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.


Make That Emergent/Postmodern/Liberal Quaker/Unitarian Universalist
August 1, 2007, 11:26 am
Filed under: Buddhism, Christianity, Faith, God, Judaism, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

At the risk of over-posting, I wanted to report the results of the Belief-O-Matic quiz I took again at the suggestion of Jon. I took this once many years ago and pretty much scored the same. If you’ve never taken it, give it a try.

Your Results: The top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.

1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
3. Secular Humanism (90%)
4. Neo-Pagan (83%)
5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (83%)
6. New Age (79%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (77%)
8. Mahayana Buddhism (71%)
9. Taoism (69%)
10. Reform Judaism (65%)
11. New Thought (60%)
12. Nontheist (60%)
13. Scientology (58%)
14. Orthodox Quaker (57%)
15. Jainism (55%)
16. Bahá’í Faith (52%)
17. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (45%)
18. Sikhism (41%)
19. Hinduism (40%)
20. Islam (27%)
21. Orthodox Judaism (27%)
22. Seventh Day Adventist (27%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (23%)
24. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (22%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (20%)
26. Roman Catholic (20%)
27. Jehovah’s Witness (11%)

Liberal Quaker. Doesn’t sound quite a cool as emergent/postmodern, does it? Jon pointed out that this quiz (as opposed to the Theological Worldview quiz) goes beyond Christianity. It is nice to see how one’s beliefs stack up to other traditions.

Oh, and I added a few clips from Jesus Camp to my VodPod (below left) if you want to check it out….

Jesus’ Mission Statement Redux
June 28, 2007, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Bible, Buddhism, Christianity, God, Jesus, Religion, Theology

Way back in February I blogged on a passage in Luke that a friend of mine referred to as Jesus’ Mission Statement. Well that passage (when Jesus quotes Isaiah in the synagogue at the beginning of his ministry) came immediately to mind when I read this in The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, by Matthew Fox:

In this dwelling of Perfect Wisdom…you shall become a savior of the helpless, a defender of the defenseless…a light to the blind, and you shall guide to the path those who have lost it, and you shall become a support to those who are without support.

Sounds awfully close to Jesus quoting Isaiah in Luke to me. The above quote is about the Buddhist counterpart to Sophia, or cosmic wisdom. And it reinforces something that I’ve been mulling over for sometime–that the Buddha nature and the Christ nature are, indeed, one in the same. And that Jesus of Nazareth claimed no more for himself than Siddhartha Gautama claimed: that the spirit of the Eternal was upon them, that they had found a way to access the cosmic wisdom that lies at the core of all being, and that justice and compassion were the key elements of the way.

I’ve often felt that the only kind of Christianity I could profess would have to look a lot more like Buddhism, with Jesus as an enlightened being whose teachings point the way to wholeness, both for the individual and for all of creation. This connection between the passage in Isaiah and the Buddhist figure of wisdom (the “Mother of all Buddhas”) definitely moves me in that direction.