Jesus is Not Like Buddha

christbuddha.jpgThere are few things I hate more than evangelism. In fact, I would go so far as to say that much of the horrors of the world were brought on by evangelists. People feeling they are divinely propelled to ‘sell’ their ideas to save people from damnation.

  • It kept Africans slaves (for the betterment of their savage souls).
  • It brought smallpox to the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs.
  • It’s started countless wars, and corrupted vast numbers of people.
  • It has completely ruined Sunday TV.

I have been fortunate most my life to avoid these patronizing SOBs, as the bulk of evangelists, or – as they’re known in international circles – missionaries, have given up on the ‘developed’ world and gone off to the backwards people of other nations to explain to them why, despite having a culture and civilization that predates most (if not all) the characters of the bible, their souls are going to be kǎoròu.

So, it was with much interest that I saw a Google Ad (on this site no less!) that said “Jesus For China”… following the link to www.onelord.cn, I was astounded to learn that “Jesus is not like Buddha.” I was also fascinated to see some rather flimsy Web design put to use with the tireless effort of one of God’s great preachers out of Kunming, Zach Harris.

Zach, according to his site’s bio, is in China with his wife learning Mandarin to spread the word of Big Daddy, JC and the spook – a fact that I’m quite certain is still illegal (or at least is still harshly frowned upon).

Let me be clear. I have nothing hugely against religion (organized or otherwise). I think if you feel you need to worship something to live a happy and whole life, or better yet, as an excuse to be kind to people, all the power to you. And as you are welcome to sit in your space and go on and on about the mightiness of the Almighty, so should it be my choice to call it what it is – bunk – in mine.

However, where the big difference lies is that I’m not going to other countries and telling them their religion and beliefs are crap and perhaps they better get on the Christian boat before they’re forever left behind and forgotten in their Creator’s Vast Plan For All Things.

Anyone that’s been in China for some time has run across Christian missionaries here… usually guised as English teachers and waiting for their opportunity to spread the good word in between explaining past tense… good words such as these (taken from the site, and I assume the bible, though I didn’t check):

Jesus considered Himself so different from anything and anyone else in the world that He would not allow anyone to follow Him unless they were willing to give up everything else, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

However, the good news about Jesus is closely related to the the bad news about us. God says that we are not the good people that we think we are. He says that we are evil to the core, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5)

The site also makes the rather brilliant revelation that “Jesus was a Jewish man born around 1 AD”… around? Don’t tell me we’ve had this wrong all these years. And we thought Y2K would throw off the banking system.

As much as I give many Chinese I meet flack for frequently preaching their ridiculous brain-washed thoughts, I realize now that they’ve no monopoly on vocalizing stupidity and ignorance. As much as I think it is goofy that there are 1.3 billion people that truly believe that’s actually Mao in Tiananmen Sq., there’s 2.1 billion Christians that think the world is 5,767 years old.

So, now that I’ve possibly offended more than half the population of the planet… I’ll present you with this somewhat startling fact… it’s working. William Dodson, a fellow Suzhou blogger, recently wrote an excellent post where he talked about a conversation his wife had that illustrates a disturbing truth when it comes to the younger generation here in the PRC:

My wife told me … she had the most disturbing conversation with one of the young Chinese at the party. The young lady with whom she talked felt there was no point to life. Indeed, the young lady commented, very few of her generation felt there was much to believe in.

The young lady went on to say how much she actually admired the Chinese of my wife’s generation, which grew up during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). “Maybe you didn’t believe in the right things, but at least you had something to believe in,” the young woman said.

My wife commented to me later she felt young Chinese people had become so focused on economic gain they had lost their way, in a sense.

To the girl I’d suggest she get a hobby or find a cause dear to her heart (and I’d also like to welcome her to the real world). And to the Christian evangelists salivating for a chance to convert these poor lost souls … just because they still sell snake oil in this country doesn’t make it right.

Feeding off the poor and needy to further your own agenda is a flaw in humanity that shall damn thee to hell. Well, if it was that I believed in such things, which quite obviously I don’t, so it just makes you a shitastically crappy person.

19 Responses

  1. Ryan~

    I really have to say that you have a truly warped view of Christianity. Unfortunately, I also have to say that it must have been the massive horde of misguided Christians, quite a few of them, as you say, missionaries. I’m sure it might not mean anything to you, but I’d like to apologize for the poor example of so many (possibly the majority) of my fellow believers. It’s embarrassing.

    I’d also like to say that the Biblical quotations above are completely misinterpreted and taken out of context. Anyway, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but your view seems just as intolerant as the intolerant Christians you’re referring to. Just a thought.

  2. Hey Stuart! No joke, I was just thinking how I’d not heard from you ’round these parts recently. Thanks for checking in.

    It would not be the first time someone’s said my views are warped. Again, let me restate that I’ve nothing against Christians, only against evangelists, and to be even clearer – by evangelist I’m playing with the word a bit. I don’t like preachers that preach to people who don’t ask to be preached to.

    I recognize in writing anything about Christianity it’s going to offend a lot of readers here, as it challenges them to defend their faith. If that’s what this turns into, so be it, but it was not at all the focus of this post. However, I feel I may be adding fuel to the fire here…

    The truth about Christianity is that most Christians don’t have the first clue about what’s going on with their religion and generally just model their faith to suit their life and personal beliefs. If they do adhere strongly to a set system of values (more than, “yeah sure, I believe in God and his son Jesus Christ”), then they have a plethora of churches or denominations to choose from to best fit their beliefs. And if that’s not enough choice, they can switch tracks and go further back to a completely different religion with the exact same God that is also completely divided among its thoughts and beliefs about how to interpret its faith.

    Now I realize that the Bible didn’t come with an instruction manual, and confusion of what it all means is to be expected and perhaps wrongly interpreted – but it’s hard to believe that Christianity (or ‘one god’ religion at large) has anything to offer in the way of knowing what’s going on in the world when itself is so sub-divided.

    Belief in something greater than one’s self is a highly personal thing, but we try to socialize it with religion and largely it works in so far that masses of people will tend to rally around something rather than follow their own way. This doesn’t make it any more legitimate, it just illustrates one of the seminal elements of human nature.

    Perhaps I am intolerant, but is intolerance of ignorance the same as intolerance of the world as it is presented and then using that to convince the poor and/or those not strong enough to find their own purpose in life that they too should be ignorant but ignorant with faith?

  3. Wow, that’s a lot to respond to, so maybe I’ll skip it. Actually, I don’t disagree with you on a lot of what you said. I personally, as a Christian, have a lot of problems with “the church” today and how it operates. In a lot of ways, the church has become this monster that has very little to do with the teachings of Christ. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with evangelism in theory. It’s cheesy, but it’s like they say, “if you found the cure for cancer, you’d share it.” And that’s what Christians believe they have found: the cure to spiritual death. Whether you agree with that or not, I think it’s perfectly natural that they would want to share that with others. What I don’t like is how they go about sharing their faith. There’s a sense of arrogance in a lot of evangelism today, like “oh, you poor, pathetic, heathen bastards… we’re here to save your backwards souls.” I hate that lack of respect; I hate the tendency of a lot of Christians to look down on others. Jesus never did that.

    Anyway, I understand your “intolerance”. And I guess I’m not implying that you should be tolerant of that kind of ignorance and abuse. Maybe I was just responding to the angry vibe I was getting from your post. Whatever. None of us has got it all figured out.

  4. Haha, sorry to have hit ya with such a lengthly reply. I agree with the sense that people should share their ideas and let other people know about what they believe and should be 100% free to do so. If anyone ever wants to talk about religion with me, I love it. I love theology. But to me that’s all it is, ideas. What I don’t like is, as you said, the arrogance of it. Now, I have a pretty solid tone of arrogance to this post, because well, I’m right… but assuming I’m not; I’m not printing out fliers, knocking on doors, getting tax breaks, preying on cultures/people that have fell on hard times, or infiltrating positions of power with/for my ideas.

    And though the cancer analogy is a good one, it falls apart when you look at the language – you either “have” a cure for cancer or you don’t. With religion and the saving of my soul, you can only “think you have” the cure. If someone said they ‘thought they had the cure for cancer’ but I had to die to figure it out… I’d be buying hats and starting chemo.

  5. There’s entirely too much navel-gazing in these comments. There’s nothing wrong with stating your opinion confidently. I don’t think your original post was inappropriately intolerant, but the fact is that you disagree with a lot that you see going on, and would like to see it change. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just read some good stuff about this on Wikipedia, on the entry onintoler Sam Harris (see under “Conversational Intolerance”).

    Ryan, you strike me as a bit a coward — but I mean that in a nice way! You don’t like Christianity, but you’re still trying to find a middle-ground, still desperately searching for areas where you can agree, so that they will still like you, and not demonize you. But, you’ve already gone too far — you are a demon to them. So, you might as well go all the way!

    Christianity, and any number of other mythologies (I’d rather not grant them the respect inherent in using the word “religion”) is a symptom of the inability to think critically. I would admit that the Jesus story is appealing on many levels, but on many more levels, it is just complete nonsense. What’s especially galling to me is the notion, still promulgated by all the missionaries, that Jesus is the only “path to God”. It’s been brought up thousands of times before, but I’ve never heard a good response: what about all those (billions) of people who, in their lifetimes, never heard of, or never will hear of Jesus? Doomed to hell, I guess.

    I mean, and that’s just one example.

    I am a strong advocate of the freedom of people to believe what they want to believe, and also a strong supporter of freedom of speech, but I hate Christianity with a passion. I guess the only thing to do is to proselytize my atheism with a fervor to match theirs. Christianity, as a memeplex, is so successful in part because its carriers are strongly motivated to infect others. It’s hard to imagine how one might build a memetic-immune response to it.

  6. @Chris: I don’t like Christianity, but I (generally) like people. I’m not going to judge a person by any one facet of their life and therefore will always attempt to find a common/middle ground. I also don’t hate Christianity, because I don’t care enough about it to. I think, generally, hate comes from being betrayed by something… and as I never really believed in Christianity, I’ve never been betrayed by it – or its patrons. Careful you don’t confuse your agenda of “us verses them” as a confident opinion. Re-read the post, there’s nothing unconfident about it. If there was a back-peddling tone to my comment towards Stuart, it’s only because I like and respect the things he has to say, not based any more on his religion than I like your comments not based on your lack of it.

  7. Perhaps I was wrong to say that you strike me as a bit of a coward. I did just re-read your post, and it is very strongly written — kudos. I also re-read the comments, to try to figure out where that feeling in me came from, and I think it’s from this: “I’ve nothing against Christians, only against evangelists”. Then, in your response to me, you just said you “don’t hate Christianity”, but in your post above you said “There are few things I hate more than evangelism”.

    The fact is, you can’t separate evangelism from Christianity. Evangelism is fundamental to Christian doctrine. Christians believe that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you will go to hell, and that there’s nothing better that you can do to please God than to save other people’s souls.

    Let me pose some rhetorical questions. If a scientist strongly believes in his pet theory, and pro-actively goes out and tries to sell it, do you hate him for his evangelism? What about someone like me, who doesn’t believe in God or religion, and tries to convince other people of his ideas. Am I an evangelist?

    You said the horrors of the world were brought on by evangelists, but I don’t agree. It’s not the selling of ideas that causes the horrors, it’s the ideas themselves. Scientific ideas don’t cause as much strife as religious ideas because they are objective, and can be subjected to tests. Religious beliefs, as any religious person will proudly proclaim, are based on faith.

    As for my agenda of “us versus them”, I make no apologies. What I worry about is the lack of a confrontational attitude among the vast majority of atheists and other non-religious types. Maybe sometimes I go too far, but the pendulum has to swing out a little bit, don’t you think? I’m constantly exposed to missionaries here in Xiamen, who openly express their belief that God is working wonders in their lives (just the other day a woman told me that God allowed them to live here by making their rent nice and low). We atheists are supposed to listen respectfully to this kind of crap, and not confront them, right? That would be rude, right? But if I am equally as open about my non-belief in God, they have no compunction whatsoever in confronting me about it. I’ve experienced this many times.

  8. I agree with Stuart’s initial comment.

    A few things I have to note:

    1. Not all Christians are active evangelists, and many Christians espouse a much more subtle “actions speak louder than words” form of evangelism rather than preaching.

    2. Not all Christians believe in creationism. Even the Vatican does not oppose the theory of evolution. Fundamentalists and “Christians” are not the same, and thus your “2.1 billion Christians that think the world is 5,767 years old” statement is way off.

    I’m not offended by opposition to Christianity, but I would hope that you would have a deeper understanding or at least a more open attitude when approaching a subject which you clearly have only limited (and perhaps stilted) dealings with. (You seem more open in the comments than you do in your initial post.)

  9. @Chris: And here I kept kicking myself for not having moved to Xiamen… 😉 I’m 100% in agreement in regards to scientific method verse blind faith. Not because scientific rational is perfect, but because it can accept both perfect and non-perfect results as clues to more answers. I dig that.

    @John: The great part about comments, you can explore perspectives a bit deeper, which may be why the initial post was harsher sounding or more narrow-minded sounding than the comments. However, the original post was written after I followed an ad, on my site, to a Christian in China who is going out of his way to push his religion onto the Chinese. I in no way feel the Chinese need me protecting them from the faiths from abroad.. but I did feel I’d like to comment on how craptacular a thing I think it is.

    To add a bit more to the “dealings”… I was baptized. My family is by-and-large Christian, I went to church when I was a kid and did church youth group (with a stint at a bible camp) as a teenager. The majority of people I know would claim some connection to Christianity or being Christians. Perhaps my dealings are stilted, but certainly not limited.

    You’re right about me being way off in the 2.1 billion Christians believing in a ‘young earth’, and I knew that when I typed it. I said it because I wanted a reaction to it… to prove this point: shouldn’t you believe it? This is where Christianity breaks down for me – cherry picking ideas. I’m not at all opposed to a little natural selection on mental processes or historical lessons, and I think that picking the good stuff out of something and dropping the bad is a great idea (something Islam is a bit behind on in many parts of the world)… but it contradicts the teachings of Christianity and dilutes the whole idea of “Christianity” into more of a “hey, you dig JC? I dig him too… cool” type idea.

    Anyway, this is quite obviously a huge issue and not one I would ever hope to come close to solving on something so insignificant as a blog post… we’re just going to polarize the different camps and that’s not going to bring much interesting dialog about Christian evangelism in China – which is/was my point.

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  11. You’re right about me being way off in the 2.1 billion Christians believing in a ‘young earth’, and I knew that when I typed it. I said it because I wanted a reaction to it… to prove this point: shouldn’t you believe it? This is where Christianity breaks down for me – cherry picking ideas.

    I just wanted to respond to this briefly. My answer to your question would be “NO” you shouldn’t necessarily believe in a young earth because the Bible doesn’t say that the earth is young. This is the interpretation of a lot of people who want to take the Bible all too literally. They say that there actually was a dude named Adam and a chick named Eve… well, no one who actually wrote those stories down (Moses or whoever) was actually there to see it happen. It’s allegory based on oral traditions meant to express spiritual truths but not necessarily in a literal fashion. Most Christians don’t share this view because, for some reason I can’t figure out, it offends their faith to say that the Bible isn’t always literal. It doesn’t offend my faith, and I don’t think it’s “cherry picking”. Just because some theologian says that the Bible means this or that, I personally don’t take it as law. And that’s another one of the big problems with the church: people not thinking for themselves.

    Interesting conversation here.

  12. Hello,

    I noticed more hits than usual this month and wanted to see where they were coming from. Your blog was one of the sources. I’m thankful to see my book receiving attention, even of the critical sort.
    Leaving aside the many issues upon which you and I probably disagree and aren’t going to be too likely to change at this point…, I’m just curious about one sentence from your post. I might like to reply more to this sentence if given the chance, but first I want to seek some clarification. You said:

    > Feeding off the poor and needy to further your own agenda is a flaw in humanity that shall damn thee to hell.

    How have you seen missionaries in Suzhou “feeding off” the poor and needy to further their own agenda? What benefit to themselves do you think the missionaries are deriving which may be motivating them?

    Thanks,
    Zach

    FYI – Obviously the BC/AD system was not in use at the time of Jesus. The Bible gives certain historical details about the time of Jesus’ birth which scholars have used to try to pinpoint the exact year of his birth. Since the BC/AD system was established more historical evidence has come forward so that most scholars now think Jesus was probably born between 6-3 “BC”.
    In any case, the book was intended for Chinese people. Most Chinese, even Chinese Christians whom I have talked to, are not aware of the meaning of BC/AD and that the Western system for accounting years is set up to put Jesus Christ at the centerplace of human history. Saying that Jesus was born around 1 AD would be a silly thing to put in a book for Westerners, but it is helpful for Chinese who know so little about the life of Jesus.

  13. Hey Zach, it’s going to involve a few assumptions that contradict your faith to follow this, but go with me:

    First, an analogy:
    I bought an Abtronic once. You know, those stupid electro-pad thingies you stick on your tummy to zap the muscles into flexing – and in turn changing your keg into a six-pack. The advertisement did a great job of selling the ease and logic of the system and like magic I could have the body I’ve always wanted.

    Of course it turned out to be complete bunk. The company, by court order, was forced to refund money to all their customers for selling a product that could not possibly live up to its promises.

    So… lets switch in God for Abtronic and assume for a moment there is no heaven (despite this being the opposite of what you believe in the deepest parts of your well-intentioned heart). Missionaries sell a product they have absolutely no ability to prove works (salvation of ones soul is tough to market test), and do so, much like the Abtronic guys did, by marketing it specifically to those people that are most likely to have need for a ‘miracle cure’.

    A missionary’s agenda, to convert the unconverted, is for the betterment of their own soul (and the sense of gosh-darn-goodness it brings them). This, sticking to the analogy, is the profits they make. So… by trying to sell your ‘product’ to a group of people who are largely in need of something that might give purpose to their rather craptacular lives is exploiting their weakness for your own gains.

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  15. I am an evangelist for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    I speak the words of Christ and His apostles which were inspired by the Holy Ghost.

    Almighty God has made a covenant with man throught His Son Jesus Christ. And God will pardon sin through faith in Jesus. The just shall live by faith in Jesus Christ.

    1Co 1:18-31 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. (20) Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence. (30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

    God chose the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.

    e.m.

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  17. Ryan, I really like your comparison of an evangelist to a sales person. I do not like sales people either. At least most of them. Some are really helpful, when I actually want to buy something that I think they might have. When they get obnoxious is when they are trying to convince me that I need something that I really do not want.

    It really is not about the person. I have (very rarely, but occasionally) been thankful for a sales person that went out of the way to “evangelize” me. The product (software, in one case I am thinking of) ended up being great and solved a problem I thought was hopeless.

    I just wish that all sales people would take the time to get to know me and my problems well enough to make a good suggestion, instead of just assuming I like skittles just because that is what they are selling.

    Smart sales people spend their time getting to know the customer’s needs and then see if they have a solution. If they do not they either go to the next customer, or go back to their supplier and get a different product.

    I don’t suppose Christians can go back and get a different religion to sell for each customer, but they could certainly learn a little from that (very rare) sales person who quickly recognizes that the potential customer does not need or want any of the available products and just go on to the next person.

    As far as the “product” of Christianity, you state the results cannot be proved and could be false. But, for a lot of people, the feeling that things will be better after death makes life more livable. That feeling can be proved to exist. Of course, it only works if you completely believe the part about a better after-life, but if you do “buy” the system it makes you feel better. So you may not be able to test the big pay-off, but you can test smaller, immediate pay-off.

    If evangelists are making themselves feel good by making other feel good, is that really that big of a deal? Of course, if you have a better way to make people feel good then you could start selling that idea. What do you do to make yourself feel better when things are just not going your way?

    I am a business consultant (among other things). One thing, I encourage entrepreneurs to do is to focus how their product or services are better. Attacking your competitor will only send customers to a different competitor. To get people to buy from you (even if you are selling ideas) you need to focus on how your product can solve people’s needs. I would encourage you to do the same.

    What are you doing to make the world a better place, and what are you doing to constructively encourage others to make the world better?

    ____
    I did not notice a way to follow/subscribe to comments here so if you reply to this comment would you chat me on my blog (or email me), so I can read your reply?

  18. @Luke Gedeon: A fair question, but the thing is that unlike an evangelical Christian, I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to “sell” anyone on a way of life. My views, and the way I live just isn’t a product I’m looking to sell. It’s open source. Take it, change it, make it your own.

    If evangelists are making themselves feel good by making other feel good, is that really that big of a deal?

    It is when evangelists utilize the weaknesses of others (addictions, poverty, lack of education) to sell their promises of happiness.

    Religion preys and depends on one of the more interesting aspects of the human condition – that we love to “belong”. We are social creatures, and that can be a powerful motivator to join what is (quite literally) a glorified cult.

    At the end of the day, I truly believe the world would be a much better and more enlightened place if we started allowing ourselves to do the “good” aspects that religions teach just for the sake of being good people, and chuck the bad parts because they are archaic fictions that were designed to control masses of under-educated people.

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