Re: Religion and ethnocentrism

Brian Michael Howell (bmhowell@ARTSCI.WUSTL.EDU)
Thu, 11 Apr 1996 16:33:35 -0500

On Thu, 11 Apr 1996, Peter D. Junger wrote:

> Brian Michael Howell writes:
> : To say that "religion" is expressed in a variety of ways is to imply that
> : the content of religious belief is irrelevant. Muslims are not merely
> : "expressing religion" they believe that a historical event, in which
> : Allah gave teachings to Mohammed, actually happened. If you believe that
> : this actually happened, how can you turn around and say that these
> : teachings - GIVEN BY GOD! - are just one way to "express a universal?"
> : The same can be said of Christianity, Judaism, and, to some extent
> : Buddhism. These are not, in the belief if their adherents, merely
> : ahistorical expressions of a human capacity for
> : mythology/cosmology/whatever. They are historical instances of God
> : interveining in human affairs or true enlightenment. You can encourage
> : anyone in any of these systems to be tolerant (i.e. not want to attack,
> : harm or insult) of other religions, but to tell them they should abandon
> : the idea that they are exclusively true, is to tell them to abandon the
> : core historical foundation of their beliefs.
> Could you explain how you think that these remarks are true--even to
> some extent--of Buddhism? Surely there are few, if any, Buddhist
> schools that believe that their teachings are ``GIVEN BY GOD'', or even
> that any of their teachings would be invalidated in any way if it turned
> out to be the fact that the historical Buddha was clearly mythical, like
> Amida Buddha. The Buddha taught, after all, that one should rely on
> oneself and on the teachings, not on the Buddha.
> This is not, of course, to deny that the Buddhists might well take the
> positition that myths are true and that beliefs are irrelevant.
> --
> Peter D. Junger--Case Western Reserve University Law School--Cleveland, OH
> Internet:
Of course. Buddhists (meaning orthodox Buddhism, not folk Buddhism,
which is a whole diff. thing) use the teachings of Buddha, an historical
figure, and his experience of enlightment as the basis of their
religion. While there is not a centrality to this event in the same way
as the history of Moses, Mohammed, or Jesus play in their respective
faiths, there is a belief that the teachings of buddha are true because
the Buddha was able to become a Buddha through those teachings. That is
why I qualified the historicity of belief in Buddhism.