Oil and Water: Abrahamic Monotheism vs. the Buddha’s Dharma (2001) (Off Site) by Gan Uesli Starling
A Buddhist philosopher responds to the often heard claim of persons being both Buddhist and theist, presenting five striking points of divergence between Buddhism’s core doctrines and the concept of God, and then citing Buddhist scripture showing that Lord Buddha very specifically negates any and all theist doctrine.
A little reflection will show that many religious beliefs and practices have absurd implications. In this paper Ryan Stringer provides several examples of such absurdities and defends them against potential objections. Some of the moral absurdities considered include: the belief that an innocent person like Jesus could pay for the sins of wrongdoers; that God could be simultaneously tyrannical and loving; that a morally perfect God could create a maximally miserable place like Hell; that God wants to form loving relationships with us while simultaneously hiding from us; and that a loving heavenly father also wants us to genuinely fear him. In addition, it is absurd to believe that an all-knowing and all-powerful God needs people to do his work for him instead of doing it himself; that, despite knowing what is best for us, God nevertheless alters his plans in response to prayer; that a maximally good God would create a maximally evil being like Satan knowing Satan’s evil nature ahead of time; or that there could be a genuine struggle between good and evil even though God has predetermined everything to happen exactly as he intends. Stringer wraps up his discussion with an appendix on the absurdities generated by a divine command metaethics that maintains that there is nothing morally wrong with anything that God might do so long as God approves of his own actions, for God’s approval (and his approval alone) automatically renders any action morally right.
In this review of Sam Harris’ The End of Faith, Kenneth Krause notes Harris’ most important points about the destructive nature of faith. After pointing out that hundreds of millions of Americans hold beliefs clearly inconsistent with well-established scientific and historical facts, Harris turns to a discussion of how faith adversely affects our daily lives, directly motivates religious violence, and even threatens the future of civilization. The problem is not so much specific religious doctrines as it is the principle of faith itself–a principle which eschews reason and ends all meaningful conversation. Harris also blames religious moderates as much as fundamentalists for the ongoing religious conflicts of our times. Though Krause greatly appreciates all of these points, he ends by noting at least two deficiences of this book.
“The new atheism” refers to a recent revival of popular atheist books, particularly in the United States, which critique both the grounds for belief in God and the detrimental effects of religion on society. The popularity of these books has naturally spawned a religious counteroffensive, the latest installment of which is John F. Haught’s God and the New Atheism. Though Haught laments the new atheists’ indifference to theology, a case could be made that theological nuances are irrelevant to the views held by most ordinary believers, and that this is the real target of critique. Moreover, Haught completely misses the main point of the new atheists: that all religious doctrines lack reasonable justification. In the end, their central point is untouched: that faith requires belief without evidence, and that in the absence of evidence, any imaginable (self-consistent) belief is as credible as any other—so there is no good reason to adopt one unevidenced belief over any other.
Karen Stollznow’s God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States teaches us quite a bit about fundamentalist Mormonism, Amish and Mennonite Protestantism, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity, Afro-Caribbean religions, exorcism and Satanism, Scientology, New Age spirituality, and Quakerism. But it also has countless substantive, stylistic, and even grammatical flaws, and it is doubtful that she succeeds in providing her intended “sensitive but factual” and appropriately critical portrayal of the groups that she discusses. But despite these flaws, it is informative enough, interesting enough, and occasionally perceptive enough to be worth reading.