Beyond Belief: a Buddhist Critique of Christianity

Chapter 1:
Introduction

The purpose of this book is threefold. Firstly it aims to critically examine Christianity and thereby highlight the logical, philosophical and ethical problems in Christian dogma. In doing this I hope to be able to provide Buddhists with facts which they can use when Christians attempt to evangelize them. This book should make such encounters more fair, and hopefully also make it more likely that Buddhists will remain Buddhists. As it is, many Buddhists know little of their own religion and nothing about Christianity - which makes it difficult for them to answer the questions Christians ask or to rebut the claims they make.

The second aim of this book is to help any Christians who might read it to understand why some people are not, and never will be, Christians. Hopefully, this understanding will help them to develop an acceptance of and thereby genuine friendship with Buddhists, rather than relating to them only as potential converts. In order to do this, I have raised as many difficult questions as possible and not a few home truths. If it appears sometimes that I have been hard on Christianity, I hope this will not be interpreted as being motivated by malice. I was a Christian for many years and I still retain a fond regard, and even admiration, for some aspects of Christianity. For me, Jesus' teachings were an important step in my becoming a Buddhist and I think I am a better Buddhist as a result. However when Christians claim, as many do with such insistence, that their religion alone is true, then they must be prepared to answer doubts which others might express about their religion.

The third aim of this book is to awaken in Buddhists a deeper appreciation for their own religion. In some Asian countries Buddhism is thought of an out-of-date superstition while Christianity is seen as a religion which has all the answers. As these countries become more Westernized, Christianity with its "modern" image begins to look increasingly attractive. I think this book will amply demonstrate that Buddhism is able to ask questions of Christianity which it has great difficulties in answering, and at the same time to offer explanations to life's puzzles which make Christian explanations look rather puerile.

Some Buddhists may object to a book like this, believing that such a gentle and tolerant religion as Buddhism should refrain from criticizing other religions. This is certainly not what the Buddha himself taught. In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta he said that his disciples should be able to "Teach the Dhamma, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear, and be able by means of the Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen. "Subjecting a point of view to careful scrutiny and criticism has an important part to play in helping to winnow truth from falsehood, so that we can be in a better position to choose between "the two and sixty contending sects. " Criticism of another religion only becomes inappropriate when it is based on a deliberate misrepresentation of that religion, or when it descends into an exercise in ridicule and name-calling. I hope I have avoided doing this.

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