Tuesday, December 8, 2015
I Went to a Buddhist Site and Nothing Was "Sad"
I want to show you all my pictures from Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺 líng yǐn sì) in Hangzhou (杭州), China. (I posted photos from Hangzhou's West Lake a while back too.)
The area surrounding the temple is incredibly beautiful. There is a park with walking paths, full of trees and huge rocks, and the coolest part is the rock carvings. Hundreds of figures have been carved from these rocks- figures of important people in Buddhism.
I mean, wow. If you're ever in Hangzhou, you need to come see this. The place is so beautiful and ancient.
And as I walked around looking at all this incredible art, interested to know about the people depicted in the carvings and the significance of this place for Buddhists, I was very happy to realize this: Not once did I think "this is sad."
So back when I was a Real True Christian, I knew that Christianity was the right religion and every other religion was worthless. I knew that, for followers of those "wrong" religions, all their dedication and faith meant nothing, because they referred to God by the wrong name. I knew that only Christians could go to heaven.
And so, when Real True Christians learn about other religions, to some extent they may admire the good and beautiful things that the religion inspired people to do, but at the end of the day, they're sad. Because look at all the hard work that artists did in ancient times to create these carvings, but all of it was for the wrong God and so it was all meaningless. Look at the monks walking around in the temple- so sad that they've dedicated their lives to something that is worthless. No, not worthless, evil actually. Christianity is the right religion for everyone, so any religion that is not Christianity is actually harming its followers, keeping them from searching for Jesus.
Geez, I'm so glad I don't believe that anymore. Seriously, how terrible is that, to judge another religion when you know nothing about it, except that it's not Christianity? What I believed back then was literally "I don't know anything about Buddhism, except that it's wrong and evil and its followers are all wasting their lives."
We believed that non-Christians go to hell. We knew their greatest need was to get rid of their beliefs and believe in Jesus instead. We didn't respect other religions- no, of course not! But we pretended to respect them, so that their followers would think of us as friendly and loving and be receptive to our message.
Yes, we believed it was worthwhile to listen and learn about other religions. But only so that we had the information we needed to create a plan of attack.
I mean, that's horrible, right? But when you believe non-Christians go to hell, you have to treat them this way. If you care about them, you have to try to force them to give up their beliefs. Hell ruins anything good about Christianity.
Back then, I could look at a religion I knew nothing about, and confidently claim that it was "sad."
You know what actually is sad though?
It's so sad that girls in the American church grow up believing "your virginity is the most precious gift you can give your husband." It's sad that children are taught that they deserve to go to hell and Jesus is doing them a huge favor by loving them even though they are clearly unlovable. It's sad that I had depression and needed therapy last year because I believed God thought I was dirty for living with my boyfriend.
It's sad that the idea of hell drives Christians- who truly feel love toward their neighbors- to treat said neighbors in disrespectful and hurtful ways. It's sad that so many evangelicals believe they need to balance human compassion against "what the bible says."
I can say these things are "sad" because I have experienced them firsthand. But about Buddhism, I don't have enough knowledge to judge it. Surely it has been used in ways that hurt people and are "sad"- because every religion has. Every religion- including Christianity- can inspire people to love and help others, or can be used as a tool to control people and gain power.
I'm a Christian, so I disagree with Buddhism on certain beliefs. I believe Buddhists are factually wrong about those things. But so what? What really matters is human happiness and the way people treat each other. There's no reason to think that if someone corrected (what I see as) misconceptions about God by converting to Christianity, it would actually benefit them in practical ways. (And I also have a lot of incorrect beliefs about God. Everybody does! Even if "Christianity is true", [whatever that means,] who's to say that, just because a person uses the name "Jesus" to refer to their god, their perception of God's characteristics is actually closer to the true nature of God than someone who doesn't use the name "Jesus"?)
Anyway, the point is, I'm really really glad I no longer judge religions that I don't have a clue about. I'm really glad now I'm genuinely interested in learning more, and not with any evangelism-related ulterior motive. I'm really glad I don't believe in hell anymore, so I'm able to actually treat non-Christians with love and respect.
And please enjoy the rest of these pictures of the beautiful scenery at Lingyin Temple.