Saturday, March 26, 2011

interreligiously speaking

Dr. Hodges notes a recent article by Alex Beam about Pastor Rob Bell, author of a book titled Love Wins, in which Bell apparently argues that non-believers like Gandhi are not currently roasting in hell. Dr. Hodges quotes from Beam's article:

One big heresy that Bell has been blasting on YouTube and elsewhere is that non-Christians may not be condemned to burn in hell. "[Mahatma] Gandhi is in hell?" Bell asks. "He is? And someone knows this for sure? Will only a few religious people make it to heaven?" Ix-nay, quoth Bell, who must have the inside scoop on this. He is after all, the author of "Sex God," another book with enviable sales figures.

Not being a classical theist, I have no use for the concept of hell (or heaven, for that matter), so I don't find Bell's insight particularly earth-shattering. I can, however, see how Bell's line of questioning might ruffle the feathers of the Christian exclusivists who insist on a One True Path notion.

Dr. Vallicella, meanwhile, recently re-published the paper that first got me reading him: Can the Chariot Take Us to the Land of No Self? (My thanks to Dr. Hodges for first pointing this article out to me back in 2004; I took it as a challenge to my own Buddhism-tinged metaphysical sensibilities and replied here. Interestingly, my reply was recently picked up by another blogger: see here.) Dr. Vallicella has also just written a post briefly comparing Christian and Buddhist notions of selflessness: The Christian 'Anatta' Doctrine of Lorenzo Scupoli. From the end of his post:

In sum, both Buddha and Scupoli are claiming that no one of us is a self for the reason than no one of us is in complete control of any of his actions or attributes. No one of the things which one normally takes to be oneself or to belong to oneself (e.g., one's body, habits, brave decisions, brilliant insights, etc.) is such that one has originated it autonomously and independently.

The main difference between Buddha and Scupoli, of course, is that the latter maintains that God gives us what we do not have under our control. Thus for Scupoli, what we do not have from ourselves, we have from another, and so have. But for Buddha, what we do not have from ourselves, we do not have at all.

Vallicella is right to note that the Christian and Buddhist notions are significantly different in their particulars. A convergent pluralist like John Hick would argue, however, that both religious traditions believe in a radical turn away from self in order to be properly oriented toward the Real, so maybe they're not all that far apart after all-- not where it counts, i.e., in the realm of moral action.



Charles said...

Everyone knows that only Mormons (and Saddam Hussein, but he's a special case) go to heaven, while everyone else goes to hell.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

On Judgment Day, the gates to Heaven and Hell will both be opened, and people will simply go where they know they belong.

Wish there were another choice, though . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *