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Buddhism

Comparison of Buddhism & Christianity

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Comparison of Buddhism with Christianity:

Since so many American adults are converting from Christianity to Buddhism, it may be useful to compare the two.

We define as "Christian" any person or group who thoughtfully, sincerely, prayerfully regard themselves as Christian. This is the definition that pollsters and the census offices of many countries use. It includes as Christians the full range of faith groups who consider themselves to be Christians, including Assemblies of God members, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, United Church members, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc. Many Christians have a much less inclusive definition of the term "Christian" and specifically exclude many faith groups from this list.

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Beliefs not shared:

Buddhists do not share most of the core beliefs of historical Christianity and many of the less critical beliefs accepted by some Christians. Buddhism does not teach:

  • An original golden era in the Garden of Eden, and a subsequent fall of humanity.

  • Original sin shared by all present-day humans, derived from Adam and Eve.

  • A world-wide flood in the time of Noah, causing the greatest human genocide in history.

  • The need for a sinless personal savior whose execution enabled individual salvation through atonement.

  • A god-man savior who was born of a virgin, executed, resurrected and ascended to heaven.

  • Salvation achieved:

    • Through good works (a common liberal Christian belief) or

    • Specific actions and beliefs (as in repenting of one's sin and trusting Jesus as Lord and savior as taught by many conservative Protestant faith groups) or

    • Sacraments (e.g. the ritual of baptism within the Roman Catholic Church, followed by confession later in life).

  • Most Christians believe in the soul: the essence of a person that lives on, unchanged, after death for all eternity. Buddhists have no such belief.

  • Return of a savior to earth at some time in the future.

  • An end of the world as we know it, in the near future with a war of Armageddon and the genocide of over two billion people who will be targeted because of their religious beliefs.

  • The belief that their religion will continue forever. Most Christians believe that Christians will increase in numbers until essentially the entire world is of this one faith. Some Buddhists believe in Miroku, the "future Buddha." They expect that Buddhism will eventually fade from the scene. This belief is compatible with their principle that all objects, religions, etc. are impermanent. However, they expect that at some future time in the future, another person will attain Buddhahood -- the state of perfect enlightenment -- and will recreate a religion similar to Buddhism.

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Some shared beliefs:

  • Life continues in some form after death:

    Almost all religions teach that a person's personality continues after death. In fact, many religious historians believe that this belief was the prime reason that originally motivated people to create religions. However, Christianity and Buddhism conceive of life after death in very different forms:

    • Buddhism teaches that humans are trapped in a repetitive cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. Each successive rebirth may be into a better, a worse life, or a similar life, depending upon the person's Karma -- the sins and merits that have accumulated during their present and previous lives. One's goal is to escape from this cycle and reach Nirvana. Once this is attained, the mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. Suffering ends because desire and craving -- the causes of suffering -- are no more.

    • Christianity has historically taught that everyone has only a single life on earth. After death, one's beliefs and/or actions are evaluated in the Final Judgment. An eternal life awaits everyone. Depending on the judgment, it will be either in Heaven or Hell. There is no suffering in Heaven; only joy. Torture is eternal without any hope of cessation for the inhabitants of Hell.

  • Ethic of Reciprocity: Buddhism, Christianity and all of the other major world religions share a basic rule of behavior which governs how they are to treat others. Two quotations from Buddhist texts which reflect this Ethic are:
    • "...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353.

    • "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18.

This compares closely to Christianity's Golden Rule, which is seen in:

    • "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew 7:12.

    • "...and don't do what you hate..." Gospel of Thomas 6. This Gospel was widely used in early Christianity but never made it into the official canon because of its Gnostic content. However, it remains valuable today because it seems to have preserved many unique sayings of Jesus that do not appear in other gospels.

  • Themes of morality, justice, love: These themes are found through both the Buddha's teaching and the Hebrew and Christian Bible.

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Beliefs shared by some Buddhist traditions and Christianity:

  • Deity: In its original forms, Buddhism did not teach of the existence of transcendent, immanent, or any other type of God, Gods, Goddess, and/or Goddesses. However, many Buddhists -- particularly in Japan where is it often merged with the Shinto religion -- do believe in a pantheon of superatural entities.
  • Prayer: Some traditions within Buddhism believe in the power of prayer; others do not.

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Site navigation:

 Home World Religions > Buddhism > here

 Home page > Comparisons of religions > here

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Copyright © 1996 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-NOV-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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