Hearty Heresy

Kill Christianity, Part One
September 21, 2007, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Buddhism, Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

Scanning the radio as I was driving home from a trip to Kansas last Sunday, I stumbled upon the American Public Media program Word for Word, which was featuring a presentation by Sam Harris entitled, “A clash between faith and reason?” (You can download a podcast here.) It was certainly a welcome relief after hours of football scores, 70s rock, and Brand Xian preachers. Harris delivered a wonderfully thorough argument against religion (specifically religions like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, which require adherents to take so much of their beliefs on faith alone). I enjoyed it so much that I cruised the web when I got home looking for more from Harris. His website lead me to a provocative article by him in Shambala Sun called “Killing the Buddha.” Here’s the opening blurb:

“Kill the Buddha,” says the old koan. “Kill Buddhism,” says Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, who argues that Buddhism’s philosophy, insight, and practices would benefit more people if they were not presented as a religion.

I think Harris is right here. Buddhism at its best is not so much a religion, but a philosophy of life that’s supported by specific practices. Here’s how Harris puts it:

The fact is that a person can embrace the Buddha’s teaching, and even become a genuine Buddhist contemplative (and, one must presume, a buddha) without believing anything on insufficient evidence.

He goes on to say that “the same cannot be said of the teachings for faith-based religion [like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam].” I agree wholeheartedly with the first part of Harris’ statement, but I have to disagree with the second. I believe that “faith-based” religions can provide philosophies, insights, and practices that can benefit more people. In fact, I believe that the same exact statement Harris makes about Buddhism can be applied to Christianity:

The fact is that a person can embrace the Christ’s teaching, and even become a genuine Christian contemplative (and, one must presume, a christ) without believing anything on insufficient evidence.

Indeed, that’s a pretty accurate summation of what I would call my main heresy, that one can follow the teachings of Jesus and develop the “christ-nature” within oneself without believing anything on insufficient evidence. But in order to do so, one must both “Kill the Christ” and “Kill Christianity.” Neither one is very easy in this culture. As Harris notes:

If you really believe that calling God by the right name can spell the difference between eternal happiness and eternal suffering, then it becomes quite reasonable to treat heretics and unbelievers rather badly.

And that, of course, is what fundamentalists specialize in–treating heretics and unbelievers rather badly. But I won’t let that stop me. In my next few posts I plan on taking a shot at killing Christ and killing Christianity. Stick around.


8 Comments so far
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So are you advocating stripping the Monotheistic elements that are at the heart of Jesus’ teachings? Wouldn’t that be one major difference between Buddhism as a philosophy and being a Christ follower? Christ’s teaching come from a One God assumption. I will be fascinated to see the upcoming posts.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

I wouldn’t say “stripping.” I would say refiguring. But before I’d go there, I’d want to strip away from Jesus anything that requires believing something about him on insufficient evidence. As far as the “One God” assumption, I’ll have to think on that a bit. I’ll keep you posted!

Comment by heartyheretic

I would have given up my Christianity long ago were it not for the evidence I have seen in my own life. Often objective evidence. I struggle with writing it up because it seems every event/narrative ends up needing dozens of other narratives for background and I still have to take time to make a living.

Comment by WhoreChurch

It’s Jesus that I don’t want to give up on, WC. I haven’t considered myself a Christian for awhile now. I had some hope for finding a Christianity I could live with after reading Bishop Spong, but I haven’t found a place that embraces that sort of Christianity.

Comment by heartyheretic

“Christianity” might be a term with lots of definitions. Certainly many will say there is no possible way I am a Christian. I haven’t found a place that embraces what I consider Christianity either, but I don’t include a “place” in my definition. I figure daily questions, looking for answers, loving for the people I run into are the things that will eventually help me find some level of Truth.

Comment by WhoreChurch

There certainly are a lot of definitions for “Christianity,” which is why I usually specify “Brand Xianity” as the type for ho-hum orthodoxy that absolutely deadens the teachings of the living Jesus. And of course, it’s those teachings that I’m interested in. I do think your take on Christianity is reasonable, however, and will, indeed, lead to finding some level of Truth.

Comment by heartyheretic

**And that, of course, is what fundamentalists specialize in–treating heretics and unbelievers rather badly**

The fascinating thing about the heretics is there’s always a simple response to heresy: it’s wrong, must be stopped, punish those who hold it, those who hold it are “stupid.”

ANd yet do you know a single “heretic” who didn’t come to that position without a great deal of thought and study? As soon as you say you believe something that goes against the norm, you get crucified (no pun intended). So who on earth would ever lightly hold to a “heresy?” It’s a lot easier to follow the crowd.

Comment by Heather

You’ve really hit the heretical nail on the head, Heather! A heretic in this day and ages probably has a thorough understanding of the orthodox she or he is rejecting, and has spent hours and hours of thought, study, and prayer reaching that decision. Wheareas your average Brand Xian is someone who unthinking has bought the whole thing without much reflection, as in “God Said, I Believe It, That Does It.”

Comment by heartyheretic

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