Buddhism (And Now For Something Completely Different)

Excerpt from Chapter 9 of Beyond Blind Faith, copyright 2017, 2019

In the previous chapter, I pointed out many ways in which I believe Islam fails the test of credibility. Hinduism and Buddhism are not so easily appraised. Hinduism, like Judaism, is an ancient religion, and Buddhism is considerably older than Christianity. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have their own sacred scriptures, and do not accept any portion of the Bible as scriptural. Their worldview differs so radically from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam that evaluating Buddhism from a strictly Judeo-Christian perspective is like arguing about the nature of God with an atheist.

Although Buddhism and Hinduism share many fundamental beliefs, I will primarily focus on Buddhism. Our goal is not to attack or disprove Buddhism, but to understand it. However, I believe one thing will become abundantly clear in this discussion: Buddhism (and Hinduism) and Christianity cannot both be true.

The Four Fundamental Beliefs That Distinguish Buddhism From Christianity. In many ways, Buddhism and Christianity are strikingly similar. Both grew out of an ancient religion that still exists today: Christianity of course developed from Judaism, while Buddhism had its roots in Hinduism. Like Christianity, Buddhism had a single founder, Siddhartha Gautama (known as the Buddha), who embraced society’s outcasts. Like the teachings of Jesus, Paul, and the apostles, Buddhism condemns such evils as killing, lying, stealing, and sexual misconduct (for example, adultery, rape, and promiscuity), while embracing values like compassion, generosity, humility, self-control, forgiveness, and non-violence.

Paralleling Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount [i] (which came more than 500 years later), the Buddha urged people to be moral and kind in their actions, speech, and thoughts. Thus, Buddhism disapproves of gossip, slander, insults and other hurtful speech, as well as hatred, anger, greed, covetousness, and self-centeredness. [ii] Indeed, Buddhism arguably imposes a higher moral standard on its adherents than does Christianity, for Buddhists are forbidden to harm any living creature, whether human, animal, or insect. (For this reason, strict Buddhists are vegetarians.) Christianity and Buddhism also agree that lust for wealth is undesirable, and Buddhism says the same thing about a yearning for power, fame, sex, food, intoxicants, and other pleasures.

And yet as similar as Buddhism and Christianity are in many ways, four fundamental Buddhist beliefs are so radically different from anything in Christianity that they dwarf these similarities. Those four beliefs are: [iii]

            1.   There is no personal God.

            2.   The universe is subject to the law of karma.

            3.   People have no eternal souls.

            4.   People constantly live in samsara, or “cyclic existence” (what we generally refer to as reincarnation). . . .

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[i] See Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7.

[ii] Most Buddhist monks and nuns have special rules they must follow, which can vary from place to place. For example, such rules may require abstention from some or all of the following: sexual relations, intoxicants, singing, dancing, music, perfumes, adornments, various luxuries, and the handling of money.

[iii] Not all of these beliefs are universally held by all Buddhists, for Buddhism today encompasses a wide range of beliefs.