God vs. Yoga Part Deux

Last week I posted an article that summarized a news story which I personally found revolting. A Catholic priest in Ireland had likened yoga to Satan, and said a bunch of stuff so ridiculous, closed-minded and uninformed that I simply couldn’t help myself.

I felt compelled to share it with others because I deemed it important for people to be aware that this kind of ignorant prejudice is still being promulgated by organized religion. (Here’s the link to the original article, in case you missed it: http://yogabender.ca/god-vs-yoga/)

I put this out there on the worldwide web, and watched in fascination as Catholic and non-Catholic yoga practitioners reacted to the news story.

People from all corners of the world had A LOT to say, and I learned a great deal from their (for the most part) informative and well-versed reactions, responses and opinions. Like the fact that yoga has been a point of contention for a long time in the Catholic Church (and still is) even in educational institutions. (I had no idea!)

I learned that some public schools have recently tried to ban yoga from physical education curriculums, so as to not “warp” tiny minds. And that yogic practices such as meditation appear in the Bible, Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages on Earth, and the word Shalom has it’s roots in the Sanskrit “OM”, which we hear so often in yoga classes around the world. I learned this, among many, many, many other things. So for this, thank you.

What struck me the most, however, was the open-mindedness and laissez-faire attitude with which yoga lovers (religious ones included) reacted to the ridiculous sermon.

Instead of getting angry at the priest’s blatant and ignorant attempts to spread xenophobia, inaccurate facts and fear-mongering about a discipline that above all encourages open-mindedness, acceptance, and universal love, 99% of the hundreds of yogis who engaged in this dialogue simply met rhetoric with educated facts, humour or tolerance for the fact that hate and dismissiveness come from a place of fear, not love.

Many Catholic yogis also shared their personal stories, where they have been faced with the difficult task of having to “choose” between their religion or yoga, or have had to defend their yoga practice in the face of bewildered, skeptical and non-understanding peers. Above all, their debates were inspiring, and proved that religion and yoga do not have to be mutually exclusive.

One can be a devout Christian and a devout yogi, without having to sacrifice one love for another.

Because shouldn’t spirituality (in all its different forms) aim to spread love instead of hate, acceptance instead of violence, and unity instead of discord?

As for the Catholic priest, well, there are fear-mongers such as him in any religion, culture or community, and we shouldn’t judge any group of people by the comments or actions of one ignorant, rotten apple who clumps yoga, Harry Potter and Satan in the same category of “evil”.

But we SHOULD arm ourselves with knowledge instead of rhetoric, stay open to differences of opinion (as long as these don’t lead to violence, hate or destruction), and above all, not engage in futile conversations such as the one below.

While they may provide some modicum of wide-eyed, incredulous and fleeting entertainment (yes, I admit it), ultimately it’s time wasted on battles you’ll never win. Because you can’t have an intelligent conversation with a brick wall.

So either laugh off or ignore the following thread, but in cases like this it’s best not to engage. Lesson learned.

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Enough said.

P.S. “Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” he told the Telegraph.

P.P.S. Hindus, Catholics and yoga lovers around the world are appealing to the Pope to get this moron off the pontificating podium. Thank. God.

4 Responses

  1. Joyce Garorth

    Also I had once an incident with the Catholic Church. By the way I am a practising catholic, also nuns and some priests attended my classes. Yet this Polish parish priest thought I was evil. So one of his offsiders stretched her arms and hands right in front of me and babbled words in tongue. Whereupon I asked what she was doing. She replied: “I am driving Satan away from from!!”. A few of us stood up and left the table, politely said goodbye.

    1. Alexandra Nereuta

      Oh, wow! I don’t know if the amusement I felt when I read your comment is appropriate, but so be it. I’m getting a mental picture of this situation, and it’s quite entertaining. I love how you made your exit, and I thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. Dave

    Sorry for the copy and paste below. But it fits in with your story so well.


    Religions respect the individual’s autonomy.
    Cults enforce compliance.
    Religions try to help individuals meet their spiritual needs.
    Cults exploit spiritual needs.
    Religions tolerate and even encourage questions and independent, critical thinking.
    Cults discourage questions and independent critical thinking.
    Religions encourage psycho-spiritual integration.
    Cults “split” members into the “good cult self” and the “bad old self.”
    Conversion to religions involves an unfolding of internal processes central to a person’s identity.
    Cultic conversion involves an unaware surrender to external forces that care little for the person’s identity.
    Religions view money as a means, subject to ethical restraints, toward achieving noble ends.
    Cults view money as an end or as a means toward achieving power or the selfish goals of the leader.
    Religions view sex between clergy and the faithful as unethical.
    Cults frequently subject members to the sexual appetites of the leaders.
    Religions respond to critics respectfully.
    Cults frequently intimidate critics with physical or legal threats.
    Religions cherish the family.
    Cults view the family as an enemy.
    Religions encourage a person to think carefully before making a commitment to join.
    Cults encourage quick decisions with little information.
    From “Guidelines for Clergy” by Rev. Richard L. Dowhower, in Recovery From Cults, edited by Michael D. Langone, Ph.D. and published by W.W. Norton and Company. Reprinted with permission.

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