Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Feathers
Posts: 260
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:14 pm

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Feathers » Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:08 pm

Technically, atheism just means not believing in gods, it's just that recent atheists have gathered a lot of other images and meanings, not all of them terribly positive. That said, I do think The God Delusion is a book everyone should read, regardless of belief (or lack thereof). It probably won't be most people's cup of tea, but it raises some major issues and questions that rarely get raised.

In the end though you can't compare Christianity, Buddhism and atheism in anything but the vaguest terms, there are so many different flavours of all three.

One interesting thing I read ages ago by a Christian theologian discussing how quite a lot of doubting Christians head for Buddhism, and why he came back: The Buddhist Phase
The writer reflects on how his exploration of Buddhism has enriched his Christianity, and why he stuck with Christianity in the end.

For me, the metaphysics the writer alludes to are just too much to swallow, so here I am, an atheist with a developing Buddhist practice, with no inclination whatsoever to go back to Christianity. The thing I do miss though is my original (pre-Buddhist) understanding of compassion - not sympathy, not detached loving-kindness, but suffering-with.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dhammawheel thread on tools for managing depression

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Ben » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:32 pm

brahmacharya.net wrote:If by Christianity you mean the teachings of Jesus Christ & by Buddhism you mean the teachings of Gautama Buddha, then Buddhism and Christianity are basically the same. Jesus and the Buddha taught the same thing. Only the masses differentiate.
This is not correct.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

User avatar
cooran
Posts: 8504
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by cooran » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:09 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:The profundity of the anatta doctrine sweeps past any theistic claims. It is a denial of both creator god and soul.
Agreed.

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4507
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:19 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:The profundity of the anatta doctrine sweeps past any theistic claims. It is a denial of both creator god and soul.
I'm not disagreeing for an instant, but somewhere on a Christian discussion forum I can envisage
"The profundity of God sweeps past any claims about no self. It is a denial of godlessness and anatta".

User avatar
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by daverupa » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:37 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:The profundity of the anatta doctrine sweeps past any theistic claims. It is a denial of both creator god and soul.
I'm not disagreeing for an instant, but somewhere on a Christian discussion forum I can envisage
"The profundity of God sweeps past any claims about no self. It is a denial of godlessness and anatta".
Brute comparisons are one thing, but when it comes to these sorts of prima facie faith-based claims it's helpful to reflect on the Brahmajala Sutta's repetitive statement that, of any view, it arises due to feeling, and that due to contact. This is a helpful reminder that the content of the views is one thing, tangential and marginal yet alluring and distracting. The trick is the structure of the view, the fact that one takes their personal experiences and says that these are true and right, and all else is wrong or incomplete.

The structure of such belief can be examined in order to accomplish release, or it can be taken for granted and played with, with theistic and atheistic and other such results (roughly-speaking, 62 of them).

Only the Dhamma steps back in this way, allowing for this oversight.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4507
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:46 pm

The structure of such belief can be examined in order to accomplish release, or it can be taken for granted and played with, with theistic and atheistic and other such results (roughly-speaking, 62 of them).
Yes, this is my view too. But I can't help reflecting that the accomplishment of release is as much an article of faith for me as the assertions about God etc. are for others. For them, taking for granted and playing with is our way of denigrating true faith, whereas the accomplishment of release is a false hope.

User avatar
ancientbuddhism
Posts: 884
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:53 pm
Location: Cyberia

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:32 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:The profundity of the anatta doctrine sweeps past any theistic claims. It is a denial of both creator god and soul.
I'm not disagreeing for an instant, but somewhere on a Christian discussion forum I can envisage
"The profundity of God sweeps past any claims about no self. It is a denial of godlessness and anatta".

The difference is that the Dhamma and anatta doctrine was no mere view or claim. It is based upon empirical knowledge and is given in the discourses with the invitation to examine the relevance of an atta through ones own experience. Christianity, and even atheism cannot meet such direct knowledge of reality.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4507
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:00 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:The profundity of the anatta doctrine sweeps past any theistic claims. It is a denial of both creator god and soul.
I'm not disagreeing for an instant, but somewhere on a Christian discussion forum I can envisage
"The profundity of God sweeps past any claims about no self. It is a denial of godlessness and anatta".

The difference is that the Dhamma and anatta doctrine was no mere view or claim. It is based upon empirical knowledge and is given in the discourses with the invitation to examine the relevance of an atta through ones own experience. Christianity, and even atheism cannot meet such direct knowledge of reality.
Again, I don't disagree, but some Christians say something very similar. Knowledge of God is no mere view, it is based on empirical knowledge, and is presented in writings etc. with the aim of examining the relevance etc., with similar accompanying remarks concerning other faiths or none.

User avatar
ancientbuddhism
Posts: 884
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:53 pm
Location: Cyberia

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:20 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Again, I don't disagree, but some Christians say something very similar. Knowledge of God is no mere view, it is based on empirical knowledge, and is presented in writings etc. with the aim of examining the relevance etc., with similar accompanying remarks concerning other faiths or none.
If Christianity was based upon examination of what is relevant to empirical fact there would be no Christians.

Besides, the OP is inquiring on what Buddhism may have in common with either Christianity or atheism. The evidence of Dhamma shows neither.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4507
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:25 pm

If Christianity was based upon examination of what is relevant to empirical fact there would be no Christians.
Again, I might personally agree with you, but Christians might be keen to repay the intellectual compliment with regard to anatta and Buddhism.

User avatar
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by daverupa » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:54 pm

Sam Vara wrote:some Christians say something very similar. Knowledge of God is no mere view, it is based on empirical knowledge, and is presented in writings etc. with the aim of examining the relevance etc., with similar accompanying remarks concerning other faiths or none.
Sure; Vedanta argues that kamma is proof of God, and so forth (which, by the way, shows a dearth of empirical proofs - any Xian who wanted to demonstrate an empirical proof of God to me would have to wait while I got a snack and a drink for the show).

The problem is that we have to establish at least one god, then One God, then One Doctrine and it's either in the Tanakh OR the Bible OR the Quran OR elsewhere... there's a long way to go to get from god(s) to a given set of behaviors I am called upon to perform or avoid on that basis, and each step requires me to sacrifice more and more thought on the altar of (non-saddha) faith. William of Occam thought this sort of additive thinking was just silly (and was branded as a heretic for unorthodox theological commentary - yet more view-adherences based on reasoning and/or contemplative practices).

The Dhamma doesn't look like this at all, instead beginning from obvious things - sickness, death, etc. - and working backwards on account of principles of dependency and causation, looking to put causes to rest and thus accomplish the cessation of certain results and their non-arising in the future.

Stepping back from views and their many iterations, we can understand that contact with pleasant and unpleasant sense impressions leads us to agree or disagree with various metaphysical views hammered out by reasoning or otherwise occurring in contemplative or mystical contexts (e.g. Catherine of Siena's experiences). This regularity of contact --> feeling --> craving can be seen to underlie, and can then be directly addressed.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

User avatar
ancientbuddhism
Posts: 884
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:53 pm
Location: Cyberia

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:23 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Again, I might personally agree with you, but Christians might be keen to repay the intellectual compliment with regard to anatta and Buddhism.
This circular reasoning is becoming tangential to this discussion, or I am just not seeing where it fits.

Christianity is not on the same intellectual footing as Buddhism. Christian doctrine is an empty claim that at best offers Pascal’s Wager for those with critical thinking enough to doubt.

Empirical examination will not yield any god. It will yield things as they are.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4507
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:24 pm

daverupa wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:some Christians say something very similar. Knowledge of God is no mere view, it is based on empirical knowledge, and is presented in writings etc. with the aim of examining the relevance etc., with similar accompanying remarks concerning other faiths or none.
Sure; Vedanta argues that kamma is proof of God, and so forth (which, by the way, shows a dearth of empirical proofs - any Xian who wanted to demonstrate an empirical proof of God to me would have to wait while I got a snack and a drink for the show).

The problem is that we have to establish at least one god, then One God, then One Doctrine and it's either in the Tanakh OR the Bible OR the Quran OR elsewhere... there's a long way to go to get from god(s) to a given set of behaviors I am called upon to perform or avoid on that basis, and each step requires me to sacrifice more and more thought on the altar of (non-saddha) faith. William of Occam thought this sort of additive thinking was just silly (and was branded as a heretic for unorthodox theological commentary - yet more view-adherences based on reasoning and/or contemplative practices).

The Dhamma doesn't look like this at all, instead beginning from obvious things - sickness, death, etc. - and working backwards on account of principles of dependency and causation, looking to put causes to rest and thus accomplish the cessation of certain results and their non-arising in the future.

Stepping back from views and their many iterations, we can understand that contact with pleasant and unpleasant sense impressions leads us to agree or disagree with various metaphysical views hammered out by reasoning or otherwise occurring in contemplative or mystical contexts (e.g. Catherine of Siena's experiences). This regularity of contact --> feeling --> craving can be seen to underlie, and can then be directly addressed.
Some Christians might be keen to demonstrate a proof of God to you, but whether they did or not would have little bearing on whether their affirmations about God were on firmer foundations than our claims about anatta. Many would merely say that they know - that their faith is thereby empirically grounded in properly foundational personal experience which they cannot doubt, and that on the basis of this they can afford to ignore an examination of "the structure of the view". Conversely, my analysis of the structure of the view is fine, but unless I can prove that their view is not privileged by virtue of their certain knowledge, it doesn't help. Structure and truth are separate things.

My understanding that
contact with pleasant and unpleasant sense impressions leads us to agree or disagree with various metaphysical views hammered out by reasoning or otherwise occurring in contemplative or mystical contexts
is likewise fine, but in the absence of saccanubodha it remains a view. I subscribe to it because I like it, it sounds rational, is traditional, etc., but unless I have knowledge that the personal certainties of Christians (etc.) are misplaced, then I think we are still dealing with a clash of two opposing views.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4507
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:30 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Again, I might personally agree with you, but Christians might be keen to repay the intellectual compliment with regard to anatta and Buddhism.
This circular reasoning is becoming tangential to this discussion, or I am just not seeing where it fits.

Christianity is not on the same intellectual footing as Buddhism. Christian doctrine is an empty claim that at best offers Pascal’s Wager for those with critical thinking enough to doubt.

Empirical examination will not yield any god. It will yield things as they are.
I don't think I am engaging in any circular reasoning. I'm merely pointing out the possible similarity of arguments on both sides, with equal certainty being claimed by both.

User avatar
ancientbuddhism
Posts: 884
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:53 pm
Location: Cyberia

Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:39 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Again, I might personally agree with you, but Christians might be keen to repay the intellectual compliment with regard to anatta and Buddhism.
This circular reasoning is becoming tangential to this discussion, or I am just not seeing where it fits.

Christianity is not on the same intellectual footing as Buddhism. Christian doctrine is an empty claim that at best offers Pascal’s Wager for those with critical thinking enough to doubt.

Empirical examination will not yield any god. It will yield things as they are.
I don't think I am engaging in any circular reasoning. I'm merely pointing out the possible similarity of arguments on both sides, with equal certainty being claimed by both.
That both sides approach the argument with equal vigor. That is a given. So what is the point?
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider], Bing [Bot], Google [Bot] and 66 guests