Why I am not a Buddhist

One may come to the conclusion that the Bible is God’s word is by examining all of the religions of the world and eliminating them from contention as viable truth systems.  It takes some time to investigate their claims, but not as much time as one might think due to the proper desire to be rational in what one believes.  Irrationality requires no evidence and implies that all conclusions are equally valid, a premise that must be rejected as the nonsense that it is.  Hence, any religion that rests upon a premise of irrationality may be so dismissed.  Moreover, that one may use rationality to examine the religion of Buddhism is granted by the Buddha himself, who is attributed to have said, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”  So, in light of reason and common sense, let’s look at the claims of Buddhism.

Buddhism is a large world religion that has been around for thousands of years.  It proposes to following the teachings of the Buddha, a historical figure whose name was Siddhartha Gautama.  He lived in northwest India and died around 400 B.C.  Buddhism’s “noble truths” are that all suffering is evil and must be transcended in order to reach nirvana, a state of impersonal bliss and cosmic awareness.  Suffering is caused by one’s personal desires.  Pursuing one’s personal desires involves one in the cycle of karma, a sort of cause and effect in which evil begets more evil and good begets good.  To escape the cycle of karma and reach nirvana one must follow a specific path designed to purge one of all desire.  This may take one several lifetimes of rebirth/reincarnation to achieve.  Since Buddhism denies the existence of the self, one would have no personal awareness from life to life what was happening.  Enlightenment is the state in which one transcends personal desires and can be characterized as being harmonious with everything and nothing.  Buddhism has no “god” to worship per se.  Everyone can become god by reaching enlightenment and joining their energy in the nirvana.[1]

One key criticism of Buddhism would be the following: if all desire causes suffering, then the desire to reach nirvana would seem to cause suffering as well.  It would be impossible to desire nirvana and eliminate all desire from one’s life.  Buddhists might counter this claim by saying that one must even eliminate the desire for nirvana.  But if such is the case, then one ought to cease practicing Buddhism.  Hence, the very desire to practice the religion, even to the point of meditating upon nothing (a state that one must desire to reach), undermines the message of the elimination of all desire.  I am not a Buddhist because what it sets forth as its “noble truths” are hopelessly contradictory.

Pursuant to this, I also question the idea that suffering is always bad and must always be eliminated.  Suffering , as a concept, is not necessarily a bad thing.  Through suffering we can learn to avoid poor choices.  Suffering can alert us to problems within the body.  Suffering even has a certain cathartic aspect.  Suffering can be good in developing moral character as well.  The apostle Paul affirmed as much in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  I am not a Buddhist because some suffering is good.

Moreover, one should also question whether all desires necessarily lead to suffering.  Being thirsty is a desire for water.  It seems unreasonable and beyond common sense to suggest that quenching one’s thirst with a drink of water leads to suffering.  To the contrary, some desires are both natural and reasonable and need not lead to suffering.  What about the desire to not suffer?  As has already been pointed out, this leads to a contradictory conclusion.  I am not a Buddhist because not all desires lead to suffering.

The Buddhist concept of “god” is also problematic; god is both everything and nothing.  When one reaches enlightenment he sort of merges his energy with an indefinite and indeterminate ball of cosmic energy/stuff which really isn’t anything in particular.  There is no personal God to judge right and wrong, truth and error, light and darkness.  No judge means no justice and no justice means no absolute morality, a concept that must be rejected because it implies the false concept that all actions are morally equal.  I am not a Buddhist because absolute morality demands absolute justice.

Buddhists also live by a strict code of not killing anything: people, animals, bugs, plants, germs, rocks, whatever they believe is “sentient.”  This is also against common sense and reason.  It is reasonable that the earth and all of the things within it are very useful.  We can use trees to build houses.  We may use rocks to make bricks and construct buildings.  We may use plants, animals, and even bugs as food sources.  Using these things often involves killing them.  Hence, I am not a Buddhist because the principle of the utility of the earth and all things in it is rejected.

This strict code of not killing also has moral repercussions in denying that there is ever a time for the death penalty.  The principle of the punishment fitting the crime is an old and reasonable form of justice.  Eschewing all suffering would have to eliminate that principle all together, and, in fact, no one could ever be punished for any crime if one were to pursue the concept consistently.  There is justice in applying the death penalty to criminals who have merited such by their crimes.  It simply isn’t the case that all killing is wrong.  This is another reason why I reject Buddhism.

Regarding the concept of reincarnation/rebirth: while it is an interesting thought, where is the evidence that such is actually happening?  In fact, Buddhists themselves would argue, based upon their conception (or lack of conception as the case may be) of the self, that there would be no proof for reincarnation.  That is, the only reason to accept it would be that the Buddha said it was so.  Using the Buddha’s own standard of evaluation, I would have to reject this doctrine.  Hence, I cannot accept Buddhism because there is no evidence for reincarnation.

This last concept of Buddhism, rebirth/reincarnation, also implies a sort of universal salvation.  That is, the principle of karma continues to recycle “me” (whatever the “me” is, it doesn’t stay the same from one life to the next in Buddhism) over and over until “I” achieve “enlightenment.”  That means that in the present, it doesn’t matter whether I become a Buddhist or not.  So, why should I take a chance on Buddhism, be wrong, and spend eternity being punished by a just and personal God?  That would seem to be an awfully foolish choice.  In fact, when presented with the two choices, Buddhism would always demand that you never choose it, because ultimately, everything will end up being “enlightened.”

In the final analysis, Buddhism simply has too many contradictions and irrationalities.  It is not based upon evidence, but the pronouncements of merely “wise” men.  It boils down to being nothing more than a system of traditional sayings.  That’s not to say that Buddhists are not moral people or that Buddhism does not have any good aspects to it.  I agree with many of their ethical concepts such as maintaining sexual purity, and abstinence from lying, stealing, and intoxicants.  Nevertheless, the lack of an individual eternal hope, its contradictory doctrine of desire and suffering, the lack of real justice both here and in eternity, and lack of evidence for reincarnation is enough reason to reject it.

[1] Ninian Smart, “Buddhism” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol. 1: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. & The Free Press, 1972 ed.

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