Kanye East

Last Friday when President Obama held a press conference to acknowledge that he had received the Nobel Peace Prize I know many of you were expecting an…incident. Specifically, I imagined Kanye West jumping up to grab the mic from Obama and saying:

“YO OBAMA, IMMA GONNA LET YOU FINISH, BUT I JUST WANNA SAY THAT MARTIN LUTHER KING JR WAS THE BEST NOBEL PRIZE WINNER OF ALL TIME.”

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p>And then I imagined a hail of gunfire by the Secret Service.

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p>Well it looks as if Kanye West might have finally gotten the message and realized that his current path has him living firmly in the modes of passion and ignorance and moving away from enlightenment. He did not show up to the BET awards and he amazingly dropped out of the “Fame Kills” tour with Lady Gaga. Where in the world is Kanye? Where else? Reports have him cloistered away in Pondicherry, India learning Hinduism, or at least meditating and being all-around contemplative:

It seems West is taking some time out now for a religious retreat to reassess his life at a Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, a small coastal town in South India. According to an inside source he sees his life going in the wrong direction and feels badly about the VMA’s incident. [Link]

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p>Remember the Newsweek article from a few weeks back titled, “We Are All Hindu Now?” Kanye is not alone. Lots of Americans are gravitating to some form of Hinduism, perhaps even unbeknownst to them:

According to a 2008 Pew Forum survey, 65 percent of us believe that “many religions can lead to eternal life”–including 37 percent of white evangelicals, the group most likely to believe that salvation is theirs alone. Also, the number of people who seek spiritual truth outside church is growing. Thirty percent of Americans call themselves “spiritual, not religious,” according to a 2009 NEWSWEEK Poll, up from 24 percent in 2005. Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, has long framed the American propensity for “the divine-deli-cafeteria religion” as “very much in the spirit of Hinduism. You’re not picking and choosing from different religions, because they’re all the same,” he says. “It isn’t about orthodoxy. It’s about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great–and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that’s great, too.”… [Link]

I believe that Newsweek is somewhat incorrect in their assessment. It isn’t Hinduism that an increasing number of Americans are converting to. Rather, it is Deism (which can be argued is very similar to certain forms of Hinduism):

a new study about the rise of “Nones,” Americans who profess no religious affiliation. Trinity College analysts now conclude that None’s make up 15% of the population and that, given their rate of rapid growth, they might surpass the nation’s largest denominations.

The rise of the Nones is usually decried by religious leaders as a sign of secularization or atheism’s ascent but get this: 51% say they believe in God. [Link]

So what do I think of Kanye trying to find peace in India? I am not going to be cynical about it. Anyone that wants to better themselves should be encouraged. And, if he is truly inspired while in Pondicherry and wants to record a new song called “Krishna Walks,” I’ll buy it.

28 thoughts on “Kanye East

  1. I say, whatever works as long as it is not a fly-by-night trendy thing – which I don’t think this will be (or least I hope it isn’t).

    They say Dave Chappelle converted to Islam during a self-exile as well in Africa.

    As you stated, any pursuit to better oneself and rediscover a pure focus on life is not a bad thing, especially when someone becomes a bad joke. Anyone remember the SNL skit where Kanye actually makes fun of himself for interrupting award shows ? And hopefully, we’ll get some new music out of it as well.

  2. Dave Chappelle actually has been a practicing Muslim for well over 10 years now. He did not convert to Islam during his stay in South Africa.

  3. i was thinking of going out to pondicherry in a week or two – maybe i’ll look kanye up. although, auroville is SO 20082007. if you’re looking for your spirituality on the outskirts of chennai, oneness university all jokes aside, though, it seems like auroville is actually one of the better places to get away from the stresses of everyday life and re-centre oneself. hope it works out for kanye.

  4. So we got a black rapper douchebag running around in India in an RRL jacket and jeans with crop circles on his head. gr8 i will skip my trip to desh this month.

  5. The rise of the Nones is usually decried by religious leaders as a sign of secularization or atheism’s ascent but get this: 51% say they believe in God

    this is a stable figure. the proportion of nones has increased, and the proportion of nones who are theist or deist has remained stable. so you have had a modest ascent of atheism and agnosticism, though it is more on the order of 2 to 4% (for atheism). see the gss to confirm.

    row:god column:year select:relig(4)

    you’ll see what i’m talking about.

  6. Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, has long framed the American propensity for “the divine-deli-cafeteria religion” as “very much in the spirit of Hinduism. You’re not picking and choosing from different religions, because they’re all the same,” he says. “It isn’t about orthodoxy. It’s about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great—and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that’s great, too.”…

    i think there is something to what prothero is saying, but i think it misses an essential difference between american and non-american religiosity, in particular the great protestant traditions which has assimilated american catholicism and made reform judaism dominant among jews: the emphasis on a small set of beliefs as opposed to orthopraxy. there has always been a relatively universalist strain in american religion. the universalist church was very prominent in the 19th century, and the most successful american-born religion, mormonism, is universalist. also, like many forms of hinduism it is henotheistic.

    in any case, i think religion in india can be conceived on some level as a cartel system (most of the world). there might be flexibility within whatever you are born into, but changing is much more difficult. in contrast “church shopping” isn’t uncommon among americans, and half of them leave the religion or denomination of their birth at some point.

  7. p.s. as an atheist, i’m really glad very few celebrities “convert” to atheism :-) this really isn’t the sort of publicity anyone wants.

  8. Razib, With all due respect, some of us “true” atheists doubt your credentials. Evidence would be use of terms like “orthopraxy” and “henotheistic.” These are terms about nonsense, and hence of no use to the true atheist. It’s sort of like the debate over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin–that debate might well have its own private language, but a true atheist has no interest in mastering it. But, keep the chin up brother–all of us true atheists have ancestors who began as “recovering theists,” which I think is what you are. Your children have a much better shot at true atheism–it’s not really your fault that you’re still labouring under your parents’ teachings in terms of what you think even counts as a question.

  9. jinendral, sure, sure. i get where you are coming from. i know a lot about religion. but if you live in america it is kind of necessary, because people put a lot of stock in their superstitions. additionally, if you are interested in history and anthropology you do need to know these concepts because people seem willing to kill each other over them. if you take your logic to its conclusion you aren’t an atheist either, because the term exists only in reference to an incoherent concept.* but whether it is, or isn’t, incoherent is kind of an academic question. most people care a lot about their superstitions, so in a way you’re the one who’s actually not being practical. there aren’t enough of us that we can control the means of semantic currency.

    • yes, i think that the concepts are incoherent.
  10. Razib, Ok, great answer–thanks much for taking my point seriously! We are indeed brothers. I (for what little it is worth) endorse you and your works!

  11. most people care a lot about their superstitions, so in a way you’re the one who’s actually not being practical. there aren’t enough of us that we can control the means of semantic currency.

    Yes, I take the point. It is not so much that you are an FOB amongst atheists; you are more of a Britisher taking an interest in the Desh! And I mean that in a humble and congratulatory way, given the (unfortunate but true?) history of us hominids.

  12. So we got a black rapper douchebag running around in India in an RRL jacket and jeans with crop circles on his head. gr8 i will skip my trip to desh this month.

    So a black guy going to India has changed your mind about going? I know what your saying Ed. You dont want that black body running around amongst the fair and lovely people of India.

    Anyways. Why do people go to India to escape the life of America? Does it have to do with seeing people who live like trash cans compared to your life in America? “That baby is so poor and now I realize how good I have it. Thanks India.”

  13. Wow -

    The level of self-indulgence is quite remarkable. Firstly, just in case there were others vying for it, the first and second prize in the “world’s most enlightened atheist” are taken now. Now we should be able to determine who got to first and second spots as soon as we can pull away these two godless bodies apart. But goddamn it, there was “god” in “godless” so that must have been the wrong term. and there was a “god” in “goddamn”. This ungodly recursion is driving me nuts.

    Also – is fair and lovely the Godwin of Sepia? wtf, there is a “God” in Godwin as well.

  14. i read the article when it came out a couple of months ago, and found it immensely annoying. this is the interpretation of hinduism which allows people to define it so broadly as to include pretty much any belief (or unbelief) system (and i am not even discussing the point that broadening the definition so it means everything also makes it mean pretty much nothing). similar in spirit to the article here which decides to equate recreational belief and a menu system of picking the gods to worship to hindu polytheism is the other favorite pastime of trying to label atheists as hindus.

    as an atheist, i always found it pretty annoying that hindus would define me into the carvaka school, a patently ridiculous assimilation given that (a) i had never been exposed to the carvaka school in the process of coming to my decision, (b) the carvaka school is pretty much nonexistent in its influence on hinduism as practiced today that even claims of accidental exposure to the idea are ridiculous, (c) the carvaka school, such as it was, was never a mainstream part of hinduism, in fact almost all the writings on it you can find today are those severely criticizing the school, not ones expanding on its concepts, and it is a joke to now claim atheists in india as hindus by invoking this school.

  15. A more amusing version of the Kanye interruption adapted for Obama’s Nobel was tweeted by @tomgara:

    Yo Obama, I like you and Ima let you finish but Henry Kissinger was the least deserving Nobel laureate of all time!

  16. A more amusing version of the Kanye interruption adapted for Obama’s Nobel was tweeted by @tomgara: Yo Obama, I like you and Ima let you finish but Henry Kissinger was the least deserving Nobel laureate of all time!

    or this one by a friend “Yo, Barack, I, I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Gandhi was one of the best peacemakers of all time! One of the best peacemakers of all time!”

  17. “Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, has long framed the American propensity for “the divine-deli-cafeteria religion” as “very much in the spirit of Hinduism. You’re not picking and choosing from different religions, because they’re all the same,” he says. “It isn’t about orthodoxy. It’s about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great—and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that’s great, too.”…”

    This immediately reminded me of my mom when we were staying in india last, she attended meditation classes at this institute that strongly discourages idol worship, but then she used to stop on her way back home at this Pillaiyar temple quite often. I didn’t even know Buddhism was a separate religion till I hit middle school…

    Outside of stricter sects like Swaminarayans, SriVaishnavas etc. I think most middle class urban Hindus go with the smorgasbord board approach.

  18. yo swamy immma let u finish but son u aint ish on maharishi yogi dat n*gga iz like best of all timez…..w3rd.

  19. i have been to this ashram in pondicherry … it is quite beautiful there … however, i was told to actually go inside (the big gold dome) where the meditation takes place … you have to reserve a spot several months in advance b/c of how busy they were (this was right before the final work was being done … it could have been to hype it up … but i had no reason to distrust our guide)