Other Religions? Or is that the wrong question?

July 6, 2007

One of the big issues being debated by Christians, and being fired at Christians, is “What about other religions?” In these days of resurgent religions all over the world (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism especially) surely we need to be toterant and surely no one believes their religion alone is right or that all the others are going to hell, etc, etc.

I’ll talk about hell another time, but these commonly made statements depend on certain assumptions which need debating themselves:

1. Christianity is a religion (Talk about that some other time too).

2. All religions are basically “the same”, whatever that means.

3. All claims by religions to truth (at least in any “absolute” sense) are unsupportable, if not meaningless.

4. Tolerance is incompatible with claims to truth.

5. There is an identifiable “thing” called religion.

All these points are very debatable.

Let’s just take the last.

What do we mean when we speak of “religion” or “a religion”?

What does, say, Buddhism have in common with Islam that they could both be called a religion?

Is it even meaningful to lump the different forms of Buddhism togther as a religion? If you substitute Hinduism, the question becomes even more acute.

So what are we talking about when we discuss, say, Buddhism? The Dalai Lama? or the monks who stirred up crowds to burn down churches in Sri Lanka? Is it Thai Buddhism (friendly and non-threatening and a bit animistic) or Burmese Buddhism (aggresisve and “in bed with” a particularly nasty military regime)?

What makes Buddhism Buddhism? You don’t have to believe in a guy called Buddha. You don’t have to believe in gods. You don’t have to “worship” anything though most Buddhists do.

Could there be such a thing as a Buddhist Christian or a Christian Buddhist? What would that mean?

More later.


2 Responses to “Other Religions? Or is that the wrong question?”

  1. Mat said

    I read this article and my first thought was… this guy has been reading McLaren’s book.

    I haven’t yet! But today I read reviews on Amazon which gives you a good idea on the themes

  2. Jon said

    Yeh. You should read that book and others

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