wbb, in comments over at LP, summarised most neatly what is also pretty much my stance on evaluating faith traditions:
Of course there’s stuff to like in Buddhism as there obviously is, too, in Christianity or other Pre-enlightenment philosophies. But the lived experience, rather than contents of the official user’s manual, and the uses these instutionalised belief systems are put to, in controlling the distribution of material benefits is to me the best judge of their ultimate worth.
It’s very easy as a skeptic to take potshots at doctrinal and scriptural oddities (to use a reasonably neutral word) without considering how the lived experience of a life of faith adds to people’s comfort and happiness. It is also way too easy for religious apologists to point to the beauty of their scriptural principles and creeds rather than acknowledge where the translation of those abstract intentions to actual lived experience falls down in terms of alleviating misery (and let’s not forget the many instances where religion walks hand in glove with secular power to actively commit oppression and atrocities).
It’s not enough, from any direction, to only analyse principles when mounting a rhetorical challenge or apologetic. One must analyse practise as well.
Yes! Which is one of the many reasons why it’s so tragic that Christopher Hitchens has made himself so unpopular in recent years — it means that almost none of the people who would most appreciate his brilliant little book on Mother Teresa (and her appalling political friends and the practical effects of her anti-population-control stance) will want to read it or anything else by him any more.