Excerpts from the comments section are in bold italics.
I was born and raised a Catholic, so my viewpoint has a Christian slant. However, my wife is Muslim who grew up in Guyana where Islam was practiced in a relatively moderate fashion—my mother-in-law has led readings of Quran Sharif within the household on many occasions—and there was sharing of traditions with the Hindu community. My daughter, adopted from China, had a Buddhist blessing ceremony before we left the country.
A beautiful, old wooden Episcopal/Anglican church is a half-mile down the road from me. I was drawn to it by the energy of the woman pastor who led the congregation there, until she was forced to retire a few years ago. My daughter was baptized in the same church, while my older son was baptized as an infant in the Catholic church, then received his first communion and was confirmed as an adult.
You can argue that although not all Jews are Christians, all Christians were borne out of Judaism. I admire the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Jesus, Confucius, Martin Luther King and Malcom X for their courage and conviction. I have studied and embraced the philosophies and religions of the East, so you can say my approach is, “Any port in a storm.”
“goodness involves the ability to sacrifice — out of love.” Echoes my comment, “Love, and the concept of love, overrides all, even when at odds with basic instincts like self-preservation.”
You would choose to starve yourself to feed your children, or jump in front of a bus to save them from being run down, but real life rarely forces us to make such extreme judgements or choices. If your kids were hungry, you would take on a second job, or steal some food, but at the same time, we like to believe that we would act unselfishly when faced with life and death decisions, like the one made on June 29, 1983 by K.C. Chiefs running back Joe Delaney, who couldn’t swim, yet jumped into the water and drowned trying to save three children he didn’t know.
Love does imply attachment, which on the surface may conflict with Buddhist philosophy. It does align with the thought that any kind of attachment, or longing, will result in human suffering.
We speak of trying to be “Christ-like”, but if God is in Man’s image, he shares his flaws. We think of God, and Jesus, as being perfect, but all contradictory evidence is dismissed as “God’s plan.” “He carried the cross for us…He won’t give you any burden you can’t handle”. So, cancer cells run rampant in a beautiful, innocent child as a test of the kindness, strength, resolve and faith of the parents and everyone around them? If I am to accept the rather limited concept of God as heavenly father, rather than a spirit force that runs through every living thing, is it not possible that God might step back for a moment and recognize his role in this tragic event? “Damn! I really #@%&*^ up. How can I fix this?”
Goodness might lose its reference point without evil, but that does not mean that the universe requires evil. It is not necessarily true either that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Sometimes it leaves you weaker and/or scarred. Who said that universal happiness requires an equal measure of suffering?
I believe that love or goodness/kindness can exist for its own sake, that it doesn’t require the polar opposite, or Karma’s cause and effect, to have value or meaning. You can think of Good and Evil as circles of influence. I read this somewhere, so can’t take credit for the concept. With this, there is the potential, and hope, that Good can eventually overlap, eclipse and eradicate Evil. Picture yourself at the center of all this.
“karma should not be conceived as a simplistic accounting of good vs bad in a soul ledger.”
In Islamic tradition the two kiraman katibin (Arabic: كراماً كاتبين “honourable scribes”), are two angels called Raqib and Atid, believed by Muslims to record a person’s actions. Whether a person is sent to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell/purgatory) is not, however, dependent on whether good deeds outweigh bad deeds; but is ultimately up to God’s mercy upon a believer. I’ve always liked this little scorekeepers image.
“What are the effects over multiple lifetimes?” I agree that this is fatalistic, the old, “Pie in the sky, by and by, when you die,” argument which is usually used to keep the underclass under control. For the most part, that is the role of organized religion: another social structure. Why does Man feel the need to define God? For me, religion is limited and small, but spirituality is boundless.
I’ve described what we do during our time on earth as ripples in a pond. Our time is short, and eventually those ripples calm and we’re gone and forgotten. I do however, believe in angels, and that someone out there loves me and is looking out for me, not because I have any tangible evidence, but because I prefer it to the alternative.