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Of Cherries and Pumpkins

by Ariel Thomann

There has been much a-do lately about Dawkins, Harris and Eller. Are all religious people somehow inferior mentally and they must have their noses rubbed into it, or should there be respectful dialogue in search of what we have in common with them?

The following is from the book How the Great Religions Began, by Joseph Gaer:

"The chief reason why the Chinese people accepted Buddhism was because it explained to them things they wanted to know about death and about heaven.

"But people do not spend all their time thinking of what happens to their souls after death. People also eat, drink, and sleep. They spend their time making shoes, hats, and clothes to wear. They build houses to live in, because they cannot live like monkeys in the trees. They prepare food to eat. They sing songs and play lutes when happy. They write books and paint pictures. They tell stories. They travel. They buy and sell. They bathe. They swim. They play games. They eat sweets which they like very much. And they do many, many other things that have nothing to do with thinking of death or what happens after death.

"If we could put side by side the time the Chinese spend in thinking of God and worrying about what becomes of their souls after death, and the time they spend in doing all the other things, it would look very much like a small red cherry placed near a big, big pumpkin.

"And if Confucius did not tell his people anything about the cherry, he did tell them much about the pumpkin. Though he told them nothing about God and Heaven, he did tell them what to do in order to make out of the pumpkin very delicious pumpkin-pie. Confucius told his people how to live and how to do things that would make them happy and good.

"But in teaching the people how to be happy and good, Confucius did not destroy their old beliefs in the things the Chinese had loved for centuries."

Speaking for myself, I'm not particularly interested in cherries. Particularly, I don't care whether they are pitted, peeled, or whole -- and according to whom. I had the privilege of being personally reamed out by "the" Madelyn for being of the live-and-let-live persuasion, but that's basically where I still live some thirty years later. And if someone of the religious variety wants to know about my pumpkin-pie, I'll be glad to share my recipe. Enjoy yours this Thanksgiving.