Monday, March 21, 2005

Buddhism, Christianity, sickness and medicine

Shokai had an interesting post yesterday on Buddhism and Christianity, which, yet again, provokes some thoughts by me when juxtaposed against something from, say, Joe Carter...

First, from Shokai:

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, so let me first point out that I generally have little patience for those who define their religious beliefs by bashing the beliefs of others. This applies not only to televangelists, but also to some so-called Buddhists that I've met, who seem more interested in rebelling against their Judeo-Christian upbringing than in really embracing Buddhism. I've also been dismayed to read Japanese Zen masters who try to talk about Christainity, when it's painfully obvious they have no clue what they're talking about. So I offer my comments on Jesus here not to criticize the belief of others, but to provide an alternative view of Jesus as bodhisattva.

Next from Carter:

Like 20th century Germans, most Americans have never heard of Biding and Hoche. But the arguments presented by these two men who devoted their lives to reason, logic, and science, raise an interesting question: Does accepting the first category of lebensunwerten Lebens also require that we accept the second? If mental functioning is the criteria for determining whether life is worth living then why should we not also be “merciful” and kill those who suffer from incapacitating mental defects such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, or Down syndrome? I’d be curious to hear where these bloggers think the line should be drawn between lebenswertes Leben (“life worth living”) and lebensunwertes Leben (“life not worth living”). If we are justified in killing some people who have lost their capacity to be "persons" why should we not also kill others who lack similar mental capacities?

I often find myself, in the blogosphere, as well as in ordinary life, engaged in discussions with self-avowed Christians. There is a natural tendency of one type of Christian (as well as types of Buddhists, as Shokai notes) to define one's self as opposed to another's beliefs.

Often, this is the inevitable result of the worldview/mindset employed: Carter, for example insists, "Where do we draw the line?" as though a line has to be drawn, whereas, in my response, I would have to object to the uniformity of a drawn line, as running counter to human experience and detrimental to human compassion.

The Schiavo case is instructive: it is fast degenerating into a pandering circus for social religious conservatives.

There is a point at which we must say, there is a moral deficit, from a Buddhist perspective, in insisting on an absolute irremediable human life value.

This has to be done, though, from a standpoint of authenticity, and one must be careful to make sure a dialogue doesn't degenerate into something hateful.

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