There has been some discussion on /r/atheism recently about Buddhism. Specifically, why Buddhism gets a free pass compared to Christianity, which seems to be the butt of so much criticism. The crux of the argument is that Buddhism is just as much a spiritual belief as Christianity, it’s not just a philosophy to live by.
And that’s absolutely true. Buddhism does have just as many crazy beliefs as Christianity. Also, it can be argued that Christianity is just as much about compassion, acceptance and kindness as Buddhism. So why aren’t the crazy Buddhists copping a barrage of animosity and ridicule?
I mean, come on – we can all agree that reincarnation is a bunch of bullshit, right? So what’s up? Why does Buddhism get a free pass?
Well, there’s the obvious geographic argument. We are English-speaking Westerners, whose culture evolved around the Judeo-Christian faiths. Christians are in our collective sights on a daily basis, knocking on our doors, pamphleting our cars, yelling at us on street corners and campuses. We see them on our TVs and we are forced to live under threat of their outrage. They don’t like abortions, and they vote. They don’t like gay marriage, and they vote… They are highly mobilized, and should they manage to gain a majority on these issues, our lives are going to change.
So Christianity is the current battle. It’s the ideology that’s most likely to have an affect on our lives.
But it’s more than that.
A Christian will tell you that Jesus was all about love and compassion. So why is it then, that we don’t associate these traits with the average Christian? Why are they yelling at me all the time? Why do they feel the need to tell me I’m going to hell for my apparent sins? Even the moderate Christian will passive-aggressively tell you that they will pray for you. I mean, who’s that helping?
Christianity, like most religions, sets up an us-vs-them paradigm. There’s the good and the bad, the saved and the sinners, if you’re not with us, you’re against us. And that’s a dangerous place to start. It’s an argument that assumes that they have an absolute truth that we heathens just haven’t cottoned onto yet. Even though Christians may have the best of intentions when trying to convert us to their religion – they genuinely don’t want us to burn in hell for all eternity – we’re not part of the group yet.
That’s where Buddhism differs. Within Buddhism, there is no room for blind faith. It sets out a clear path for spiritual and personal development that anyone can undertake according to their own understanding and ability. Buddhism actually suggests its adherents think, question and develop acceptance based on understanding.
In the Dalai Lama’s own words:
“We must conduct research and then accept the results. If they don’t stand up to experimentation, Buddha’s own words must be rejected.”
Can you imagine a priest or bishop saying that about the Bible? But perhaps most telling of all is this:
When he noticed American author John Perkins reading a book about Buddhism, the Dalai Lama told him:
“Don’t become a Buddhist. The world doesn’t need more Buddhists. Do practice compassion. The world needs more compassion.”
The Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism – actually publicly advised someone not to become a Buddhist, but to try and make a difference in the world by simply practice compassion toward his fellow man.
Buddhism is a truly peaceful religion, it doesn’t prosthelytize, it’s is very much in harmony with modern science and it preaches independent thought. In fact, some argue that Buddhism’s philosophical teachings are more relevant today then they were thousands of years ago because we have more stresses in our lives than Buddhism’s original followers.
At the end of the day, Buddhists don’t seek to force their worldview on anybody, but they are willing to teach you if you are willing to learn.
And that’s why Buddhism gets a free pass when it comes to criticizing religion.