Is Buddhism and Taoism used to rationalize a lot of atrocities and war crimes?
A lot of my left wing friends are very critical about western religions. They often point to things like crusades and genocides etc...
Anyone know if popular East Asian religions are subject to the same criticism?
No. As far as i konw, the first doctrine of Buddhism is ahimsa.
Taoism is very different from other religions. One of its main doctrines is to get immortality, well, through endless zazen practices and physical practices, not evil black magic and spells, but still supernatural.
it is said that they can absorb the five basic elements in the physical world, the elements of metal, wood, water, fire and soil, into their bodies. The more they do so, the longer they live, and the more powerful they are, until finally they fly to heaven (another dimension, i guess)and become immortal.
And as i know, Taoism doesn't preach salvation. it just encourages people to feel and understand Nature, try to be part of it like a piece of stone and forget the inner me, like the sensation of ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It sounds unfeeling and cold.
I would think it is very difficult indeed to mis-use Buddhism or Taoism to rationalize atrocities or war-crimes. Especially in Buddhism it is quite clear that harming others is detrimental and a very unwise thing to do. It is the basic vow of all Buddhists.
Then again, for example in Christianity, the first commandment is not to kill, but people (even popes) have twisted that around completely in history for example by simply stating that black people are not humans but savages, or that the city of Jerusalem is more important then the lives of Muslims.
So in my humble opinion, the religion itself is rarely to blame for these malicious rationalizations, but simply people who twist and turn the truth in their own interest.