Adventures in India
I'm currently reading about the history of India, and was somewhat interested by the following passage I came across:
It is not necessary, said the Jains, to assume a Creator or First Cause; any child can refute that assumption by showing that an uncreated Creator, or a causeless Cause, is just as hard to understand as an uncaused or uncreated world. It is more logical to believe that the universe has existed from all eternity, and that its infinite changes and revolutions are due to the inherent powers of nature rather than to the intervention of a deity.
Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pg. 420
Not too shabby, especially for an ancient eastern quasi-religious sect. Unfortunately, after reading further, I discovered that the Jains were much worse. In fact, their founder ought to be the patron saint of environmentalists:
The road to release, said the Jains, was by ascetic penances and complete ahimsa--abstinence from injury to any living thing. Every Jain ascetic must take five vows: not to kill anything, not to lie, not to take what is not given, to preserve chastity, and to renounce pleasure in all external things. Sense pleasure, they thought, is always a sin; the ideal is indifference to pleasure and pain, and independence of all external objects. Agriculture is forbidden to the Jain, because it tears up the soil and crushes insects or worms. The good Jain rejects honey as the life of the bee, strains water lest he destroy creatures lurking in it when he drinks, veils his mouth for fear of inhaling and killing organisms of the air, screens his lamp to protect insects from the flame, and sweeps the ground before him as he walks lest his naked foot should trample out some life. The Jain must never slaughter or sacrifice an animal; and if he is thoroughgoing he establishes hospitals or asylums, as at Ahmedabad, for old or injured beasts. The only life that he may kill is his own. His doctrine highly approves of suicide, especially by slow starvation, for this is the greatest victory of the spirit over the blind will to live. Many Jains have died in this way; and the leaders of the sect are said to leave the world, even today, by self-starvation.
POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 12:34 AM
Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pg. 421