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David Larson Professor McQueen English 1A 15 September 2013 What Makes Religion...

Throughout the world today, most people agree on a code of ethics. Some people believe that a higher power gave humanity this moral blueprint to follow, and they call this belief religion. Since there are many religions in the world, the question arises: If they agree on the same basic moral issues, what makes them different? Two of the worlds largest religions, Christianity and Buddhism, agree on many of the same key points. Despite the religions having similar messages about moral behavior, Christians and Buddhists will argue about which power gave them the message. In this sense religions arent classified by the messages they give, but by the believed origins, goal, and approach to the message. Let us begin with the basic message of every belief: Good behavior is rewarded and poor behavior is punished. Every human being, whether theist or atheist, has been taught this basic fact of life in their childhood. The older we become, the more we know this system of rewards and punishment isnt entirely accurate in the physical sense. However we respect the ideal of this system because we know it makes the world a better place. Religion, regardless of its truth, helps us maintain the reward/punishment ideal in a spiritual sense. So, how do religions classify bad behavior? The Ten Commandments, found in the Bible in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, give us a basic account of what Christians and

Jews consider the guidelines for living. Among the commandments are, Thou shalt not murder... Thou shall not steal...Thou shalt not commit adultery... and Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Verses 13-16) Buddhists believe in a similar code of ethics called the Five Precepts. According to, the five precepts include, Not killing or causing harm to other living beings... Not taking the not given... Avoiding sexual misconduct... and Avoiding false speech. The four given pieces of each code may basically be translated into one, simple law. We agree that killing is wrong, sexual misconduct is abhorrent, stealing is pathetic, and lying is unacceptable. However, it is noted that there are still six un-named commandments and one ignored precept. Five of the remaining commandments ban any god that is not God, discredit idol worship, sanctify Gods name, put the seventh day of the week above the others, and remind us to respect our parents. The last precept bans anything that clouds the mind such as drugs and alcohol. These seemingly disconnected rules have one thing in common: They address what is personally important to the higher power of each religion. God desires obedience and reverence above all else. A Buddhas value is enlightenment, which would easily be hidden by the immediate pleasure of a drug. The real difference between the two sets of rules is who set them down. The legal figure is God for Christians while it is the Buddha for Buddhists. According to the article, The Man who Woke Up, Buddhists believe that desire is the cause of all suffering. They follow a concept called The Four Noble Truths that the Buddha put into words. Desire is the main evil to Buddhists. If you were counting earlier, I only mentioned nine out of the Ten Commandments. The last commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife, nor his manservant,

nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbors.(Exodus 20:17) To shorten this statement, you are not supposed to want what isnt yours. It is funny that one of the defining features of Buddhism is shared with Christianity. The Christian belief is best summarized by the verse John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The two figures that all Christians accept as true are God and his son Jesus. In the books, Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus, God is an omnipotent being who created the universe and the previously mentioned law. According to the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; Jesus was born in Bethlehem and raised to be a carpenter. He eventually left his post and began preaching throughout Judea. His claim to being the Son of God upset the power of the religious leaders of the time. They had the Romans execute him on the cross. What sets all Christians apart from everyone else is their belief that Jesus death on the cross is a sacrifice that saves us from all the evil we have done. The origins of the Christian message are God and Jesus. Huston Smiths Religions of Man and Herman Hesses, Siddhartha give us an understanding of the origins of Buddhism. It all begins with a man named Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha was the son of a wealthy, Indian Lord who kept him from seeing suffering in his youth. The boy was severely shaken the first time he saw death and misery. He dedicated his life to understanding how to end suffering. He eventually succeeded in reaching enlightenment, becoming the first recorded Buddha. His teachings about enlightenment were later collected into the religion known as Buddhism. The main goal of a Buddhist is Nirvana. According to Ken Wilbur, this is a form of enlightenment in which

the self ceases to exist and a being becomes one with everything. Nirvana is the cessation of all suffering. Christianity also has an end to suffering. However, Christians believe that suffering ends in a place called Heaven. In the book of Luke( 23:43), Jesus stated to a condemned man who showed compassion, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise. Heaven is a paradise that people reach through surrender of self and self will as proven by Matthew 19:21: ...If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. People do not cease to exist in this place. Instead they get to experience heaven as themselves as part of the body of Christ. The labels of Buddhist and Christian have done much to separate us from each other. Yet, our belief systems are not all that foreign. We both believe in a similar moral code, which is the ultimate foundation of our religions. We also both believe in striving toward losing our own self-will. The main difference between Christianity and Buddhism is Jesus and Siddhartha. We agree on the core values of their messages. What we cannot agree about is where they came from. We do not know if God, Jesus, or the Buddha told us killing is wrong. We cannot agree how we know how to live or the source of that knowledge. In the end, we agree on the ethical blueprints that our higher powers give us.

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