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Why Compare at all?

MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
edited September 2012 in Faith & Religion
I really like this forum. I think it's lively- when so many other Buddhist forums are boring and/or idle.
I think there's a great diversity of people here who choose to view and practice Buddhism from different traditional and cultural perspectives.

That being said, it always bugged me (a little bit) why this particular topic/discussion (Comparing Religions) was included or considered relevant; and what the purpose of it is.

I often read through the different threads started under this topic heading, and I almost always come away with the feeling that it's nothing more than a platform for people to "judge" other religions (or Buddhism itself) by way of comparison -- which inevitably leads to both offensive and defensive talk. It really seems to me to be a topic with very little practical learning to it.

Someone comes along and criticizes Christianity (and let's face it, that faith is the one most compared) because of experiences or common misconceptions, then someone defends it according to their experiences and knowledge of it. Nearly all the threads start and stop with the same pattern. Some people just want to / need to 'rant' a bit about bad experiences or impressions they have with other religions, and honestly it really gets nowhere for either side of the coin.

Are we defending other religions to encourage those who might be interested or newly following the Buddhist path to instead follow another religion? I wouldn't think so. Are we comparing religions to Buddhism to in some manner 'prove' its superiority over other religions? Well, that might be a good thing in many eyes, but really one should choose to follow Buddhism for better reasons than that. (like because it 'rings true' to something deep within).

So I ask... Why compare at all? What is accomplished?
I think this topic - comparing religions - is irrelevant and usually not in the spirit of 'right speech'.
But maybe that's just me.....



SilouanPatrKundo

Comments

  • I think comparative religion is important topic, and I’m glad you brought this up. There is enough ignorance and suspicion of other religions and we need to break down barriers as we are one big human family. I would like to see the category grow to its full potential in that capacity.

    There are some things in Buddhism that are completely compatible with my own religion such as our shared interconnectedness and how our thoughts determine our lives for example.

    I’m interested in knowing more about the insight and experiences of others, because it is a very different perspective than just reading a book.

    I personally will try to do a better job and be more aware of the short comings you describe.
  • @MaryAnne Its probably a better name than Contrasting Religions... haha

    I would agree with @Silouan, perhaps its best to see it as a forum to break down the ignorance barriers around the way others view/implement spirituality.

    Also, to step back and look at how it is used-the way you have @MaryAnne-can give us insight into areas that allow us to deepen our understand and practice of the noble 8-fold path.
    Silouan
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2012
    Part of the reason for the Comparing Religions section is that many new Buddhists in the West come from other religious traditions, particularly Christianity, and these kinds of discussions naturally occur. Also, some people like to discussion the similarities and differences they find between different spiritual traditions. I know that I've discussed the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, Buddhism and Stoicisim, etc. as much as I have the differences, which is sometimes good for opening one up to new ways of thinking and appreciating other viewpoints/experiences, as well as helping one to review what one believes to be true.
    Cloud
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
    edited September 2012
    @Silouan - I didn't mean to target any specific person in particular.

    But since you put yourself out in the forefront- I admit, sometimes I find your some of your posts (specifically about your strong Christian faith) somewhat out of place here, in a Buddhist forum.
    I took comparative religion classes in college, and I have life experiences within three distinct religious paths... and I've always had an interest and investigated further into those interests in religion and spirituality on my own.
    But, I don't necessarily agree that a Buddhist forum is the appropriate place for that kind of investigation and/or 'learning' about other religions.

    As a Pagan for many years, I never went into Christian forums or chat rooms with the intent of "standing guard" against misconceptions or offensive chat about Paganism.
    Knowing many Christians of many stripes, I know the things they believed and spread about Pagans - for centuries.
    But I feel it's most appropriate to address those issues and "stand guard' against them, if you will, in Pagan forums ... when those with misconceptions and/or questions came to US/pagans to discuss them or accuse us of strange beliefs.
    Defending, instead of offending.
    To tread onto their territory always seemed (to me) to be a form of instigating and aggressively looking to proselytize for my way. It didn't and doesn't sit right with me.
    These are my own personal biases and experiences coming through and coloring my perceptions here in this topic and elsewhere. I know that. :)

    But we must all admit that each of our own particular bias and experiences color our own perceptions the same way, no matter which religion one follows (or doesn't).
    So what's the point?

    @tmottes -- you said ... "Also, to step back and look at how it is used-the way you have @MaryAnne- can give us insight into areas that allow us to deepen our understand and practice of the noble 8-fold path. "

    Totally disagree. No offense, but That is a very smooth and "Politically Correct" response. See above for why I say that.



  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Hi Mary Ann!

    First, I think it's a natural human trait to compare and contrast. So, I think it's appropriate since it's human.

    Unfortunately, to be quite honest, I think there's a fair amount of religion bashing here. In fact, just last night in one post (don't recall if it was in a comparing religion post) someone was talking about how much they hate Christianity...and I don't see that as legitimate.

    It also makes me uncomfortable when a post (and you're right, it's usually one against Christianity, but not necessarily) essentially is just a "my religion's better than your religion" post. When I was a kid there was a long-standing commercial on television with a ditty that went, "My dog's better than your dog. My dog's better than yours. My dog's better cause he eats Ken-L-Ration. My dog's better than yours." I can't tell you the number of times I think of that commercial ditty when I read posts in this forum category.

    However, there are also times I read things about other religions here when I think, "Wow! I didn't know that. That's interesting!"

    I guess it's how we are "raised", but early on when I was learning about Buddhism, a Thai monk told me (and about the same time I read it in a couple of Thai Buddhist books) that "Buddhists to not criticize other religions".
    MaryAnne
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
    edited September 2012
    Jason said:

    Part of the reason for the Comparing Religions section is that many new Buddhists in the West come from other religious traditions, particularly Christianity, and these kinds of discussions naturally occur. Also, some people like to discussion the similarities and differences they find between different spiritual traditions. I know that I've discussed the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, Buddhism and Stoicisim, etc. as much as I have the differences, which is sometimes good for opening one up to new ways of thinking and appreciating other viewpoints/experiences, as well as helping one to review what one believes to be true.

    Yeah, I guess I can see that, Jason.... but there seems to be so many other 'motives' for people to seek out these types of discussions than simply to compare similarities and differences and then move on. Time and time again threads are started by 'controversial' questions and theories, or even challenges of some sort.
    The pattern is striking to me.

    As for new Buddhists coming from other religions, and looking for or discussing common links - fair enough. I can see that, too. But those folks can just as easily discuss that in the "Buddhism for Beginners" section, no?



  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    @MaryAnne -- No disrespect intended, but I think you will concede that your own OP falls into the very trap you might seek to avoid: Comparison. I don't mean this as a criticism. My own view is that people DO make comparisons and there is no escape. And since there is no escape, the only way out is in ... into the vortex of comparisons. Compare and compare and compare some more: When your mother tells you not to stick beans up your nose, what's the first thing you are likely to do? :)

    Buddhist practice is a handy tool. It encourages us to watch, to pay attention, to investigate. And with attention comes some less neurotic and self-serving appreciation. Where do these comparisons come from? Where do they go? To call them 'real' is not quite right and to call them 'unreal' is not quite right either. So we watch ....

    And find out what happens.
  • @MaryAnne
    No worries. I'm not taking it personal. I see and respect your view point. :-)
  • genkaku said:

    @MaryAnne -- No disrespect intended, but I think you will concede that your own OP falls into the very trap you might seek to avoid: Comparison. I don't mean this as a criticism. My own view is that people DO make comparisons and there is no escape. And since there is no escape, the only way out is in ... into the vortex of comparisons. Compare and compare and compare some more: When your mother tells you not to stick beans up your nose, what's the first thing you are likely to do? :)

    Buddhist practice is a handy tool. It encourages us to watch, to pay attention, to investigate. And with attention comes some less neurotic and self-serving appreciation. Where do these comparisons come from? Where do they go? To call them 'real' is not quite right and to call them 'unreal' is not quite right either. So we watch ....

    And find out what happens.


    How is questioning the need to compare.... comparing?
  • I have also had some very insightful discussions with others too as @Jason has pointed out he has experienced.
  • The alternative would be to ban discussion of other religions and as well as being difficult to police (how do you define "discussion" for example?) I don't think that's very healthy. But if you think someone's post crosses the line of what you consider right speech then you should say so.

    (BTW am I right in thinking the Flag button is for reporting posts?)
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2012
    MaryAnne said:

    Yeah, I guess I can see that, Jason.... but there seems to be so many other 'motives' for people to seek out these types of discussions than simply to compare similarities and differences and then move on. Time and time again threads are started by 'controversial' questions and theories, or even challenges of some sort.
    The pattern is striking to me.

    Well, certainly not every discussion of this nature is going to be positive. There are many, for example, who have had bad experiences with their previous faiths and/or religious institutions, and that animosity often comes out in these types of discussions. And then there are those who just don't like something and want to express their negative opinion of it, which is also quite common. But the same is true of discussions about the similarities and differences between Buddhist traditions, so it's not as if this kind of thing is only limited to discussions about other religions.
    MaryAnne said:

    As for new Buddhists coming from other religions, and looking for or discussing common links - fair enough. I can see that, too. But those folks can just as easily discuss that in the "Buddhism for Beginners" section, no?

    I suppose, but Brian and Lincoln thought it deserved its own section, so that's where they go. :)
    Silouan

  • Ok, I can say that some of my 'negative' feelings about this Comparing Religions section are waning. :)

    I see where you guys are coming from.... Good and bad in everything, right?
    But Balance is the goal. :D
    I can try to be less irritated by 'stuff' - for sure.
    Thanks for your patience.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    poptart said:

    (BTW am I right in thinking the Flag button is for reporting posts?)

    Yes, and it's one of the main tools we use to moderate this site since we don't have the time to read every post. Please use it whenever you feel something is getting out of hand or crosses a line that probably shouldn't be crossed. It flags the post and sends us a message so that we can review it as quickly as possible.
    poptart
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2012
    MaryAnne said:


    Ok, I can say that some of my 'negative' feelings about this Comparing Religions section are waning. :)

    I see where you guys are coming from.... Good and bad in everything, right?
    But Balance is the goal. :D
    I can try to be less irritated by 'stuff' - for sure.
    Thanks for your patience.

    Yes, I completely agree. It's hard to achieve; but balance is the goal since, in my mind, balance = harmony, and what we're trying to create here is a harmonious community. Which doesn't mean, of course, that we'll always agree, but that ultimately we'll become a source of support for one another in our study and practice of Buddhism, with the hope that any disagreements we might have will be resolved amicably in the end.
  • MaryAnne said:

    @Silouan - I didn't mean to target any specific person in particular.

    But since you put yourself out in the forefront- I admit, sometimes I find your some of your posts (specifically about your strong Christian faith) somewhat out of place here, in a Buddhist forum.
    I took comparative religion classes in college, and I have life experiences within three distinct religious paths... and I've always had an interest and investigated further into those interests in religion and spirituality on my own.
    But, I don't necessarily agree that a Buddhist forum is the appropriate place for that kind of investigation and/or 'learning' about other religions.

    As a Pagan for many years, I never went into Christian forums or chat rooms with the intent of "standing guard" against misconceptions or offensive chat about Paganism.
    Knowing many Christians of many stripes, I know the things they believed and spread about Pagans - for centuries.
    But I feel it's most appropriate to address those issues and "stand guard' against them, if you will, in Pagan forums ... when those with misconceptions and/or questions came to US/pagans to discuss them or accuse us of strange beliefs.
    Defending, instead of offending.
    To tread onto their territory always seemed (to me) to be a form of instigating and aggressively looking to proselytize for my way. It didn't and doesn't sit right with me.
    These are my own personal biases and experiences coming through and coloring my perceptions here in this topic and elsewhere. I know that. :)

    But we must all admit that each of our own particular bias and experiences color our own perceptions the same way, no matter which religion one follows (or doesn't).
    So what's the point?

    @tmottes -- you said ... "Also, to step back and look at how it is used-the way you have @MaryAnne- can give us insight into areas that allow us to deepen our understand and practice of the noble 8-fold path. "

    Totally disagree. No offense, but That is a very smooth and "Politically Correct" response. See above for why I say that.



    I think you may have misunderstood my meaning in that statement. I simply meant that if we keep mindful about our actions and find ourselves posting things in defense or offense to anything in particular, it can help us realize where we have deep attachments. Recognizing our attachments is part of letting them go.

    If you understood my statement in that manner, then I apologize for assuming otherwise.
    SilouanTelly03
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
    edited September 2012
    @tmottes

    I realized a split second after I answered you (before) that there could have been other meanings to your statement. Thank you for clarifying. :)
  • @MaryAnne No problem, thats the spirit of discussion :) I will eventually learn to be more clear the first time around. :p
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran
    There is an interesting article on the Tricycle site that touches on this.

    "There are many ways up the mountain, but each of us must choose a practice that feels true to his own heart. It is not necessary for you to evaluate the practices chosen by others."
    Daily Dharma for September 07, 2012
    An excerpt from Take The One Seat
    Jack Kornfield


    Full article here: http://www.tricycle.com/dharma-talk/take-the-one-seat
    Cloud
  • we compare so that we can make an informed choice.
    MaryAnne said:

    I really like this forum. I think it's lively- when so many other Buddhist forums are boring and/or idle.
    I think there's a great diversity of people here who choose to view and practice Buddhism from different traditional and cultural perspectives.

    That being said, it always bugged me (a little bit) why this particular topic/discussion (Comparing Religions) was included or considered relevant; and what the purpose of it is.

    I often read through the different threads started under this topic heading, and I almost always come away with the feeling that it's nothing more than a platform for people to "judge" other religions (or Buddhism itself) by way of comparison -- which inevitably leads to both offensive and defensive talk. It really seems to me to be a topic with very little practical learning to it.

    Someone comes along and criticizes Christianity (and let's face it, that faith is the one most compared) because of experiences or common misconceptions, then someone defends it according to their experiences and knowledge of it. Nearly all the threads start and stop with the same pattern. Some people just want to / need to 'rant' a bit about bad experiences or impressions they have with other religions, and honestly it really gets nowhere for either side of the coin.

    Are we defending other religions to encourage those who might be interested or newly following the Buddhist path to instead follow another religion? I wouldn't think so. Are we comparing religions to Buddhism to in some manner 'prove' its superiority over other religions? Well, that might be a good thing in many eyes, but really one should choose to follow Buddhism for better reasons than that. (like because it 'rings true' to something deep within).

    So I ask... Why compare at all? What is accomplished?
    I think this topic - comparing religions - is irrelevant and usually not in the spirit of 'right speech'.
    But maybe that's just me.....



  • BeejBeej Human Being Veteran
    edited September 2012
    Most of us here are "new" Buddhists. Most of us still cling to fragments of our "old" faiths. I think this category is a great way to highlight that and start you on a way to get over it. It may not always come out that way in our posts, but maybe it's a seed that gets planted and grows later. I try to look for what is common in all religions, because in that we see more of our human nature than what we can see in all of the differences. But sometimes I regress. I grew up Catholic. Being judgemental was basically taught directly to us. It's a tough condition to shake, but I'm trying. :)
    Telly03
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