Christian doctrine has it right when it says that all human pleasures are pleasures for illusory, mortal phenomena, all of which will inevitably, and very soon, pass away. Anything you give your energy to, you are worshiping. They say that efforts to improve oneself is the worshiping of a false idol, because the ideal that is worshiped is an arbitrary construct, an image with no reality behind it. What some Christians cherish is the notion that because we have the tendency to lust after false things, that we are in fact flawed creatures. They perceive that the answer to the question of the human condition lies outside the human condition. This, they call Jesus Christ. I think they have it half right. What's not generally acknowledged among Christians is that all human fears are also fears of illusory, mortal phenomena, all of which will inevitably, and very soon enough, pass away. The efforts to distance oneself from the imperfect, “sinful beast”, the hungry ape who shivers in the rain with an erection while jealously chewing on a bloody leg-bone, is just as empty as trying to imitate their interpretation of what Christ was/is like, or trying to live up to what they think God's expectations are.
There is a valuable, though ill-understood doctrine in Christianity that “good works” alone will not get you into the kingdom of heaven- only accepting Christ will. And yet, accepting Christ is treated by most Christians as a “good work.” Will accepting Christ make you a better person? Believing such is no different than believing that making $100k a year, or being smart and funny, or having a girlfriend, or being happy all day, or becoming a doctor, or a monk, or a philanthropist will make you a better person. Sure, the definition of a “better person” depends on your perspective, and perhaps it's possible for you to meet that (arbitrary) definition. In this case, you are still just as much a compulsory servant of mortal, conditional standards than before, all of which are in constant flux, like a flag blowing in the wind. In this case, your “free will” is an illusion because your actions are chained to the fears and hopes of a limited phenomenon. But if you are not, in truth, a “person” at all, how then can you be judged according to the standards of one? Consider this idea: your career and education, your possessions, your style of dress, your body, and your personality and thoughts are merely patterns of energy swirling in the wake of the big bang. Which clump of stardust floating through the infinite night is better or worse than another?
Imagine a Buddha sitting by a river at night, staring by the moonlight into a little swirling whirlpool by the bank. His power of concentration and imagination was so strong that he came for an instant to believe that he was that whirlpool. This instant seemed to last a lifetime, for it was the lifetime of that whirlpool. Sensing, somehow, that his life was limited, the whirlpool felt afraid, and thought that perhaps there was something wrong with him. So this whirlpool decided that it was the froth at his edges that was to blame, and so he tried to make himself into a better whirlpool by trying to get rid of the froth, and aspiring to make his edges sleeker, so that he could cut through the water better and perhaps survive longer! Somewhere, he felt that high above him was a God who watched him, a God who had no froth at all. He felt ashamed of his froth and he longed to let that God into his heart, so that this God could guide him to become a better, frothless whirlpool. “Guide me, O Lord! Heal me!” The froth remained, and soon the beautiful frothy whirlpool's energetic pattern dissipated into the rest of the river. Then the Buddha laughed and moved on into the night's jungle.
When observing the fears and desires that tend to arise in my mind, and the implications of the fact that they are not actually me, I frequently find myself falling into the same old net that has had me snared through most of my life: “identifying with the characteristics of my life, body and personality is bad, and if I stop, I will become a better person,” or, “If I stop trying to become a better person, I will become a better person. I should try harder to do this.” There is the persistent belief that being snared in such a way is bad. I think this tendency is the source of the teaching, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha.” But I suspect it is no use trying to kill all standards of perfection unless it is being done out of love. Otherwise, nothing has changed besides words and appearances.