My analysis of the compatibility/incompatibility of Christianity and Buddhism. If you feel you are going to take offense, please just don’t even read it.

Friend: [I’m] not a fan of the ‘pray for this injured kid so he gets help’. As much as I respect religions, wouldn’t a god want their people to call a hospital or raise money for someone to get a life saving surgery?

Me: Ok, so you’ve scratched the surface of HUGE DEBATES which have been going on pre-christianity, and have been problems from the very beginning of christianity. Which book in the bible you read will give you different opinions. The most common opinion cited, (because of it’s consistency with the rest of the scriptures) is that faith (or heart) is more important than works (actions), because a good heart will naturally lead to good actions, and it’s more important to have a good heart than to appear to do good. Buddhism of course goes the opposite direction, and there are books in the bible which argue more towards this. Buddhism believes that even if someone’s heart is totally selfish, and even if they do good for the wrong reasons, they are still benefiting the world. Multiple new testament books strongly proclaim that faith without good works is dead (meaning that the heart can’t be good if it doesn’t produce good actions). This becomes a controversial issue. Sort of chicken or the egg. Buddhism also believes that if a bad heart experiences the good feelings of helping others, it will become a natural choice, and in a way selfishness becomes selflessness. Christianity has a vague experience with this but nothing official as it would be apocryphal (inconsistent with primary scriptures).

There are also parallels between the stoic christians and the ascetic buddhists. These deny bodily pleasures in favor of spiritual knowledge and meditation. While christianity would describe it like voluntarily becoming a slave to God, who is perfectlygood, and therefore becoming an instrument for good to come into the world, buddhism would describe it like becoming dead. One is perfectly in tune with the universe, immune to false opinions because one has no opinions. This is initially shocking to Christianity because one would not want to be dead, because dead people can’t do good. But essentially these methods are similar.

To continue my wonderful spark of insight, the buddhists believe that suffering is just a natural part of life (almost a logical consequence of having brains, which I am discovering more and more I think is the case). Christianity builds on the creation story that suffering is because of the essentially evil nature of human hearts, and that only God can rescue us from punishment, (or creating our own hell is a better interpretation, but that’s not fundamentalist). So suffering in one christian sense (called Deuteronomical, based strongly on the book of deuteronomy) is punishment because of our legal infractions against God. While this thinking is common in a majority of religions and is appealing to a majority of humans because of its deterministic and legal nature, it’s also simplistic and childish. Like the child caught in the cookie jar, it also connects with humanity because of its simplicity and childishness. I find this to be a wonderful parallel to Karma. Which is slightly more mature to me because it highlights the deterministic strength of the idea. But both have a strange idea of justice and the universe, in which balance must be in some way restored.



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