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Author Topic: Is Buddhism a form of Atheism?

Posts: 76
Is Buddhism a form of Atheism?
on: November 15, 2014, 10:31

Monologue from David Webster, a university lecturer. Buddhism claims that Buddha knows more than the gods. But what reliable evidence is there for that? To me that sounds like a self-reverential discourse!

Chris Street
President, AtheismUK

Posts: 301
Re: Is Buddhism a form of Atheism?
on: November 20, 2014, 19:48

Is then, atheism a form of Buddhism? I think not...

I then launch an assault of linguistic gymnastics to say there are "many forms of atheism... but for ease of my argument I;ll just pick the one that's most convenient for my case..."

Does sarcasm come over in the written word?

Posts: 301
Re: Is Buddhism a form of Atheism?
on: November 20, 2014, 19:49

Oh fuck! Accidentally capitalised buddhism!

Posts: 29
Re: Is Buddhism a form of Atheism?
on: December 27, 2014, 05:59

I haven't watched the video, but I know rather a bit about buddhism, and especially about buddhism as the fellow we know of as "the Buddha" taught it, which happens to be quite a different set of things from almost all of the religions that call themselves "buddhist" hold. Dunno about talking about Gotama in the present tense: he's dead. But first of all, he had his own unique teachings that he reserved for those who became monks and nuns under his tutelage, which was quite different from many of the things that he was recorded to have said to those outside the Sangha (his organization/ "company of monks"). He often took the beliefs of an interlocutor and turned them around/co-opted them to point toward his own teachings, which were devoid of gods and superstitions. When people spoke of their beliefs in various gods, he would tell them that the gods they believed in were lesser creatures than even humans. His contention was that gods did not have his teachings available to them, but humans did. Thus it could be inferred that he might "know more than gods", but I don't recall anything in the Nikayas that I have seen that depicts him actually saying that in that way.

He turned the extant cosmology around,using various obviously absurd creatures as symbols for various human behaviors, such as "hungry ghosts" who would have tiny mouths and gigantic stomachs, representing insatiable greed. This was obviously "morality-tale" stuff, but a lot of folks who don't pay attention to their own scriptures, or who pay attention to the wrong scriptures because they don't even know their scriptures have nothing to do with the teachings of their supposed founder, don't get that and thus believe in such things when the Buddha didn't. As always, ignorance is bliss...

I'll give that video a listen in a bit and probly add and/or clarify more...

Posts: 29
Re: Is Buddhism a form of Atheism?
on: December 27, 2014, 07:08

Re: "is Buddhism an atheist religion?"

YES, the Buddha explicitly rejected the idea of a "creator god", especially wrt his own teachings, and denied that any "salvation" (he spoke of "liberation", but that was also a very different thing) could come "from gods".

When the guy says, which buddhism do you mean?", he is addressing the many things that "Buddhism" has become since the Buddha died and Buddhism was largely swallowed up by Brahminism and co-opted into local superstitions and animism and re-branded. Especially, I would venture that he is referring to such things as the worst offender, the Tibetan religions, which have very little to do with what the Buddha taught. And I mean, a VERY, VERY little.

When he starts pulling out books -- I have those books, and those are what are almost universally (except for a lunatic fringe) recognized by buddhists and scholars of buddhism as records of the teachings of the Buddha.

He talks about disbelief in "a spiritual realm", and he is correct that, within the Buddha's own teachings -- the ones he called "noble, untainted, liberating", belief in such things had no place and was irrelevant.

The presenter mentions the Parinibbana Sutta and talks about gods supposedly taking an interest in the Buddha's death, but from what I have seen, he doesn't seem to take into account that the Buddha didn't give the Parinibbana sutta (a sutta is a discourse): it is a story about his death, which supposedly quotes him from time to time, but the Buddha wasn't alive after his death to give a discourse about his death -- someone else told that tale later, and injected their own superstitious beliefs into the story. Keeping in mind that many of the people who went forth under him came from a superstitious worldview, and that part of his course of teaching was somewhat of a gradual deprogramming from various superstitious beliefs, and many didn't ever completely or even partially let go of such beliefs before he died. His own cousin, Ananda, who is said to have memorized most of the discourses we see in the scriptures, admittedly didn't "get" the Buddha's teachings, and it is clear from many things Ananda says in the suttas that he never gave up superstitions and belief in karma and reincarnation.

The presenter talks about "Enlightenment" -- the Buddha never used that word or anything like it.

-- the "teacher of gods and men" phrase was a common compliment that was bestowed upon various wandering sages by people who were impressed with them. WRT the Buddha's own teachings, the phrase is meaningless.

He is correct in his assertion that the idea of gods is irrelevant to the "path and practice" the Buddha taught.

The Buddha didn't seem to bother with trying to argue outsiders out of their beliefs in various gods, etc. What he would do instead is take the beliefs a person he was talking to already believed in, and turn them into teaching tools in a way that would point toward his own observations and recommendations. But they were not a part of his own internal, liberative teachings. I think the presenter is basically trying to get at that point or something like it, and if that is the case then he is quite correct.

Posts: 1161
Re: Is Buddhism a form of Atheism?
on: December 27, 2014, 11:06

Thanks for that BlueRoux. I have to admit that I know very little about buddhism so it's always nice to learn something new.

Edited to correct spelling of BlueRoux. 🙂

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