I disagree that the Buddha is worshiped. Statutes of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas are certainly venerated, but they are not worshiped. Do you worship icons? I am likewise at a loss as to how an Orthodox Christian can make such an error about these externalities when charges of worshiping Mary, saints, and icons are so often directed at Orthodox Christians.
Veneration and worship are synonyms. Hence the troparion for the Sunday of Orthodoxy is sometimes translated "We worship thine immaculate icon..." Some folks get up in arms about this because of all the apologetic literature saying we venerate icons, but don't worship them, but the distinction is really unsupportable from the standpoint of English usage.
Yes, Buddhists worship/ venerate/ reverence the Buddha and his images. Take your pick. Do they worship him like we worship God? Well, that would be on one hand a nonsensical statement since there is no being equivalent to our God in the Buddhist framework. On the other hand it would fit because the Buddha, like God, is regarded as the fundamental cosmic principle, the ground of truth- dharmakaya, tathagatagharba, etc., at least in the Mahayana.
If the problem is one of English usage, that is the language's problem, not the concept's. The reverence that the faithful give to icons and other created things is certainly different from that paid to the uncreated God. Buddha himself said that he should not be worshiped, so any Buddhist who does simply is not paying attention.
And, the idea certainly doesn't make sense in the Japanese schools of Mahayana that I am most familiar with, such as Zen, which rejects the idea of scriptures.
The phrase "above the Gods" does not even make sense to me in regard to Buddhism. Devas aren't immortal, don't create, and are caught up in the same cycle of death and rebirth as humans.
The Nordic/ Germanic gods are also basically mortal and yet that's where our English word "god" comes from.
Actually, that is not necessarily linguistically sound. The etymology goes back into Proto-Indo-European, which I find to be a speculative field. The actual first known use of the word is in Gothic bibles, not collections of Norse tales.
There's no creator or personal god. It is perfectly possible to be a Buddhist atheist. In fact, I would say that most Buddhists are.
Atheist in the sense that they deny the existence of a God like ours? Sure. In this sense all the polytheists are atheists too (Church Fathers called pagans "atheists"- but then again pagans called us "atheists" too).
In the sense of espousing materialism and denying the existence of any "supernatural" beings/ forces, no, Buddhists can't be atheists, though some Westerners would like to think so.
Does the Dalai Lama count as a Buddhist?http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?article=Ocean+of+wit+and+wisdoms&id=18719
"I'm Buddhist, I'm a Buddhist practitioner. So actually I think that according to nontheistic Buddhist belief, things are due to causes and conditions. No creator. So I have faith in our actions, not prayer.
Action is important. Action is karma. Karma means action. That's an ancient Indian thought. In nontheistic religions, including Buddhism, the emphasis is on our actions rather than god or Buddha. So some people say that Buddhism is a kind of atheism. Some scholars say that Buddhism is not a religion — it's a science of the mind."
In response to the question, "do you agree with that [that Buddhism is a kind of atheism]?"
I even consider Buddha and some of his important followers like Nagarjuna (one of Buddha's leading disciples) to be scientists. Their main method is analytical. Analyze, analyze — not emphasis on faith.
Would you concede that the Dalai Lama may know a bit more about Buddism that you? Perhaps just a skosh?
By the way, have you ever had the pleasure? I was fortunate to attend a university that has a partnership with Tibet. The Dalai Lama is actually a professor at my alma mater.
Learn more here if you are so inclined:http://tibet.emory.edu/academics/index.html