Erasmus, a great Renaissance philosopher, said that opinions should be left free on many subjects. Why? When held opinions, especially in religio-politics, are transferred into action – to the detriment of some sector of mankind – the longer term consequences can be tragic, But not always so.
For instance, when a reported colloquium of East Asian Buddhists in the 18th century allegedly decided that nirvana could be achieved within a single lifetime, my initial reaction was to name it Toyota-Buddhism (because Toyota is a superbly efficient corporation). I also wondered whether some of the leaders at that learned conference were only ‘goose-stepping’ (on the basis of their authority) in the presence of more humble priests (reminiscent of, say, the UN Security Council).
However, when European scholars studied Indian (Hindu) writings during the term of the ‘British Raj’ during the era of European colonialism, some seemed to have great difficulty in accepting that a non-European civilisation could be more durable, more knowledgeable, and more insightful then the recently-risen European culture. Refer the confirmation of the antiquity of Vedic writing through the assessments of planetary movements in ancient times, enabling the probable dates for these writings. Some scholarly Indians had apparently already said that their ancestors had been given their knowledge by interstellar visitors.
That the white ‘race’ is innately superior to all other ‘races’ – an opinion held even by European scholars in the 18th century (refer ‘Black Athena’ by Martin Bernal) – most certainly distorted the knowledge which should be available to all of us, whether white, black or brindle. As it is, there are Indian writers still referring to the Aryan invaders – a slice of wishful colonial opinion. As well, recently an Indian writer expressed his regret that the modern Indian has little connection with his Vedic heritage – which appears to offer great insights into human history.
When opinion infests institutional religion … … ! Recently, a priest warned me about the dangers of dealing with the spirit domain. That advice was based on a comment found in the Bible. Should something uttered (possibly casually) about 2,000 years ago by that great teacher in desert lands be binding upon residents of the forests and mountains of Asia or the jungles of modern Western cities?
So, how much relevant knowledge has been distorted by opinion (even by well-meaning people)? Open minds enable learned souls!