October 29, 2013

Why are Buddhists so Nice?

Buddhism and Islam in the American imagination

Thomas A. Tweed

As Wendy Cadge and Robert Wuthnow have argued, the influence of Buddhism in the United States “increased considerably” during the last decades of the 20th century and its reception has been mostly positive. In 2003, one person in eight reported that Buddhist teachings or practices “have had an important influence on his or her religion or spirituality.” That means that “a sizeable number of Americans—as many as 25–30 million”—reported contact with Buddhism, and one quarter of the American public claimed “to be very or somewhat familiar with the teachings of Buddhism.” And familiarity bred contentment: “relatively small proportions of the American public thought negative words, such as violent (12 percent) and fanatical (23 percent) applied to the Buddhist religion and, continuing 19th-century patterns, “a majority thought this about positive words such as tolerant (56 percent) and peace loving (63 percent).”

One way of framing this positive view of Buddhism is to compare it with Americans’ reception of Islam. Surveys suggest that Americans are less likely to claim personal Islamic influence and more likely to view Muslims as intolerant and violent. Why? Does material culture play a role in this contrasting reception? Here I can only raise the comparative question and offer a tentative suggestion. American news media have represented the religious rituals and public engagement differently. In turn, I propose, those representations, which fail to capture the complexity of the two traditions, have meant that since 1945 Buddhism has been interpreted as individualistic and pacifist and in harmony with shared cultural values, whereas Islam has been imagined as communal and violent and in tension with all that Americans say they cherish most.

Images have swirled amidst the transcultural flows that have produced America’s understanding of “Buddhism” and “Islam,” and some of those images in national print and television news have portrayed ritual. Since the late-1950s, the prevailing image of Buddhist practice has been the solitary meditator, eyes half closed, sitting in the lotus position. This image does not accurately reflect the religious life of most Buddhists around the world or across the centuries. Meditation has been practiced in some Buddhist traditions, though mostly by monks, but it is rarely isolated from a cluster of other practices, from offerings to chanting. Nonetheless, this image of the solitary meditator, which appeared in literary form in Jack Kerouac’s 1958 novel Dharma Bums and in visual form in print and television news since the Sixties, seems to resonate with long-standing American affirmations of individualism, the inclination to celebrate the value and authority of the individual, not the church or the state. The most familiar representation of Muslim practice, on the other hand, is communal: a group of Muslims, usually men, in ritual prayer at the mosque. The individual seems lost in the crowd, and the crowd is mostly a menacing image in American culture, a problem to be overcome, the source of economic alienation, political submission, or religious authoritarianism. As with the Buddhist representations, this image strains against the complex realities of Islamic practice, which include solitary actions as well as communal rites. But the media return again and again to the image of communal prayer—the group bowing, kneeling, prostrating, and standing—and by doing so they position Islam in opposition to American individualism.

Representations of the two religions’ place in public life have varied too and that also might help to explain the differing valuations of Buddhism and Islam. American representations of Islam have a long history, and the negative impressions have multiple sources, including images that emphasize Muhammad’s polygamous and martial tendencies. Most important, the link between Islam and violence was reaffirmed for American audiences in the photographs from the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, especially the widely circulated image of blindfolded Americans being paraded by their captors. In this image, and in the videos and photographs of the burning Twin Towers from the 9/11/2001 attack, Islam has become associated with coercion and violence.

It is not that Buddhists have been portrayed only in private spaces and apart from public violence, however, as an analysis of national magazines and television reporting suggests. Consider television news. According to the holdings of the most extensive archive of evening new broadcasts, there were 142 stories about “Buddhists” between 1968 and 2005. Slightly more than half of those stories (79) dealt with conflict, violence, or disaster. As with many other topics, and certainly with Islam, Buddhists seemed newsworthy to journalists when something was going wrong. That association began in a clear way with a Malcolm Browne photograph that circulated widely in 1963. The image of the Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc setting himself on fire on a Saigon street shaped public opinion about the Vietnam War. It was “the Buddhist uprising”—and especially the published and televised images of the self-immolations by the protesting monks—that triggered negative American perceptions. Former CIA official William E. Colby recalled the impact: “when that picture of the burning bonze [monk] appeared in Life magazine, the party was almost over in terms of the imagery that was affecting the American opinion ... ‘How can you possibly support a government that has people doing this against it?’” More important for the issue at hand, the photograph also linked Buddhism with violence but it was violence produced by the solitary meditator and it was public action turned toward the self, not others. It was interpreted in the media as a religiously motivated act of protest and public protest is a longstanding form of democratic expression in the USA. Of course, some Muslims understood the Iranian hostage taking and the Twin Towers crash in a similar way, although that interpretation did not win the day in the US media.

Buddhism has been able to loosen its association with public violence in ways that Islam has not. There are multiple reasons for this, including the influence of D.T. Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama. However, it seems that images—Buddhist images of the solitary meditator and the righteous protester and contrasting Muslim images of the crowd in prayer and the crowd doing harm—have played an important role.

Futher Reading:
"The Original Ray," by Helen Tworkov with Thomas A. Tweed

 

Thomas A. Tweed holds the W. Harold and Martha Welch Endowed Chair in American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Author of The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844-1912: Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent (1992) and editor of Buddhism in the United States, 1844-1925 (2004), Tweed currently serves as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion, and will become president-elect of the American Academy of Religion this fall.

From Material Religion Volume 4, Issue 1. Reprinted with permission.

Image: Malcolm Browne/AP

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paul6316's picture

"...in the videos and photographs of the burning Twin Towers from the 9/11/2001 attack, Islam has become associated with coercion and violence."
Unsurprisingly, since Islam is, virtually by definition, a coercive and violent religion. It's not simply a matter of perception.

Hktony's picture

Well said.

SilverBear's picture

I began practising Buddhism (zen/chan) in the early 1970's. In addition to personal practise, I took undergrad & graduate level courses in Buddhist Philosophy. I AM NOT "against Buddhism!"

But I freely acknowledge what some comments have already pointed out: There is certainly a difference between what a religious/spiritual tradition holds as ideals and what a society nominally adhering to those beliefs actually _produces_ as political behaviours!

IMO, there are NO societies (not even Tibetan) that can show political behaviour closely consonant with their proffessed religious beliefs. (MAYBE Bhutan, though! Not sure.)

One needs to remember that in China, there were several centuries wherein Buddhism was considered an "anti-social" influence. . . mainly because when "official" Chinese social diktats were too contrary to basic Buddhist morals, the Buddhist response was to disengage rather than to combat the social order. There is a lot of wisdom in that, and it was, in fact, the Buddha's basic example.

Nevertheless, we see political realities in the 21st century. To end a decades-long low-scale civil war on Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese (Buddhist) majority government decided to suppress the Tamil (Hindu) minority that sought a separate political framework. Rather than fight the "Tamil Tigers" on a military basis --which they'd done with little success for decades-- the Sinhalese/Buddhist majority government simply decided to bomb the crap out of all Tamil cities and villages in the north of the island until the Tamil separatists cried, "Stop! Don't kill any more of our people! We quit!"

Is that a religiously-based Buddhist solution to the issue of non-Buddhists who want to go their own way? I don't think so! But In this Samsara, psychopathic political power USES religious rhetoric for its own ends. . . it does not actually abide by it.

Similarly, Americans/Westerners would not have a "negative" perception of Islam if the following 2 geopolitical facts were not true:
1] Britain and France spent two centuries trying to cripple the Islamic Ottoman Empire to gain strategic control of the Near & Middle East.
2] The current colonial "State of Israel" is geographically located within and is surrounded by Islamic-majority countries with whom it has been at war since 1948.

The "official" Western Empire diktats are therefore as much against Islam as Chinese ones were against Buddhism 1200 years ago. . .
It's a multi-faceted problem, and comparing political acts to religious tenets doesn't seem to accurately reflect the realities of Buddhism or Islam as spiritual traditions.

paul6316's picture

"Similarly, Americans/Westerners would not have a "negative" perception of Islam if the following 2 geopolitical facts were not true:1] Britain and France spent two centuries trying to cripple the Islamic Ottoman Empire to gain strategic control of the Near & Middle East.
2] The current colonial "State of Israel" is geographically located within and is surrounded by Islamic-majority countries with whom it has been at war since 1948. "

You might recall that there was a bit of Muslim unpleasantness in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, London on July 7, 2005, and Boston on April 15, 2013, just to mention a few possible examples, which also tend to support Westerners' negative perception of Islam. All very bloody incidents, which I'm always surprised that Western liberals find so easy, or so convenient, to forget.

alalaho's picture

an interesting article and observation. i think it's pretty simple to see why Buddhist are seen as "nice". i don't believe it has much to do with media and cultural images as much as it does with human encounters.

although there are two polar images in the media of Islamic Extremist causing suffering and the image of HH Dalai Lama constantly promoting peace and non-aggression in the face of Chinese human rights abuse, from my own experience i've mostly come across folks who develop this view of Buddhist, because they have had the opportunity to encounter a Buddhist. this is a natural byproduct of a sincere practitioner of the Dharma.

as far as the troubles in Myanamar, it's quite obvious that this has no bearing on any Buddhist teaching other than fully exposing the nature of suffering, self-clinging. as a Buddhist, i have no fear of any back-lash due to the fact that it is easy to see, even from one who does not have much knowledge of Buddhadharma, that this is contrary to the Buddha's teachings and clearly displays what he spoke of as the nature of suffering.

i have also been quite surprised and disturbed by comments i have read regarding the issues in Myanmar, in support of the violence against Muslims. this says to me a lot of the world's perception of Muslims.

it would benefit us tremendously if we have a better understanding that everything we experience is only our perception.

ranjaq's picture

Enough of the historical and popculture pontifications. What about the Buddhists in Burma who are viciously persecuting Muslims, violently attacking them and burning their homes?

paul6316's picture

Burmese Buddhists get it: Muslims don't play well with other religions.

Dolgyal's picture

Some new 'Buddhists' are laden down with baggage.
Julio Springer Pitanga, a fundamentalist from Brazil, has a long history of disparaging other faith traditions. Here are quotes from Julio Springer Pitanga from 2004:
“the foolishness of the Jewish belief in depraved scriptures such as the  Torah.”
“the crooked ideology ascribed to a mafioso called “Moses”
“Since the term “anti-Semitism” is widely recognized as a failed piece of Jewish propaganda, who would care about this Jewish garbage anyway? Except for stupid Torah and Merriam-Webster believers, of course!”
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/soc.culture.australian/FGRotaEMfi4
More recently in 2013, he writes, “Aung San Suu Kyi is a Western puppet”
“The old hoax of “millions of Tibetans” killed by the Chinese are just the usual Jewish-Western propaganda cover for their own continuous and systematic massacres of Buddhist people, from Japan to Korea to Laos to Cambodia to Vietnam. Lucky were the Tibetans, as they were under direct Chinese protection, and therefore the Jewish-Westerner mass murderers, the Muslim Dalai allies, did not dare to openly attack.”
"The problem is that “religious freedom for everybody”, “democracy”, “peace,” and “Tibetans and Chinese working together for peace” is precisely what the Dalai and his Western masters do not want and never wanted. They want... to install (sic) chaos, division, and social, ethnic and religious rift in the country -- the standard Western method to bring a country to its knees..."
I’m sorry–Julio Springer Pitanga–but if you repeatedly make remarks like “the Jew Kissinger” and so forth you are quite disqualified from judging sectarianism, any reasonable person would agree.

Richard Fidler's picture

A good point. I see the conflict as primarily an "in-group" vs. "out-group" phenomenon. When a minority moves in, expands its population, buys only from its own members--AND happens to hold views in opposition to the majority, the majority feels threatened. They burn down houses, recommend birth control for the minority, and kill them on occasion (To be fair, the minority can commit its own atrocities). Mormons in the United States experienced this conflict in the nineteenth century--though now, in places in Utah, they can dish it out to the minority.

Still, you have to wonder: Why doesn't a Buddhist minority provoke a violent reaction in England or the United States, while a Muslim minority does? Teachings, current behavior, and history are all relevant: Buddhists are not regarded as a threat, while Muslims are. Perhaps Muslims should begin to ask themselves why that is so.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Western Christianity has been at loggerheads with Eastern Islam since the Crusades. The West's encounter with Buddhism is relatively recent, and seen not so much as a malevolent opposition as an intriguing addition. While Islam and Christianity are joined at the God/Allah hip, and fight over whose version of this Supreme Being is king of the hill, Buddhism posits no such external deity.

Richard Fidler's picture

Islam aggressively proselytizes all over the world, insisting it has a monopoly on the truth while Buddhism does not seek to convert others. Certainly it welcomes new followers, but hardly "gets in your face", preferring to let visitors "drop in" after reading a book about the dharma or hearing a talk. Then there is the different focus for Buddhism: it is about ending suffering, not following commandments, obeying scripture, and offering prayers to God.

Buddhism is not about belief, either--it is about practice. A fairly large number of Christians have been influenced by Buddhist practices, an indication that they do not see it as an oppositional religion, but as a system that invites participation while not uprooting foundational beliefs. That is certainly a positive thing.

deanp's picture

Yes, it is interesting that these articles focus on media and public perceptions rather than the simple fact of objectively looking at what a tradition teaches, it's history, main tenets, scriptural code, etc. Yes, the media are focusing on certain perceptions to fuel their interest, however, the bottom line is that a tradition that exhorts belief in a specific creator being, punishment of eternal hell/heaven accordingly, non negotiable rules to follow, and a history of active conversion regardless of violence involved, simply produces a certain type of result. Traditions that do not have these tenets or principles produce another kind of result. It's not rocket science.

Dominic Gomez's picture

One would think with Tweed's credentials he would've seen what you see in his research for this article. Neither is it rocket science that man-bites-dog stories, sex scandals, etc. sell more media than humanity's spiritual evolution.

Rob_'s picture

There are instances of predominately Buddhist societies being quite violent. Let's not take on simple minded notions that certain traditions foster greater violence. Humans will find a way to be violent if they're so disposed.

deanp's picture

Perhaps. It certainly helps when groups of humans follow a divine holy book that prescribes punishment, eternal damnation, justification for the waging of war, and a deity that engages in violent action again non-believers. Humans may find a way to be violent if disposed, but it is surely easier if it has been divinely endorsed, recommended and justified via scriptures and oral traditions.

Rob_'s picture

You're really just repeating yourself and ignoring my comment that Buddhist societies can also be violent. Your over-generalized psychological projections of how divine holy books affect people reveals your own prejudice rather than any insight.

deanp's picture

Rob, nobody here is ignoring your comment, albeit it is irrelevant and ignorant in terms of thinking that religious doctrines have no effect on behaviour. Perhaps you should look into the underlying factors of why this article suggests Buddhism as opposed to Islam, is seen as "nicer". Is it just through media manipulation, or are the underlying teachings and causes of religious doctrines having an effect? By discounting religious causes of violence and its perception by others as just something 'human' or 'over-generalised', you relegate your opinion into absurdity.

Rob_'s picture

Yes, you did ignore it. Your response skirts any acknowledgement that predominately Buddhist societies can be violent. Here's your over-generalized statement:

"however, the bottom line is that a tradition that exhorts belief in a specific creator being, punishment of eternal hell/heaven accordingly, non negotiable rules to follow, and a history of active conversion regardless of violence involved, simply produces a certain type of result. Traditions that do not have these tenets or principles produce another kind of result. It's not rocket science."

So we can both assume that Buddhism falls within the category of "Traditions that do not have these tenets". My statement that Buddhist societies can and have been violent is irrelevant to your point that "they produce another kind of result"? Not al all, it's a direct refutation of your claim.

I never said religious doctrines have no affect on behavior. Perhaps you should read more closely and not twist my words.

I also have not discounted potential religious causes to violence.

At least this time you didn't ignore what I said. You simply changed what I said to conform to the points you wished to make. Now that's absurd.

mths's picture

Then to acknowledge your point Rob, yes there are examples of violence in Buddhist societies and perhaps even violent Buddhist societies. I'd have two questions on that.

First is: Is there a reasonable comparison? For example Japan in the second world war is a very different case from the Vietnam (civil) war, which is a different case from internal struggles in Tibet over the ages. Can you compare this to the strive between Muslim sects and tribes, terrorism or the desire to destroy Israel and/or the US? Perhaps cases are too different, perhaps not.

Second: What is the cause of violence? Buddhism may not have produced completely peaceful societies, but has produced violent societies? Said violence can have many causes, such as other popular doctrines that instigated it (fascism, communism, geo-political interests: invasions, transition to the post-colonialist era, economical developments, presence of oil, changing demographics, etc.).

I guess the question I mean to ask is: How many examples you know of countries, wars, violent movements that have legitimized their violence primarily with 'Buddhist arguments', quoting sutra's and such? And were these arguments that found any resonance with Buddhist practitioners at large? Now ask the same question about Islam.

Rob_'s picture

Of course Japan, Vietnam, and Tibet each have their unique characteristics. Really, my original statement was trying to convey the idea that one shouldn't attribute complex human dynamics to simple causes. In this case, deanp was linking violence simply to the belief in a creator and associated doctrines that come along with that.

Since Islam is such a hot button topic considering all that has occurred in the past few decades, let's look into it a little deeper. Historically, the West (mostly the U.S. and a smattering of European nations) have been following political strategies towards Middle Eastern nations that should certainly be considered as contributory factors to the current climate. And I'm mostly talking about the period following WWII to the present. I'm most familiar with U.S. policy during this period. The U.S. has supported and propped up many authoritarian states in this region. Ongoing is one of their strongest allies in the region, Saudi Arabia. In 1953, a U.S. backed coup d'étate of democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran. Then the subsequent support of the Shah of Iran. The U.S. also had it's moment of supporting Saddam Hussein, mostly during the Reagan administration. Then the U.S. deposed Hussein and occupied Iraq, and the U.S. is still in Afghanistan. Those are probably the most prominent. Digging deeper I could find more examples of the U.S. intervening in the political affairs of most nations in the region.

So ... are the people of the Middle East somehow ignorant of this history? Of course not. Could there be some real grievances these people have towards U.S. political policy in their region? Grievances I might add that have nothing to do with religion. Now I won't deny that there are segments that wrap their grievances within their religious beliefs. But even some of the hard case terrorists (who I might add are a fringe and very small component compared to most Muslims) have expressed some complaints that are very much tied to this history. For example, one of Osama bin Laden's "demands" was for the expulsion of the U.S. military from Saudi Arabia.

So what leads to violence is a much more complex matter than, do you believe in God or not (and the associated doctrines that come with it). I might add other examples of "violence" in Asian Buddhist countries although by no means am I attributing it to Buddhism, the military junta in Burma, Pol Pot with the Khmer Rouge, and posted on these very blogs a couple months back, http://www.tricycle.com/blog/buddhist-monk-blames-muslims-myanmar-bombing

And as for Japan, preceding up to and including WWII, I'm not aware of any wholesale borrowings from Sutras to support the war effort. I am aware of "Zennist" expressions to inspire the troops and populace.

Historically, all cultures regardless of religious persuasion have ebbed and flowed between relative peace and violence. Unfortunately, most people wish to define simple causes to complex events. So while some people wish to say Islam can more easily lead to violence, they're missing a long list of other factors that have contributed to the current climate. Carrying on a narrow minded "religious war", trying to define who has the "best" doctrine simply ignores real issues and will never contribute to any possible solution(s) or amelioration of the situation.

Hktony's picture

Rob do you actually know anything about Islam??? Really have you bothered to read it?? If you had you would not defend it and try to argue the same old lines that all religions are bad too.
I am sure you are sincere in your arguements but the reality is islam is driven by Jihad. All muslims have to follow Jihad or they can be put to death. Hatred is their rock ,is their guide. There's no love, lovingkindness, compassion. The Qur'an never once speaks of Allah's love for non-Muslims, but it speaks of Allah's cruelty toward and hatred of non-Muslims more than 500 times.

Don't take my word for it. Take a breath and read the 3 books of islam. You might be suprised!

And in case you dont have time here is a list of countries which are having problems with islam toady:
India and the Sudan and Algeria and Pakistan and Israel and Russia and Chechnya and the Philippines and Indonesia and Nigeria and England and Thailand and Spain and Egypt and Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Morocco and Yemen and France and Uzbekistan and Tunisia and Kosovo and Bosnia and Mauritania and Kenya and Eritrea and Syria and Somalia and Kuwait and Ethiopia and Georgia and Jordan and United Arab Emirates and Tanzania and Australia and Belgium and Denmark and East Timor and Qatar and Tajikistan and the Netherlands and Afghanistan and Chad and Canada and China and Nepal and the Maldives and Argentina and Mali and Angola and the Ukraine and Uganda and Germany and Lebanon and Iran and Kazakhstan and Sweden and Azerbaijan and Iraq and Scotland and Macedonia and Bulgaria and Cameroon .....
Correction I think Angola may have outrawed islam due to fear of civil war. So now Rob make a list of countries where Buddhists are causing issues. Ok try Mormons. No, Christians or perhaps Hindus or Sikhs.

Rob_'s picture

I never said anything of the sort that all religions are bad. Instead of worrying about how read up on Islam I am, perhaps you could simply try reading what I wrote and respond accordingly. Do you have anything to refute on my quite condensed historical portrayal? You might start there, then we could have a discussion.

And I have no idea how you're using the term 'Jihad'. Are you aware there are quite a variety of meanings and contexts in which it is used? Like many religious ideas, there isn't even full agreement on the term amongst the practitioners of Islam. But like many people you wish to dumb things down, and simply imply it's all about violence. This goes back to what I was trying to convey in my post. Let's try to more fully grasp complex situations, and not hold on to simple notions to explain our prejudices.

Your simple minded listing of countries is just that ... simple minded. They each have their own unique problems. Like with your usage of the term Jihad, you're more into implying something from what you're saying as opposed to actually clearly defining anything.

Perhaps you should try tallying something else. How about the violence inflicted by the U.S. in the past 50 years. Whether through outright warfare or by proxy through the support of tyrannies. The violence inflicted through Islamic terrorism is feeble by comparison. Which brings me back to another important point of my post. There are reasons that have nothing to do with religious dogma as to why Muslims look unfavorably towards the West.

Hktony's picture

The reason i responded to this article is because there is a clear implication that islam is like other religions such as buddhism but the media portray it wrongly. Poor islam.
This PC view is wrong and very dangerous because not all things are equal. Buddhism is 'nice' because the Buddha taught nice. Islam is not nice because it contains as it's central tenet Jihad and sharia. Jihad is a holy war with swords and lies. Not an internal lovey lovey dialogue. Sharia forces all people to live as muslims under muslim laws- see Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi, Malaysia ect.
The idea that muslims are cute people misunderstood by the media is utter crap and has devastating concequencies on societies.
Sothern Thailand under attack of muslims. But all you need to do is say is , hay they are extremists not real peaceful muslims so all is ok. And the thai government continue to take money from the saudis.
Burma, hay, leave those muslims alone they are peaceful it is the media distrorting what is going on . It is those terrible violent Buddhist monks.
There is no complexity Rob. You are either with Jihad or you are not. Muslims all have to be for jihad as they have no choice or its death. If the united states wishes to support saudi,pakistan and so on then they support jihad. Then yes the states is also evil. No complexity. Thoughts associated with greed hatred and delusion or they are not.
This idea that we did bad stuff years ago is a tedious and pointless arguement especially in a buddhist magazine. Hatred never ceased by hatred.......
So yes muslims hate the west for what happened. What have they been doing for 1400 years across the globe. Slavery still exists in islam, FGM still exists, hanging of gays, child marriage, women second class citizens, multiple wives, stoning, halal meat, behaeding. ....
Come come rob it is not the media and not history. It is reality of islam in our daily lives. Switch on your tv . Muslims are killing muslims in muslim only countries.
Just yeaterday in malaysia;
'Muslims were today urged to fight against the Shiites as it is "a form of jihad" before it is too late, because the "Shiite virus" is spreading fast in Malaysia.'

Rob_'s picture

There's not a whole lot to comment on as you are simply repeating your prejudiced thinking. I will address this silly comment of yours:

"This idea that we did bad stuff years ago is a tedious and pointless arguement".

You're just plain wrong here. First off, it's not simply of the past, it's ongoing. Also, it is part of more complex dynamic between cultures which you wish to simply discard. But you're free to be ignorant. You simply have your dumb downed, prejudiced view of what Islam is. It explains everything for you. Too bad.

Danny's picture

Excellent.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Let's not forget the fearful choice forced upon non-Christian people 600 years ago: the sword or the cross.

mahakala's picture

In his "Life of Constantine", Eusebius gives a detailed account of a vision and stresses that he had heard the story from the Emperor himself. According to this version, Constantine with his army was marching (Eusebius does not specify the actual location of the event, but it clearly is not in the camp at Rome), when he looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words "Εν Τούτῳ Νίκα", usually translated into Latin as "in hoc signo vinces," both phrases have the literal meaning "In this sign,[you shall] conquer;" a more free translation would be "Through this sign [you shall] conquer". At first he was unsure of the meaning of the apparition, but in the following night he had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign against his enemies.

David Gould's picture

In our Judeo-Christian Western world, Buddhism still has some way to go to get meaningful acceptance. Yes, it has not got the imagery problems and prejudices that exist against Islam, but it is not devoid of controversy or issues. The fact that many Western people have dipped their toe in the waters of Buddhism without becoming Buddhists perhaps makes Buddhism seem less culturally challenging.

Hktony's picture

Why does buddhism have to be accepted like the jewish and christian religion???? Why do we need to make things equal. All things equal and things fair. People have a right not to be buddhists. Buddhism has no god given right to be accepted by anyone or anything. The teaching is there if people want it and if not fine. Is it just me or are there hidden agendas in peoples comments on this american blog. The other is poor islam has prejudices against it. Maybe , just maybe they are earned.

Dominic Gomez's picture

In turn, the Ugly American, boorish and culturally ignorant, is our public image throughout much of the world.

mths's picture

Dominic, you are aware that commenting on Christian history of violence or American stereo types are - regardless of what point you intend to make - fallacies? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies#Red_herring_fallacies

SilverBear's picture

Without evidence, I agree these terms would be stereotypical logical fallacies. But there have been many, many serious historical studies that provide clear evidence that the American Establishment self-image resembles accurate history very little.
"You're another Jeffrey Dahmer!" -- is an __ad hominem_ slur. Showing evidence that the party whom you're addressing is guilty of sex crimes and serial murders removes the logical fallacy and provides a substantive basis for the "shorthand" depiction.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thank you for your opinion and this link, mths.