Why I am not Christian

From the Buddhist Channel: An Open Letter to a friend explaining why she is Buddhist with a point to point comparison with Christianity.  It is quite long and sactimonious at times.  She glosses over the fact that Buddhism can (and does) exclude people as well as is used in negative ways to increase suffering by unethical and immoral individuals looking to make a quick buck or garner support.  The writer still has a “pie in the sky” mentality. 

But a good letter over all. Holy shit is it long…here are some excepts.

…We have no godlike super being who decides to send beings to hell, nor do we exclude anyone, even the worst of sinners can become a Buddha. Christians believe that everyone is born in original sin, and that all are in need of salvation and cleansing. Buddhists believe that all living beings have buddha nature within them, but through conflicting emotions and indulging in the 5 poisons, anger, greed, jealousy, hate, and ignorance, and thus perpetuating our suffering have forgotten how to allow that stainless perfection to be evident and foremost in our lives. But we all have it. Christians believe that we are all sinners in need of redemption, Buddhists believe that we are all Buddha’s who have forgotten it for the moment. Christians believe that someone died for your sins. Buddhists believe that no matter what anyone does, you are irrevocably responsible for your own actions, and that all actions have consequences, good or bad correspondingly.

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Christians believe in Heaven and Hell, as distinct places, where humans only go after a single human life, depending only on ones status in accord with Christian beliefs. Buddhists believe that “heaven” and “hell” are states of being which can occur as the results of negative actions as well, but we believe that these places can be here as well as the beyond. …. The most blissful state a Buddhist can wish to be in is the state of Nirvana, a state of heightened and total awareness, devoid of all preconceived ideas, all desires, all conflicting emotions, yet in full dazzling consciousness and awareness of the whole universe. There are varying levels of consciousness on the way to this state, Satori is one, and these are achieved through various mental technologies, using visualizations, meditations, prayers or ritual type meditations, koans, chanting. Depending upon the particular Buddhist tradition one adheres to, the methods may vary, but the basic philosophy and the purpose is the same. Spiritual development, self realization, enlightenment.

Christians believe that your fortune or lack of one, your talents, appearance, parents, circumstances, health are all at the whim or will of God in that one lifetime. If you are born retarded and lay in a crib drooling, unable to recognize anyone, until the day you die, that is your luck of the draw, and God’s will for you. Buddhists believe that your fortune or lack thereof, your luck, your appearance, your talents, all are the result of past actions, good or bad. If you were a good person you will be born into good circumstances, if you have harmed others or created difficulties for others and thus have a great karmic debt, you might be born with handicaps or difficulties. It is commonly believed that the particular kind of difficulty you experience in life is directly related to the type of troubles you may have created in your past life or lives.

Christians believe in one lifetime per soul and an afterlife of either Heaven or Hell. Buddhists believe in lifetime, followed by lifetime, etc. etc etc. Each lifetime is like a grade of school to us. No lifetime is ever wasted. The ones you have loved in past lifetimes, will be present for us to love and care for again in the future. Likewise, the difficulties, your enemies and those whom you have harmed will present themselves to you again and again. Over and over, each lifetime bringing its own particular wisdom and its own experiences to your inner soul. Each incarnation is precious, and even if you were born in a horrible condition, dying almost immediately, it may have the benefit of teaching you how precious a human life is, but there is no wasted anything. No vast furnace of souls in untold agony for eons, only instead, like nature, nothing wasted, everything recycled and renewed. That is the way of the universe and it is also the way of the soul. This gives infinite hope for all beings.

…If you have all eternity and innumerable lifetimes to be born again and again, this also has a dark side. We are essentially powerless on our own to offset the pain and misery of life. The only way out is to put an end to the suffering by ceasing to produce negative karma, working to help other living beings in any way we can, ceasing to cause hurt or pain to others. This is not so easy. It may seem easy with those who love you, but your worst enemy may present him or herself again and again in your lifetimes in sometimes very significant positions in relation to you until you are able to find a way to forgive and negate the bad energy and overcome it with love and kindness and compassion. We believe there is a reason why people incarnate near each other, usually to help each other. Even if that seems very painful at times, it is nonetheless, exactly what you deserve, and exactly what you need to learn, if only you choose to recognize it.

Christianity recognizes only human lives. Buddhism recognizes the lives of animals, plants, and various types of spirit beings, some of low and some of higher order. Buddhism feels that you can incarnate in almost any form depending on what level mentality you are living on. Have you known in your life some people who thought just like jungle creatures, predatory and selfish, and also people who are so loving and gentle and selfless that they seemed almost to be higher than ordinary humans? Look at Mother Teresa, a woman so good that she has dedicated her entire life to the care of others. What particular religion she is, what sect, all becomes secondary to the wonderful work she does. She is respected by all. There is room in my Buddhist philosophy for her, whereas a fundamentalist Christian might say she is going to hell because she is a Catholic.

…Also, contrary to what many Christians believe, the Bible is no miracle book. More people have been subjected to misery as a result of the teachings of that Bible than from all other causes of human suffering. Misquoted, misinterpreted, irrelevant to modern society excepting in the most abstract of ways, and yes, edited. I believe that the preservers of the so called Bible, eliminated any books which didn’t jive with whatever they might have had already, and may have included a word here and erased one there in order to keep it as a tool with which to control people and get their money. This is and always has been the main goal of religions in the world.

I see Christianity as ignoring all the other living beings both human and otherwise who have lived from time immemorial, all the sincere pagans, Jains, Hindus, Native Americans, Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists, and countless other religions too many to name, and consigning them all to a nasty hell, regardless of age, sincerity, culture, goodness or lack thereof. This narrow view, coupled with the one life concept, leaves a very cruel universe as the creation of this cruel Christian God. There is very little redemption, very little compassion and no real hope in this religion which claims to redeem, but only enslaves its own. It claims to give hope, but only to Christians, and everyone else should go to hell.

Buddhists believe that even if you are a horrible person and die as such, you will come back again and again, and having suffered the results of your bad karmic past, with each new circumstance and each new life, you may get the chance to learn to trust again, and learn not to be unkind, but grow in wisdom and learn to love and help others instead of harm them. You may get to live ten thousand years as a tapeworm or a series of poisonous snakes if you are a really bad guy, but ultimately there is hope for all. We are taught that all living beings have at one time been our mothers, our lovers, our children. We should love all beings with that same kind of love and protection and care like a mother cat gives its kittens, a mother bird gives its chicks, etc. Not just other buddhists. To a buddhist, all beings are not divided into denominations, or into saved and not saved, or into species and sub species. All beings are all beings. All living things are sacred. This sacred view of life is very purifying, very holy, very wonderful. It includes bugs, birds, deer etc. etc. etc.

To a Buddhist, you have no choice but to forgive all those who have harmed you. You could be that person’s child or parent or significant other in your next life. We all have to take care of each other. Chronological age is irrelevant. You have seen old people who are very ignorant, and children who are very wise. That old fool could be a younger soul, that little child could be a wise old being who has come to take care of its foolish young parent. This concept is hard for Christians to understand, which is hard for me to understand since Christianity is supposed to be a loving and forgiving religion, yet I have seen more angry Christians who cannot forgive than Buddhists, and more intolerance in the name of christianity than anywhere else.

…A great problem I have with Christianity is guilt and blame. There is so much of it throughout all of Christianity. It seems to be a religion which glorifies pain, guilt, suffering, and remorse. These may have a small redeeming value in that one must feel remorse for past actions in order to remediate, but Christianity fosters remorse when you haven’t even done anything. You just had to be born in sin to feel guilty. This is not constructive psychologically. I rather prefer the imagery that Buddhism provides of the gentle man who gave up all his riches and went into the forest to find a way to end all suffering on earth. To advance and evolve the human mind to its greatest potential. To teach all beings to love one another and achieve full realization, enlightenment.

In Buddhism, all people, men and women are equal spiritually (sic). In some ways one can achieve more in a certain lifetime as a man, and the same is true sometimes as a woman. I always hated the Middle Eastern attitudes toward women which seemed to bleed through into Christianity, it being essentially a middle eastern religion. I regard the Middle East in almost its entirety as a giant sewer in the way it treats women. I will not cover my hair nor will I walk behind a man, nor do I believe that a man has power over me. The major Christian churches are still wrangling over whether or not a woman can be a minister or priest or whatever. Bullsh*t. I bid a most happy farewell to those attitudes a long time ago. Read St. Paul if you want to hear some real woman hating nonsense. He really seemed to believe women to be inferior beings. Not to mention his unrealistic views on divorce, marriage, gays. In today’s society he would be considered a most narrow minded man.

It is a belief of great hope and joy. The world is a sorrowful place, and it is also a joyful place. Souls leave and rest and come back again. The world you pollute now, will haunt you in your next life, so take care of the earth and the animals and the plants. Give love. Forgive. Reach out. Be generous. Cultivate wisdom, not money. All children are your children, all people are your family. Make no enemies. Make peace wherever you can. Radiate Love for all beings. Visualize universal love and kindness, world peace, whatever you want. We Buddhists believe that these kinds of thoughts have power and can effect real change in the world.

A religion is only a tool to that end. Ultimately it can be described so simply as to say that Christianity saves some and damns others; Buddhism saves all!

This is good, very very good. And that is why I am a Buddhist. I hope it has helped you to understand a little about my religion, and I also must apologize if there has been anything I said here that offended. This was not my intent, but merely to convey what I was feeling when I made the change. Lest you think it was overnight, believe me it was a gradual process, like falling in love. Eventually I one day just realized that I was more Buddhist than anything else, and made it official. The one thing I pray most is that in all my lifetimes yet to come, that I will have access to this precious teaching. To me it is the key to the cosmos.

Thoughts?

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24 thoughts on “Why I am not Christian

  1. I think her treatise could have ended with the first paragraph, because it seems to me she began to bury her Buddha nature beneath a pile of aversion as her “comparison” continued.

  2. Indeed! I would have shortened it up even more to only include..

    A religion is only a tool to that end. Ultimately it can be described so simply as to say that Christianity saves some and damns others; Buddhism saves all!

    For me that is the long and short of it!

  3. It is a great temptation to get on a high horse in comparing Buddhism with Christianity. I find myself doing it without even thinking about it. One can, however, find many similarities regarding hypocrasies, violence, greed, sexual misadventures, and all manner of human weakness. Especially in the Tibetan tradition and the early years of Japanese Zen. Just because the violent history of Christianity is so accessable doesn’t mean that it stands alone in that regard.

  4. That’s quite a tirade… and I’m not sure if it’s a tirade against Christianity or a self-convincing process to justify being Buddhist (a friend of mine would call it ‘being Buddhistic’). Mostly I didn’t pick up any ‘personal level’ articulation of her choice – as was her intent. It reads like Buddhism 101 as a defense of… something…

    I wonder if Bertrand Russell is turning over in his grave? 😦

    • If I found proof of a gold-farting unicorn I would easily build a massive altar to it’s divine awesome-ness.

  5. Actually, I remember Pope John Paul II had a lecture once about heaven and hell… IIRC, in it he said (it surprised me) that they weren’t places anymore than they’re different states of beings that you reach through contemplation.

    Kinda makes some of the points in this article moot, doesn’t it? 😛 I’d say that any religion (including Christianity and Buddhism) depends on your own understanding of it, whether it’s correct or not.

    The traditional Buddhism -does- have several levels of hell, and several levels above higher than being human. That’s more than what Christianity has. You also can interpret this in a literal way, or in a figurative way… who’s to say what’s correct?

    • I never denied the contemplative aspect of any religions. The contemplative approach, I think, is the approach that leads to the largest benefit to one’s “self” and the community in general. I practice with a few people that I would call “Contemplative” Christians. Same thing with yoga, Sufi, pagan and anyone practice out there.

      “Traditional” Buddhism does not have heavens or hells that I can recall. But I know what you are talking about – there is a cosmology that differs from the Christian cosmology.

      But, I do agree when you say it does fall to the practitioner of either (or any) faith (or practice) to determine the worth of their actions.

      I would go so far to say that I would have more in common with a contemplative Christian than a dogmatic Buddhist!

      Cheers!

      John

  6. If you are reborn as a mosquito, how to you build up enough karma to get reborn on a higher realm of existence?

    • Stop being a lawyer? Lame joke, I know. Why the hell am I getting these questions? I’m an agnostic. Lame excuse, I know.

      Oooo! I know! Be the bast damn mosquito you can be! Seems like a big jump, though…I always imagined the karmic universe working in gradual baby steps rather than huge leaps like that…

      I will have a nice post on karma later.

      • That was my guess also, spread the least amount of malaria you possibly can! Although I don’t think mosquitos are that self-aware:)

        (more on the subject: “whats-with-all-the-fucking-questions” later!)

        • Hey I said “hell” not “fucking” and I’ve been answering emails all day from this post from both Buddhists and Christians! Its been actually rather busy. 😀

          Sometimes, I think we are too self-aware for our own good sometimes…

          Cheers

  7. The biggest reason I am not Catholic (anymore), is that I cannot relate intimately to the Christian story. Buddha, and his teachings, on the other hand, completely speak to my life’s experience, my struggles, my heart, my mind, my body, my spirit, . . . the whole package of self.

    Deep bow, and thanks for your wonderful blog.

    marguerite

  8. I had a really hard time following along with her letter. It’s filled with generalization I don’t agree with, and also seems to lack a clarity when it comes to the many issues that are present in Buddhist communities across the planet, including the issues of sexism, violence in places like Sri Lanka, and leaders using teachings to support abuse of authority, among others. Ah, and then there’s this:

    “It is a belief of great hope and joy. The world is a sorrowful place, and it is also a joyful place. Souls leave and rest and come back again. The world you pollute now, will haunt you in your next life, so take care of the earth and the animals and the plants. Give love. Forgive. Reach out. Be generous. Cultivate wisdom, not money. All children are your children, all people are your family. Make no enemies. Make peace wherever you can. Radiate Love for all beings. Visualize universal love and kindness, world peace, whatever you want. We Buddhists believe that these kinds of thoughts have power and can effect real change in the world.” Sounds more like an Oprah sound bite than Buddhist practice.

    There’s plenty of things I don’t connect to in Christianity, and things I think are open for criticism as well, including the whole “original sin” doctrine, and the Bible as a constructed, politicized text that is presented as “sent from God completely.” But she seems to only touch on these, and then goes back to how wonderful Buddhism is.

    I enjoy her enthusiasm, and am glad she feels the Buddhist path is serving her in her life. But I don’t feel any wiser about either issues with Christianity, nor about Buddhist practice.

    As you pointed out, the best lines are these:

    “A religion is only a tool to that end. Ultimately it can be described so simply as to say that Christianity saves some and damns others; Buddhism saves all!”

    Anyway, thanks for giving us something to chew on 🙂

  9. Hi,

    Awful. The article is full of ‘Christians believe this’ and ‘Christians believe that’ generalisations and serves no useful purpose.

    Wonderful that the writer is happy following a Buddhist path. But it reads as if the writer’s path is more valuable to the writer for being in opposition to a Christianity of a particular sort that bears little resemblance to the very broad range of beliefs in the Christian world.

    I hope that people don’t read this and think that it in any way represents the majority view of Buddhists. Most Buddhists I know (and most people I know are Buddhists) are simply happy in thier spiritual path and don’t feel the need to compare, contrast and condemn like this.

    And most Buddhists I know will, if asked about Christianity, simply say that it’s wonderful if someone wants to be a Christian. And the conversation ends with a smile.

    Marcus

  10. My biggest issue is that she presents it as Christianity: bad, Buddhism: good. I think there are better deconstructions out there than that.

  11. The author has succumbed to some of the same overdrawn, idealized notions that I had when I first came to Buddhism nearly 9 years ago.

    A little Tibetan history would start to clarify how schism, sectarianism, misogyny, theocracy, theft, murder and worship of spirits has created almost as checkered a history of religion in the East as there is in the West. The story was not much better in other parts of Asia.

    (no disrespect or unkindness meant to my Tibetan, Buddhist friends, teachers or anyone else! This is just a pov)

    Buddhism is a marvelous creation of many human minds, that has benefited my life tremendously. Thousands of years of history includes all kinds of people, cultures and real historical events that show that most of us have a lot to practice before ridding our minds of greed, aversion and confusion, (myself before anyone else).

    The Christians have their own problems getting along with each other. They do not need condescending attitude from us, they need some Metta, a little equanimity, and recognition that in the emptiness of time, all humans are on the pathless path, no matter what labels they subscribe to.

    Namo Buddhaya
    Namo Dharmaya
    Namo Sangaya

  12. Yup, our religion is a fucked up as Christianity for the most part. Well except for the Crusades, that was some pretty crazy shit.

    This letter was long. It’s like a Pink Floyd song, I like it at first, but then I just kind of get tired of it. It could really be shorter and then I could not flip stations 2 minutes in. See, it’s like this analogy: too damned long.

    Whatever. I was and am this way a lot of the time. I grew disenchanted with Christianity and how it is used in our culture.

    If I an Asian I would probably have converted to Christianity. A lot of it is perspective.

    • I actually cut out about a third of it…

      I am at odds with some aspects of Christian thought too but I don’t define my belief, faith and practice by what I am not. If I were to really explain my sprititual growth, it would require 3 letters – “Why I am not Christian”, “Why I am agnostic” and “Why I am a Buddhist”. However, my explainations would not denigrade others for their beliefs but rather as an explanation of my practice and experience.

      I am annoyed when people describe Buddhism as all flowers and puppy-dogs. But I guess people get enamored early on.

      Cheers!

      John

  13. Real simple. Here’s my breakdown of The Holy Trinity:

    The Buddha – the Father, the Source Fully Realized
    The Dharma – the Holy Spirit, Truth Manifest
    The Sangha – the Son, from the Source but not Realized

    No big deal. Christ was a rockin’ guy, accepting, loving and loved to reveal Truth through allegory. Hmm. Sounds like a Buddha to me.

    GK

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