[In my ongoing series of guest bloggers on Buddhism/practice/etc. from different perspectives, I would like to introduce Karen Anderson, a Christian blogger whose writing can be found here. Remember, to be polite but feel free to engage – Cheers]
Our world is a living example of unity in diversity – there are numerous religions, but for the most part, we manage to follow our own even as we tolerate the rest. Some religions are closely linked to others in their history, culture, beliefs and/or teachings, probably because they one is an offshoot of the other or because they teach the same principles. Buddhism and Christianity are two such religions, and although they seem like strange bedfellows, there’s more to the linkage between these two than meets the eye.
Buddhism is the most syncretistic religion in the world in that it is combined with the beliefs of many other religions and cultures and as such, is easy for people belonging to other faiths to adapt to. For example, people who embrace Buddhism in American call their houses of worship and their meeting places “churches”, a term that is obviously borrowed from Christianity. But the same cannot be said of Christianity – most Christians believe that their God is the only sovereign Supreme Being and that all other religions are humbug and all other deities/gods/prophets are the devil and various demons.
So if we were to look at Buddhism from a Christian perspective, we would probably see the former in a negative light. Most Christians are tolerant of other religions, but as in any community, there are always the hardcore fanatics who believe that those who follow the Buddhist way of life are encroaching on their space and beliefs.
Christians feel that the Buddhist view of life with infinite cycles is very far removed from their belief of one finite life – for the Buddhist, the bad karma that we accumulate in this life leads us to be reincarnated again and again and undergo suffering as human beings. It is only when we completely rid ourselves of all desires and accumulate only good karma that we can avoid being reborn and attain a state of nirvana. For the Christians however, desire can never be completely eliminated and man is doomed to sin because Adam and Eve ate the apple. Their redemption lies in believing that Christ died for our sins and that if we believe in him, we will attain salvation.
In general, the Christian perception of Buddhism is that it is an intruder on its turf. Christians feel that Buddhists are a danger to them, because of their varying cultural and spiritual beliefs and their way of life. For them, it is an anathema to even think that there is no God (Buddhists follow a way of life, not a God), and that the Buddhists can think this way, makes them some kind of atheists who they cannot identify with.