What Do Atheists
Think Of The
Buddhist Faith?
Jay Horsmena

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "kevin.horseman"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Monday, July 30, 2001 11:02 PM

As long as we understand that by "faith" you mean religion, and not necessarily what a Christian would mean in describing "the saving faith in Christ," I think the use of the word is legitimate. However, I try to avoid oxymoronic use of terms such as "devout atheist," especially if the oxymoron could be seen as degrading. I don't get a sense of degradation from your use of faith here.

Buddhism is probably my favorite religion, although Buddhism, like all organized ideologies, opens itself to abuse and exploitation. If Pat Robertson gains control and we are all required to join a religion, I'd join the Unitarian Church and quietly practice atheistic Buddhism; If he made us join only Christian religions, there are plenty of Christian sects which are essentially Buddhism with the names changed. Most of the tenets in the New Testament that I consider healthy or good can be traced to the fact that Buddhism was popular in the Palestine regions during the times Christ is alleged to have lived.

I like Buddhism because it tends to have built-in protection against the exclusivism which is so prevalent in the monotheistic religions. Buddhism thus avoids the problem of thinking there is any such thing One True Faith. Because of this, the idea of "us-versus-them" is, for the most part, absent from Buddhism (though you will find vestiges of "us-versus-them" thinking in almost any organized ideology -- including some expressions of atheism; the only organized ideology which actively and openly shuns the "us-versus-them" thinking altogether is liberal scientific method).

While some Buddhists, particularly those in the West, tend to get evangelical about it, the sense of urgency found in many expressions Christianity and Islam is not present in most forms of Buddhism. Again, I think this urgency has more to do with monotheism than anything else: monotheists think there's only one expression of truth, that they have a monopoly this one expression (since they believe in the One True God), and thus think it is their duty to "help" the rest of us see the light (whatever it takes). This "Right Man" syndrome, as Colin Wilson put it, tends to get out of hand.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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