Golf and Other Religions

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

The Golf Gods: Towards a Religious Philosophy of Golf

Golf and Other Religions

Adherents of religions that originated in the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) tend to regard their religions as exclusive of one another. For example, if one is Christian, then, generally speaking, one is not also Jewish or Muslim. If one is Jewish, then, generally speaking, one is not also Muslim or Christian, and if one is Muslim, then one is not also Christian or Jewish. These religions tend to be mutually exclusive.

Adherents of Eastern traditions, on the other hand, may not regard religions as mutually exclusive. Hindus, for example, believe that all people are ultimately Hindus; but, simply put, not all people are yet aware of their ties to Hinduism. In China, it is not uncommon for people to be Taoists, Confucians, and Buddhists all at the same time. The syncretistic nature of Chinese religion is illustrated by the story of an emperor who meets a scholar who is wearing the kind of scarf that devoted Buddhists wear. The emperor asks, “Are you a Buddhist?” The scholar points to his cap which is the kind of cap that Taoists wear. The emperor asks, “Are you then a Taoist?” The scholar points to his shoes which are the kind of shoes that Confucians wear. The emperor asks, “Are you then a Confucian?” The scholar, then, points to his Buddhist scarf. It is not at all unusual for a Buddhist priest to attend a Taoist temple and to memorize the teachings of Confucius. These religions traditions may not be in exact concord or agreement on some issues, but adherents find a way to merge their beliefs or work out any problems.

Golf is not an exclusive religion. One can practice the religion of Golf along with any other religion one desires. One can certainly construe the religion of Golf in a manner that differs from my thinking, making Golf, perhaps, more compatible with other religions. Hence, one can be a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Taoist, Confucian, et cetera and still be a Golfer.

The practice of Golf is not what is ultimate. I would not promote Golf as the ultimate activity of reality any more than Christians, Jews, or Muslims would promote going to churches, temples, or masjids as the ultimate activity. Churches, temples, or masjids are vehicles for helping people understand what is ultimate in reality and for providing people with the tools by means of which they can cope with reality. Churches, temples are masjids are not ultimate in themselves. Rather, they steer believers towards that which is ultimate. Similarly, Golf is not ultimate, but it can be a medium through which adherents learn about reality and find their way through reality.

History is filled with phenomena a lot more significant that playing golf. Eight-and-a-half million people were killed in World War I (1914-1918). The Turks orchestrated genocide against about one million Armenians in 1915. In the wake of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia (1918-1920) some three million were killed in civil wars. Stalin’s collectivization and terror famine (1930-1933) eliminated fifteen to twenty-five million people, mostly Ukrainians. World War II (1939-1945) resulted in the deaths of some forty-eight million people, and that does not include the Nazi Holocaust (1941-1945) in which another twelve million (six million of whom were targeted Jews) were eliminated. Between 1914 and 1945, ninety to one-hundred million people were killed off through wars or genocidal programs. The rest of the twentieth century, the century of mass death, did not fare much better. One-and-a-half million died in the Korean War (1950-1953). Mao Tse-tung’s “Great Leap Forward” in China (1958-1960) resulted in the deaths of twenty-five to thirty million people. The Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976) killed another two to three million. One-and-a-half million died in the Vietnam War (1959-1975), and another two to three million were eliminated in the subsequent Cambodian genocide (1975) orchestrated by the Khmer Rouge.

Relatively speaking, playing golf is not that important. The practice of the religion of Golf, on the other hand, can be a valuable tool by means of which people learn to understand and live with reality in such a way that they recognize and work for what is valuable, for what is ultimate.

The English word “religion” derives from the Latin religio which refers to that under which one is bound. Religion refers to duty or obligation. All religions bind their adherents to that which is ultimate. They set forth a system of beliefs and practices which bind their followers to the ultimate. There is nothing more ultimate than Reality Itself, Being Itself, or Energy Itself (God), that without which there is absolute nothingness. Being Itself binds devotees to the pursuit of beauty, perfection, and goodness. In so far as Golf points beyond itself to the Energy that underlies all things and in so far as Golf holds its followers to the advancement of beauty, perfection, and goodness, Golf is a religion.

Further, Golf is a universal religion rather than a local or national religion. As a universal religion, Golf is not limited in geographical extension but is practiced in most all parts of the world. Though Golf originated in Scotland, it is not tied to any particular ethnicity. Rather, people from all cultures participate. Golfers are bound together by means of a common quest and a common experience of disappointment, a shared system of beliefs and practices, rather than by biology or race. So, Golf stretches across geographical and biological boundaries to embrace all those who wish to join, and I encourage everyone to share in the same kinds of delights and sufferings that have pleasured and exasperated me.

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

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