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Author Topic: Is there a religion for atheists?  (Read 4015 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 30, 2012, 09:22:57 AM »

Quote
Alain de Botton, probably the closest thing Britain has to a celebrity philosopher, has a Big Idea. Religion, he asserts, isn't "true", but its lack of truth is the least interesting thing about it. Instead of indulging in the dogmatic anti-theism associated with the likes of Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, why shouldn't atheists just "enjoy the best bits", as the publicity for his new book Religion For Atheists has it?

Many of us love Christmas carols, after all. Bach's cantatas are more profound and moving than anything written in the cause of atheism. Think of all those wonderful cathedrals, mosques and temples. Religion's power to transport the human spirit, to offer consolation and hope, to create a sense of belonging and inspire ethical conduct is undeniable even if you don't subscribe to the doctrines of a particular belief system. So let's work out precisely what gives religions their strength, "steal" it, bottle it and create a kind of transcendent secular humanism that will speak to people as deeply as religion does. Only without all that embarrassing dogma, not to mention the baggage of misogyny, homophobia, parochialism and intolerance with which most bona fide religions tend to come lumbered.

Atheists have been enjoying the cultural productions stemming from the religions for centuries. That's nothing new.
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 03:20:46 PM »

As we've been discussing somewhat in the philosophy thread, there is already a movement of naturalists/materialists who also consider themselves religious or spiritual. There are similarly titled books as well, for example...



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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 03:27:54 PM »

As we've been discussing somewhat in the philosophy thread, there is already a movement of naturalists/materialists who also consider themselves religious or spiritual. There are similarly titled books as well, for example...




Is he related to Auguste Comte?
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2012, 03:36:19 PM »

yes there is, its called naturalistic pantheism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_pantheism

characteristics of such:


-Reverence, awe, wonder and a feeling of belonging to Nature and the wider Universe.
-Respect and active care for the rights of all humans and other living beings.
-Celebration of our lives in our bodies on this beautiful earth as a joy and a privilege.
-Realism - acceptance that the external world exists independently of human consciousness or perception.
-Strong naturalism - without belief in supernatural realms, afterlives, beings or forces.
-Respect for reason, evidence and the scientific method as our best ways of understanding nature and the   Universe.
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2012, 03:38:25 PM »

Or religious naturalism...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_naturalism

As for Compte, the all-knowing wiki does not know...
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2012, 03:56:39 PM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.
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« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2012, 06:32:15 PM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.
Some atheists practice Christianity, too. Altizer's The Gospel of Christian Atheism justifies its argument by claiming it as loyalty to Christ: "The first duty of the Christian theologian is loyalty to Christ, and he must strive to open his thinking to the universal presence of Christ, to the presence of Christ in the totality of human experience."
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« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2012, 06:41:01 PM »

So achieve religion's depth by stealing the externals and trappings without the dogma. Even though the depth comes from the dogma itself and the externals are secondary. Okay...
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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2012, 07:10:57 PM »

So achieve religion's depth by stealing the externals and trappings without the dogma. Even though the depth comes from the dogma itself and the externals are secondary. Okay...

I think, at least in the case of Stephen Batchelor, it's more about achieving the depths of a tradition without getting caught up in externals and the trappings of dogma. Not familiar with Altizer, though.
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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2012, 07:15:03 PM »

So achieve religion's depth by stealing the externals and trappings without the dogma. Even though the depth comes from the dogma itself and the externals are secondary. Okay...

I think, at least in the case of Stephen Batchelor, it's more like achieving the depths of a tradition without getting caught up in externals and the trappings of dogma.

Idk who that is, but my comment was directed at the atheist quoted in the OP, who said:

Quote
Many of us love Christmas carols, after all. Bach's cantatas are more profound and moving than anything written in the cause of atheism. Think of all those wonderful cathedrals, mosques and temples.
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2012, 07:17:13 PM »

So achieve religion's depth by stealing the externals and trappings without the dogma. Even though the depth comes from the dogma itself and the externals are secondary. Okay...

I think, at least in the case of Stephen Batchelor, it's more like achieving the depths of a tradition without getting caught up in externals and the trappings of dogma.

Idk who that is, but my comment was directed at the atheist quoted in the OP, who said:

Quote
Many of us love Christmas carols, after all. Bach's cantatas are more profound and moving than anything written in the cause of atheism. Think of all those wonderful cathedrals, mosques and temples.

Ahhhh... I see.  Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2012, 07:18:05 PM »

To the title, (even if this doesn't directly relate to the current discussion) Atheism is a religion...
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2012, 07:21:24 PM »

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Many of us love Christmas carols, after all. Bach's cantatas are more profound and moving than anything written in the cause of atheism.
The only thing I've read that comes close is Marx's "opiate of the masses" spiel.
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« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2012, 07:44:21 PM »

I've heard the term "Christian Atheist" but I don't buy it. To me it would make more sense to call oneself secular humanist at that point.

You know with these atheists dabbling in different types of spirituality it kind of reinforces the fact that there is something innate in all of us, something spiritual, something that cannot be defined by human observation or experimentation.

It's kind of funny because trying to organize atheists together is practically impossible. A good friend of mine went to the Center of Inquiry where Sam Harris was speaking and was telling me how atheists almost came to blows with one another because of disagreements. There is so much infighting in the atheist camp that it thwarts any sort of advancement atheism can make in society. It doesn't help when most atheists have worldviews that are inconsistent and self-refuting.

EDIT: What's with the obsession with atheism lately? Lotsa threads on it...
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« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2012, 07:52:02 PM »

So achieve religion's depth by stealing the externals and trappings without the dogma. Even though the depth comes from the dogma itself and the externals are secondary. Okay...

Yet again, William cuts through the crap.

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« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2012, 07:54:30 PM »

It doesn't help when most atheists have worldviews that are inconsistent and self-refuting.

So true, but sadly irrelevant to the influence of atheism on mainstream culture in the Anglosphere.

Sometimes I am tempted to believe that Papist is right in his conviction that atheism is simply the product of poor thinking.
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« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2012, 07:55:38 PM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.
Some atheists practice Christianity, too. Altizer's The Gospel of Christian Atheism justifies its argument by claiming it as loyalty to Christ: "The first duty of the Christian theologian is loyalty to Christ, and he must strive to open his thinking to the universal presence of Christ, to the presence of Christ in the totality of human experience."

Please refer this man to CS Lewis's classic three-option choice: Christ was either (1) God in the flesh, (2) a liar, or (3) a madman.
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« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2012, 07:59:32 PM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

It is true that one can be both an atheist and a Buddhist, but one certainly cannot be both a materialist/empiricist and a Buddhist -- a fact so many white people need to wake up to.
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« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2012, 08:14:24 PM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.
Some atheists practice Christianity, too. Altizer's The Gospel of Christian Atheism justifies its argument by claiming it as loyalty to Christ: "The first duty of the Christian theologian is loyalty to Christ, and he must strive to open his thinking to the universal presence of Christ, to the presence of Christ in the totality of human experience."

Please refer this man to CS Lewis's classic three-option choice: Christ was either (1) God in the flesh, (2) a liar, or (3) a madman.

Why? are you trying to make him laugh?  Grin
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« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2012, 08:42:19 PM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

It is true that one can be both an atheist and a Buddhist, but one certainly cannot be both a materialist/empiricist and a Buddhist -- a fact so many white people need to wake up to.
One can't be an atheist and a Buddhist. One of the Buddha's titles was "teacher of gods and men".

But I get your point. Cool
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« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2012, 08:56:54 PM »

Sometimes I am tempted to believe that Papist is right in his conviction that atheism is simply the product of poor thinking.
It really is. The other problem to is atheists don't necessarily subscribe to their worldview entirely or follow it's conclusions.
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« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2012, 09:34:19 PM »

Sometimes I am tempted to believe that Papist is right in his conviction that atheism is simply the product of poor thinking.

I think both sides could fall into this category at times...  police
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« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2012, 09:37:20 PM »

Sometimes I am tempted to believe that Papist is right in his conviction that atheism is simply the product of poor thinking.

I think both sides could fall into this category at times...  police
You clearly haven't read enough of pasadi67's posts then
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« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2012, 09:45:38 PM »

Sometimes I am tempted to believe that Papist is right in his conviction that atheism is simply the product of poor thinking.

I think both sides could fall into this category at times...  police
You clearly haven't read enough of pasadi67's posts then

I do not speak of that god among men now that the pasadi has moved on to better things!
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« Reply #24 on: January 30, 2012, 09:49:05 PM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

It is true that one can be both an atheist and a Buddhist, but one certainly cannot be both a materialist/empiricist and a Buddhist -- a fact so many white people need to wake up to.
One can't be an atheist and a Buddhist. One of the Buddha's titles was "teacher of gods and men".

But I get your point. Cool

Sure one can! A Theravada Buddhist, at least, can and should be an atheist in regards to belief in a sovereign creator God, which is seen as detrimental to the Buddhist path (wrong view).

"From a study of the discourses of the Buddha preserved in the Pali canon, it will be seen that the idea of a personal deity, a creator god conceived to be eternal and omnipotent, is incompatible with the Buddha's teachings. On the other hand, conceptions of an impersonal godhead of any description, such as world-soul, etc., are excluded by the Buddha's teachings on Anatta, non-self or unsubstantiality.

In Buddhist literature, the belief in a creator god (issara-nimmana-vada) is frequently mentioned and rejected, along with other causes wrongly adduced to explain the origin of the world; as, for instance, world-soul, time, nature, etc. God-belief, however, is placed in the same category as those morally destructive wrong views which deny the kammic results of action, assume a fortuitous origin of man and nature, or teach absolute determinism. These views are said to be altogether pernicious, having definite bad results due to their effect on ethical conduct."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/godidea.html

But I guess there are those negligible "lesser gods" and devas that the Buddha acknowledged, so you do have a point...
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« Reply #25 on: January 30, 2012, 09:51:40 PM »

Sometimes I am tempted to believe that Papist is right in his conviction that atheism is simply the product of poor thinking.

I think both sides could fall into this category at times...  police
You clearly haven't read enough of pasadi67's posts then

I do not speak of that god among men now that the pasadi has moved on to better things!
He's bringing back the concorde of Orthodoxy and the Goodyear Blimp.
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« Reply #26 on: January 30, 2012, 10:02:00 PM »

So achieve religion's depth by stealing the externals and trappings without the dogma. Even though the depth comes from the dogma itself and the externals are secondary. Okay...

Yet again, William cuts through the crap.

I've cut through crap before?  Tongue
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« Reply #27 on: January 31, 2012, 12:04:04 AM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

This is frankly fake Buddhism IMO. Basically pop psychotherapy with an exotic outer wrapping. Without karma and rebirth the Buddha-dharma pretty much falls apart.
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« Reply #28 on: January 31, 2012, 12:30:34 AM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

This is frankly fake Buddhism IMO. Basically pop psychotherapy with an exotic outer wrapping. Without karma and rebirth the Buddha-dharma pretty much falls apart.

Stephen Batchelor can hardly be accused of promoting mere pop psychology. He spent several years as a monk in both Tibet and Korea, studying under revered masters, and has been a Buddhist and Pali scholar for many more. In both the above-mentioned book and Buddhism Without Beliefs, he makes a pretty good case for practical Buddhism that does not require one to have absolute belief in karma (beyond cause and effect in this life), rebirth, and superstitious beliefs. He has his detractors, especially among the "orthodox" Buddhist crowd, but many consider his Buddhism to be perfectly authentic (if agnostic on the more speculative points).
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« Reply #29 on: January 31, 2012, 12:42:51 AM »

Sometimes I am tempted to believe that Papist is right in his conviction that atheism is simply the product of poor thinking.

I think both sides could fall into this category at times...  police

Indeed, but that criticism of the religious is so often made that it has become rather trite. Papist's maxim is somewhat awesome in that it is not often repeated.
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« Reply #30 on: January 31, 2012, 02:52:17 AM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

Asteriktos doesn't believe this. I told him I personally ran into atheists like this as well (on myspace a long long time ago). There are also alot of atheists who are materialistic satanists as well as a number of atheists who are into a number of western european neo-paganism.
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« Reply #31 on: January 31, 2012, 08:15:45 AM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

This is frankly fake Buddhism IMO. Basically pop psychotherapy with an exotic outer wrapping. Without karma and rebirth the Buddha-dharma pretty much falls apart.

Stephen Batchelor can hardly be accused of promoting mere pop psychology. He spent several years as a monk in both Tibet and Korea, studying under revered masters, and has been a Buddhist and Pali scholar for many more. In both the above-mentioned book and Buddhism Without Beliefs, he makes a pretty good case for practical Buddhism that does not require one to have absolute belief in karma (beyond cause and effect in this life), rebirth, and superstitious beliefs. He has his detractors, especially among the "orthodox" Buddhist crowd, but many consider his Buddhism to be perfectly authentic (if agnostic on the more speculative points).

I have read the book and his arguments are specious. It doesn't matter how many years he spent as a monk. There are plenty of other monks, such as the renowned scholar Bhikkhu Bodhi who would agree, "this is not Buddhism." Ironically throughout the book he quotes Tsongkhapa, Nagarjuna, etc.- all men who believed the stuff he is attempting to get rid of. He attempts to argue that karma, rebirth, etc. are just cultural baggage which can be separated from the core teachings of Buddhism. If you actually read the sutras, it becomes immediately clear how important these beliefs are and how critical they are to even the most basic Buddhist teachings. There are no Four Noble Truths without karma and rebirth (though I am aware of the contorted attempt to recast them without karma and rebirth.) Stephen Batchelor has not rid himself of "superstitious beliefs"- his own superstitious faith in materialism is evident throughout his work.
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« Reply #32 on: January 31, 2012, 10:22:37 AM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

This is frankly fake Buddhism IMO. Basically pop psychotherapy with an exotic outer wrapping. Without karma and rebirth the Buddha-dharma pretty much falls apart.

Stephen Batchelor can hardly be accused of promoting mere pop psychology. He spent several years as a monk in both Tibet and Korea, studying under revered masters, and has been a Buddhist and Pali scholar for many more. In both the above-mentioned book and Buddhism Without Beliefs, he makes a pretty good case for practical Buddhism that does not require one to have absolute belief in karma (beyond cause and effect in this life), rebirth, and superstitious beliefs. He has his detractors, especially among the "orthodox" Buddhist crowd, but many consider his Buddhism to be perfectly authentic (if agnostic on the more speculative points).

I have read the book and his arguments are specious. It doesn't matter how many years he spent as a monk. There are plenty of other monks, such as the renowned scholar Bhikkhu Bodhi who would agree, "this is not Buddhism." Ironically throughout the book he quotes Tsongkhapa, Nagarjuna, etc.- all men who believed the stuff he is attempting to get rid of. He attempts to argue that karma, rebirth, etc. are just cultural baggage which can be separated from the core teachings of Buddhism. If you actually read the sutras, it becomes immediately clear how important these beliefs are and how critical they are to even the most basic Buddhist teachings. There are no Four Noble Truths without karma and rebirth (though I am aware of the contorted attempt to recast them without karma and rebirth.) Stephen Batchelor has not rid himself of "superstitious beliefs"- his own superstitious faith in materialism is evident throughout his work.

Fair enough. And sorry for being presumptuous Smiley. IMO, what he is doing with the buddha-dhamma is exactly what other cultures have done: taken it and adapted it to better fit the culture and the times. From my understanding, the 4NT do not fall apart without a belief in rebirth. They stand alone (although in any traditional form of Buddhism, Right View of the 8FP would require belief in rebirth, I suppose). And in Batchelor's defense, his Buddhism is perhaps no less rigorous or serious than, say, Bhikkhu Bodhi's. His is just "entirely concerned with the demands of this age" (p.240 Confessions). In my opinion, anyone who can sit and watch the movements of his mind for days on end is engaging in something much deeper than popular psychology. Regarding his life-long practice of Buddhism, on the same page he writes: "And if in the end there does turn out to be a heaven or nirvana somewhere else, I can see no better way to prepare for it."

But your opinion is held by many. The countless pages of discussion surrounding his "secular Buddhism" on Buddhist internet forums attest to the fact that people are divided on this issue. I guess it depends what one thinks he or she needs in order to cross the river of suffering on the raft of the buddha-dhamma, or on who is entitled to call him or herself a Buddhist. Many people believe a skeptical or agnostic expression of the buddha-dhamma is just as valid as any other, particularly if it is lived out in practice (e.g. developing wisdom, mindfulness, and compassion, etc.). The fruits of the practice are still real.

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« Reply #33 on: January 31, 2012, 10:39:18 AM »

Buddhism has adapted to many different cultures but its doctrinal core has remained the same. The concepts of karma and rebirth were pretty much as foreign in China (and other East Asian countries) as they are to the West. Nevertheless the Chinese Buddhists accepted these ideas- they didn't toss them aside as Indian cultural baggage.

The Four Noble Truths have to be seriously re-worked without karma- actually they would mean something different. All the discussion on suffering, cause of suffering, and end of suffering relies on karma. The sutras go on and on about the different kinds of karma and the different kinds of rebirth they entail, which such exhaustive, flat-footed detail that a metaphorical interpretation is out of the question.

Belief determines practice. Most Buddhists do not just meditate on their breathing- there is a plethora of devotional practices in Buddhism which assume supernatural beliefs. Vajrayana Buddhism is especially dependent on these beliefs- without them, all the stuff about guru devotion, deity meditation, torma offerings, reincarnate lamas- it all falls apart. If Batchelor is right then all the great Buddhist teachers wasted vast amounts of precious time. Batchelor must be the real Buddha for our age.
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« Reply #34 on: January 31, 2012, 10:43:27 AM »

Buddhism has adapted to many different cultures but its doctrinal core has remained the same. The concepts of karma and rebirth were pretty much as foreign in China (and other East Asian countries) as they are to the West. Nevertheless the Chinese Buddhists accepted these ideas- they didn't toss them aside as Indian cultural baggage.

The Four Noble Truths have to be seriously re-worked without karma- actually they would mean something different. All the discussion on suffering, cause of suffering, and end of suffering relies on karma. The sutras go on and on about the different kinds of karma and the different kinds of rebirth they entail, which such exhaustive, flat-footed detail that a metaphorical interpretation is out of the question.

Belief determines practice. Most Buddhists do not just meditate on their breathing- there is a plethora of devotional practices in Buddhism which assume supernatural beliefs. Vajrayana Buddhism is especially dependent on these beliefs- without them, all the stuff about guru devotion, deity meditation, torma offerings, reincarnate lamas- it all falls apart. If Batchelor is right then all the great Buddhist teachers wasted vast amounts of precious time. Batchelor must be the real Buddha for our age.

I see it much differently than you do. If Batchelor is the real "Buddha of our age", than he is one among very many people who practice Buddhism without holding to supernatural belief.

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« Reply #35 on: January 31, 2012, 10:46:20 AM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

Asteriktos doesn't believe this. I told him I personally ran into atheists like this as well (on myspace a long long time ago). There are also alot of atheists who are materialistic satanists as well as a number of atheists who are into a number of western european neo-paganism.

Indeed, the Church of Satan is basically a kind of philosophical narcissism/materialism/atheism wearing horns.
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« Reply #36 on: January 31, 2012, 10:57:38 AM »

Buddhism has adapted to many different cultures but its doctrinal core has remained the same. The concepts of karma and rebirth were pretty much as foreign in China (and other East Asian countries) as they are to the West. Nevertheless the Chinese Buddhists accepted these ideas- they didn't toss them aside as Indian cultural baggage.

The Four Noble Truths have to be seriously re-worked without karma- actually they would mean something different. All the discussion on suffering, cause of suffering, and end of suffering relies on karma. The sutras go on and on about the different kinds of karma and the different kinds of rebirth they entail, which such exhaustive, flat-footed detail that a metaphorical interpretation is out of the question.

Belief determines practice. Most Buddhists do not just meditate on their breathing- there is a plethora of devotional practices in Buddhism which assume supernatural beliefs. Vajrayana Buddhism is especially dependent on these beliefs- without them, all the stuff about guru devotion, deity meditation, torma offerings, reincarnate lamas- it all falls apart. If Batchelor is right then all the great Buddhist teachers wasted vast amounts of precious time. Batchelor must be the real Buddha for our age.

I see it much differently than you do. If Batchelor is the real "Buddha of our age", than he is one among very many people who practice Buddhism without holding to supernatural belief.

Buddhism rejects materialism. Once you assume materialism you are not practicing Buddhism but some other philosophy. A key teaching of Buddhism is that the external world itself is a product of mind.

As for "very many", well, these views float mainly around Western self-described Buddhists, who are already a very small part of the population. Around the world Buddhists maintain belief in karma and rebirth.
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« Reply #37 on: January 31, 2012, 10:58:50 AM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

Asteriktos doesn't believe this. I told him I personally ran into atheists like this as well (on myspace a long long time ago). There are also alot of atheists who are materialistic satanists as well as a number of atheists who are into a number of western european neo-paganism.

Indeed, the Church of Satan is basically a kind of philosophical narcissism/materialism/atheism wearing horns.

As opposed to narcissism/materialism/atheism in lotus posture  Wink
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« Reply #38 on: January 31, 2012, 11:29:12 AM »

Buddhism has adapted to many different cultures but its doctrinal core has remained the same. The concepts of karma and rebirth were pretty much as foreign in China (and other East Asian countries) as they are to the West. Nevertheless the Chinese Buddhists accepted these ideas- they didn't toss them aside as Indian cultural baggage.

The Four Noble Truths have to be seriously re-worked without karma- actually they would mean something different. All the discussion on suffering, cause of suffering, and end of suffering relies on karma. The sutras go on and on about the different kinds of karma and the different kinds of rebirth they entail, which such exhaustive, flat-footed detail that a metaphorical interpretation is out of the question.

Belief determines practice. Most Buddhists do not just meditate on their breathing- there is a plethora of devotional practices in Buddhism which assume supernatural beliefs. Vajrayana Buddhism is especially dependent on these beliefs- without them, all the stuff about guru devotion, deity meditation, torma offerings, reincarnate lamas- it all falls apart. If Batchelor is right then all the great Buddhist teachers wasted vast amounts of precious time. Batchelor must be the real Buddha for our age.

I see it much differently than you do. If Batchelor is the real "Buddha of our age", than he is one among very many people who practice Buddhism without holding to supernatural belief.

Buddhism rejects materialism. Once you assume materialism you are not practicing Buddhism but some other philosophy. A key teaching of Buddhism is that the external world itself is a product of mind.

As for "very many", well, these views float mainly around Western self-described Buddhists, who are already a very small part of the population. Around the world Buddhists maintain belief in karma and rebirth.

Admittedly, Batchelor probably goes a bit far in trying to strip the Buddha from tradition and place him in a western mold.

But in What the Buddhist Taught (page 11) author Walpola Rahula writes that after the Buddha explained kamma to his disciples, he followed with: "O bhikkhus, even if this view, which is so pure and so clear, if you cling to it, if you fondle it, if you treasure it, if you are attached to it, then you do not understand that the teaching is similar to a raft, which is for crossing over, and not for getting hold of." The belief that the Buddha of the Pali suttas is endorsing is a kind of working hypothesis: "Come and see." He encourages doubt, uncertainty, and skepticism regarding the teachings of traditions and the dogmas of "holy men" (in the Kalama Sutta, for instance) and teaches one how to investigate for oneself. Kamma is observable in the here and now, too. Thoughts and actions have repercussions, and one can learn to see this acutely through Buddhist practice without necessarily believing that it will ripple into another life in the future.

I hardly think that rebirth, for instance, must be blindly accepted for one to begin to practice - even seriously practice - Buddhism. Therefore, regarding the OP, I cannot see why an atheist can't call himself a Buddhist and practice Buddhism.

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As for "very many", well, these views float mainly around Western self-described Buddhists, who are already a very small part of the population.

I have spent nearly as much time on Buddhist discussion forums as on here, and I suspect that the portion of the population who approach Buddhism in this way is bigger than you think. Sure, many of them are westerners, and that is because, as I mentioned above, westerners are filtering their understanding of Buddhism through their own understanding. If they seriouisly set out on the path, who knows what they'll discover through practice? And you don't have to call them "Buddhists" if it makes you feel better.  Wink  Smiley
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« Reply #39 on: January 31, 2012, 11:36:57 AM »

Oops, I'm supposed to be looking for a job!

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As opposed to narcissism/materialism/atheism in lotus posture 

 laugh
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« Reply #40 on: January 31, 2012, 01:59:23 PM »

A key teaching of Buddhism is that the external world itself is a product of mind.
Don't let a Theravadan hear you say that. Grin
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« Reply #41 on: January 31, 2012, 02:45:31 PM »

I know several atheists who practice Buddhism, particularly of the Theravada variety. Stephen Batchelor, author of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, promotes a kind of purely pragmatic, secular Buddhism for people of a more skeptical or atheistic bent.

Asteriktos doesn't believe this.

I don't?  Huh Cool
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« Reply #42 on: February 01, 2012, 02:46:44 AM »

There already is. It is called Naturalism/Materialism.
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« Reply #43 on: February 01, 2012, 08:31:40 AM »

Whether one "blindly" accepts it or not, Buddhism simply doesn't make sense without karma and rebirth.

Re: The Kalama Sutta, Bhikkhu Bodhi does a good job of putting it in its proper context: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_09.html
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« Reply #44 on: February 01, 2012, 09:04:33 AM »

Whether one "blindly" accepts it or not, Buddhism simply doesn't make sense without karma and rebirth.

Re: The Kalama Sutta, Bhikkhu Bodhi does a good job of putting it in its proper context: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_09.html

We could do this for a very long time! In fact, I get the feeling we've been down this road before...
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