a secular society where all can choose. They hate democracy and the freedoms it allows others. They worship authority and urge others to do so -- Christians represent an enormous pool of people accustomed to locating their moral grounding in Received Authority, not the independence of their own mind. It is no wonder that Christianity spawned a fascist movement in the US.

By contrast, the religious groups in Taiwan do not appear to have that urgent desire for power. I am happy to tolerate them because they don't care what I believe. Taiwan is a great place to be atheist. Meanwhile back in the US, a recently-released U of Minn poll says atheists have the lowest level of social acceptance in society. Go figure.

(3) 99% of Christians know fuck-all about the Bible or their religion. It is a pain to be approached by people who know so little about what they believe but are convinced that they have the key to the world's happiness. Believe me, I love to discuss the Bible and the New Testament and could do it from sun up to sun down, but it is pointless to do it with people who have never heard of a chiasm or midrash or the Synoptic Problem and think that tale of the woman taken in adultery really happened or that Jesus said everything attributed to him in the New Testament or that Paul really wrote the Pastorals. How do you expect me to respect you as an exponent of your religion when there is hardly a single aspect of it that I don't know better than you?

Fifteen minutes of my time? All religions are not equal. Many religions have demonstrated that they are willing to live in peace with other religions and with the non-religious. Christianity hasn't. The Taiwan folk religionists tolerate me. I am more than willing to tolerate them, and their long processions, because they do not threaten me or the freedoms I cherish.

I'm happy to give you all the time you need, Juan, if you want to convert me. You are always welcome to stop by, chat, stay over. But you better come knowing what you're talking about!

Michael

Michael Turton said...

olerance or apathy? Oh wait - we;ve had this discussion before... ;-)

LOL. Perhaps, in the end, it comes down to the same thing.

Michael

Anonymous said...

You think the christians are bad? Try living in a muslim country - Intolerance with a capital I. I'd go on to elaborate, but then, most people think such talk (when directed at Islam) is racist. When directed at Christianity, its enlightened ..(I am not a christian by the way)

juancho said...

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stop_george:

Fist of all, of course there is no preaching involved with the parade, but that's not the point I was writing on. I was merely curious as to why the author accepts such religious activities while slamming the 'Christian' missionary movement. What the author does not seem to understand is that both acts, the knocking on doors and the parading, are simply forms of sharing faith. That's really the gist of all of it. The door-knockers do it in a different way, that's all. Thank goodness for countries like Taiwan and the U.S. where both acts are allowed. Religious freedom is beautiful.

juancho said...

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michael turton,

You are to religious tolerance as Foxnews is to unbiased repoting. You think you've got it, but I don't agree.

"Many Christians want to change my society and are unwilling to live in a secular society where all can choose. They hate democracy and the freedoms it allows others."

Unwilling to live in a society where all can chose? Hate democracy? I've never met those Christians. Apparently you have.

"It is no wonder that Christianity spawned a fascist movement in the US."

You've been in Taiwan too long.

"99% of Christians know fuck-all about the Bible or their religion. It is a pain to be approached by people who know so little about what they believe but are convinced that they have the key to the world's happiness."

Dude, just laugh them off and go on with life. Have you ever met two Buddhists or Daoists that interpret their religion the same way? Just as there are ump-teen million forms of Buddhism, there are ump-teen million forms of Christianity. Everybody interprets it personally, and, as you have seen, nobody is going to stop and worry whether or not their Bible history is aligned with Michael Turton's. Besides, what if someone did show up at your door knowing all about chiasm-midrashes-synoptic stuff, and he also believed that his religion held the truth, etc...and wanted to share that with you. Would you, in awe of his Turton-esque knowledge of the bible, drop to your knees and join whatever religion he was pushing?...I doubt it...he'd probably tell you that 'fuck' is a bad word.

"Many religions have demonstrated that they are willing to live in peace with other religions and with the non-religious. Christianity hasn't."

If, by 'Christianity' you mean 'Catholics', then maybe you are partly correct. But Christianity comes in many kinds, some peaceful, some not...just like Islam, Judaism, etc.

For some people, religion is the source of their happiness. Sharing that religion, for some, is part of what they believe and therefore part of their happiness. I still don't see any bad in any of what is done by this. Have you considered moving to China, where Christian proselyting is not allowed?...sounds like your kind of country.

STOP_George said...

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What the author does not seem to understand is that both acts, the knocking on doors and the parading, are simply forms of sharing faith. That's really the gist of all of it. The door-knockers do it in a different way, that's all.

I disagree. There's a big difference. The "knocking on door" method is intrusive in an intimate and interactive way. They are talking to you alone. A parade is a public event which does not have the same quality of intrusiveness.

And does this event that Michael encountered occur frequently enough to be considered a real nuisance? In Taiwan, loud "public" events like this are acceptable.
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A guy from Taiwan said...

I have been knocked the door by missionaries from Utah a couple times. You know who they are.

When apathy is the general feeling about something, it is in the true state of tolerance. We don't label people of different faiths with stereotypes. We don't care whether a person is Buddhist, Christian or a Muslim.

However, the traditional Taiwanese religion, which is often described as Taoism, is actually a form of pagen belief. True Taoism has a supreme god similar to Zeus but, instead of independent gods and goddesses who represent different powers of nature, the emperor god assigned duties to other "bureaucratic gods". The whole idea of devinity in Taoism is based on immitation of imperial system. However, traditional Taiwanese religion, which honor Mazu most, is based on great figures of our ancestry instead of heavens mandate.

Buddhism is totally different from Taiwanese pagen and Taoism. And we have Confucianism which can be described as agnostic by default. Religions were not so peacefully existed in Chinese history 1300 years ago, but they somehow got along and never bother to fight at some point. However, most Taiwanese still hold the idea about divinity similar to Roman and Greek pagen, i.e., Gods are supernatural entities who have power and can be bargained with, no matter s/he is Taoism, Taiwanese Pagen, Buddhism, Christian.

Taiwan is tolerant to religions, but legal system is in pretty good standard by conservative standard in the US. We still have capital punishment and we don't use pussy injection, poisinous gas or electric chair. We shot them in the face. Regulation of abortion is comparable to South Dakota standard. Public opinion on guns is more intolerable than Illinois Governor Rod Blago since hunting is deemed as barbaric act of animal mass murder. What about gay right? Gays don't have right in Taiwan. Don't ever think Taiwan is gay-friendly because of the Broke Back Mountain. General opinion on homosexual is totally stereotyped and negative which might not be totally bad.

If you hate Mr. Bush and his policy on domestic surveillance and the Patriot Act and think Taiwan is a more liberal place, you'd better think again. Taiwanese police have finger print database for years. Every citizen has a national ID number and has his/her file of tax record, health record, police record and everything estalished accordingly. Surveillance camera is everywhere and law-abding people are totally disarmed. When the tolerance of religion may let some people to feel good about, the ROC laws on some religious/politic issues in the US are totally conservative (except the gun issue since everybody is paranoid to all others and wants them disarmed in favor of a false, but feel good, sense of safety).

Michael Turton said...

michael turton,

You are to religious tolerance as Foxnews is to unbiased repoting. You think you've got it, but I don't agree.


I'm delighted you don't agree.. Perhaps you can check with the Christian pastor I am writing a book with, the Christian scholar who is helping me publish my book on Mark, the two church organizations I did volunteer work for here, my Christian son who goes to the local missionary school, and my Buddhist wife. Probably they have a different perspective.

"Many Christians want to change my society and are unwilling to live in a secular society where all can choose. They hate democracy and the freedoms it allows others."

Unwilling to live in a society where all can chose? Hate democracy? I've never met those Christians. Apparently you have.


Yes, they are everywhere. In fact, they are now flowing into the US from the outside. This tale of African missionaries to the US offers a good account of people with these anti-democratic values:

"We didn't bring this church to the United States to be another Nigerian church," said Ajibike Akinkoye, chief executive of Dove Media, in an interview in his Irving office. "We are afraid with the way things are going in the world and in America - allowing people to do what they like, creating their own religion and philosophy - those people are going to pay for it. We don't want that to happen.".....

There are many, many such Christian groups, like this one dedicated to stamping out all other lifestyles and beliefs. Juan, Christianity is formally committed to the destruction of all other forms of religious beliefs. What does that tell you about its attitude toward democracy and secular society?

I suggest that you get informed about US politics, which you apparently know little about. Start by boning up on Christian Reconstructionism, which lies at the heart of the Christian Right.

"It is no wonder that Christianity spawned a fascist movement in the US."

You've been in Taiwan too long.


That's probably true, but it doesn't constitute a refutation of what intelligent observers have noted about the Christian Right in the US.

"99% of Christians know fuck-all about the Bible or their religion. It is a pain to be approached by people who know so little about what they believe but are convinced that they have the key to the world's happiness."

Dude, just laugh them off and go on with life. Have you ever met two Buddhists or Daoists that interpret their religion the same way? Just as there are ump-teen million forms of Buddhism, there are ump-teen million forms of Christianity. Everybody interprets it personally, and, as you have seen, nobody is going to stop and worry whether or not their Bible history is aligned with Michael Turton's. Besides, what if someone did show up at your door knowing all about
chiasm-midrashes-synoptic stuff, and he also believed that his religion held the truth, etc...and wanted to share that with you. Would you, in awe of his Turton-esque knowledge of the bible, drop to your knees and join whatever religion he was pushing?...I doubt it...he'd probably tell you that 'fuck' is a bad word.


I wouldn't mind their ignorance, Juan, if they didn't demand that my culture change so that their authoritarianism is considered the only way. I wouldn't care how they interpreted Paul if they didn't use it to discrimate against my gay friends. I wouldn't care how they viewed the Ten Commandments if they weren't using them as some kind of absurd basis for public policy. It would be meaningless how they thought about the OT if they weren't using to control women, suppress birth control, and reduce their civil and social rights. The ignorance of Christians would be a vast source of humor if it didn't underpin an authoritarian politics. Buddhists and Taoists don't usually demand that gays be locked up in camps, as many on the Christian right have argued. Nor do they come to my door and tell me it is sinful to marry a woman of another race, or attack some other aspect of my lifestyle. They let me alone, so I let them alone.

"Many religions have demonstrated that they are willing to live in peace with other religions and with the non-religious. Christianity hasn't."

If, by 'Christianity' you mean 'Catholics', then maybe you are partly correct. But Christianity comes in many kinds, some peaceful, some not...just like Islam, Judaism, etc.


Yes, and all of those kinds are dedicated to evangelism -- and the fact that some kinds are composed largely of decent beliefs does not excuse the behavior of the "bad" ones. Expansion and authority are structural features of Christianity that can be ameliorated by adoption of tolerant values from the larger secular culture, but cannot be eliminated -- at heart even liberal Christian locates its values in authority, not the human mind. Further, that population of "liberal" Christians constitutes a pool of potential converts to the more vicious forms of Christianity -- where do you think the Christian Right comes from? Not from the atheists! They are comprised of liberals and apatheists who have converted, as well as those raised in it.

For some people, religion is the source of their happiness.

For some people, booze is the source of their happiness too. Of course, not many people would recommend a society of drunks.

As the pastor friend of mine notes in our book, many of the people in her congregation have serious psychological and social problems, and have simply replaced the control of a human abuser with Divine Control. Same song, different words.

Sharing that religion, for some, is part of what they believe and therefore part of their happiness. I still don't see any bad in any of what is done by this.

Yes, well, perhaps you could discuss it with the native believers of the Americas and Africas -- if there were any believers left to discuss it with, that is.

Have you considered moving to China, where Christian proselyting is not allowed?...sounds like your kind of country.

That's ironic, because one of the sources for Lenin's organizational theories was the early Christian Church. Both belief systems are authority systems that vest their values in a Transcendent Other. A political commissar is a bishop, a cell leader, a pastor, and a cell is of course a house church. Party Doctrine is Church dogma, and the Laws of God are the Objective Laws of History. The early Church was a proto-Leninist organization. Reality: the Communism-Christianity clash is a sibling rivaly, Juan. Christianity is exactly like Communism -- which is why they have both racked up such high body counts over the centuries. And I've heard Communist apologists tender the same arguments as you -- Communism makes people happy, communism is hurt by a few bad apples but most communists are good, etc. When a Communist says worker he means slave, just as when a Christian says love, he means power. It's all the same language of authority, power, and control and I reject them both utterly. Many others recognize that meaning. Why don't you?

Michael

Michael Turton said...

Fist of all, of course there is no preaching involved with the parade, but that's not the point I was writing on. I was merely curious as to why the author accepts such religious activities while slamming the 'Christian' missionary movement. What the author does not seem to understand is that both acts, the knocking on doors and the parading, are simply forms of sharing faith.

No, because the Taoists on parade didn't ask me to give up my current religious identity and adopt theirs, despise people who don't agree with me, attack the beliefs of others, discriminate against people who do things with their genitals that they don't like, and so on. The Taoists just asked me to wait patiently while they walked by. Actually, they didn't even do that, as I walked across the parade no problem. When you say "sharing" you are referring to the transmission of a system of control that functions by hijacking ordinary human empathy.

Religious freedom is indeed a beautiful thing, and I100% support it. Of course, I am formally committed to a system of beliefs that encourages a diversity of religious identity. Christianity is not.

Michael