Most comparisons between Christianity and Buddhism are filled with exaggerated and misleading references to doctrines. This normally occurs due to the efforts by the writers to defend the religion which they regard as possessing light and truth. It is thus of essence to maintain an unbiased view in comparing these religions. Buddhism and Christianity have strengths and weaknesses that have attracted a lot of study by scholars.
If one probe into the similarities and differences between Christianity and Buddhism, he/she will discover notable doctrinal differences but he/she will also notice substantial similarities in their spiritual outlook. This essay is a critical comparison of Christianity and Buddhism. Let us start with the differences between these two religions.
As stated earlier, the most notable differences between Buddhism and Christianity occur in their doctrines. In Buddhism, there is no God. Buddhists also believe that, after death, a person is reborn in a better or worse form depending on how well he/she lived his/her previous life. In Buddhism, the ultimate goal is the acquisition of the Nirvana state, a state in which one is relieved of egos, desires, and cravings and saved from the suffering experienced due to reincarnations.
On the contrary, Christians have a personal God. Christians also believe that mortality leads to Gods judgment, which is different from the Buddhists belief of reincarnation. The ultimate goal of Christians is the acquirement of eternal life which occurs due to forgiveness of sins and righteousness.
This gift of eternal life is given to people who believe in Jesus, son of God and confess their belief in Jesus to others. With these vast differences in the doctrines of Christianity and Buddhism, one may expect these two religions to be completely different. However, religions exhibit similarities in their innermost spiritual teachings. Let us have a look at these similarities (Ankerberg, 2007, p. 21).
One of the spiritual teachings shared by Christianity and Buddhism is the disdain for materialism. The over material things and teaches Christians to in search of heavenly things. Similarly, Buddhism teaches that a person who will be tempted and overthrown by Mara (the Tempter).
Therefore both religions despise material things because they make people fail in their religious duties. Additionally, both religions have no confidence in intellectual welfare. In the Bible, St. Paul teaches Christians to beware of philosophy and they are spoiled and forget about the teachings of Christ (Ankerberg, 2007, p. 34). The Lotus Gospel of Buddhists views philosophy, intellectual debates and propositions as faith as depriving and having the potential to make Buddhists fail to hear the name of Buddha.
Both the Dhammapada and the Bible advocate for charity and purity of heart. Thus in Buddhism and Christianity, people believe that they are not only judged for their actions but also for their thoughts and meditations. Both the Bible and the Dhammapada teach humility and meekness and thus these values are central to both Christianity and Buddhism. A closer look at both Christianity and Buddhism reveals more similarities. These include the fact that both religions recognize suffering as a reality.
Buddhists believe that the people suffer after reincarnating for the sins they committed in their previous lives. On the other hand, Christians believe that suffering began with the rejection of God by mankind after creation.
Therefore, Christians believe that rejection of God leads to the suffering of both the person who rejects God and the people affected by the choices the person makes. This kind of suffering is temporary as compared to the eternal suffering that Christians believe sinners will ultimately experience in Hell (Fisher, 2005, p. 29).
Both Buddhism and Christianity have their characteristic strengths and weaknesses. Let us have a look at the strengths and weaknesses of these religions. Christianity is, arguably, weak due to its non-conformance to other theories that explain human existence. An example of such theories is the Theory of evolution that was put forward by Charles Darwin. Thus if the Darwinian Theory is true, Christianity is false because it disagrees with the Darwinian Theory.
That is, Christians believe that man was created in the image of God while the Darwinian Theory states that man evolved from other animals. Contrary to the Christian story of creation, Buddhism supports the Darwinian Theory and thus it beats Christianity in this aspect. The fact that Christianity is based on faith and grace can also be seen as a weakness since the productivity and existence of the two is hard to prove to a person who does not believe in Christianity.
On the other hand, Buddhism is based on a persons actions and reflective practices that discourage desire and ignorance. Therefore, Buddhists can like the belief of suffering that occurs due to sinful actions. The belief by Christians that a holy man (Jesus Christ) was crucified for the sins of believers could also be seen as a weakness of Christianity.
This is because the crucifixion of Jesus for other peoples sins may seem to be illogical to a person who does not believe in Christianity. On the other hand, Buddhism teaches that a person is responsible for their own sins and thus it is, arguably, logical in this aspect as compared to Christianity. Buddhists believe that Nirvana is postponed depending on the actions of a person (Berry, 1997, p. 35).
Buddhism also has its own weaknesses. The fact that Buddhists believe that there is no God is a major weakness for Buddhism. It appears very odd for a Christian and one may wonder why some Christians abandon Christianity for Buddhism. This fact is a plus to Christianity since Christians believe that there is an infinite personal God. Buddhists believe that after a person dies, they are reincarnated in another form.
This is a major weakness of Buddhism since the belief of reincarnation absurd for non-Buddhists. Additionally, the reincarnation belief and the suffering after reincarnation are inconsistent with the belief by Christians that Christ died for the forgiveness of all sins. Buddhism also supports occultism and pagan mysticism (Berry, 1997, p. 4). This can be seen as a weakness of the Buddhist religion because these practices encourage devil worship which is unacceptable in Christianity.
On the other hand, Christianity does not support occultism and pagan mysticism. This gives Christianity a lot of credit. Buddhist practices and beliefs suggest that human life is meaningless. For instance, they believe that Buddha came to assist people in becoming escaping the punishments of life.
This is a major weakness for Buddhism since there is no way that life could be meaningless. If life was meaningless, what would be the essence of being alive in the first place? On the other hand, Christianity values life. Christians believe that Jesus came so that people could have internal life.
Additionally, Buddhists believe that the soul and spirits do not exist. This is in disagreement with the Christian belief of the Holy Spirit and the human spirit (soul) (Berry, 1997, p. 6). This can be seen as a major weakness of the religion since spirits exhibit themselves in everyday life.
For instance, most insane people show signs of possession by evil spirits, and the Holy Spirit is evident in churches. Buddhists believe in self-achievement, and thus they believe that on the man has the power to control his destiny. This is in non-conformance to the belief by Christians that sins are forgiven. This can act as a discouragement for Christians intending to join Buddhism (Ankerberg, 2007, p. 67).
Religions are meant to keep a man in touch with the supernatural. This fact discredits the beliefs of Buddhism since Buddhists believe in self-achievement, and thus, they do not believe the supernatural like God, faith, and grace. Additionally, Buddhism fails to acknowledge the existence of spirits which are evident in society. The fact that Buddhists do not acknowledge the existence of God is a great blow to the authenticity of the Buddhist religion.
They believe that they will evade punishment and suffering by refusing to acknowledge the presence of God, but this will make them be punished eternally. In Buddhism, there are other numerous beliefs that do not conform to common knowledge. Examples of these beliefs include reincarnation, the failure of Buddhists to value life, the fact that Buddhists support occultism, etc. (Fisher, 2005, p. 57). With this argument, therefore, Christianity is better than Buddhism.
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