Friday, January 04, 2008

TELLING YOUR FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIAN MOM ABOUT BUDDHISM

So I'm answering piles of e-mail that have accumulated since I've been out of Internet reach. One of them was from a woman whose mom is a hardcore fundamentalist Christian. She wanted to know how to tell her mom about Buddhism. Here's what I wrote (slightly modified):

I never know what to say about Buddhism to people who have very fixed ideas about religion. Sometimes it seems like no matter what you say it's going to be shoved into some pre-ordained slot in their mind.

A few tried and true lines that sometimes get me out of trouble are: Buddhism isn't a religion, it's a philosophy. Buddhists don't worship Buddha or believe he was a God or a supernatural being of any kind. Buddha was an ordinary man who Buddhists regard as a kind of genius the way we think of Einstein or Beethoven as geniuses. The statues of Buddha are kind of like statues of Aristotle or Plato. Buddhists bow to these statues to show their respect, not to worship them.

It's perfectly acceptable to Buddhists if you're a Christian and a Buddhist at the same time. I know Christians often have a hard time accepting that, but Buddhists don't. Buddha's philosophy emphasizes compassion, kindness and physical and mental stability. We do our meditation practice to try and develop these qualities, not to go into some kind of spiritual trance or experience some kind of altered mental state. The very still and quiet feeling of meditation helps you become more stable and calm so that you are more able to act with kindness and compassion.

Just keep emphasizing that it's not a religion and that it is compatible with Christian beliefs. If she tries to research Buddhism she might find that other people do describe it as a religion (especially Christians who fear Buddhism, and even some Buddhists themselves). If she has studied it and holds some of these beliefs, I'd tell her that it is true some sects of Buddhism are more religious. It's even true there are Buddhists who think of Buddha as some kind of God. But tell her that Zen Buddhists are not like that, especially the ones who follow the philosophy of Dogen. Though it may be going too "deep" to try and explain Dogen to her. You could just say he was a 13th century Japanese Buddhist who tried to strip away all the religious aspects of Buddhism because he thought those religious aspects were not true to Buddha's original intention. This is arguable, of course. Some scholars regard Dogen as very religious. It really depends on how you define "religious." But it's one legitimate way to explain Dogen when you're talking to someone who's not going to listen to all the other details anyway.

Or just point out the window and yell, "Look! It's Big Foot!" And when she turns around to look outside, run away. That works too.


Man, I'm wasting time not finishing my third book. Gotta go do that.

Bye!

70 comments:

Mysterion said...

The foundational problem is Christianity is a preemptive religion. The general mindset within it is, "if you are not christian, then you are wrong." There is no debate about it. None.

This christian vanity reminds me of the old monk's vanity in this story:

There was a zen monk whose vanity was his poverty and humility. He lived in a cave outside his monastary, ate only food he could glean from what others threw away, and washed his robes only by walking in the rain. Once every week he would leave his cave and enter the monastary. There he would choose a young monk to walk with him that day so that he might give the younger man the benefit of is wisdom, which he was sure was both vast and deep. He delighted in tormenting the young students, and then lecturing the abbot about the poor quality of his teachings. One day while walking, the young man which he had chosen stopped to squat down and crap. When he finished, he looked up to the old monk and said, "Sensei, may I have a leaf to wipe my ass?' The old monk smiled mockingly. "The buddah teaches us to respect life in all of its wonderous forms. Is it respectful to the leaf to do such a thing?" The young man thought for a moment. "Then what about a stick?" he asked. A stick has no life, and surely the Buddah would not begrudge its use." The monk shook his head with disdain. "My son, the Buddah cherishes all life. He cherishes life that was, life that is, and life that will be. Look around you and choose again." The young man thought for a moment, then reached out and took the monk's sleeve and wiped his ass with it. The monk was utterly stunned. He looked at the shit on his sleeve, and then looked at the young man. "Why did you do that?" he shouted. "Why did you just smear your shit on my sleeve?" The young man stood and smiled kindly. "Sensei, I looked all around me, and the only thing I could find that the Buddah would neither respect nor cherish was you."
source

dood said...

now i'm wasting time reading about brad wasting time...

not the ven. mysterion - he's not wasting his time - i vote him 2007 blogger of the year. recognizing all his hard work and typing / httm skills...

take care,
d

ps- that's 2007 AD (In the year of the Lord Jesus Christ already)

dan said...

So hang on, buddhism isn't a religion but atheism is? How does that make sense?

Jules said...

dan wrote: So hang on, buddhism isn't a religion but atheism is? How does that make sense?

I think it depends how you define atheism. Some people spend a lot of time and energy asserting that they know the true nature of the Universe, and that it has no room for anything of a spiritual nature. Those people are religious atheists. They often spend a lot of time and energy ridiculing people of other religions, because like many of the other religions, they are quite sure that THEIR beliefs are the correct ones.

Other atheists (possibly the majority of them, I have no idea) are more in line with the Buddhist perspective that NO beliefs are capable of accurately reflecting the ineffable reality.

Blake said...

Good posting.

vinegar said...

Can you really be a Christian and a Buddhist?

It would seem you wouldn't be very good at either one.

Jules said...

vinegar wrote: Can you really be a Christian and a Buddhist?

It would seem you wouldn't be very good at either one.


I disagree completely. This is the highest teaching of Christianity:

From Wikipedia:
Christians believe that to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and Love your neighbor as yourself are the two most important things in life (the greatest commandment of the Jewish Torah, according to Jesus - c.f. Gospel of Mark chapter 12, verses 28-34). Saint Augustine summarized this when he wrote "Love God, and do as thou wilt".

If you believe the universe is God, and God is the universe, then following the above teaching will make you both an excellent Christian and an excellent Buddhist.

Sure, there are some Christian teachings and teachers which will strongly contradict this thesis. Some Buddhists will too. Frankly, I don't care. My interest in any religious teachings is rooted in making myself a better and happier human being and in making the world a better place.

I'm sure someone will say I'm oversimplifying. You might say, "the devil is in the details." Well, if you want to argue details, go argue with Saint Augustine, quoted above.

Mysterion said...

Blogger vinegar said...
"Can you really be a Christian and a Buddhist?"

Perspective:

From the Buddhist perspective, of course.

From the Fundie Christian perspective: no.

I know quite a few UU folks that are nominally both.

The above LINK might be suggested for Ven. Brad to consider for the topic.

Alex Hare said...

I was raised Christian (not fundamentalist, but stints with both Methodists and Baptists). What little I know about Zen Buddhism comes from Brad's two published books and reading the first couple chapters of Shobogenzo, so I'm still a total novice.

That said, I thought that Zen Buddhism pretty much says there's no such thing as a soul. There isn't anything that continues on once we die, so there's no "us" to go into either Heaven or Hell.

Isn't that a pretty big disconnect with Christianity?

It also seems that while Zen Buddhism is compatible with some of the principles attributed to Jesus' teachings, it's pretty much at odds with central doctrines of Christianity such as the divine nature of Christ, the Resurrection, the Atonement, and most everything that makes Christianity what it is as a religion.

What am I missing?

perruche said...

My first (conditioned) reaction was, why put up such walls between Zen Buddhists and the rest of the Buddhist family, like Vajrayana and Shin Buddhists, who may very well regard Buddhism as their religion?

But you're not trying to do that. You're trying to help this woman get along with her mom. And I can't argue with that.

I had this same kind of discussion with my mom, way back when, but I chose to emphasize that we live in a multireligious, multicultural society, that individuals have freedom of religious choice under the U.S. Constitution and that she needed to respect my choices in life if she was going to maintain a relationship with me. None of this seemed to help very much.

So I guess the Bigfoot solution is my favorite one. Hey, look out behind you!

Gerald Ford said...

I would have to take issue with the notion that Buddhism is just a philosophy (even Zen), but I think this article gives a much more comprehensive explanation of Buddhism is and isn't:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bullitt/bfaq.html#neither-and-both

In short: Buddhism is a religion, and it isn't. ;)

Cheers!

Gerald Ford said...

Hm, now with a proper link.

:p

Mysterion said...

Gerald Ford said...
"Hm, now with a proper link."

Gerald 'a.k.a. cardinal richelieu' good link! Buddhism is/isn't a philosophy. Buddhism is/isn't a religion.

"In Theravada, the path to liberating insight does not boil down to a single meditation technique or to being continuously mindful. The path to Awakening is full of surprising twists and turns but, thankfully, the Buddha left for us an assortment of tools to use and skills to learn to help us safely make the journey."

Theravada

dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan said...

"It also seems that while Zen Buddhism is compatible with some of the principles attributed to Jesus' teachings, it's pretty much at odds with central doctrines of Christianity such as the divine nature of Christ, the Resurrection, the Atonement, and most everything that makes Christianity what it is as a religion.

What am I missing?"

Not much i think. The thing is that ALL religions share the ' be nice to each other, dont act out of selfishness, dont steal and kill etc etc ' but so does every one. Pretty much everyone regardless of religion of lack of. Barring a few psychopaths everyone has these concepts deeply ingrained into them. It's not religions that share these core values its human beings that do and human beings created the religions.

but all the other stuff that goes on top like ' christ is divine, reincarnation is real, zazen is the best thing that you can do with your body, actively trying to spread the teachings of your religion is a good thing etc etc. '

All these other things are what make religions largely incompatible.

Which brings me onto atheism.

Atheism strictly speaking is a lack of belief in God. That's it. If you lack a belief in God that makes you an atheist. Unlike religions, there are no moral codes, social customs, cultural affiliations etc etc explicitly associated with it. There is no ritual nor dogma (How could not believing in something for which there is no evidence for the existence of, unless you define it in such a way that it's existence becomes trivial, be described as subsribing to a dogma?)

There is no methaphysics attached to it. Atheism certainly implies a strict materialist philosophy but not neccesarily. In Japan the lack of a belief in God is common but belief in ghosts is also common so its possible to be an atheist and still belieive in some kind of esoteric spiritual dimension.

Ceraint atheists being argumentative and outspoken makes them no more religious than people who are outspoken about the death penalty or whether income tax is a good thing or whether the lochness monster exists. Someone who went out of their way to publish literature arguing against the existence of the loch ness monster could only be described as religious or evangelical in the most abstract (or as jinzang put it, metaphorical) of senses. Despite the zeal of the people who publish books and speak publicly about the non existence of the loch ness monster, and in fact, the vast armies of non-believers who dont believe in the loch ness monster, there is no religion of not believing in the loch ness monster and neither is there a religion of people who dont believe in God.

Jules said...

alex hase wrote: That said, I thought that Zen Buddhism pretty much says there's no such thing as a soul. There isn't anything that continues on once we die, so there's no "us" to go into either Heaven or Hell. Isn't that a pretty big disconnect with Christianity?

Zen does NOT teach that there isn't anything that continues on once we die. See below for a better explanation.

Whether it's a real disconnect depends whether you think the important parts of a religion or philosophy are the parts which tell you how to live every day, or whether they are the parts which theoretically describe what will happen to us at some point in the future, when we die. I think the teachings about how to live are a lot more important.

A novice asks a Master: “What happens when we die?” the Master shrugs and says, “I don’t know.” “But you’re a Zen Master!” protests the student. “Yes,” responds the Master. “but I’m not a DEAD Zen Master.

--

Kutadanta: Tell me, O Lord, pray tell me, where, if all the parts of me are dissolved, is the identity of my self?
If my thoughts are propagated, and if my soul migrates, my thoughts cease to be my thoughts and my soul ceases to be my soul. Give me an illustration, but pray, O Lord, tell me, where is the identity of my self?

Buddha: Suppose a man were to light a lamp; would it burn throughout the night?

Kutadanta: Yes, it might do so.

Buddha: Now, is it the same flame that burns in the first watch of the night as in the second?

Kutadanta: (hesitates) No, it is not.

Buddha: Then is there more than one flame, one in the first watch and the other in the second watch?

Kutadanta: No, sir. In one sense it is not the same flame, but in another sense it is the same flame. It burns the same kind of oil, it emits the same kind of light, and it serves the same purpose.


(Much good stuff skipped for brevity, full text here)

Buddha: Where is your self?

Kutadanta: (silence)

Buddha: Your self to which you cleave is in constant change. Years ago, you were a small babe; then, you were a boy; then a youth, and now, you are a man. Is there any identity of the babe and the man? There is an identity in a certain sense only. Indeed, there is more identity between the flames of the first watch and the third watch, even though the lamp might have been extinguished during the second watch. Now which is your true self, that of yesterday, that of today, or that of tomorrow, for the preservation of which you clamour?


(more good stuff skipped for brevity)

Kutadanta: I have faith in the glory and excellency of your doctrines. My eye cannot as yet endure the light; but I now understand that there is no self, and the truth dawns upon me. Sacrifices cannot save, and invocations are idle talk. But how shall I find the path to life everlasting? I know all the Vedas by heart and have not found the truth.

Buddha: Learning is a good thing; but it avails not. True wisdom can be acquired by practice only. Practice the truth that your brother is the same as you. Walk in the noble path of righteousness and you will understand that while there is death in self, there is immortality in truth.

Kutadanta: Let me take my refuge in the Blessed One, in the Dharma, and in the brotherhood. Accept me as your disciple and let me partake of the bliss of immortality.

cometboy said...

Hey Alex,

I'll try and give my take on your question based on the little I've read about Zen.

As far as I can tell, Zen Buddhism has nothing to say one way or another about the soul. It also has nothing to say about the Resurrection of Christ, the Atonement or the Holy Trinity. It has nothing to say about whether these things did or did not happen.

I think that when people say that Buddhism is compatible with this religion or that religion, they are not saying that Buddhism affirms these beliefs. It just does not contradict them.

Anyhow, that's my take. Don't confuse me with anyone who is an authority on Zen. When someone who does understand something about Zen points to the moon, I'm checking out their finger :)

Mysterion said...

Alex Hare sed...
"It also seems that... Buddhism is compatible with some of the principles attributed to Jesus' teachings..."

"What am I missing?"

Nothing.

Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings, by Marcus Borg (Editor)

Jules said...

dan wrote: Certain atheists being argumentative and outspoken makes them no more religious than people who are outspoken about the death penalty or whether income tax is a good thing or whether the lochness monster exists.

Your point is apparent. I myself have said, "saying atheism is a religion is like saying baldness is a hair color," in a discussion about atheists who were not fervent or zealous, because those atheists didn't pretend that they actually understood the nature of the universe. I would not call those atheists religious.

But you have to admit some atheists are extremely fervent and zealous in promoting their beliefs about the nature of the universe. If those guys aren't religious, they sure aren't far from it.

Anonymous said...

> So hang on, buddhism isn't a religion but atheism is? How does that make sense?

Hi Dan, yes, well summarised. It;s the same thing. :)

JdR

Lone Wolf said...

Brad-

Does Dogen teach his followers to practice the six paramitas (generosity,ethics,patience,joyful effort, concentration, wisdom)? If so, what is his view of them?

Anonymous said...

oh fuckall there goes that mysterion assface telling us about the "foundational problem" again. I think he's a secret big-minder sent here to make this world so painful it will force us to shift into big mind. (bumpersticker i saw the other day: "Neck Deep in Shift"--that's exactly what mysterion is, except he's Neck Deep in Horse-Shift aaahahahhahaha)!

Anonymous said...

ummm...you mean the TEN paramis?? Or, with mysterion, there are eleven: Perfect AssFacedness aaahahahahha somebody stop me ochrist i should never have had that second latte.

Jules said...

ummm...you mean the TEN paramis?? Or, with mysterion, there are eleven: Perfect AssFacedness aaahahahahha somebody stop me ochrist i should never have had that second latte.

Just two lattes? What were they spiked with?

Anonymous said...

haha you're right jules i think i may have been poisoned...*ninja barista--tell Captain Janeway one to beam up!

Jinzang said...

You could just say [Dogen] was a 13th century Japanese Buddhist who tried to strip away all the religious aspects of Buddhism because he thought those religious aspects were not true to Buddha's original intention.

The Bendowa says:

"To Mahakasyapa alone on Grdhrakuta Mountain the Buddha transmitted the eye and treasury of the true law, the superior mind of enlightenment and supreme doctrine, and some gods in heaven saw it. Don't doubt this. The gods of heaven protect Buddhism eternally. This is still a living fact. "

Jinzang said...

I just read a post on E-Sangha that I thought was appropriate to the whole "Zen is not a religion" debate. So appropriate that it almost makes me believe in synchronicity.

Any religion, including Zen, requires an open mind. If you take rationality as your dogma (and this is coming from a mathematician, mind you, logic is my main tool) you drastically limit any prospect of a breakthrough. So if you want Zen to reinforce your opinions and beliefs, that's not Zen. If you want Zen to let go of delusion and awaken to Reality, then that's a different story. But for that a bit of humility and an open mind is needed, I think.

I also came to Zen with a very rational approach, having read Alan Watts' The Way of Zen, which is very logical. But the funny thing is that Zen points beyond logic, to the place where logic and all mental processes originate. This origin is translogical, transrational, it is beyond description, because it cannot be experienced. It is the experiencer itself. And turning its focus back on itself produces a state without subject and object. Get your rational brain around that, because I sure as hell can't!

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerry Gomez said...

found this on line regarding Watts:

"Before he died, Alan talked about how reincarnation was a perfectly logical belief. He told his daughter Joan that after he died, he would come back as Joan's daughter, a beautiful redhead. Joan conceived shortly after Alan's death and gave birth to a redheaded child named Laura, who seemed to display some of Alan's signature moves. At a young age, she accompanied her mother Joan to one of Joan's friend's house. Laura walked up to a cupboard where liquor was kept, reached into the back and pulled out a handle of vodka." Source: Zen Effects, the Alan Watts Biography

Rehab is for quitters.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Stuff and THANGS!
I'm tired of arguing about this BULLSHIT.
Ya'll know how you should engage your life.
Leave it at that!

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Brad, taken in the context you wrote it, that post was the most beautiful thing I've ever read of yours. You fuckin' marshmallow.

I've liked some of the above posts, and there were some nice quotes too. Plus, of course, the usual comments that bug me -- the greatest teachers of all.

We're sitting tomorrow morning (Saturday) at Hill Street Center, 0945. If you hate Brad, you'll love not sitting with him. And we're saranwrap-and-raw-egg-hazing a newbie. Good times.

Rob

Roman G. said...

That said, I thought that Zen Buddhism pretty much says there's no such thing as a soul. There isn't anything that continues on once we die, so there's no "us" to go into either Heaven or Hell.

I was wondering when shunyata would come into the discussion. According to this Buddhist principle, nothing has intrinsic existence which would preclude the existence of a permanent essence (an 'eternal soul') as well as that of a permanent personified self-existent deity.

How is this compatible with Christianity ?

Anonymous said...

What? That book's not done yet?
No more bands or band practice until your homework is up.

Anonymous said...

If dogs run free, then why not we
Across the swooping plain?
My ears hear a symphony
Of two mules, trains and rain.
The best is always yet to come,
That's what they explain to me.
Just do your thing, you'll be king,
If dogs run free.

If dogs run free, why not me
Across the swamp of time?
My mind weaves a symphony
And tapestry of rhyme.
Oh, winds which rush my tale to thee
So it may flow and be,
To each his own, it's all unknown,
If dogs run free.

If dogs run free, then what must be,
Must be, and that is all.
True love can make a blade of grass
Stand up straight and tall.
In harmony with the cosmic sea,
True love needs no company,
It can cure the soul, it can make it whole,
If dogs run free.

Anonymous said...

"Rehab is for quitters."
LOL
Best Quote of The Year So Far!
So much for New Year's resolutions...
It's only 5 days into the new year
and already I feel compelled to view
BIG FISH!
(Thanks, gerry gomez ;)

Just listened to "Daisy Bomb" and
realized that Robyn Hitchcock's
voice sounds a lot like Brad's...
which reminds me that I just saw
the sweet and funny movie "Juno"
and then read screenwriter
Diablo Cody's book "Candy Girl"
about her life as a sex worker --
very funny. if you like Brad's books
and Suicide Girls, you probably
would enjoy Diablo Cody who in some
ways is very similar to Brad:

1) she got started writing books by
first writing a popular blog.

2) she often uses the word "dude".

3) she's got good taste in music and
movies.

4) she describes the sex trade with
hilarious zen clarity.

5) one of her favorite customers
was a Buddhist.

6) and, most importantly, she has been
known to wear Kiss underpants with
the face of Peter Criss on them.

Now if only Brad could get on Letterman!

allornothing said...

I just read "Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life" by Alan Watts. It covers Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism, often confusing them which I like. When it comes to the subject of personal lives, I don't think about that more than this sentence because that requires judging others. I wouldn't use anyone's writings as the only source of my knowledge, I'm sure Watts could shed light on zen, as could many others.

My thoughts on who to read is: everyone. You never know who might have a delicious nugget of wisdom. I like going to bookstores / libraries and browsing for treasures.

My wife was just at a bookstore yesterday and she picked up a book by Deepak Chopra and read it while she was at a food court in a mall. It stated (paraphrasing): "Imagine you are at a food court in a mall, observe everything and everyone around you." The chapter was on synchronicity. That is crazy.

One thing that I found interesting about Alan Watts is some things sounded exactly like what Wayne Dyer / Deepak Chopra would say, even using the same examples(ie a wake which doesn't drive a boat).

I recommend reading everything you can about everything. But after you have this knowledge, the trick is to use it while being humble bcause knowledge is about understanding, nothing more. One of my favorite quotes is "Let go of your need to be right."

LaserJack said...

@mysterion:
"The foundational problem is Christianity is a preemptive religion. The general mindset within it is, "if you are not christian, then you are wrong." There is no debate about it. None."

Yes, but didn't Brad himself state (some post couple of months ago) that a teacher should or even *MUST* state that his teaching is superior to anything else?

I know what he means by it - but that doesn't neccesarily make it less confusing for the reader.

It's possible, he is just getting milder and older... And more tolerant. That is a good thing.

@brad's post:
My teacher - a extremely mild and calm person - repeats that you won't get calm by doing Zazen, and you won't get quiet by doing Zazen. You won't get anything doing Zazen.

From my observation, you may or may not be able to express more of your nature, whether it is quiet or verbose, whether it is excited or calm.

The idea that you change though meditation is a that of salvation. As I understand Buddhism, that's not the point of it. I think advertising mediation has it's use but I somehow think it's wrong at the same time.

One last impression or rather opinion: For me, Buddhist practice is not Zazen alone, actually it's not even Zazen at all if you look it formally. You can pratice while doing Zazen and you will probably will after some time, you can't help.

But Zazen (= sitting meditation) is not pratice itself. Neither it is totally required but yes, it makes certain "things" a lot easier. Just as some stuff (drugs, agression, etc.) makes it harder. Shakyamuni had some recommendations after all.

LaserJack

Anonymous said...

I am a christian and like to meditate. I sit and stare at the wall, set a timer, and use a mala. But there is no praying or worshiping the buddha. I don't really see anything wrong with christians meditating. It really has deepened my faith. The thing that bugs me about church services is all the singing and vocal prayers. I think if everyone would just sit ten minutes in silence, people would be shocked.

Matt said...

Deepak Chopra: "Next, imagine yourself holding a book. You probably acquired it at a Books A Million, Barnes and Noble, or Borders. You have probably eaten lunch. That means this is your body type. Now stick out your tongue. The infinite wisdom of the universe is yours. To join my institute and purhase my next book, write to this address....."

Gerry Gomez said...

anonymous said: "'Rehab is for quitters.' LOL Best Quote of The Year So Far!"

I wish I could take credit for that; I saw it on a t-shirt.

Thanks for the info on Diablo Cody. The Letterman clip is great!

Regarding Watts, I would recommend his autobiography, In My Own Way. He was a great writer/story teller, and really fun. His personal life, like most ours, was sometimes messy. Affairs, drink, contradictions, etc. does not diminish his talent.

Gerry

can't believe I'm the first to say it said...

"...and that's the story of the old monk's vanity," said Mr Pot to Mr Kettle.

Anonymous said...

mysterion is a bloghog, if not a blogaholic
amid the copious are some nuggets
if you don't feel like panning for the nuggets
(who could blame you?) then just use his posts as flagstones in a garden: a way through it.
the mystery to me, after all this time, and all this free feedback, is his persistance in remaining the same:
some of it is truly generous (thank you!) and some if it is just--well--you know--and enough already!
I wish he would make a resolution to post on every other blog so we could at least experience the mysterion-free zone we imagine we want
maybe we really don't
BUT WE ARE NEVER GOING TO FIND OUT, ARE WE MYSTERION?

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pooyan said...

Atheism is a belief, not necessarily a religion. people can act quite fervent in defense of almost any belief, (911 was a conspiracy, liberalism is a disease, eating animals is murder.) I think the especially zealous of any believers often appear very religious.

Also Atheism is a belief in No God. Its a little more than the lack of a belief in god.

Zen Buddhism tends to look more like a religion from the outside looking in. To me it is not, but that is my feeling. some others treat it almost just like a religion.

Before I became a buddhist I was raised Mormon of all things. I came to know that what I was a part of was not what I believed, and for a while, before I found Buddhism, I took as my own religion a kind of, what would Jesus do attitude. I didn't believe Christ was divine, I just thought he had his head straight and was a person I should try to act like as opposed to believe in.

So if we define our terms as follows: Christianity= belief in the divinity of Jesus, then no Buddhism isn't very in accord with it. If we define Christianity as
followers of the teachings of Jesus, thaan I think it fits in quite well.

pooyan said...

I understand that Mysterion often has alot to say, but to be honest the anti-Mysterion posts are more distracting and frustrating than anything I have seen him post. I can read what I want and admittedly skip some of the longest posts. yet It irks me some to see alot of name calling and cursing and attacks. Wheather it is done in anger or humor Itis off putting to many posters who I'm sure are not posting because they watch the blogg comments degrade into attacks.

This is the only post I will post on the subject, i said my piece. chew on it, don't spit, don't swallow, just chew.

dan said...

pooyan,

"Atheism is a belief, not necessarily a religion. people can act quite fervent in defense of almost any belief, (911 was a conspiracy, liberalism is a disease, eating animals is murder.) I think the especially zealous of any believers often appear very religious. Also Atheism is a belief in No God. Its a little more than the lack of a belief in god."


All that is required to make you an atheist is a lack of a belief in god. It is not neccessary to also acquire the belief that there is no god. You are right that a person who went around saying 'there definitely isn't a God, i know this as a fact' has then gone a step further and has acquired a belief.

What you are then describing is 'hard' or 'strong' atheism. The problem is very few people if any exist who have this belief. Even Richard Dawkins doesn't describe himself as such. He says he cannot know whether there deinfitely is a god or not but he just thinks it's extremely unlikely and so he will lack a belief in god until shown otherwise. No belief in No God required.

Jules said...

dan wrote: You are right that a person who went around saying 'there definitely isn't a God, i know this as a fact' has then gone a step further and has acquired a belief.

What you are then describing is 'hard' or 'strong' atheism. The problem is very few people if any exist who have this belief.


If there were no strong atheists (the ones I've been calling 'religious atheists') then it seems like there wouldn't me much use for anyone creating a word to describe them. They exist. I have talked with them. There is such a thing as religious atheism. But nobody is accusing you of being a religious atheist, Dan.

grisom said...

(Frequent reader, infrequent poster)

It also seems that while Zen Buddhism is compatible with some of the principles attributed to Jesus' teachings, it's pretty much at odds with central doctrines of Christianity such as the divine nature of Christ, the Resurrection, the Atonement, and most everything that makes Christianity what it is as a religion.

What am I missing?


My take on this is: Buddhist teaching is people trying to describe their own experiences. It's not something you're expected to believe in. As Brad put it once: "Take every single thing I say with a grain—no, make that a shakerful—of salt." God knows I have no idea what most Buddhist teachings even mean, let alone whether I agree with them.

So, if your teacher says there's no such thing as a soul, but you think there is, no big deal. It's perfectly acceptable to practice Buddhism (meditate, keep the Precepts) and not agree with everything your teacher says. Though I think you also need to be willing to entertain the notion that you're totally wrong about everything.

dan said...

"If there were no strong atheists (the ones I've been calling 'religious atheists') then it seems like there wouldn't me much use for anyone creating a word to describe them. They exist. I have talked with them. There is such a thing as religious atheism."

Well if they do exist i've yet to meet one. Can you name a famous religious atheist since even dawkins it seems wont go to those lengths?

The use in creating the word would be that it helps to undermine atheism which a lot of people love to do (by calling it a faith based belief system/ a religion etc.
Like a straw man argument. Set up this mythological 'religious' atheist and then attack him for not making any sense therefore showing atheism is crap.

mariedrennan said...

Thanks for reposting that part of your response. I've got some religious folks in my family, and while there's no overt fighting about it, there are definitely some gaps in our communication. It doesn't bother me generally, except that I think it is preventing me from getting to know my young nieces and nephews, which makes me sad.

Anyhow, I hope you don't mind that I linked to your post. Thanks again!

roman g. said...

allornothing said:
One thing that I found interesting about Alan Watts is some things sounded exactly like what Wayne Dyer / Deepak Chopra would say, even using the same examples(ie a wake which doesn't drive a boat).

Wouldn't that be the other way around ? Wouldn't Dyer/Chopra be using Watts' examples since Watts wrote them first ?

Watts may not be universally loved in the Buddhist community, and certainly not the best example of a teacher, but, unlike some modern "gurus," at least he was original in his presentation and sincere in his pursuit despite his obvious failures.

allornothing said...

"Wouldn't that be the other way around ? "

Yes I was ambiguous, Alan Watts used the example before them. But the important part is they(Chopra, Dyer) reference the same information, and yes they have a vested interest to sell you stuff, just like the Maharishi sold Transcendental Meditation to the world. I look at it more as 'spirituality for dummies.' When Chopra puts down atheism and talks about god, I just replace god with 'self' and look for hidden gems, and I have found them. But there is still wisdom there, and it doesnt cost you anything if you visit the library.

Another one is the Peace Pilgrim:

http://www.peacepilgrim.net/ - audio is free.

allornothing said...

Thomas Merton combined Christianity and Buddhism.

Meditation isn't applicable just to Buddhism:

"All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." - Blaise Pascal.

I believe there are quotes in the bible that talk about meditation/silence.

grisom said...

Love the Pascal quote.

I believe there are quotes in the bible that talk about meditation/silence.

Rev. Jiyu Kennett used to like "Be still, and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10).

I've just found out that the Hebrew word for "be still" there can also mean "let go", which is nice.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pherdacil said...

Wow, that was a great discription about the matter. Zen is truly a difficult thing to explane to someone.

Mysterion said...

One regions psalms are another regions Vedas. RV 10.27 is a case in point.

The Yajur-Veda of Veda of Worship was used by priests who sang at the Soma (mushroom) sacrifice, it is quite similar in conception to the book of Psalms. A few scholars are taking a second look at the first 50 psalms and the Vedas. While a few psalms (e.g. Psalm 29) were borrowed from Ras Shamra, it seems quite a few may have been borrowed, without much interest, from the Hindoos.

In Psalm 104, we have seen the light.

LUX und PAX
O-cha-ryu

Jules said...

dan: Well if they do exist i've yet to meet one. Can you name a famous religious atheist since even dawkins it seems wont go to those lengths?


You really think there have never been any strong atheists?

Enver Hoxha, for one.

In 1941, the League of the Militant Godless had 3.5 million members.

Or you could look for more academic arguments.

Or you could look in internet discussion groups for any atheist ridiculing a religious person simply for believing in God. It shouldn't take you long.

Bon Ami said...

This post had me laughing at the first and last line. It caught my eye because my mom is very much the fundamentalist Christian. Great blog! I'll be coming back for more:)

earDrum said...

The other day i heard two comedians debating about gods and religions. One said that he doesn't believe in god. He wondered how you might know which religion to pick, since each one has a god. He said that one of the worst things you can do according to the bible is to worship another god. So if it happens that there actually is a god, then once he gets to the pearly gates he will say, "Well at least I didn't believe in another god!".

earDrum said...

Years ago, I read a very entertaining book about Synchronicity.

http://www.fdavidpeat.com/bibliography/books/synchronicity.htm

dan said...

Apologies for never having heard of Enver Hoxha.

Your communist examples do not really fit the criteria though. Being extremely anti-religious like the league of the militant godless is perfectly compatible with being a soft atheist.

When I say hard and soft I am talking about the philosophy that the agent subscribes to rather than their zealousness in attacking religion and promoting atheism. I didn't see anything about Enver Hoxha or the league claiming that God definitely doesn't exist and that they know this. I just saw a load of stuff about their persecution of religious folk.

"Or you could look in internet discussion groups for any atheist ridiculing a religious person simply for believing in God. "

Again, that's not strong atheism. Ridiculing someone for believing in God is not the same as claiming knowledge about the existence of God.

dan said...

Apologies for never having heard of Enver Hoxha.

Your communist examples do not really fit the criteria though. Being extremely anti-religious like the league of the militant godless is perfectly compatible with being a soft atheist.

When I say hard and soft I am talking about the philosophy that the agent subscribes to rather than their zealousness in attacking religion and promoting atheism. I didn't see anything about Enver Hoxha or the league claiming that God definitely doesn't exist and that they know this. I just saw a load of stuff about their persecution of religious folk.

"Or you could look in internet discussion groups for any atheist ridiculing a religious person simply for believing in God. "

Again, that's not strong atheism. Ridiculing someone for believing in God is not the same as claiming knowledge about the existence of God.

Jules said...

Your communist examples do not really fit the criteria though. Being extremely anti-religious like the league of the militant godless is perfectly compatible with being a soft atheist.

Shenanigans. The hair won't split so fine. If someone has gotten so confident in their position that they're willing to ridicule someone for believing in God (or, for that matter, confiscate their property and imprison them) then they've crossed the line.

Most of the evil things that Dawkins has accused religion of causing have also been done in the name of atheism (or Country, or Party). The problem is not religion. The problem is people thinking their ideals are more important than other people.

I don't know why you're so unwilling to accept the idea that strong atheists exist. Why do you care so much? Nobody accused you of being one.

grisom said...

Most of the evil things that Dawkins has accused religion of causing have also been done in the name of atheism (or Country, or Party). The problem is not religion. The problem is people thinking their ideals are more important than other people.

My two cents:

What Dawkins and the rest of the so-called "New Atheists" actually mean by "religion" is something like "certainty without evidence". Which includes, in their view, belief in God, but also a bunch of other things.

Which is why when people go "hey, but Stalin--" they usually respond that Communism is a religion. And also why that response never makes any sense to the other side, who are usually using "religion" to mean something like "belief in the supernatural".

dan said...

i accept that there are people out there who are fiercly opposed to religion.

I do not accept that there are people out there who think that they know for certain God doesn't exist. I dont accept this idea that Atheism is a belief system which is what strong atheism is - the belief that there is no god. Communism is a belief system sure and that explains your examples but Atheism isn't. i dont think there are 'believers' in Atheism in the same way that there are believers in religions or ideologies.

Jules said...

Dan: I do not accept that there are people out there who think that they know for certain God doesn't exist.

Uhhh, okaaay...

"Oh, hello, Mr. Smirnov. Well, this is a little awkward, but it says here you believe in God. We're not entirely certain that God doesn't exist, but I'm afraid we're going to have to confiscate all your property and imprison you and your family anyway. Terribly sorry about this. You see, the state's embraced Atheism, and this is just how it goes, you know?"

dan said...

"Oh, hello, Mr. Smirnov. Well, this is a little awkward, but it says here you believe in God. We're not entirely certain that God doesn't exist, but I'm afraid we're going to have to confiscate all your property and imprison you and your family anyway. Terribly sorry about this. You see, the state's embraced Atheism, and this is just how it goes, you know?"


Again that was done in the name of Communism. Christianity is a competing ideology with Communism but it is not a competing ideology with Atheism. The Communists persecuted the christians etc because belief in god was seen as dangerous - your allegiance wasn't 100% committed to The Party and all that. The persecution wasn't done in the name of Atheism it was done in the name of Communism. Claimed knowledge of the certainty of God's existence is not relevant. All you need is some commies who dont believe in God and a christian who does and for the commies to persecute him based on that belief that he holds(although actually it wasn't so muuch the belief they had problems with it was the religions as comepting insitutions that went along with the beliefs gave them problems. The commies certainty or lack of about god's existence need not enter into it.
Basically it boils down to the fact that you cant prove a negative so no one can ever have proof that god doesn't exist so it it is not reasonable to think that people go around knowing that a negative statement like 'god doesn't exist'.
Like the tooth fairy, no one can ever prove the tooth fairy doesn't exist, the available evidence suggests that it is extremely unlikely that she does but it would take a funny sort of person who really, when they thought about it, claimed that they KNEW that the tooth fairy didn't exist. It is sufficient to simply not believe in the tooth fairy. A compulsion to then go around and persecute people who do believe in the tooth fairy is kind of a separate issue.

Jules said...

I get it, Dan, I get it. I just think the distinction you're making is splitting hairs, is not materially relevant to the point at hand, and anyway the whole discussion is ridiculous. As far as I'm concerned, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Zen isn't for Christians. But Christians MUST be for Zen Buddhists. Jesus stole my zabuton!