Paul Williams: Intellectual Hypocrisy?

Does Paul Williams’ conversion to Roman Catholicism discredit him as a scholar of Buddhism? His book on the origins of Mahayana is still one of the most widely read on the subject.

Yet when he says things like there is no room for grace in Buddhism, that it’s all about self-effort, and that there is no loving being who cares about you in Buddhism, it’s clear that he’s ignoring the Pure Land school of Buddhism, and he should know better.

If someone confronts Williams about omitting Pure Land Buddhism, his response is that Amitabha is a myth, so it doesn’t matter anyway. 

I don’t want to deny the historical personhood of Jesus. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the more supernatural elements of the life of Jesus were borrowed from pagan mythology, including the resurrection.

Since the Gospels were written decades after the death of Jesus by anonymous authors, I don’t see how they are more historically reliable than the Pure Land sutras:

In assessing the historicity of the Pure Land sutras, we should remember that ancient India was an oral culture, and important religious texts like the Rigveda were faithfully passed down for hundreds of years before taking a written form.

Also, if the Buddha is the perfectly enlightened one, then we can trust his word that Amitabha ensures Buddhahood for those who call on his name. 

This need not mean that every word of the sutras is 100% literally true, only that the Buddha knows what’s best for our enlightenment. If he said doing headstands guaranteed my future Buddhahood, I would do headstands too.

Also, it’s a bad argument to say that we should believe in God because that explains why there’s something rather than nothing. He’s not able to answer why there is God rather than no God, that the universe needs an outside cause but God doesn’t.

His assertion that Buddhism is ultimately a selfish religion, concerned only about one’s own future enlightenment, ignores metta and the Bodhisattva ideal, that the real purpose of attaining enlightenment is to lead all other beings to enlightenment. 

Shinran taught that, when we are reborn in the Pure Land and become Buddhas, we will immediately return to this world to help those still suffering in samsara.