Christianity and Buddhism don’t belong together

Christianity and Buddhism don’t belong together.  Just over fifty years ago, the Catholic monk, Thomas Merton, made a pilgrimage to India to meet the Tibetan Buddhist, Chongyam Trungpa, in the hope of fostering an interfaith dialog between Christianity and Buddhism.  The dialog has flourished.  Buddhist-Christian Studies is an established journal, and interfaith conferences abound.  Curiously, a number of believers have chosen to combine their faiths.  Paul Knitter’s Without the Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian explains why this combination works for him; evidently it does for many.

This makes no sense to me.  Christianity and Buddhism are so fundamentally different that even the question of dialog makes me wonder.  Not about the desirability of people of different faiths talking with each other; that’s always a good thing.  But about attempts to show similarities: Jesus was like a bodhisattva (a Buddhist holy man), or that the experience of prajna, or enlightenment, corresponds to the Christian experience of God.  The only work I know of that even questions their commensurability is in an essay of that title, “Are Buddhism and Christianity Commensurable?”  Remember that commensurable means not similar, but alike enough even to be fruitfully compared.  The essay in Wikipedia, “Buddhism and Christianity,” is as good as anything I have read on this subject, primarily because it displays their vast differences.

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Christianity and technology

Christianity and technology.

Beginning in 1943, a small group of Christian intellectuals began to think seriously about the post-war world.  The United States and Britain had talked about victory since the beginning of the War, but no one was certain, and many had grave doubts.  But by 1943 victory was in sight, even if its details were not. 

These Christian intellectuals included Jacques Maritain, W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis, Simone Weil, and T. S. Eliot.  Auden and Eliot were poets, and Lewis, an Oxford don, is probably best known for his for his children’s fiction, Chronicles of Narnia.  I’ve posted about Lewis and Weil  elsewhere on this blog.  The relationship among these men and woman was rich, complex, and varied.  Some worked together, some alone.

The Problem

The problem they worried about is what sort of people the winners of this war of civilizations would become.  What values could substitute for that of winning the war?  Would the technological thinking that won the war destroy the values we fought for?  It might, they argued, and they only thing that could stop it was an education that fosters humanity, sensibility and pity.

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