Buddhism, Beliefs, Facts, History, Quotes: What is Buddhism?

Buddhism Beliefs, Facts, History and Quotes: What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a religion developed by Siddhartha Gotama Buddha, who was born around 566 BC in Lumbini, in modern-day Nepal. After living a life of privilege, then giving it up for a life of asceticism, Siddhartha became enlightened, or awakened, to the idea that the only way to escape suffering in life is through practicing deliberate non-attachment. Today, that initial meditation has led to the practice of Buddhism in about six percent of the world's population.


Buddhism, one of the major religions of the world, was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived in northern India from c. 560 to c. 480 BC. The time of the Buddha was one of social and religious change, marked by the further advance of Aryan civilization into the Ganges Plain, the development of trade and cities, the breakdown of old tribal structures, and the rise of a whole spectrum of new religious movements that responded to the demands of the times. These movements were derived from the Brahmanic tradition of Hinduism but were also reactions against it. Of the new sects, Buddhism was the most successful and eventually spread throughout India and most of Asia.

Today it is common to divide Buddhism into two main branches. The Theravada, or "Way of the Elders," is the more conservative of the two; it is dominant in Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand. The Mahayana, or "Great Vehicle," is more diverse and liberal; it is found mainly in Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, and among Tibetan peoples, where it is distinguished by its emphasis on the Buddhist Tantras. In recent times both branches, as well as Tibetan Buddhism, have gained followers in the West.

It is virtually impossible to tell what the Buddhist population of the world is today; statistics are difficult to obtain because persons might have Buddhist beliefs and engage in Buddhist rites while maintaining folk or other (Shinto, Confucian, Taoist, Hindu) religions. Such persons might or might not call themselves or be counted as Buddhists. Nevertheless, the number of Buddhists worldwide is frequently estimated at between 300 million and 500 million.

What is Buddhism and what do Buddhists believe?

Buddhism is one of the leading world religions in terms of adherents, geographical distribution, and socio-cultural influence. While largely an "Eastern" religion, it is becoming increasingly popular and influential in the Western world. It is a unique world religion in its own right, though it has much in common with Hinduism in that both teach Karma (cause-and-effect ethics), Maya (the illusory nature of the world), and Samsara (the cycle of reincarnation). Buddhists believe that the ultimate goal in life is to achieve "enlightenment" as they perceive it.

To Buddhists, sentient beings are trapped in an eternal cycle of death and rebirth (samsara), characterized by continual dissatisfaction or suffering (dukkha). Buddhism provides a practical set of teachings (the dharma) designed to help sentient beings achieve a state of freedom from dukkha. Buddhism teaches that individuals reincarnate involuntarily and repeatedly in the world of samsara, a cyclic process which ends for an individual when they attain Nirvana (Theravada) or Enlightenment (Mahayana), either in a human body or immediately upon death in their last involuntary cycle of samsara.

Do Buddhists Believe in God?

Some Buddhist scriptures and some sects, like the Mahayana school, believe that gods exist, but do not consider that knowledge crucial to an individual's practice of Buddhist teachings since as incarnated beings, they too are bound to the wheel of Samsara and thus it is pointless to submit to them. The Buddha taught that we should not speculate about what we cannot know, and that speculation about God is pointless. Buddhists' priorities are release from suffering (by learning to cease striving after objects of desire and avoiding objects of discomfort) and direct experience of the true nature of reality. Many modern strains of Buddhism are atheistic in nature, thus creating a paradox as to why they are called a religion. They can be considered to be philosophies of life. Certain denominations, such as the Mahayana tradition, believe in Bodhisattvas, or quasi-divine cosmic beings that seek to benefit others by remaining in a state of Samsara, or eternal rebirth. These are prayed to, for advice and spiritual guidance, and often venerated.

One doctrine agreed upon by most branches of modern Buddhism is that "this world is not created and ruled by a God." In general, Buddhists do not believe in God.

According to BuddhaNet, a major Buddhist website:

"There is no almighty God in Buddhism. There is no one to hand out rewards or punishments on a supposedly Judgement Day. Buddhism is strictly not a religion in the context of being a faith and worship owing allegiance to a supernatural being."

The Buddha himself rejected metaphysical speculation as a matter of principle, and his teachings focused entirely on the practical ways to end suffering. On the other hand, the Buddha did not explicitly rule out the existence of a God or gods.

Learn more: Did Buddha Believe in God?

Buddhism Beliefs and History

Buddhism's founder, Siddhartha Guatama, was born into royalty in India around 600 B.C. As the story goes, he lived luxuriously, with little exposure to the outside world. His parents intended for him to be spared from the influence of religion and protected from pain and suffering. However, it was not long before his shelter was penetrated, and he had visions of an aged man, a sick man, and a corpse. His fourth vision was of a peaceful ascetic monk (one who denies luxury and comfort). Seeing the monk's peacefulness, he decided to become an ascetic himself. He abandoned his life of wealth and affluence to pursue enlightenment through austerity. He was skilled at this sort of self-mortification and intense meditation. He was a leader among his peers. Eventually, his efforts culminated in one final gesture. He "indulged" himself with one bowl of rice and then sat beneath a fig tree (also called the Bodhi tree) to meditate till he either reached "enlightenment" or died trying. Despite his travails and temptations, by the next morning, he had achieved "enlightenment". Thus, he became known as the 'enlightened one' or the 'Buddha.' He took his new realization and began to teach his fellow monks, with whom he had already gained great influence. Five of his peers became the first of his disciples.

What had Gautama discovered? Enlightenment lay in the "middle way," a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. Moreover, he discovered what would become known as the 'Four Noble Truths'—1) to live is to suffer (Dukha), 2) suffering is caused by desire (Tanha, or "attachment"), 3) one can eliminate suffering by eliminating all attachments, and 4) this is achieved by following the noble eightfold path. The "eightfold path" consists of having a right 1) view, 2) intention, 3) speech, 4) action, 5) livelihood, 6) effort (properly direct energies), 7) mindfulness (meditation), and 8) concentration (focus). The Buddha's teachings were collected into the Tripitaka or "three baskets."

Behind these distinguishing teachings are teachings common to Hinduism, namely reincarnation, karma, Maya, and a tendency to understand reality as being pantheistic in its orientation. Buddhism also offers an elaborate theology of deities and exalted beings. However, like Hinduism, Buddhism can be hard to pin down as to its view of God. Some streams of Buddhism could legitimately be called atheistic, while others could be called pantheistic, and still others theistic, such as "Pure Land Buddhism". Classical Buddhism, however, tends to be silent on the reality of an ultimate being and is therefore considered atheistic.

Buddhism today is quite diverse. It is roughly divisible into the two broad categories of Theravada (small vessel) and Mahayana (large vessel). Theravada is the monastic form which reserves ultimate enlightenment and nirvana for monks, while Mahayana Buddhism extends this goal of enlightenment to the laity as well, that is, to non-monks. Within these categories can be found numerous branches including Tendai, Vajrayana, Nichiren, Shingon, Pure Land, Zen, and Ryobu, among others. Therefore it is important for outsiders seeking to understand Buddhism not to presume to know all the details of a particular school of Buddhism when all they have studied is classical, historic Buddhism.

The Buddha never considered himself to be a god or any type of divine being. Rather, he considered himself to be a 'way-shower' for others. Only after his death was he exalted to god status by some of his followers, though not all of his followers viewed him that way. With Christianity however, it is stated quite clearly in the Bible that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 3:17: "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased'") and that He and God are one (John 10:30). One cannot rightfully consider himself or herself a Christian without professing faith in Jesus as God.

Jesus taught that He is the way and not simply one who showed the way as John 14:6 confirms: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." By the time Guatama died, Buddhism had become a major influence in India; three hundred years later, Buddhism had encompassed most of Asia. The scriptures and sayings attributed to the Buddha were written about four hundred years after his death.

In Buddhism, sin is largely understood to be ignorance. And, while sin is understood as "moral error," the context in which "evil" and "good" are understood is amoral. Karma is understood as nature's balance and is not personally enforced. Nature is not moral; therefore, karma is not a moral code, and sin is not ultimately immoral. Thus, we can say, by Buddhist thought, that our error is not a moral issue since it is ultimately an impersonal mistake, not an interpersonal violation. The consequence of this understanding is devastating. For the Buddhist, sin is more akin to a misstep than a transgression against the nature of holy God. This understanding of sin does not accord with the innate moral consciousness that men stand condemned because of their sin before a holy God (Romans 1-2).

Since it holds that sin is an impersonal and fixable error, Buddhism does not agree with the doctrine of depravity, a basic doctrine of Christianity. The Bible tells us man's sin is a problem of eternal and infinite consequence. In Buddhism, there is no need for a Savior to rescue people from their damning sins. For the Christian, Jesus is the only means of rescue from eternal damnation. For the Buddhist there is only ethical living and meditative appeals to exalted beings for the hope of perhaps achieving enlightenment and ultimate Nirvana. More than likely, one will have to go through a number of reincarnations to pay off his or her vast accumulation of karmic debt. For the true followers of Buddhism, the religion is a philosophy of morality and ethics, encapsulated within a life of renunciation of the ego-self. In Buddhism, reality is impersonal and non-relational; therefore, it is not loving. Not only is God seen as illusory, but, in dissolving sin into non-moral error and by rejecting all material reality as maya ("illusion"), even we ourselves lose our "selves." Personality itself becomes an illusion.

When asked how the world started, who/what created the universe, the Buddha is said to have kept silent because in Buddhism there is no beginning and no end. Instead, there is an endless circle of birth and death. One would have to ask what kind of Being created us to live, endure so much pain and suffering, and then die over and over again? It may cause one to contemplate, what is the point, why bother? Christians know that God sent His Son to die for us, one time, so that we do not have to suffer for an eternity. He sent His Son to give us the knowledge that we are not alone and that we are loved. Christians know there is more to life than suffering, and dying, "… but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).

Buddhism teaches that Nirvana is the highest state of being, a state of pure being, and it is achieved by means relative to the individual. Nirvana defies rational explanation and logical ordering and therefore cannot be taught, only realized. Jesus' teaching on heaven, in contrast, was quite specific. He taught us that our physical bodies die but our souls ascend to be with Him in heaven (Mark 12:25). The Buddha taught that people do not have individual souls, for the individual self or ego is an illusion. For Buddhists there is no merciful Father in heaven who sent His Son to die for our souls, for our salvation, to provide the way for us to reach His glory. Ultimately, that is why Buddhism is to be rejected.

Criticism of Buddhism

The fundamental tenets of Buddhism are marked by grave defects that not only betray its inadequacy to become a religion of enlightened humanity, but also bring into bold relief its inferiority to the religion of Jesus Christ. In the first place, the very foundation on which Buddhism rests—the doctrine of karma with its implied transmigrations—is gratuitous and false. This pretended law of nature, by which the myriads of gods, demons, men, and animals are but the transient forms of rational beings essentially the same, but forced to this diversity in consequence of varying degrees of merit and demerit in former lives, is a huge superstition in flat contradiction to the recognized laws of nature, and hence ignored by men of science.

Another basic defect in Buddhism is its failure to recognize man's dependence on a supreme God. By ignoring God and by making salvation rest solely on personal effort, Buddha substituted for the Brahmin religion a cold and colourless system of philosophy. It is entirely lacking in those powerful motives to right conduct, particularly the motive of love, that spring from the consecration of religious men and women to the dependence on a personal all-loving God. Hence it is that Buddhist morality is in the last analysis a selfish utilitarianism. There is no sense of duty, as in the religion of Christ, prompted by reverence for a supreme Lawgiver, by love for a merciful Father, by personal allegiance to a Redeemer.

Karma, the basis of Buddhist morality, is like any other law of nature, the observance of which is prompted by prudential considerations. Not to speak of the popular Swarga, or heaven, with its positive, even sensual delights the fact that Nirvana is a negative ideal of bliss does not make it the less an object of interested desire. Far from being an unselfish end, Nirvana is based wholly on the motive of self-love. It thus stands on a much lower level than the Christian ideal, which, being primarily and essentially a union of friendship with God in heaven, appeals to motives of disinterested as well as interested love.

Another fatal defect of Buddhism is its false pessimism. A strong and healthy mind revolts against the morbid view that life is not worth living, that every form of conscious existence is an evil. Buddhism stands condemned by the voice of nature the dominant tone of which is existence, hope and joy. It is a protest against created nature for possessing the perfection of rational life.

Self-Refuting Nature of Buddhism

Pantheism (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, et al.) is self-refuting, especially all forms that claim individuality is an illusion caused by my mind. For according to pantheism, individual minds are themselves aspects of the illusion and can therefore provide no basis for explaining it.

If the mind is part of the illusion, it cannot be the ground for explaining the illusion. Hence, if pantheism is true in asserting that my individuality is an illusion, then pantheism is false, since there is no basis for explaining the illusion.

Pantheism also fails to handle the problem of evil in a satisfactory manner. To pronounce evil an illusion or as less than real is not only frustrating and hollow to those experiencing evil, but it seems philosophically inadequate. If evil is not real, then what is the origin of the illusion? Why have people experienced it for so long, and why does it seem so real? Despite the pantheist's claim to the contrary, he or she also experiences pain, suffering, and eventually will die. Even pantheists double-over in pain when they get appendicitis. They jump out of the way of an on-coming truck so as not to get hurt.

If God is all, and all is God, as pantheists maintain, then evil is an illusion and ultimately there are no rights and wrongs. For there are four possibilities regarding good and evil in a Pantheistic belief structure (as opposed to the one true explanation of evil):

1) If God is all-good, then evil must exist apart from God. But this is impossible since God is all - nothing can exist apart from It.

2) But if God is all-evil, then good must exist apart from God. This is not possible either, since God is in all.

3) God is both all-good and all-evil. This cannot be, for it is self-contradictory to affirm that the same being is both all good and all evil at the same time. Further, most pantheists agree that God is beyond good and evil. Therefore God is neither good nor evil.

4) Good and evil are illusory. They are not real categories.

Option four is what most pantheists believe. But if evil is only an illusion, then ultimately there is no such thing as good and evil thoughts or actions. Hence, what difference would it make whether we praise or curse, counsel or rape, love or murder someone? If there is no final moral difference between those actions, absolute moral responsibilities do not exist. Cruelty and non-cruelty are ultimately the same. One critic made the point with this illustration:

"One day I was talking to a group of people in the digs of a young South African in Cambridge. Among others, there was present a young Indian who was of Sikh background but a Hindu by religion. He started to speak strongly against Christianity, but did not really understand the problems of his own beliefs. So I said, 'Am I not correct in saying that on the basis of your system, cruelty and non-cruelty are ultimately equal, that there is no intrinsic difference between them?' He agreed. The student in whose room we met, who had clearly understood the implications of what the young Sikh had admitted, picked up his kettle of boiling water with which he was about to make tea, and stood with it steaming over the Indian's head. The man looked up and asked him what he was doing and he said, with a cold yet gentle finality, 'There is no difference between cruelty and non-cruelty.' Thereupon the Hindu walked out into the night."

If pantheists are correct that reality is not moral, that good and evil, right and wrong, are inapplicable to what is, then to be right is as meaningless as to be wrong. The foundation for morality is destroyed. Pantheism does not take the problem of evil seriously. If you do not take the distinctions between good and bad seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that.

Pantheism's "god" is unknowable. The very claim, "God is unknowable in an intellectual way," seems either meaningless or self-defeating. For if the claim itself cannot be understood in an intellectual way, then it is self-defeating. For what is being affirmed is that nothing can be understood about God in an intellectual way. But the pantheist expects us to intellectually know this truth that God cannot be understood in an intellectual way. In other words, the pantheist appears to be making a statement about God to the effect that no such statements can be made about God. But how can one make a positive affirmation about God which claims that only negative affirmations can be made about God? Plotinus admitted that negative knowledge presupposes some positive awareness. Otherwise, one would not know what to negate.

Since all that God made is good, even those things which appear evil only appear that way because of a limited context or perspective. When viewed as a whole, that which appears to be evil ultimately contributes to the greater good.

For example, certain virtues couldn't exist without evil: courage, mercy, forgiveness, patience, the giving of comfort, heroism, perseverance, faithfulness, self-control, long-suffering, submission and obedience, to name a few. These are not virtues in the abstract, but elements of character that can only be had by moral souls. Just as evil is a result of acts of will, so is virtue. Acts of moral choice accomplish both.

What good comes out of a drive-by killing, someone might ask, or the death of a teenager through overdose, or a daughter's rape, or child abuse? The answer is that a commensurate good doesn't always come perceptibly out of those individual situations, though God is certainly capable of redeeming any tragedy. Rather, the greater good results from having a world in which there is moral freedom, and moral freedom makes moral tragedies like these possible.

This observation reveals an interesting twist in this problem. If morality freely chosen can only happen in a world where evil is possible, then heaven will be a place where there will be no moral growth, where moral choices will not be possible because all the inhabitants of heaven will be immutably good. Growth of the soul is only possible and available to inhabitants of a fallen world.

Two Scriptural observations lend credibility to this view. First, in recounting the great heroes of faith, the writer of Hebrews mentions that some were rescued by faith, but others endured by faith "...in order that they might obtain a better resurrection." (Heb. 11:35) Second, St. Paul tells St. Timothy that "...godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Tim. 4:8)

Both of these verses indicate that conditions in this life affect conditions in the next. Bearing up under evil in this life improves our resurrection in the next. Godliness in this life brings profit in the next. These benefits are not available after this life or there would be little urgency to grow now; all eternity would be left in which to catch up.

A deeper, more profound good results when virtue is won by free, moral souls struggling with evil, rather than simply granted to them as an element of their constitution.

There's a sound reason why God has allowed man the freedom to choose evil. It doesn't conflict with His goodness. God is neither the author of evil, nor its helpless victim. Rather, precisely because of His goodness He chooses to co-exist with evil for a time, that His goodness may be all the more manifest in those who overcome it by freely choosing to do good and avoid evil.

Romans 8:28: "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints."

I am a Buddhist, why should I consider becoming a Christian?

Compared with Buddhism, Christianity has several distinguishing features which show that it deserves consideration.

First, while both Christianity and Buddhism each have an historical central figure, namely Jesus and Buddha, only Jesus is shown to have risen from the dead. Many people in history have been wise teachers with profound philosophy of life. But Jesus stands out amongst them, and He has confirmed His spiritual teachings with a test that only divine power could pass. Jesus' body of teachings are confirmed by the death and resurrection of His literal body—a fact which he prophesied and fulfilled in Himself (Matthew 16:21; 20:18-19; Mark 8:31; 1 Luke 9:22; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians 15). Jesus deserves special consideration.

Second, the Christian Scriptures are historically outstanding, deserving serious consideration. One could even say that the history of the Bible is so compelling that to doubt the Bible is to doubt history itself since it is the most historically verifiable book of all antiquity. The only book more historically verifiable than the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) is the New Testament. Consider the following:

1) More manuscripts exist for the New Testament than for any other of antiquity—5000 ancient Greek manuscripts, 24,000 in all including other languages. The multiplicity of manuscripts allows for a tremendous research base by which we can test the texts against each other and identify what the originals said.

2) The manuscripts of the New Testament are closer in age to the originals than are any other document of antiquity. All of the originals were written within the time of the contemporaries (eyewitnesses), in the first century AD, and we currently have parts of manuscript as old as 125 AD. Whole book copies surface by 200 AD, and the complete New Testament can be found dating back to 250 AD. Having all the books of the New Testament initially written within the times of eyewitnesses means that they did not have time to devolve into myth and folklore. Plus their truth claims were held accountable by members of the Church who, as personal witnesses to the events, could check the facts.

3) The New Testament documents are more accurate than any other of antiquity. John R. Robinson in his book "Honest to God" reports that the New Testament documents are 99.9% accurate (most accurate of any complete antique book). Bruce Metzger, an expert in the Greek New Testament, suggests a more modest 99.5%. However, both the Old and New Testaments are known to be 100% accurate for believers depending on the sense scripture is to be understood: spiritually or corporeally.

Third, Christian ethics has a stronger foundation than Buddhist ethics. Christian ethics is founded in the personal character of God. God is personal and moral. His nature is good, and therefore all actions which align with His goodness are actually good. Whatever departs from His goodness is actually evil. For Buddhists, however, ultimate reality is not understood as personal. But morality by its very nature requires personality. To illustrate, consider the morality of a rock. One does not blame a rock for being used in a murder since it is not a person with moral duties. Rather the moral duty lies with the person who used that rock for evil purposes. Buddhism lacks the personal framework for moral duty. With Buddhism, karma is the framework for morality. But karma is impersonal. Breaking a karmic "rule" is not intrinsically evil. There seems to be no significant difference between error (non-moral mistakes) and sin (moral wrongdoing).

Furthermore, many Buddhists even assert that the dualities of "good" and "evil" ultimately break down. "Good" and "evil" would be part of maya, the illusory world of sensory reality. The categories of morality are not grand enough to map onto ultimate reality, and "enlightened" individuals will see that good and evil blur into one. But such a position means that ultimate reality would not be "good." It wouldn't be "evil" either, but then what assurance exists that "ultimate reality" is even a worthwhile pursuit? And what grounds would there be for living a morally good life as opposed to an amoral life without regard for moral distinctions, or an inactive life avoiding moral choices as much as possible? If Buddhism asserts that reality is not ultimately personal and the distinctions between good and evil are not actually real, then Buddhism does not have a true foundation for ethics. Christianity, on the other hand, can point on both counts to the character of God as personally founding morality and providing a basis for to distinguish good from evil.

Fourth, Christianity rightly appreciates "desire." Buddhist ethics seems to have a core difficulty at this point. Sakyamuni taught that tanha, "desire" or "attachment," is the root of suffering and is to be dissolved. But some admittedly good things are based on the idea of desire. Love for example is "to desire the good of another" (John 15:13; 1 John 4:7-12). One could not even love unless one had a degree of attachment in desiring someone else's well-being. In contrast, Christianity teaches that desire is good when it is properly directed. Paul urges Christians to "desire the greater gifts" of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1). In the Psalms, we see pictures of worshipers longing for and desiring fellowship with God (Psalm 42:1-2; 84). And of course, God does not simply act loving, He is love (1 John 4:9; Psalm 136, John 3:16). Sacrificing desire altogether seems to throw out the proverbial baby (love) with the dirty bathwater (attachments that leads to selfishness and sufferings). Attachment may indeed bring suffering in the lives of people, examples of such is the inordinate attachment to parents, the family or relatives (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26); attachment to worthless material goods (Luke 12:13-21); and attachment to riches and honors (Matthew 6:21). However, attachments is not the root of suffering, it is rather the misuse and inordinate love for these goods or persons that bring about the suffering; because, as we saw above, attachment and desire for "good" things is wholly good and praiseworthy.

Fifth is the question "What do you do with your sin?" Buddhism has at least two ideas of sin. Sin is sometimes understood as ignorance. It is sinful if one does not see or understanding reality as Buddhism defines it. However, in Buddhism, there is still an idea of moral error termed "sin." To do something deliberately evil, to break a spiritual or just earthly law, or to desire wrong things, these would be identifiable sins. But, that latter definition of sin points to a kind of moral error that requires real atonement. From where can atonement rise? Can atonement come by adherence to karmic principles? Karma is impersonal and amoral. One could do good works to even the balance, but one cannot ever dispose of sin. Karma does not even provide a context whereby moral error is even moral. Who have we offended if we sin in private? Karma does not care one way or the other because karma is not a person. Can atonement come by prayer or devotion to a Bhodisattva or a Buddha? Even if those characters could offer forgiveness, it seems like sin would still be left unpaid. They would forgive sin showing it to be excusable; it is not a big deal.

Christianity, on the other hand, has the only adequate theological view of sin. In Christianity sin is moral error. Ever since the fall of Adam, humans have been stained creatures through original sin. Sin is real. And it sets an infinite gap between man and bliss. Sin demands justice. But it cannot be "balanced out" with an equal or greater amount of good works without atonement. If someone has ten times more good works than bad works, then he or she still has bad works on their conscience. What happens to these remaining bad works? Are they just forgiven as if they were not a big deal in the first place? Are they permitted into bliss? Are they mere illusions thus leaving no problem whatsoever? None of these options are suitable.

Concerning illusion, sin is too real to us to be explained away as illusion. Concerning our sinfulness, when we are honest with ourselves we all know that we have sinned. Concerning forgiveness, to simply forgive sin at no cost treats sin like it is not of much consequence even though we know that to be false. Concerning bliss, bliss is not much good if sin keeps getting smuggled in. It seems like the scales of karma leave us with sin on our hearts and bliss either cannot tolerate us, or it must cease being perfect so that we can come in.

Christianity has an answer for sin. No sin goes unpunished or unpaid, but the eternal punishment has already been satisfied and paid in Christ's personal sacrifice on the cross through faith and baptism. God became man, lived a perfect life, and died the death that we deserved. He was crucified on our behalf, a substitute for us, and a covering, or atonement, for our sins. Furthermore, He was resurrected, proving that not even death could conquer Him. He promises the same resurrection unto eternal life for all who put their faith in Him as their only Lord and Savior (Romans 3:1023; 6:23; 8:12; 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:21).

This is no "easy believism" where God, like a janitor, just cleans up all our mistakes. Rather, this is a life-long commitment where we take on a new nature and begin a new relationship with God Himself (Romans 6:1; Ephesians 2:1-10). When a person really believes God is who He says He is in the Bible and through His Church, and really believes God did what He says He did in the Bible and through His Church, and a person puts his or her life on that belief—that person is transformed. He becomes a new creation by the power of God through baptism (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Nor is Jesus simply an answer among many others. All the world's religions have some level of truth in them, because the enemy of mankind would hardly deceive people unless he mixed some truths with falsehoods, but ultimately, Jesus is the only answer to the human condition. Meditation, works, prayer—none of these can make us worthy of the infinite and eternal gift of heaven unless we cooperate with the natural law and abide by God's grace. None of these can undo the sin we've done. Only when Christ pays our sin debt and we place our faith in Him can we be saved from eternal destruction. Only then is sin covered, hope assured, and life filled with eternal meaning.

So, what does this mean for you? Jesus is the ultimate reality! Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for our sins. God offers all of us forgiveness and salvation if we will simply receive His gift to us (John 1:12), believing Jesus to be the Savior who laid down His life for us, His friends. If you place your trust in Jesus as your Savior and die in state of grace, you will have absolute assurance of eternal life in Heaven. God will forgive your sins, cleanse your soul, renew your spirit, give you abundant life in this world, and eternal life in the next world. How can we reject such a precious gift? How can we turn our backs on God who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself for us?

If you are unsure about what you believe, we invite you to say the following prayer to God; "God, help me to know what is true. Help me to discern what is error. Help me to know what is the correct path to salvation." God will always honor such a prayer.

If you want to receive the faith and Jesus as your Savior, simply speak to God, verbally or silently, receive baptism (how to convert to the true Biblical Faith), obey His Church and His Law, and tell Him that you want to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. If you want a prayer to say, here is an example: "God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me. Thank you for providing for my forgiveness and salvation. I want to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus. I want to receive Jesus as my Savior. Amen!"

Further reading:

Spiritual Information You Must Know to be Saved

Biblical Information You Must Know to be Saved

Christian Dogma You Must Believe to be Saved

Baptism; the Steps to Convert to the Traditional Faith; the Steps for Those Leaving False Sects; and Conditional Baptism

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