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Thomas Terry on Buddhism and corruption in Mongolia – an answer to his response PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2008

By Egil Lothe, President of Buddhist Federation of Norway

My article “Buddhism – the cause of corruption in Mongolia?” published in UB Post and Mongolia Web drew attention to viewpoints on corruption in Mongolia expressed by Mr. Thomas Terry, the president of Eagle Channel in UB, on his homepage[1]. Judging from his emotional outburst in his comments to my article this seems to have caused him some embarrassment. The main point in my article was a discussion of his allegation that the prevalence of corruption in Mongolia can be explained by the influence of Atheism and Buddhism on the Mongolian people. This is how he expresses himself:

Mongolian society has primarily been informed by the worldviews of Atheism and Buddhism; but they don’t seem to be able to affect the kind of character in society that makes corruption a source of personal shame. If these worldviews actually had that ability, then one would expect with such a long history here that corruption’s acceptability would not be on the rise[2].

 In other words the prevalence of corruption in Mongolian society can be explained by a deficiency in the worldviews of Atheism and Buddhism that prevents Mongolians from perceiving corruption as morally offensive. Thomas Terry generally expresses himself clearly, and so also here where he elaborates on this point:

Corruption can only be solved when people make a personal decision that corruption is so morally offensive that they will not participate in it at any cost. When we view corruption as personally offensive and destructive to personal character, then we will take pains to avoid it and consistently condemn it in deeds as well as words instead of the situation we have now – excusing it and finally accepting it as so much of Mongolian society seems to have done. (my underlining).[3]

This reasoning clearly justifies in his thinking the title of his article: “Why do Mongolians view corruption as “acceptable”” He does not say “some Mongolians” but “Mongolians”. Presumably he excepts the 1,5% Christian Mongolians from this characterization but as far as the Atheist and Buddhist Mongolians are concerned (the great majority of Mongolians), is it precisely his arguments quoted above that target them as the objects of his characterization (underlined above). This is nothing but a vicious attack on the moral integrity of most of the Mongolian people. Thomas Terry’s attempt in his response to my article to claim that he has been falsely charged with attacking the Mongolian people[4] is therefore without any credibility whatsoever. I am in fact surprised by his cowardice when confronted with his insulting allegations regarding the Mongolian people. Rather than defending his statements that Atheist and Buddhist Mongolians are morally blind in relation to corruption due to the influence of the worldviews of Atheism and Buddhism, which thus facilitates corruption, he makes a pathetic attempt to avoid the condemnation of Atheist and Buddhist Mongolians (which he will surely receive once they read his article)[5] by making the ludicrous statement that my analysis of his article is a “misunderstanding”. However, strangely he also adds a new insult to his previous insults in his response to my article:


What I did do was make a social commentary on the historic influence of Atheism and Buddhism and ask why, if these worldviews are so constructive, hasn't their increasing influence and exercise here facilitated a dramatic drop in corruption instead of a dramatic rise?[6] (my underlining)


The derogatory insinuations expressed in this quotation and elsewhere above have not been supported by any evidence. On the contrary, as I have shown in my article, as far as Buddhism is concerned, its moral stand against corruption is crystal clear. I would therefore suggest that Thomas Terry pay more emphasis on speaking truthfully about Buddhism. Unfortunately the misrepresentation of Buddhism in his present article is not an isolated case, but only one of many others found in his writings[7] . In the present case I suggest that if Thomas Terry is not ready to stand up and defend his accusations against Atheist and Buddhist Mongolians he should have the moral courage to offer them an apology for his untrue and insulting statements.

Finally, regarding Eagle Television I would like to repeat that I do find it disturbing that a person, being as careless about truth concerning other religions, as Thomas Terry has proven himself to be, is allowed to operate a television channel in Mongolia. Presumably the channel will be sufficiently scrutinized in regard to this particular area. To the extent these attitudes of Thomas Terry are reflected in the editorial policies of his channel any renewed discussions about the future of Eagle Television are surely justified.



[2] ibid.

[3] ibid

[5] The article (as referred to in the previous note) has also been translated into Mongolian

[7] I will deal with these misrepresentations in a separate article.

  Comments (6)
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 1 Written by MNS062808, on 2008-07-16 15:31:09, IP:
Mr. Lothe- 
First off- THANK YOU for responding to Thomas Terry's allegations. It is great to hear the other side of this issue. 
I think what puts me off of people like Mr. Terry is his belief that his religion [Christianity] is- to him- the only religion that has no corruption in it. After I responded the first time to his article, I was given to wonder if he ever told his flock in Mongolia the TRUTH about what Chrisitianity has done in the world. Yes, even the BAD things they have done over the centuries. When he decided to call out Buddhism as being corrupt, I had to respond. Especially with his inference that it somehow condones corruption and evildoing, which is patently FALSE. 
It rankles me that Mr. Terry sees no problem in calling down Buddhism and Atheism as 'corrupt', scratches his head in seeming bewilderment when others take him to task for it, and still runs a TV station in Mongolia for a religion that has nearly no regard for other faiths and their views as being as legitimate as those of his own.  
For him to wonder at the fuss? 
Geez, isn't there always a reason for the smoke when you lit the fire in the first place? 
His assertion that he 'knows' Mongolia and Mongolians because he 'lives' in Mongolia is only partly a truth. 
Fact is, he is an expat operating a Western-style TV station that espouses a Western religion in an Asian country. He is no more Mongolian than I, an American living in the States. He will never know what it is to be Mongolian or have the heritage to claim as his own. 
At most, he is an outsider still looking in at a culture he claims to know and chides others for not 'living' in Mongolia and having the audacity to think and actually have an opinion about his practices in a foreign land.  
It is time for those in the West to call out people as he and the slant they espouse. For him to make such statements send the wrong ideas to Mongolians about how the rest of the world views them and their country. Its time the Mongolian people knew that not everyone in the West is as Mr. Terry would have them think we are.
 2 Written by roydongen, on 2008-07-16 23:26:05, IP:
The insulting attitude of Thomas Terry is actually shocking. As a Netherlands born Catholic coming in Mongolia for a decade, living and working here I find his statements connecting Buddhism to corruption false and untrue. Corruption is in most cases connected to the economic position of those accepting the briberies. He should read the corruption index and is not connected to religion. 
I think an apology to the population of Mongolia should be in order, not to forget to Buddhists all over the world!
 3 Written by froit, on 2008-07-18 21:03:30, IP:
Maybe also there is a contrast of cultures at hand, European vs American? 
Americans are generally a bit more brash in their statements, as opposed to well-balanced europeans? 
(don't want to use the word 'primitive...'
 4 Written by gamp, on 2008-09-04 14:19:29, IP:
Religion and corruption don't fit together. So there was no need to mention religion in his article about corruption, on Mr.Terry's part. Even if he didn't meant to say that Atheism and Buddism were the reason. He just wanted to say that Christianity does much better that Buddism when it comes to condemning corruption, thus causing a Buddist boss (meaning you, Mr.Lothe!) jump in and shoot back with machine gun. Both wrong. Mongols have a "good tradition" of giving gifts (modern term: bribery) as expression of appreciation and also to persuade somebody.  
I must mention though that Mr.Terry's done a good job bringing up this issue which still causes today more headache. Educating people morally might be not enough to fight corruption; there are also other ways such as fighting through tough laws and improving the economical standards of people. Again, by becoming or being Christian or Buddist you will not be anti-corruption. As for you ,Mr.Lothe, you didn't have to exaggerate things and make an elephant out of a mouse. By the way, Mongol lamas are "famous" for taking "bribes" and honestly do nothing in return to help the poor when some Christian charity organizations do help the poor. I actually don't see any advantages Buddism has brought to Mongolia and its people. You should be more talking about how ,in your opinion, can we make Mongolia less corrupt. If you not interested in doing so, then why don't you just shut the mouth and let others express freely their own mind in this regard.
 5 Written by tsmah, on 2008-09-19 03:40:08, IP:
Don't use any religion for the sake of of one selfishness, He who make condemning of any other religious are himself corrupted with "Evil" in his mind. I think Terry should come out to apologies for the sake of putting back his evil though his own body rather than giving others the bad feeling of his religious.
 6 Written by MNS062808, on 2008-09-19 10:11:39, IP:
I think what is interesting about those who support Thomas Terry and his ilk are that they use any means to debase other beliefs to make their own seem more legitimate. The assertion about Buddhism's so-called 'corruption' can't hold a candle to the systematic corruption of the Catholic Church ever since its inception centuries ago. Leaders of the Church, for centuries, took bribes and dispensed 'forgiveness' only at their whim. They owned- and still own- vast amounts of property, riches and wealth no mere person would dare to contemplate such 'poor servants of Christ' should have. It was, and is, very much a Church of MAN, not GOD. This evangelical movement is only another tentacle of an octopus seeking to draw more wealth and riches to itself, leaving the people they overrun bereft. 
I again must hope that those who support Terry need to- for the sake of fairness- look hard at the ills and wrongs the Church has done [and IS doing] over the centuries of its existence before pointing the damning finger at other beliefs and calling those beliefs 'evil' and 'corrupt'.

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