Humanist's Guide to Religion: Judaism and Buddhism

Humanism and Religion

The purpose of this series is to develop a reference guide for how the various religions of the world rank against humanist values. Humanism for this purpose is a secular worldview that values human happiness, knowledge and physical wellbeing, exclusively in this life and this world. We will analyze religions according to their effect on three areas: the body (safety), the mind (knowledge, rationality), and the world (material goods).

The analysis uses as much quantification as possible. Each of the religions, cults and faith communities will be considered on the following criteria:

  1. Safety: deaths and violence caused for religious reasons; weighted as 50% of the total score
  2. Rigidity: openness to and support for rational inquiry, skepticism and doubt, including natural science and its findings; weighted as 30%
  3. Material wealth: income and GDP per capita; weighted as 20%

In this hub, we look at Buddhism and Judaism. For further details on the methodology, please see the first entry in the series, Humanist's Guide to Christianity.

Buddha statue at Mihintale, Sri Lanka
Buddha statue at Mihintale, Sri Lanka

BUDDHISM: Total Score=41%

Safety:

  • The Sri Lankan Civil War killed tens of thousands of non-Buddhists. Although the war was primarily ethnic and ideological in nature, it did carry an important religious undercurrent, marked by fanatical Buddhism. It is therefore justified to estimate at least 1,000 people were killed by Buddhists for religious reasons between 1990 and 2010. This results in an automatic weight of zero percent.
  • The average Social Hostility Index (SHI) for countries where Buddhism is the majority: 25%
  • Score: 30%

Rigidity:

  • Among American Buddhists:
  • 74% of American Buddhists have completed at least some college.
  • Absolutely certain God (or universal spirit) exists: 39%
  • Seldom or never pray: 31%
  • Holy text is written by men, not God: 67%
  • Homosexuality should be accepted by society: 82%
  • Buddhism places strong emphasis on the Buddha as the one who essentially discovered all the answers that everybody should accept. Doctrinally, there is little room for doubt, and notable authority is vested in priests, monks and other officials. Nevertheless, there are several dominant strains of Buddhist thought, accommodating some flexibility. Extra factor: 50%
  • Score: 67%

Wealth:

  • 56% of American Buddhists earn at least $50,000
  • The average GDP per capita among countries where Buddhism is the majority religion: $14,300 which is 14.3% of $100,000
  • Score: 31%

Note: The following countries are the ones with an at least nominal Buddhist majority: Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Bhutan, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong.

JUDAISM: Total Score=66%

Safety:*

  • Following are Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians (including settlers). Although not all caused for religious reasons, it is safe to assume so for the sake of calculations, because these statistics do not include dozens other Palestinian deaths that were very likely religiously-based (by soldiers, either official or unofficial).
  • 1990-2000: About 83 Palestinians were killed by Israeli civilians.
  • 2000-2010: About 48 Palestinians were killed by Israeli civilians.
  • The SHI for Israel, the only country where Jews are a majority, is 50%, which is quite high
  • Score: 72%

Rigidity:

  • Among American Jews:
  • 78% of American Jews have completed at least some college education
  • Absolutely certain God exists: 41%
  • Seldom or never pray: 44%
  • Holy text is written by men, not God: 53%
  • Homosexuality should be accepted by society: 79%
  • Modern Judaism encompasses a variety of conservative and liberal strains, decreasing rigidity. Adherents of Judaism figure prominently in many secular fields such as theater, entertainment, science, business and academia. Nevertheless, Judaism is characterized by a particularly heavy reliance on ancient texts, legal codes and practices, such as male circumcision. These contribute to rigidity. Extra factor: 40%
  • Score: 68%

Wealth:

  • 75% of American Jews earn $50,000 or more.
  • The GDP per capita of Israel is $28,600, which is 29% of $100,000
  • Score: 47%

*Note: It could be argued that the state of Israel would not exist without the religion of Judaism and its belief in the "promised land" for the Jews. Therefore almost all deaths caused by Israel are, essentially, religiously-inspired. This is not, however, the assumption being made here.

Conclusions

Buddhism appears as a somewhat humanist religion, but not as humanist as Christianity. Judaism, meanwhile, is the most humanist religion of all those considered in this survey.

Buddhism is dragged down by the Sri Lankan Civil War (which was laced with religious bigotry), as well as the poverty of many of the countries where it is dominant. On openness to skepticism and reason, however, Buddhism is one of the highest-ranking faith communities.

Judaism, the most humanistic major religion, still only comes two-thirds of the way toward full humanism. It enjoys superior scores on security and openness to reason/ skepticism, and scores fairly highly on material wealth, which is largely influenced by the GDP per capita of Israel. The importance of religious violence cannot be overstated from a humanist perspective: if there had been only a few religious killings, or a negligible amount, in the name of Judaism, instead of the roughly 130 accounted for here, then Judaism's final score would be around 75% or 77%, a significant ten points higher.

Religions vs Humanism: Final Scores

Judaism: 66%

Christianity: 54%

Buddhism: 41%

Hinduism: 37%

Islam: 29%

More by this Author


Comments 4 comments

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco

Interesting. :) As you know, there are some facts here that are not true or up for interpretation, and I wonder why you chose certain criteria and weighted them that way, but this was nevertheless an interesting analysis.

I agree the violence perpetrated by Jews in Israel against Palestinians is deplorable, and it's not sanctioned in Judaism (remember: behavior-focused, not belief-focused). There are a lot of bad Jews that do bad things.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Thank you, and thanks for visiting.

Sure, Judaism emphasizes behavior, but belief still plays a big role. Not sure which facts are false that you're referring to.

Deciding on the criteria were the most challenging part of the study. I explained more in the hub on Christianity, as I wrote at the top. I had to use data that was available for all religions, and could be applied to all of them more or less with consistency to measure them equally. If somebody has a better suggestion, I'm happy to hear it.


Nalliah Thayabharan 5 years ago

Nepal born Buddha’s mother Maha Maya was Jewish. She belongs to the lost tribe that went up the Himalayas. Maya is a Hebrew name. During Buddha’s era, Jews are referred as Juthaka Bamuns. Bamuna means middle class or Upper class. During Buddha's funeral his nephews lit the fire for the cremation. Buddha's nephews had family name Lichavi and which is a Jewish name. Buddha's cousin was Davidath which is a Jewish name very similar to nowadays "Deviduff". Buddha’s family is a tribe by the name Astecs.

The influence of Buddhism is profoundly changing the worship at several synagogues. Some Jews meditate before prayer services and Buddhist practices can open spiritual doors to enhance Jewish tradition. Judaism and Buddhism are not complementary ideologies that always fit snugly inside one another since Jews believe in God, and Buddhists believe in no God.

- Nalliah Thayabharan


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Well, Nalliah, not sure I believe all that, lol.

"Buddha's family is a tribe by the name of Astecs," as in the Aztecs of Pre-Columbian Mexico?! Wow, the connections just keep getting stranger and stranger, lol.

The Ahmediya Muslims believe Jesus didn't die in Palestine, but rather travelled thousands of miles and eventually died in Kashmir.

The Mormons believe Native North Americans were actually Israelites who had received the message of Jesus long before the Europeans came.

They all make so much sense.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working