It is not almost the same. It's completely different. Two years ago when I bought my house I had no "credit" at all, yet I got an awesome rate (well, for 2 years ago: 3.875%. Rates are lower now). If I had bad credit, I likely wouldn't have been approved for any rate.
The only way you get "good" credit is by going into debt. Those of us who can do math don't consider this good. And you'll never meet anyone who went bankrupt because they didn't borrow enough.
EDIT: When you buy a house, you are marked against if you have zero balance on all your cards. The typical behavior of a new homebuyer is to run up their cards doing decorating and such. It hurts your credit, relatively, to have many cards with zero balances. I'm making an assumption here: This mostly applied to buying a house, but this is what most people are usually interested in "building" their credit for. Fortunately, only a small part of your home lending qualification relies on the credit score. Other things like income, work history, and down payment size are more heavily weighted. Like I said, I had zero credit when I bought my house and I got the same rate as everyone else.
If you're interested in getting credit in order to spend money you don't have on toys and cars and crap, then this discussion doesn't apply.