Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Buddhist Atheists - Amusing or just Pitiful?

I never thought that I’d live to see anything more curious than atheists ignoring scientific evidence because it didn’t support their belief system. Ding Dong I was wrong.

Something that I’m finding more and more often on atheist blogs is the “confession” of atheists who are self-identifying as Buddhists. Now I understand that Buddhists are technically atheists. However, to encounter atheists who pride themselves on being rational, logical and immune to superstition, and who also proclaim their Buddhism, well, that is just so amazing to me! Now of course these atheists rarely say which of the several dozen Buddhas they follow. For example, is it
Buddha Dipankara, or
Buddha Dhammadassi, or
Buddha Kondanna, or
Buddha Siddhattha, or
Buddha Mangalaa, or
Buddha Tissaa, or
Buddha Sumanaa, or
Buddha Phussa, or
Buddha Revataa, or
Buddha Vipassi, or
Buddha Spbhitaa, or
Buddha Sikhi, or
Buddha Anomadassi, or
Buddha Vessabhu, or
Buddha Padumaa, or
Buddha Kakusandha, or
Buddha Naradaa, or
Buddha Konagamana, or
Buddha Padumuttaraa, or
Buddha Kassapa, or
Buddha Gautama, or
Buddha Sumedha, or
Buddha Sujata, or
Buddha Piyadassi, or
Buddha Atthadassi or any of the others too numerous to mention here?

As well, atheists don’t say (don’t know?) which type of Buddhism they follow, but that doesn’t stop them from saying, “I’m a Buddhist.” And while their ignoring science is hard enough to comprehend, I just wished someone would explain how they rationalise the following with their rational, logical, superstition avoiding atheist beliefs. In the teaching about Buddhism we find these “facts.”

Immediately after his birth, Buddha stood up, took seven steps north, and fearlessly uttered:
Supreme am I in the world
Greatest am I in the world.
Noblest am I in the world.
This is my last birth,
Never shall I be reborn"

As proof of his enlightenment, The Buddha, using only his mind, created a golden bridge in the air, and walked up and down the bridge for an entire week.

. On the first day [of an important festival] Buddha held his toothpick, put it on the ground and it turned to the wish fulfilling tree. It was decorated with jewels, like a Christmas tree.
. On the second day Buddha manifested two wish fulfilling jewels.
. On the third day the king offered to wash Buddha's feet. When Buddha washed his feet, he threw the water and it became a pool with the eight special qualities of water.
. On the fourth day it rained and the rain filled the eight canals.
. On the fifth day Buddha emitted golden light from his mouth and people could see beings of the six realms being liberated.
. On the sixth day Buddha transformed some energy and everyone became clairvoyant and knew each others minds.
. On the seventh day Buddha manifested as the wheel turning king and many people converted to Buddhism.

When the time came for the contest, the Buddha cast a mango seed on the ground; instantly the seed took root, and a great mango tree arose to shade the hall.

After The Buddha returned to his father's kingdom, some people were still unsure about whether Gautama Buddha was really enlightened or not. Some perceived him as the same Gautama that had abandoned his family to become an ascetic. Apparently he was much improved. In order to clear the obscurations to their pure perception, Buddha produced flames from the upper part of his body and streams of water from the lower part of his body, and did so similarly between the left and right sides of his body. Six coloured rays sprang from every pore of his body, reaching up to the highest realms and down the lowest realms. He performed this miracle on numerous occasions to ripen the minds of those in attendance.

Even for those of us who are jaded and cynical and believe that we’ve seen it all, that kind of a stunt is proof of something pretty, um, special.

For what it’s worth, in 2006, millions of people flocked to Sri Lanka as rumours spread that several statues were giving off colourful “Buddha rays.” I wonder if any of the atheist bloggers were among the faithful? I’ll have to ask next time I encounter one.

On one occasion, Buddha flew into a Brahma's world, and skilfully explained to the Brahma that all things are transient and temporary and devoid of independent existence. After hearing The Buddha's words, the Brahma felt intense faith and decided to follow The Buddha's Dharma. The Brahma then requested a competition of powers between the two of them. The Brahma hid himself in many places but The Buddha easily pointed out where he was located. Then The Buddha hid himself in voidness and meditation but the Brahma could not spot him. The Brahma's faith in The Buddha was increased. No doubt!

A cousin of The Buddha, the son of the Buddha's maternal Uncle, was named Devadatta. Devadatta was tormented from early in his life by jealousy against his superior cousin. After trying quite a number of dastardly schemes to no avail, one day Devadatta set loose a fierce elephant, known as Dhanapala, to destroy The Buddha. This elephant, who had been intoxicated into a crazed state by his keepers, ran through the town towards The Buddha. A frightened woman accidentally dropped her baby at the Buddha's feet. Just as the elephant, who was headed for The Buddha, was about to trample the child, The Buddha calmly reached up and touched the elephant on the forehead. The elephant became calm and quiet, then knelt down before The Buddha. Some accounts indicate that The Buddha then gave a personal Dharma sermon to this elephant.

One day Gautama Buddha asked his disciple Ananda to go get him some drinking water from a well. Ananda however repeatedly told The Buddha that the well was filled with grass and chaff, and thus not drinkable. However The Buddha continuously asked Ananda, so Ananda went to the well. As Ananda walked to the well, Buddha with his power alone expelled all the grass and chaff from the well, so the water was radiant and clean.

At one time Gautama Buddha walked on water by levitating over a stream in order to convert a Brahman to Buddhism.

Standing in the air at the height of a palm tree, flames englufed the lower part of his body, and five hundred jets of water streamed from the upper part. Then flames leapt from the upper part of his body, and five hundred jets of water streamed from the lower part. Then by his magic power, the Blessed one transformed himself into a bull with a quivering hump. Appearing in the east, the bull vanished and reappeared in the west. Vanishing in the west, it reappeared in the north. Vanishing in the north, it reappeared in the south. ... Several thousand kotis* of beings (a kotis is roughly 10 million beings), seeing this great miracle, became glad, joyful, and pleased." To each his own I guess.

One of the cool things about Buddhism is that anyone, even atheists can “do it.” One of the great places to get to is the Attainment of the fourth Dhyana and Buddhahood which leads to the Six Psychic Powers (Abhijna), namely,

1) Divyacaksus - divine eye, instantaneous view of anything in the Form Realm.
2) Divyasrotra - divine ear, ability to hear any sound anywhere.
3) Paracitta-jnana - ability to know the thoughts of all other minds.
4) Purvanivasanusmrti-jnana - knowledge of all former existences of self and others. (I’m unclear how this fits with the atheist belief of one life, one death and then nothing).
5) Raddi-saksatkriya - magic power to be anywhere or do anything at will, such as walking on water, levitation.
6) Asravaksaya-jnana - supernatural consciousness of eliminating all vicious/minds, also known as the extinction of asrava (i.e. outflow).

The first five are mundane, while the sixth is realized only by the Arhats, who attain the fourth stage of Dhyana. The attainment of the Sixth Psychic Power distinguishes the liberated sages (eg. Christopher Hitchens) from the mere wizard (eg. Richard Dawkins). I'm sorry. I couldn't help it.

As I said at the beginning, this is absolutely amazing. Not what the Buddha did (I can do that stuff on a sleepy Saturday afternoon) but what atheists believe. Rational, logical, reasonable atheist Buddhists. Astonishing.

I want to be clear that I’m not saying anything against Buddhists. You folks can believe whatever you want. What I don’t get, AT ALL, is how atheists, who pride themselves in avoiding all things superstitious could ever allow themselves to slide into this lifestyle. I guess desperate times require desperate measures.

And so, just as most atheists don’t have clue to the contradictions that they are committing themselves to and living with when they say, “I’m an atheist,” neither do they have a clue what they’re claiming when they say, “I’m a Buddhist.”

So what do you think? Is it amusing or just pitiful?

7 comments:

Johnny said...

What I don't get is why you care so much.
Why you are so angry.
Do you feel persecuted?

Makarios said...

Say what?

Makarios said...

Sorry, for the short reply. I had to take my kid to hockey practice.

That post sounds angry huh? As I recall,I actually had an amused smile on my face while writing it.

That's the trouble with print. You can't see what a fantastic person I am. I'm sure that you'd love me if we got together.

Any how,(that was a joke BTW) any how the reason that I care so much (I assume you mean my writing about atheists) is, I write about things that I find interesting.

The lives of atheists, filled as they are with inconsistencies and contradictions fall into that category. It's the counsellor in me. I'm fascinated by the human animal and all the ways in which we screw up our lives.

I thought that’s what most people did; write about things that interest them, I mean.

Not you? Hey, johnny, you don't happen to be an atheist buddhist do you?

Johnny said...

Me? I find writing a bit of a chore actually, although it can be rewarding at times.

It all comes across as a little too vehement actually and very very smug, your whole blog I mean.

In fact it's seems you are almost identical to the hard atheists you like to pillory. You may think all your arguments are sound but they are not, at least you've convinced yourself though, that's important right?

Atheists are no more inconsistent than any one else, it's possible that the religious are a little more inconsistent than most otherwise you would all believe the same thing wouldn't you? How many different brand of christians are there? Why are they different? Because of non consistent beliefs. Why are there catholics, protestants, lutherans etc? inconsistent beliefs! Unfortunately for you you cannot point me to any real evidence to justify your conclusion of a christian god, and I honestly believe that you have been brainwashed into such conviction.

I am sure you would disagree but your handbook is one of the most inconsistent set of writings there is.

As you point out technically there is no inconsistency with atheists being buddhists, are you not an atheist when it comes to allah, zues etc? Remember atheism is just denying that there is a god, I guess you could call someone who doesn't believe in any god a panatheist hahahahah

As for myself, no buddhism has no appeal for me at all. I do not believe that there is anything supernatural.

I am not a hard atheist, I am an atheistic leaning agnostic, agnostic as Huxley meant the word, athestic because I can see no reason or evidence for (insert religion here) but on the other hand agnostic as I have no way of disproving it.

From Huxley-
I know what I mean when I say I believe in the law of the inverse squares, and I will not rest my life and my hopes upon weaker convictions.......I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel. I cannot see one shadow or tittle of evidence that the great unknown underlying the phenomenon of the universe stands to us in the relation of a Father [who] loves us and cares for us as Christianity asserts.

Makarios said...

“In fact it's seems you are almost identical to the hard atheists you like to pillory.”

Oh I know. It’s sick! While Richard Dawkins is a bzillion times smarter than I am, he’s my emotional twin. That’s always been my hook; the thing that’s snagged me. I’m getting better at lowering my gloves but I have yet to take them completely off. Hopefully - someday.
=====

“You may think all your arguments are sound but they are not, at least you've convinced yourself though, that's important right?”

Not if I’m wrong. If I’m wrong the only important thing is to be corrected. So, if you have the time, pick one of my arguments and show me where I’m wrong. Why don’t we start at the law of first cause? And please don’t go referring me to some site on Wiki. I’ve read all those and while they are good at raising questions, they fall far far short of refutation.
=====

“Unfortunately for you you cannot point me to any real evidence to justify your conclusion of a christian god,”

You may have noticed that I’ve moved this sentence up from later in your reply. It seems to fit with the last comment better. So what do you mean by “real evidence.”
=====

“Atheists are no more inconsistent than any one else . . .”

True - mmm maybe.
=====

“. . . it's possible that the religious are a little more inconsistent than most otherwise you would all believe the same thing wouldn't you? How many different brand of christians are there? Why are they different?”

Well, it can certainly look inconsistent. And when they fight, the different denominations I mean, it can be pretty disturbing. Two points -
First, I think one could loosely see Christianity in the same light as the human desire or need for food. While there are many people in the world, there is perhaps ten percent of the population who actually despise food and would like it if they didn’t have to eat at all. Most of the people we know however have a deep desire to partake in digestion frequently. Now, not everyone enjoys the same type of food. Some like it hot, some like it bland, some like it exotic, some like to know what it’s going to be every single time. There are restaurants for adults only and restaurants that cater to families, you get the idea.
Second, people are passionate beings. We care deeply about some issues. Religion seems to be one of them, even if it's just to do away with religion. There is no doubt that religion or religious beliefs arouse powerful emotions in us, but only slightly more so than say politics. Bottom line, and this is from personal experience, it is my belief is that Christians generally agree on the essentials of Jesus’ teaching. Of course there are exceptions and of course there are those on the lunatic fringe of any group. But by and large the differences are in taste, more than great doctrinal divides. Some like worship services with lots of ritual. Others just can’t be around that kind of thing. Some like lots of exuberance in a service while others like them to be contemplative. Some like hard core teaching out of the Bible where they take away their own sense of what it was saying to them, while others like a more socially relevant type of message. And of course there is the perennial disagreement about what kind of music to have. We’re weird that way.

When it comes to the Bible, it’s a book that addresses all aspects of both human to human relationships as well as human and Creator God relationships. Out of all the verses that apply to these topics, some aspects appeal to or hold more meaning for some people than for others. Most denominational differences arise because one group emphasises one aspect of the Christian life over others. Over time, people have coalesced into groups of like minded people because, well, that’s how we’re made. It’s more comfortable to be with like thinkers where there is less tension - Something like bloggers flocking to Atheist Planet and the like. Or birders grouping with other bird watchers or hikers meeting with other hikers or runners with runners and so on.

Now, you would perhaps says, “Ya, but people don’t kill each other over food.” Mmm, not to the degree that people kill each other over religion. That's true. But I'll bet some members of PETA would do it if they thought they could get away with it. And issues like, 'Should we be omnivores or herbivores' is only going to heat up in the coming years. I have no doubt that people are going to die over the issue.

I know this is getting long but just one last example. I mentioned the Bible. Those who love literature, regardless of beliefs, generally find fine literature within the covers of the Bible. Richard Dawkins is one of those people. I believe Sam Harris is another. Of course there is much more that they find repugnant but anyhow - people love to read, but not all people love to read the same genre of literature. That doesn’t mean there are inconsistencies in those who love to read. Just different likes and dislikes. People love sports, but not all of them congregate in the same venues to watch the same events. Personal preference is at work in those areas just as they are in various Christian denominations.

Now, to the point. The inconsistencies that I’m talking about in the lives of atheists are things like:
. Atheist will say something like, “There aren’t any objective morals or values. Our morality is based on survival and social conditioning.” Fine, one is free to say that, but atheists don’t live like that. If someone from a different group, someone who’s survival needs are markedly different than the first atheist should, for example, clean out the first atheist’s bank account or even tip over his garbage can every night for a week, or have sex with his wife, well, you know as well as I that the first atheist would pretty soon get a very clear belief of what is right and what is wrong. He would know that it’s wrong on an intuitive level that has nothing to do with survival.

. Christopher Hitchens says that he doesn’t need God in order to be good. My question then is, Then why aren’t you a good person? As C. S. Lewis said, “No one knows how bad he is until he’s tried really hard to be good. A good person knows the evil still left in him while a thoroughly bad person believes that he’s essentially good.” Atheists say they don’t need God in order to be good while all along they don’t even live up to their own moral standards, let alone those of their Creator. Atheists judge others by their behaviours while wanting others to judge them by their intentions.

. Atheists talk about . . . Ah, now see what you’ve done! You’ve made me go on a rant :-)

I’ll stop here but there are just so many inconsistencies and contradictions within the atheist belief system that I can’t seem to stop myself from writing about it.

I don’t see that within the Christian context. I’m not talking about hypocrisy here. We’re all hypocrites to one degree or another. I’m talking about claiming to believe one thing, but fundamentally living another.
If you want more examples, I’d be pleased to write some more on this subject.
=====

“I am sure you would disagree but your handbook is one of the most inconsistent set of writings there is.”

Like what for example?
====

“As you point out technically there is no inconsistency with atheists being buddhists, are you not an atheist when it comes to allah, zues etc? Remember atheism is just denying that there is a god”

Technically you might get an argument from some atheists on that but I think you’re right.

Anyhow, unlike all other religions and gods, Jesus is based in history. Christianity is based within a historical context. There isn’t one atheist living today who would spend any serious time trying to prove that Zeus or Thor weren’t historical figures.
=====

“I guess you could call someone who doesn't believe in any god a panatheist hahahahah”

Now that’s funny! Good one.
=====

“I am not a hard atheist, I am an atheistic leaning agnostic, agnostic as Huxley meant the word, athestic because I can see no reason or evidence for (insert religion here) but on the other hand agnostic as I have no way of disproving it.”

Actually, out of atheism, Christianity and agnosticism, I think that agnostics are the most honouring of science. They are the ones who will only go as far as science will take them. Atheists and Christians on the other hand run with virtually the same scientific evidence and they run with it up to roughly equal points and then, both on relatively equal amount of faith I might add, head off to different conclusions or different interpretations of the scientific facts.

Aamina said...

“As you point out technically there is no inconsistency with atheists being buddhists, are you not an atheist when it comes to allah, zues etc? Remember atheism is just denying that there is a god”

Just to make this clear. The word Allah is Arabic for God and refers to the same Almighty power in both Christianity and Judaism. It's just a matter of language. There are many Arabic speaking christians and jews who also use the term Allah to refer to God.

So on that count you really wouldn't be an athiest when it comes to 'Allah'.We're all abrahamic faiths. It's our practices and rituals that make us different. But our core belief in the one supreme and omnipotent God remains pretty much the same.

Johnny said...

Why don’t we start at the law of first cause?

What law of first cause???? There is no such thing as the law of first cause!!!! If you mean there is an argument that nothing comes from nothing or what you're actually getting at everything has a cause. It is hard to see how that gives rise to your beliefs. You have no more evidence that your god did it than lets say an eternal benevolent moth!

Surely your god must've had a first cause...oh no thats right you have lots of just as stupid arguments as atheists seem to have, why don't you just say you don't know how the universe started cause between you and me malakarios you do not!

As I have said I do find writing a chore, especially so when I am deaing with someone like you who has readily admitted that you have faith (and knows what they know and aint gonna change) like those who categorically state for a fact there is no god. They are only erroneous in that they have no way to prove that there is none. But i will give it a bit of a go.

It is you who have the burden of proof, of which there is none for your specific god, if there is you have yet to provide it anymore than any other religion. I mean specifically theism as opposed to deism.

I have read the bible but am not going to argue scripture with you, but really if you deny that there are contradictions in the bible you are stupid. The bible is just human made literature which can be interpreted as many different ways as you like. The thing about your religion is that it is easy to backpeddle and be revisionist about what it says. There is an awful lot of god sanctioned violence from the god of love.

The thing you fail to recognise is that there is no code to atheism except for denying god so of course there are going to be all sorts of crackpots who deny god but claim belief in other things. I find it amusing that you rail against it so.

Aamina good example of splitting hairs, you're a veritable genius. It's quite obvious where muslim jew and christian come from. there you go malakarios you can fulfill Pascals wager and pay homage in a muslim and jewish way to the abrahamic god as well as your nice white christian fairy and hedge your bets. Wouldn't it be nice if all you abrahamics could agree on the one set of beliefs and live in relative peace.
As for the rest of us as you so succinctly and often point out we're fucked cause there is no way we can be good people without believing in a supreme fairy, we're just bad to the bone. Even though I do live a good life raising a wonderful and loving family am involved in my community, coach under13 cricket give to charity (heaven forfend a heathen charity in oxfam, even though atheists are bad people...what a contradiction)

If hell is my lot for my life then so be it, you just better hope that you are right and (even though it's all the one god thanks aamina) it is not the muslim or jewish or greek or roman or zoroastrian or which ever of the thousands of other beliefs of man. Cause you christians are pretty clear that "accepting jesus into your life" (what a hilarious idea) is the only way to be saved!!