How was Norse paganism more sexist than the catholics?
A master who raped his slave was obliged to make amends . . . by manumitting the woman. Many masters must have gnashed their teeth over this affront to what they considered their right. Even harder to accept was the punishment for faide, murder for vengeance . . . [particularly] in the case of the murder of a woman by her husband. . . Wife-murder [was declared] the most serious kind of murder. Three penitentials condemned the murder of a lord or a father or "of one's wife, who is a part of oneself." . . .
The ecclesiastical atuhorities began to take an interest in cases concerning abductions and rapes committed by youths seeking to circumvent parental opposition to marriage, in order to determine whether the parties had consented, on the ground that "mutual consent makes marriage." In northern Gaul a curious custom known as the stefang, or walk between stakes, appeared. If a family complained that a daughter had been abducted and raped, the girl was obliged to stand between two stakes; behind one stake stood her own family, behind the other the family of her abductor. She had to decide which to choose. If chose her own family, the compensation for abduction and rape had to be paid. If chose her abductor's family, her marriage was officially celebrated. Thus, in order to validate the mutual consent of the two parties, given in private, that consent had to be made public. A woman's private life thus became fully autonomous, a first step toward a certain equality.
The above is a description of the encounter between ecclesiastical law and pagan custom in the Germanic world -- whose pagan traditions were closely related to the Norse -- in Late Antiquity, the 8th and 9th centuries CE. Note that this is not the picture one would expect to encounter if the Church were intoducing patriarchy to a kind of proto-feminist idyll, as is commonly imagined to have been the case. Similar accounts of the encounter between pagan and Christian mores can be had from across Europe as Christianity expands. [I do realize the above isn't a specifically Norse example, so I can dig some of those up for you later if you like, I'm just working with the books I have to hand at the moment.]
The Church of course was not progressive either as we understand the term, and sometimes it introduced new problems. (Note the mention of wife-murder above; in context, it becomes a problem because the Church has forbidden polygamy, leading to the popularity of 'Carolingian divorce' by the sword. The picture isn't favourable to the Church completely across the board either; the Church in the setting described above also has more
regressive attitudes toward lesbianism than the pagans had, the latter not caring much about relationships between women because they didn't affect a woman's "purity" in the childbearing sweepstakes.) Nevertheless it often was more specifically and programmatically concerned with the state of women than many forms of paganism were, and more equitable towards women than pagan custom was and than it is often given credit for.
Paganism did take many forms. There was
a European pagan tradition more progressive than the average: it was Roman paganism, which informed much of the growth and custom of the early Church and very probably explains some of the dynamics seen above.
I'll bet you I could find a few million Bedouins, Coptic Christians and Mithrans who would disagree with you, if they hadn't been killed for not being a slave to Allah. Were the early muslims worse than the early Christians? I doubt it, but they were just as bad.
I'm not concerned with who was "bad" or "not bad." War and conquest always involves killing and not-nice things (although note than an actually honest discussion of Muslim history does involve giving up the apparent need Islamophobes have for framing them as the constant aggressor in all circumstances). The simple fact of the matter is that the "conversion by the sword" myth is false, due to the dynamic of early Arab states and the traditions of the Qur'an. (Yes, that includes the Redemption Surah; note that the quote you provide is describing war, but is not
describing conversion-by-the-sword. Note that the Coptic Christians are in fact still around, despite not being "slaves to Allah." So are the Zoroastrians. The "Mithrans" were assimilated by Christianity long before Islam came on the scene.) I would also note that the debunking of the myth has nothing to do with portraying Muslims as virtuous and Christians as villainous; note that mass-conversions in Europe had arguably the salutary effect of subjecting the monarchs involved to more
restrictions on their rights WRT their subjects, a trade-off they made for an increase in prestige and closer ties with a growing Christendom.
And speaking of annoying historical myths, let's not have a game of out-of-context quote-mongering from the Qur'an, please. Both life and my patience are too short. You can find an extremely comprehensive collection of articles on the question of Islam and violence -- from people who actually understand the context of Qur'anic verses -- here
. (If you don't like the fact that that site is actually written by Muslims, I'm not asking you to take all their contentions of faith at face value, since I wouldn't do that either. It's just that I'm willing to give them credit for knowing their own tradition better than I do, or you do, and to be worth learning from. The garden-variety Islamophobe of course arrogantly dismisses such a proposition... but I'm sure you won't.)
I don't even know where to start on this one.
You can probably start by actually reading the link you are responding to, which furnishes specific examples of religious motivation for
Buddhist violence, and taking it from there. In this way, if you still disagree, you might be able to find some objections that are relevant to the argument being made; and you'll at least also note that the article makes very clear that it is not trying to promote "Buddhaphobia" either, it is simply filling out the picture of real-life Buddhist practice and philosophy regarding violence.
EDIT: Actually, I have a better idea. I'm going to include the relevant text here, and let people click through here
if they want to follow the references.
As regards the direct scriptural Buddhist resources regulating and delineating violence, the relevant passage is here:
Stereotypes notwithstanding, the Buddhist tradition is no stranger to violence. This little known story is retold by Professors Michael Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer in the book Buddhist Warfare. Jerryson writes:
Violence is found in all religious traditions, and Buddhism is no exception. This may surprise those who think of Buddhism as a religion based solely on peace. Indeed, one of the principal reasons for producing this book was to address such a misconception. Within the various Buddhist traditions (which Trevor Ling describes as “Buddhisms”), there is a long history of violence. Since the inception of Buddhist traditions 2,500 years ago, there have been numerous individual and structural cases of prolonged Buddhist violence. 
Prof. Jerryson writes in Monks With Guns: Discovering Buddhist Violence of armed Buddhist monks in Thailand. He notes that the West’s romantic view of Buddhism
shield(s) an extensive and historical dimension to Buddhist traditions: violence. Armed Buddhist monks in Thailand are not an exception to the rule; they are contemporary examples of a long historical precedence. For centuries monks have been at the helm, or armed in the ranks, of wars. How could this be the case? But more importantly, why did I (and many others) hold the belief that Buddhism=Peace (and that other religions, such as Islam, are more prone to violence)?
He then answers his own question:
It was then that I realized that I was a consumer of a very successful form of propaganda. Since the early 1900s, Buddhist monastic intellectuals such as Walpola Rahula, D. T. Suzuki, and Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, have labored to raise Western awareness of their cultures and traditions. In doing so, they presented specific aspects of their Buddhist traditions while leaving out others.
It should be clear that such “propaganda” need not necessarily be construed as something sinister. Proponents of other religions–including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–will, for obvious reasons, often give a positive spin to their faith traditions. Many Buddhists believe their history to be relatively peaceful, because they view their religion to be so. This is no different than Muslims claiming that Islam is “the religion of peace”.
The difference is that the politics of the War on Terror have caused the religion of Islam to be put under heavy scrutiny. Therefore, there is great incentive to refute Muslim “propaganda”, an incentive which simply does not exist for Buddhist “propaganda”. The enemy, after all, is Muslim, not Buddhist. Thus, Buddhism flies under the radar, and Buddhist “advertising” is taken at face-value.
Buddhism’s relative inconspicuousness shields it from the harshest blows of public criticism. Case in point: the Bible and the Quran are well-known and easily accessible to the public. Finding the violent verses in them is just a click away on the internet. Meanwhile, Buddhist scriptural sources are more obscure, at least to the average Westerner. Most people don’t even know what scriptures Buddhists follow, let alone what is contained within them.
As a consequence, many modern-day Buddhists believe that their scriptural sources are in fact devoid of violence, that this is a problem only of the Bible or the Quran. But, Prof. Stephen Jenkins points out that this is just not the case. In fact, ”Buddhist kings had conceptual resources [in the religious texts] at their disposal that supported warfare, torture, and harsh punishments.” 
For example, the Nirvana Sutra, a canonical Buddhist text, narrates a story about one of Buddha’s past lives: in it, he kills some Hindus (Brahmins) because they insulted the Buddhist sutras (scriptures):
The Buddha…said…”When I recall the past, I remember that I was the king of a great state…My name was Senyo, and I loved and venerated the Mahayana sutras…When I heard the Brahmins slandering the vaipulya sutras, I put them to death on the spot. Good men, as a result of that action, I never thereafter fell into hell. O good man! When we accept and defend the Mahayana sutras, we possess innumerable virtues.” 
Porf. Paul Demieville writes:
We are told that the first reason [to put the Brahmins to death] was out of pity [for them], to help the Brahmans avoid the punishment they had accrued by committing evil deeds while continuously slandering Buddhism. 
Here we arrive at a disturbing theme found in Buddhist thought: “compassionate killing”. Killing is normally forbidden because it is done with evil intent (hatred, vengeance, etc.), but if it is done with “compassion”, it becomes something permissible, even praiseworthy.
The Buddhist does the unbeliever a favor by killing him, “an act of charity”:
In the Zen sect in Japan, they interpreted the argument for taking another’s life as “attempting to bring the other’s Buddha nature to life” (Buddha nature exists in virtually every living being), “by putting an end to the passions that lead astray…”
They make killing an act of charity. 
This is of course a disturbing belief to most of us. As Prof. Bernard Faure puts it: “‘Killing with compassion’…remains a dubious oxymoron.”  One is reminded of the odd Christian belief that a Christian soldier can love his enemies even as he kills them. Of what relevance is such “love”?
If he does so with compassionate intentions, a king may make great merit through warfare, so warfare becomes auspicious. The same argument was made earlier in relation to torture, and the sutra now proceeds to make commonsense analogies to doctors and to parents who compassionately inflict pain in order to discipline and heal without intending harm. 
He goes on:
General conceptions of a basic Buddhist ethics broadly conceived as unqualified pacifism are problematic. Compassionate violence is at the very heart of the sensibility of this sutra. Buddhist kings had sophisticated and practical conceptual resources to support the use of force…The only killing compatible with Buddhist ethics is killing with compassion. Moreover, if a king makes war or tortures with compassionate intentions, even those acts can result in the accumulation of vast karmic merit. 
There was a second reason to kill the infidels: to defend the Buddhist faith. Prof. Demieville writes:
The Buddha’s second reason for putting them to death was to defend Buddhism itself. 
Another oft-invoked argument to justify killing is the claim that, when the the dharma [i.e. the Buddhist religion] is threatened, it is necessary to ruthlessly fight against the forces of evil…promoting the need for violence in order to preserve cosmic balance… 
What about the first precept of Buddhism, which forbids murder? Demieville writes:
In another passage, this same sutra (scripture) declares that there is no reason to observe the five precepts [the first of which is the taking of life], or even to practice good behavior, if protecting the Real Law is in question. In other words, one needed to take up the knife and the sword, the bow and the arrow, the spear and the lance [to defend the faith]. ”The one that observes the five precepts is not a follower of the [Mahayana]! Do not observe the five precepts–if it concerns protecting the Real Law…” 
The Nirvana Sutra reads:
The [true] follower of the Mahayana is not the one who observes the five precepts, but the one who uses the sword, bow, arrow, and battle ax to protect the monks who uphold the precepts and who are pure. 
The dye is cast for defense in the name of religion. Elsewhere in the Nirvana Sutra, we are told of a king who goes to war in defense of rightly-guided monks:
To protect Dharma [Buddha's teachings], he came to the defense of the monks, warring against the evil-doers so that the monks did not suffer. The king sustained wounds all over his body. The monks praised the king: “Well done, well done, O King! You are a person who protects the Wonderful Dharma. In the future, you will become the indispensable tool of Dharma.” 
This king too was Buddha in a past life; Buddha declared:
When the time comes that the Wonderful Dharma is about to die out, one should act like this and protect the Dharma. I was the king…The one who defends the Wonderful Dharma receives immeasurable recompense…
Monks, nuns, male and female believers of Buddha, should exert great effort to protect the Wonderful Dharma. The reward for protecting the Wonderful Dharma is extremely great and immeasurable. O good man, because of this, those believers who protect Dharma should take the sword and staff and protect the monks who guard Dharma…
Even if a person does not observe the five precepts, if he protects the Wonderful Dharma, he will be referred to as one of the Mahayana. A person who upholds the Wonderful Dharma should take the sword and staff and guard monks. 
Along these lines, the Buddha sings the praises of a king named Yeou-to, who went to war to defend the bhiksu (monks). 
The general idea is that “[h]eresy must be prevented and evil crushed in utero.” 
As for the Brahmins whom Buddha killed, they were in any case icchantika, those who neither believe in Buddha or Buddhism–historically, the Buddhist equivalent of infidel. Buddha says in the Nirvana Sutra:
If any man, woman, Shramana, or Brahmin says that there is no such thing as The Way [i.e. Buddhism], Enlightenment, or Nirvana, know that such a person is an icchantika. Such a person is one of [the demon] Mara’s kindred [Mara = the Lord of Death]. Such a person is not of the world… 
An icchantika is “sinful…[because] he does not act in accordance with the Bhuddas’ injunctions.”  ”Because the icchantika lacks the root of good,” he “falls into hell.”  In fact, “it is not possible…for the icchantika not to go to hell.”  The icchantika is “the lowest” and “has to live for an eon in hell.” 
Putting to death unbelievers carries no sin or bad karmic result. Demieville writes:
Regardless, these Brahmans were predestined to infernal damnation (icchantika); it was not a sin to put them to death in order to preserve the Real Law. 
There are in fact three grades of murder, in increasing order of seriousness, but killing infidels is not one of them. The Nirvana Sutra reads:
The Buddha and Bodhisattva see three categories of killing, which are
those of the grades 1) low, 2) medium, and 3) high. Low applies to the class of insects and all kinds of animals…The medium grade of killing concerns killing humans [who have not reached Nirvana]…The highest grade of killing concerns killing one’s father, mother, an arhat, pratyekabudda, or a Bodhisattva [three ranks of Enlightenment]…
A person who kills an icchantika does not suffer from the karmic returns due to the killings of the three kinds above. O good man, all those Brahmins are of the class of the icchantika. Killing them does not cause one to go to hell. 
The Buddha says in the Nirvana Sutra that icchantika’s status is lower than that of the ants:
[T]he icchantikas are cut off from the root of good…Because of this, one may well kill an ant and earn sin for doing harm, but there is no sin for killing an icchantika.” 
In addition to issues of faith and unbelief, the Buddhist tradition offered sophistic justifications for killing and war:
[H]ow can one kill another person when…all is emptiness? The man who kills with full knowledge of the facts kills no one because he realizes that all is but illusion, himself as well as the other person. He can kill, because he does not actually kill anyone. One cannot kill emptiness, nor destroy the wind. 
Furthermore, killing is sinful because of the evil it creates inside the killer’s mind. But, a true yoga master can train his mind to be “empty” even while he kills. If the killer has “vacuity” of thought, then the murder “did not undermine the essential purity of his mind” and then there is nothing wrong with it.  In other words, killing can be excused if it is done by the right person, especially a “dharma-protecting king”.
The Buddhist canonical and post-canonical texts not only provide the religious justifications for war and killing, but provide examples of meritorious holy figures who engaged in it, examples for all Buddhists:
Celestial bodhisattvas, divinized embodiments of the power of enlightened compassion, support campaigns of conquest to spread the influence of Buddhism, and kings vested with the dharma commit mass violence against Jains and Hindus. 
In these textual sources, we see dharma-inspired Buddhist kings who “have a disturbing tendency for mass violence against non-Buddhists.” 
Buddhist Warfare provides many other examples of the theological justifications for waging war and killing, but these shall suffice us for now: they provide the religious basis for Buddhist holy war: (1) Killing those who slander Buddhism as a necessity; (2) Anyone who rejects Buddhism is by default slandering it; (3) Killing infidels carries no sin; (4) In fact, it is not really killing at all.
These are not merely theoretical justifications found buried in religious texts. Instead, these beliefs were acted upon historically, and continue to be so in the contemporary age.
And the disclaimer in the Buddhist Warfare
book that is repeated here is worth being aware of in general:
Prof. Michael Jerryson issues the following disclaimer:
Our intention is not to argue that Buddhists are angry, violent people—but rather that Buddhists are people, and thus share the same human spectrum of emotions, which includes the penchant for violence.
I could not agree more with Jerryson here. My intent here is not to demonize Buddhism, but rather, to underscore the reality that all religious traditions, not just Islam, have had their fair share of violence. This includes Buddhism.
It’s certainly something uncomfortable for me criticizing a religious tradition in this way, but it seems necessary to dispel the enduring myth that Islam holds a monopoly on violence.
I would also like to take this opportunity to distance myself from those who are using the violence in Burma to further Buddhaphobia. Such claim that “people are ignoring what is happening to Muslims in Burma”, which is certainly true, but we all know that if the shoe were on the other foot–if it were Muslims in Burma oppressing Buddhists–then many of these Muslims would be the silent ones, or even be justifying such oppression (as I have seen many Buddhists doing now).
What is it other than rancid hypocrisy when some Pakistanis are up in arms about Muslims in Burma, but absolutely silent about the oppression of religious minorities in their own country?
How easily these people are able to transfer the same hatred against Islam that is directed toward them on a daily basis to Buddhism!
What I have learned about religions is the following:
#1: Adherents of a religion will cry foul when their coreligionists are the victims of oppression, but will remain silent or even justify such oppression when their coreligionists are the perpetrators of such oppression. This includes Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus–as well as Muslims.
To this, I recall the words of the Prophet Muhammad, who said: “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.” The people asked him: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how we should help him if he is an oppressor?” Muhammad replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.”
#2: The corollary to #1 is that religious groups will cry foul when they are oppressed by another religious group, but as soon as they themselves come to power, the very next minute they set to the task of oppressing the religious other. Yesterday, the Jews were ethnically cleansed by the Nazis; today, they ethnically cleanse the Palestinians. It is such a seamless transition–it happens with such mechanistic automatism and absolute obliviousness–that it is something quite amazing to witness.
#3: Following from #2, it becomes obvious that humans oppress when they are given the opportunity to do so. It is not their religious creed that matters so much but rather whether they have opportunity or not.
#4: No major world religion is vastly different from the other when it comes to its propensity to inspire violence.
#5: Instead of using religious violence to demonize particular faiths–instead of using it as a battle ax to split open heads–we should hold in our hearts a continuous candlelight vigil to end inter-religious violence–holding hands with Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus–and start seeing each other as fellow human beings.