If you’re a skeptic and think that Buddhism has some worthwhile teachings, you’re right. Actually, all religions have something worthwhile, but we can whittle them down to different ways of saying the golden rule. Buddhism is replete with doctrines and teachings that give me pause and decapitate from it anything worthy of affection. But for now I will focus only on the fantastical.
Might I draw your attention to the Lotus Sūtra, probably the most important and influential book in the Mahāyāna tradition. Here I will show similarities between Buddhism and Christianity according to one phenomenon: Prayer. Thumb to the fifth chapter to find this:
Even if there is a man, whether guilty or guiltless, whose body is fettered with stocks, pillory, or chains, if he calls upon the name of the Bodhisattva He Who Observes the Sounds of the World, they shall all be severed and broken, and he shall straightway gain deliverance.
It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Parallel this with Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Or 2 Chronicles 7:14: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
In other words, the Mahāyāna tradition of Buddhism calls out to mythical creatures, namely, in this case, the Bodhisattva He Who Observes the Sounds of the World. Buddhism has living supernatural beings who, when prayed to, help you through tough times, very much like Christianity.
But that’s not all. Both religions focus on the suffering on the here and now (life on earth, or samsara in Buddhism), and both offer bliss in the hereafter (it just takes quite a few more cycles through samsara to reach paradise in Buddhism).
The essence of this post is that as skeptics we should laugh at Christianity. But we should also laugh at ridiculous beliefs held by Buddhists. This doesn’t just include prayer; it includes the concept of the cycle of rebirth and karma, the entire concept of the Three Jewels (compared to the Trinity in Christianity as well as Faith, Hope and Charity), and the belief in both that desire causes suffering (karma in Buddhism; in Christianity, sin causes god to smite you).
It’s true that many Buddhist practitioners reject any notion of the supernatural, and they use the teachings of the Buddha as a means to achieve happiness in life. This should not be mocked. It’s no different than contemplation or physical exercise. There’s nothing absurd about that. But when, like in Christianity, Buddhism begins to make wild claims, we should laugh.