My Christian cousin broke her deceased father's Buddha statue

No, it is 100% true that the Buddha is not considered a god. Using the same rationale, after all, you may as well say that the Virgin Mary is a goddess, based on the falsehood that some people spread that the Catholics think so. It simply is not so, and misconceptions held by a few who are ignorant do not change that. The reverence of Buddhists for their noble ones varies a great deal, but it remains in the realm Catholics would call dulia–reverence for holy things and holy ones, as recognition of the holiness–even if it is very heightened, and does not get into the realm of latria, the worship reserved for God alone, for the Creator and Sustainer of all. One who practices latria is, by definition, a theist.

Having said that, Buddhism teaches that there is no God. Although it is fair to call Buddhists non-theistic rather than atheistic or pantheistic, it is fair to say that Buddhism suffers from a major failure to recognize the most essential of truths. Still, it is a failure that can be covered by the grace of God, when God decides to do so. The Church recognizes that some Buddhists do pursue moral and selfless lives, and in that way do reach the real sanctity that God provides to all who pursue the truth as they are given to see the truth. It is entirely OK to not feel inclined to look past the errors taught by Buddhism, and to destroy rather than to pass on objects that one sees to contain serious error. It is well, however, to do so in a way that is respectful of the real quest for truth that many Buddhists are on, a quest that has a reality recognized by the Church, and not to defile what they respect when we see a need to destroy such an object that comes to belong to us.

I will not deny that it is possible for a Catholic who becomes a Buddhist, having being schooled in latria, the reverence and worship reserved for God alone, might offer such reverence to the Buddha. Buddhism itself is non-theistic, but that doesn’t mean that no one with a Buddha statue considers the Buddha as a sort of a god. It would be like someone who gets a statue of the Virgin Mary and worships that, though–that is, someone who worships a Catholic religious object in that way is no longer practicing the Catholic faith, but something else.

It is a very real danger, however, for a Catholic who strays from the faith to transfer their need to practice latria–that is, the need to offer worship to God–onto something that does not deserve that kind of worship. What is not a danger to someone raised a Buddhist might be a real danger to someone raised a Christian or a Jew. It is possible, yes.

Right or wrong your cousin has no moral right to go into someone else home and destroy their property.

0 right.

Period full stop.


I wonder if this action wasn’t brought on by prior conflicts between mother and daughter. Also, in the moment, both her mom and her aunt were opposing her viewpoints, and for some people, that is like a war, and they will do whatever it takes to win the war. If her Protestant denomination is not friendly to Catholicism that may have added fuel to her fire as well, and she may have been proving something to herself and them (and even her dad).

In any case, the action has been done, so all you can do is pray for all involved. So many stupid things happen after someone we love has died…No one’s best and most rational time. Everyone should forgive, and move on into good memories of their loved one.

Well, I’m talking about ideas like this: Eternal Buddha.

I mean that in spite of talk of the “personification of Nirvana”, there is no “I” and “Thou” implied, which is necessary for latria. What Buddhists imply they aspire to is more akin to moving from a “here” to a “There”. When the Buddhist gets There (or realizes it as Here, but that is no matter, as I don’t mean to make this a treatise on the concept of reaching Nirvana!), it will not be a transformation in relationship, as when a Christian attains Heaven, but a realization of identity.

It is definitely true that no Buddhist is theistic in the way that any Christian is theistic.

Obviously, it was wrong because the statue didn’t belong to her and she didn’t have the right to destroy it. However, I hope they will not hold it against her given her grief for her father and the stress of the situation. The statue isn’t her father and it isn’t the memory of her father. It’s just an object and not worth starting a feud over. Your cousin also is wrong to think that destroying it has any effect on her father’s eternity.

But yes…one does not need to be a theist to worship idols, that is also true.

:thumbsup: Thoughtful, well reasoned and well put response. And more than a response, you opened up other avenues of thought for consideration. Thank you. :slight_smile:

I am not sure what help you are looking for. If it is simply to figure out how you feel about this, I would let it go. You were not there and consequently, don’t need to spend too much time thinking about it.

Now if you need help because you are somehow caught in the middle, I would try to let your cousin and her mom work things out between the two of them. If your mom needs a shoulder to cry on because her brother just died, then yes, I would tell her it was wrong for your cousin to break the statue but remind your mom that he may be her brother, but it was her father


Yes, Shakyamuni Buddha explicitly denied being a god:

Then Dona, following the Blessed One’s footprints, saw him sitting at the root of the tree: confident, inspiring confidence, his senses calmed, his mind calmed, having attained the utmost control & tranquility, tamed, guarded, his senses restrained… {Dona} went to {Buddha} and said, “Master, are you a god?”

“No, brahmin, I am not a god… I’m awake.”

Some Buddhists allow that gods may exist. In the canonical writings, the Buddha even speaks with some Hindu deities, such as Brahman. And the Buddha denies that Ishvara is the Absolute and Creator of the world without, I think, denying that Ishvara may exist. Often the point (or one of the points) seems to be that these gods are not all they’re cracked up to be, or all they think themselves to be. Some Buddhists would probably interpret the writings about these deities figuratively, but I don’t think that’s required?

In this light, I think it might be more accurate to say that some Buddhists allow that gods may exist, but Buddhism does not require that any gods exist, and the practice of Buddhism doesn’t generally require worshiping any gods. Most Buddhists, it appears to me, simply think gods are mostly irrelevant to the practice necessary to attain the goal (becoming either an arhat or boddhisattva). If anything may be called Absolute, the unconditioned Truth, among Buddhists, it’s usually nibbana itself (e.g. among Theravadins), and that’s almost always discussed in apophatic terms (not this, not that).


There’s a YouTube video of some tv evangelist (not sure which church) smashing a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I could hardly believe my eyes! I have no idea why it’s not considered hate.

First, it’s up to her. Getting rid of something that gives you the creeps? That’s justification enough. There have been far too many heretical approaches to this IMHO. Sure, I’m not church authority. But we must exercise reason. We’re told to stay away from such things by the ancient church fathers. Even scripture warns against it. There’s a huge difference between another Christian faith and Buddhism, or else. Buddha represents the faith in western culture. We are not required to learn about their faith. It is a good idea for only well catechized Catholics to learn, but only for use in a positive way, finding a way to evangelize on their level. You reasoning is why so many Catholics abandoned the faith and fled to eastern religions, and I’m not talking about Orthodox Christianity. Converting from Christian to Buddhism is not a good idea. There are very big consequences for doing such in the Church from what I understand.

When I reverted to Catholicism from a Protestant faith, I was really concerned about how I would be dealt with from my defection. The truth is that I was never considered anything other than a wayward Catholic. I was relieved. My family converted shortly afterwards as we all learned more and more about the faith.

If the statue was hers, then she has every right to toss it. But I wouldn’t make a huge deal about it to insult others that may see it as a sacred object. I rarely talk about the one I tossed. If it’s not hers. She had no right to toss it and she certainly owes an apology and preferably compensation/reparation for her ill gotten actions.

But jumping back. I do understand your point. I just would go so far. But I’m thinking on a local level. In another part of the world, that would probably not be prudent.

Ascribing this to VeritasLuxMea is rather unfair and somewhat insulting.

The Church Fathers do not take a unanimous and consistent stance on non-Christian philosophies, especially pre-Christian philosophies. They often take a quite favorable stance toward them, often in actions when not in words. St. Justin Martyr, however, didn’t spare the words. He was so favorable as to call certain pagan philosophers “Christians”:

“Those who lived in accordance with the Logos are Christians, even though they were called godless, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them… Those who lived by the Logos {before Christ came}, and those who live so now, are Christians, fearless and unperturbed.”

“{Each of these ancient philosophers} spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the Logos disseminated among people, seeing what was related to it… For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted Logos that was in them.”

“Christ was partially known even by Socrates, for He was and is the Logos Who is in every person.”

“Whatever either lawgivers or philosophers uttered well, they elaborated by finding and contemplating some part of the Logos. But since they did not know the whole of the Logos, which is Christ, they often contradicted themselves… Whatever things were truly said among people belong to us Christians.”

Lactantius wrote similarly:

“The Greeks speak of God as the Logos… for Logos signifies both word and reason, inasmuch as He {the Logos, Christ} is both the Speech and Wisdom of God. And of this divine Speech not even the philosophers were ignorant, since Zeno represents the Logos as the arranger of the established order of things, and the framer of the universe: whom he calls {by many names}. But the {names} are no obstacle, since the sentiment is in agreement with the truth.”

And it is futile to argue that later Fathers, such as St. Augustine, were substantially different. Whatever negative things Augustine may have said about non-Christian philosophies, he was himself a neo-Platonist through and through without being any less Catholic for it.

Every single Catholic is not, but many of us are called to do so. On a note related also to the patristic quotations above:

[quote=Blessed John Paul II, Fides et Ratio]In preaching the Gospel, Christianity first encountered Greek philosophy; but this does not mean at all that other approaches are precluded. Today, as the Gospel gradually comes into contact with cultural worlds which once lay beyond Christian influence, there are new tasks of inculturation, which mean that our generation faces problems not unlike those faced by the Church in the first centuries.

My thoughts turn immediately to the lands of the East, so rich in religious and philosophical traditions of great antiquity. Among these lands, India has a special place. A great spiritual impulse leads Indian thought to seek an experience which would liberate the spirit from the shackles of time and space and would therefore acquire absolute value. The dynamic of this quest for liberation provides the context for great metaphysical systems.

In India particularly, it is the duty of Christians now to draw from this rich heritage the elements compatible with their faith, in order to enrich Christian thought. In this work of discernment, which finds its inspiration in the Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate, certain criteria will have to be kept in mind. The first of these is the universality of the human spirit, whose basic needs are the same in the most disparate cultures. The second, which derives from the first, is this: in engaging great cultures for the first time, the Church cannot abandon what she has gained from her inculturation in the world of Greco-Latin thought. To reject this heritage would be to deny the providential plan of God who guides his Church down the paths of time and history. This criterion is valid for the Church in every age, even for the Church of the future, who will judge herself enriched by all that comes from today’s engagement with Eastern cultures and will find in this inheritance fresh cues for fruitful dialogue with the cultures which will emerge as humanity moves into the future. Thirdly, care will need to be taken lest, contrary to the very nature of the human spirit, the legitimate defense of the uniqueness and originality of Indian thought be confused with the idea that a particular cultural tradition should remain closed in its difference and affirm itself by opposing other traditions.

What has been said here of India is no less true for the heritage of the great cultures of China, Japan and the other countries of Asia, as also for the riches of the traditional cultures of Africa, which are for the most part orally transmitted.


It was an ignorant thing to do, but it was not necessarily meant as an act of hatred for anything except idolatry. I think if the Lord reads his heart and sees that the man who did this believed that someone had made Our Lady into a goddess or her image into an idol to be given the worship that is rightly due to God alone, the Lord would understand. Perhaps the man even did it out of concern for the souls of Catholics. Maybe he does hate Catholics and maybe he is guilty of serious sin, but perhaps he is guilty of nothing more than ignorance and rash judgment, such that we would hope for mercy if we had wrongly applied our own zeal under similar circumstances. (That doesn’t make it right, but maybe he is actually a decent fellow.)

Right. Just because someone’s religion gives you the creeps gives you license to call for its destruction.

It really disgusts me that my own ancestors were enslaved for 300 years, lost their identity, and had their cultural icons destroyed by people who thought just like you. :mad:

You have to respect people and their things, even if you don’t agree with what they believe or think their beliefs are silly.

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