Beth recently showed me this video of Pastor Steven Anderson insisting that Buddhists worship the dead corpse of Buddha. While this guy is particularly nutty, the argument that Jesus is still alive and Muhammad and Buddha (as well as Moses and Zoroaster, I suppose) are dead.
Mind you, we only have Christian tradition to tell us that Jesus didn’t die centuries ago, so this argument is pretty much pointless.
There is somewhat of a difference in that these other religions didn’t claim their founders experienced a bodily resurrection. Moses’ death is described in Deuteronomy, Muhammad is buried in Medina, Zoroaster is said to have been murdered in what is now Afghanistan, and Siddharta Gautama’s body was indeed cremated and the remains distributed to various holy sites. On the other hand, plenty of other religious figures were said to have gone to Heaven without dying, so Jesus is hardly unique in that respect. And really, why is whether someone is alive or not a good indication as to whether their teachings were true?
Another problem with this proposition is that most religions believe in an afterlife anyway, so wouldn’t all of these people have continued living in a non-bodily form? At the time of Jesus, it was a common belief in Judaism that all people would be bodily resurrected at some time in the future, and this heavily influenced Christianity. Jesus is said to have preached it himself in Matthew 22, claiming that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not truly dead.
Jesus’ bodily resurrection was important in that it was miraculous and vindicated a Messiah who died without driving off the Roman occupiers, but it was more of a vanguard than something unique. Judaism did, after all, have other stories of the dead returning to life. Besides, if he ascended to Heaven forty days later, he might still be alive but is no longer present on Earth, so how is that so much better for us now than if he simply went to Heaven after dying normally?
Islamic teaching, by the way, is that Jesus never died at all but was replaced on the cross with a decoy, an idea that might have derived from Gnostic Christianity. As for Buddhism, didn’t Siddharta want to end the cycle of death and rebirth, in which case coming back to earthly life would have been counterproductive? So even if you do think Jesus is technically still alive, how does that promote Christianity over any other religion? Do people who are right about things not die? But then, I guess it isn’t so much about assuring other Christians they’re right, because they already believe they’re right. It’s more a way to put down other religions for totally irrelevant reasons. Also, I hope none of the people who mock the shrines containing Buddha’s ashes visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, because whether or not Jesus’ actual body is there, it’s basically the same thing.