Recently, I received a series of comments and questions from a Buddhist who had been a Catholic previously. After some initial dialog, I responded more comprehensively with this comment; it is edited slightly for a wider audience.
You shared that you are a Buddhist, which helps me place some of your earlier comments in perspective. My guess is that you are Theravada, since you say you don’t believe in a god to love. Many Pure Land Mahayana Buddhists tend to respect and adore Amitabha almost like a god or saint.
I am not a Buddhist, but I have high respect for the Buddha. I think Gautama was an incredibly wise and balanced thinker, and I have benefited greatly from his insights on the middle way, suffering, and non-injury.
About Angry God
In a general response to your questions, I do believe in Jesus and follow him. I believe Jesus brought us good news, and part of this good news is that God is not angry, violent, and vindictive as he is often described in the Old Testament. Instead, he is like a Father who loves us unconditionally; in fact I usually do not refer to him/her as God, because the term ‘God’ carries such negative baggage. Instead, I refer to him/her as the Father, as Jesus did, though it could just as easily be ‘the Mother’; I do not think of God as a patriarchal entity.
Another part of the good news is Jesus’ rejection of rules and laws as the basis for ethical living. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of treating other people with good will rather than hurting and exploiting them. Jesus expressed this in many ways; some of the more well known are:
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22)
Do to others what you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7)
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies. (Matthew 5)
Jesus was consistent in teaching and living this principle, which was in contrast to the idea of living by rules and commandments accepted as the ethical standard in Jesus’ day. However, Jesus is not unique in teaching this ethic; the Buddha taught the same thing, and it is constantly emphasized today by the Dalai Lama who represents the Vajrayana branch of Buddhism.
Life after Death
There is a third aspect to the good news of Jesus that is more unique to Jesus. I believe he tells us that there is potential for life after death, and I think his resurrection demonstrates his ability to assure our restoration to life after we have died. I anticipate that it will be a life of peace and happiness, unlike our current experience of conflict and oppression.
Many Christians see this pleasant future life as restricted to those who believe certain things about Jesus and who make specific commitments to him; they think those who do not do this will be punished. I think they are terribly mistaken. Jesus’ invitation to eternal life is open to everyone who accepts it, even if they have never heard of Jesus; perhaps everyone will be accurately informed of the invitation after death.
Response to Additional Questions
Now that I have covered, broadly, some of your general questions, I will see if I can address other specific questions.
I still have questions about the logic of Christianity; the concept of sin I see Christianity as an illogical combination of politics ( Ruler Law i.e. sin laws ) and the Purpose and belief in God. Why the need the combination of the 2 together?
I certainly understand this question! Many Christians today talk about sin in terms of rules and laws; in fact, I used to understand Christianity the same way. But I have learned that this is misguided.
I don’t use the word ‘sin’ much because of the baggage attached to the word, but it is used in the New Testament. I believe we can define sin as hurting ourselves or other people–it is as simple as that. Of course, we can never completely avoid hurting people, but we should try, conscientiously, to avoid it. This is what I understand the message of Jesus to be, and I think the Buddha gives us a similar message.
I am in a time of Roman occupation of Israel; the people are poor; the tax payers are in the temple; the Jewish people want self rule. My friend John has been beheaded; I am trying to promote peaceful revolt; the High priest are in bed with the Roman powers of the day; religion is now corrupt; the people are both unhappy with the Rulers and the head of religion. What do I have to do to get my revolt going?
I agree with you that Jesus was leading a non-violent revolt, but I don’t think it was against the Romans but rather against the legalism and haughtiness of the Jewish religious establishment that despised and burdened the common people. I think Jesus succeeded in establishing an alternate movement, but it has now lost much of the original impetus and has often become similar to the dogmatic, legalistic religious establishment of Jesus’ day.
If you reject the OT how can you believe in Jesus?
This is a good question, and you are not the first to ask it, but I don’t reject the Old Testament (OT); I reject the way some Christians understand the OT. Many Christians think the OT is an accurate collection of the very words of God, but they aren’t. The OT writers were very interested in God and felt they had a special relationship with God, but their comprehension of God was very limited. In my opinion, Jesus’ insight about God overrides anything that is written in the OT. However, it is a very useful record of how the nation of Israel thought about God; and, by-the-way, their thoughts about God are not consistent throughout the OT.
You say God loves you. How does your god show you love? And don’t tell me because his “son died for you.”
I believe God loves us because Jesus, as his representative, both taught and demonstrated love.
Many Christians today think Jesus died to pay for our sins, but this is an idea that developed only about a thousand years after the death of Jesus; I do not hold to this theory. Other Christians see Jesus’ death and resurrection as a victory over death itself, and it impacts us in that we have opportunity to live again beyond death. Of course, the immediate reason for Jesus’ death is that he was seen as a threat by both the Romans and the Jewish establishment.
I do not love a god in Buddhism; we have no god but I can love my husband and sisters and brothers and show love to my fellow man. I need not know the love of God to have the emotion of love the emotion of empathy or the emotion of sadness.
I think the comfort of learning that the Father loves us is important to many people because previously they thought God was angry, vindictive, and out to punish them. So understanding, instead, that God has good will toward us removes a great burden of fear. I realize this is not the case in Buddhist thinking.
In order to have and display an emotion (love) one must be alive; how can you respond to god’s Love (an emotion) when he is unable to display emotion.
I don’t claim to know much detail about the Father’s makeup, but I suspect that the Father does display emotion and can relate to us.
REALITY is the world or state of things as they actually exist as opposed to an Idealistic or notional idea of them.
It is true that we do not have a detailed understanding of things we cannot see. I believe in the Father and I believe in a future life after death, and those things are not demonstrable. However, these are not the things most important to my life. The most important thing is Jesus’ teaching of love for one another, reconciliation with others, and treating people with respect and good will instead of oppression or exploitation.
I think the same is true regarding the Buddhist belief in the cyclical re-birth of the atman. Have you ever seen the atman? What about the concept of karma? Are either of these real as opposed to idealistic or notional ideas?
GB. I hope these responses have been helpful in clarifying my perspective. Feel free to follow up if you wish. ~Tim
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Have a great day! ~Tim