Buddhism is arguably the most attractive religion on the planet to anyone willing to give it a chance. Sure, there are hurdles in its reality that I can’t bring myself to jump over, but there is something fundamentally different about Buddhism.
For one thing, Buddhism is the first salvation faith (though I imagine this is not what a Buddhist would call it). It was the first major world religion to really coin the idea of death as something that could be overcome by the average person. Other major religions shared this basic concept to some extent, primarily the Egyptians, but their religion was highly focused on the nobility and monarch. The average person was not mummified and prepared for their transport into a blissful afterlife.
Instead of relying heavily upon rituals of appeasement, Buddhism is a path defined by one’s personal search for knowledge. What’s more, Buddhism likely had a heavy influence on the salvation faiths that followed.
It is a fairly well known fact at this point that Eastern religion found its way into Mesopotamia centuries before the time of Jesus. It’s also accepted by most scholars that Christianity could have been influenced by Buddhism. Even devout Christians are obliged to admit that Buddhism is particularly influential in the Gnostic sects and Manichaeism.
While much of Buddhism’s influence is found in the apocrypha, some found its way into biblical canon. Both Buddha and Jesus were conceived to virgins by divine means. The birth of both was preceded by a bright light in the sky. Both abandon their lives and families to practice ascetic lives of wandering with disciples, preaching in towns and staying in the homes of strangers. While Buddha calls himself the great father with sons of light, Jesus calls himself the son of the great father and “the light of the world.” Both call their ideologies “the way” or “the path.”
The evidence continues to mount when looking at the historical iconography. Early Christianity used Buddhist imagery. The wheel with eight spokes (a symbol of the Buddhist eight-fold path) is seen in this satellite view of St. Peter’s Plaza in Vatican City:
This seems quite comparable to the Buddhist eight-spoked wheel:
But The Vatican might just be a coincidence, right? A little harder to simply write-off is this piece of graffiti from the ancient city of Ephesus: