The View From the East Pole: Buddhist and Confucian Tolerance


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In this chapter I ask the question: Why are Buddhists and Confucians more tolerant, less conflict prone, less war-like, etc. than Abrahamic peoples IF THEY ARE?1 A proper analysis that positioned us to adequately answer this question would require defining the different concepts—“tolerance,” “conflict-prone,” “war-like”—producing evidence that it is true that there exist significant differences between adherents of these different traditions, and then using something like Mill’s methods to rule out political, economic, or material culture explanations of the differences, thereby making the reli- gious differences the most plausible candidate for the difference-maker.2 Here I do something less than what is needed. I operate on the assump- tion that it is true that Buddhists and Confucians are more tolerant, less conflict-prone, etc. than Abrahamic people, all else equal.3 Then I formulate a hypothesis for why the difference-maker may have to do with God, or better, with beliefs about God’s nature and modus operandi. I say “may” because I am not convinced that my hypothesis is true. The hypothesis is not that Buddhism and Confucianism are more rational, less superstitious than the Abrahamic religions. It is that Buddhism and Confucianism have theologies that differ from the Abrahamic ones in ways that make a difference. The core idea is that the belief in the Abrahamic God (Yahweh, God, Allah) engenders or supports attitudes and actions that demand epistemic and normative conformity across peoples with different customs, habits, and beliefs. Buddhist and Confucian theologies differ from each other in important ways, but share the following two features (Flanagan 2008; Flanagan 2011):

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Flanagan, O

Cited Editors

  • Clarke, S; Powell, R

Published Date

  • 2013

Book Title

  • Religion and Tolerance

Published By