The other day I saw this image and it deserves a response as it has common misconceptions about multiple things:
Basically it states that Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad did not follow the beliefs that they started but were united in their teachings about love. This is a blatant falsehood and shows a unity of belief that was never there.I will grant the Jesus did not call himself a Christian. The term Christian was one given to the early church. The term Christian was a derogatory name given that literally meant “little Christ” to which the church took on as a badge of honor.
I will also grant for the sake of argument that neither Buddha or Muhammad called themselves Buddhist or Muslim.
This brings up the first misconception: Were the religions of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity what was taught by their leaders?
Basically the claim here is that the followers for Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammad distorted their views of love into a religion of what it is now. There are a couple of flaws here:
Internal logic flaw: If we cannot trust the written documents that were left behind how do we know that they taught love. Every claim requires a proof (This is logic 101). If we cannot trust the tradition and/or the written record there is no way of knowing what they taught about: love or otherwise. So the meme claims to know something it cannot and so contradicts itself.
Now, do we as people add onto religions. Buddhist monks add rules and regulations to the teachings of their sacred sage. Even Christians add things like having pews or when to stand or sit or how worship happens. It is the specific creeds or theology that is the issue not that things change. When we look back at the original teachings we often correct ourselves. For example that is what the Reformation was about for Christianity – a return to what Christ preached about grace. The question is do the creeds match up with want the founders taught? For Christianity the answer is yes. How do we know? We have a reliable scripture.
External evidence flaw: We have substantial continual proof that the gospels and the Bible contains the accurate teaching of Jesus. The gospels were not transmitted like the game telephone but carefully with multiple copies. We are currently finding earlier and earlier copies of the gospel all over and there are no theological contradictions. Those gospels actually support the other books of the Bible as well.
That may or may not be the same for Buddhism or Islam but even we treat those texts to be historically reliable.
The second misconception: Did they teach love?
In order to answer that we need to define what love is.
We also know that love is not lust, not just the physical and not just the emotional. We also know that love cannot be forced, is not free (is costly) and requires the immaterial soul. Love cannot be defined subjectively and has an objective meaning. Let us define love positively using the video of Sean McDowell below:
According to the video above love is “protecting and providing for the person you say you love”. That seems like a good definition that everyone can agree on so that is the one we will use.
Did Buddha teach love? No, According to tradition he left his wife and kids to take his spiritual pilgrimage. Even if that tradition is in error, love is the exact opposite of what Buddha taught. Buddha taught that to stop suffering the goal is a separation from all desires. This is the 3rd noble truth – a foundation of his teachings.
However love is a kind of suffering as it puts the desires of another above the self. If our life goal is to separate ourselves from all desires to stop suffering, then we must separate ourselves from love too.
Did Muhammad teach love? No, he taught submission to Allah and his prophets (which would include himself). Also, according to Islam, there cannot be free will . You cannot love if you do not have free will. Remember that love cannot be forced; but according to Muhammad submission is what is required, submission because we have no free will.
Did Jesus teach love? Yes and no. He did not preach that we should follow our hearts like some Disney song or what the Beatles sang about. He did, however, teach love as the most costly thing. Check out the following verses (emphasis mine):
Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
John 15:9-17 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Jesus not only taught about love, he lived it. He died for the world (John 3:16) and that included his disciples, friends, and his enemies. Then He was resurrected from the dead!
This is important: Jesus did not follow a religion of love but followed God the Father – who is love.
 Geisler, Norman and Saleeb, Abdul. Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2002. P 124 – 128.