Author Topic: Buddhism for atheists  (Read 792 times)

Buddhism for atheists
« on: April 20, 2017, 03:16:26 AM »
I sometimes attend some of the old churches I used to go to just to experience the community I used to get when I was a believer. It's good to sing songs, to hear a powerful sermon (which can sometimes contain some good philosophical gems), to spend time with family and loved ones etc. I actually really love church. Church, I believe is the only great thing about Christianity/religion. It is especially great when you go to a good southern protestant church like the ones where I'm from.

The thing is, none of the good things about church are linked to the religion itself, and my goal is to find a religion or philosophy that does contain teachings and practices which are useful. I think Buddhism is probably that religion. I was wondering what there is in Buddhism that could be applied to the life of an atheist (by atheist I mean someone who holds no supernatural beliefs, as I know Buddhism is an atheistic religion). I've been looking for some spirituality in my life to try to help with some issues, perhaps to help with my depression, and just to provide me with some kind of mechanism to hone my talents, my grasp on morality, intelligence, etc.

What's there to Buddhism that could be beneficial to my life?

Offline Mr.Obvious

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2017, 06:00:03 AM »
Feel free to search meaning, beauty, poetry in any philosophical or religious stretch of mind you can find. I don't mean to stand in anyone's way when it comes to spiritual or (as I personally see it) personal growth.
Just realize that your view on buddhism and perhaps the grander 'oriëntal' more 'in tune' way of living is formed as much by your own cultural upbringing and teaching of how to view the Far East, at least as much as how the Far East itself is.
What I'm saying is; be careful when romanticising the Oriënt. Despite our own problems, it's not perfect. And to seek what you hope for may be misguided.
E = Mc²

In the end, we are all standing in the dark,
trying to figure out why we are here.
But let us not choose one direction
without proof of where it is headed.

Check your pocket for matches
so we can observe and learn together
as fast friends and relative idiots.

Offline Baruch

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2017, 07:09:29 AM »
I sometimes attend some of the old churches I used to go to just to experience the community I used to get when I was a believer. It's good to sing songs, to hear a powerful sermon (which can sometimes contain some good philosophical gems), to spend time with family and loved ones etc. I actually really love church. Church, I believe is the only great thing about Christianity/religion. It is especially great when you go to a good southern protestant church like the ones where I'm from.

The thing is, none of the good things about church are linked to the religion itself, and my goal is to find a religion or philosophy that does contain teachings and practices which are useful. I think Buddhism is probably that religion. I was wondering what there is in Buddhism that could be applied to the life of an atheist (by atheist I mean someone who holds no supernatural beliefs, as I know Buddhism is an atheistic religion). I've been looking for some spirituality in my life to try to help with some issues, perhaps to help with my depression, and just to provide me with some kind of mechanism to hone my talents, my grasp on morality, intelligence, etc.

What's there to Buddhism that could be beneficial to my life?

There is atheist Buddhism and atheist Hinduism.  But neither of those religions are congregational.  No Asian religion is, they are temple/monastery religions.  To have togetherness in Buddhism or Hinduism, you have to join a monastery.  Have you tried going to a Buddhist retreat for a weekend?  Wish I had time to go ... but again, not for the comraderie.  I am especially knowledgeable about Buddhism.

I have studied all the religions.  Each has their good points, even Islam, depending on your needs.  Of course in most cases, people enter a religion because of their parents, not because of deliberation.  In many countries this is the only legal choice ;-(  I believe that given freedom, and an unbiased upbringing ... people would sort out based on their M-B personality profile.  In which case there are about 16 basic kinds of religion, if you count atheism as one of them.

Finding Your Religion by Rev Scotty McLennan (who was the basis for the Rev in Doonesbury) is the best unbiased guide to religions.  You might find a used copy at the library or at Amazon.

In Buddhism ... you have to make an inner journey, not an outer one.  This isn't easy, particularly if you are unaware of your personal reality (ADHD?) or have a guilty conscience.  Like Dr Strange, you might discover that you are a jerk, and the only way forward is to deal with that.  Beginning meditation isn't hard ... it comes in two types.  The first type (do this first) is you have to learn to sit quietly and comfortably, even in a chair (not in Lotus posture) and quiet your mind.  For many of us, quieting the Monkey Mind is hard.  This took me years.  Once you have accomplished that, and there is no reason to skip ahead, then you can do single-point meditation ... which is taking a single idea and focusing on just one idea.

In Zen this is called a koan.  The koan is initially used to wear out your Monkey Mind on a paradox or nonsense.  The brainiacs here wouldn't even try that, they are the Monkey Mind ;-)  I didn't use a koan, though I did study Buddhist scriptures for many years.  I used pranayama ... used by both Buddhists and Hindus.  Breath awareness.  I know from personal experience, you can become more mentally healthy (but not if you need to see a medical doctor first).  Inner peace is possible, it only took me 55 years.  Now I am more able to deal with the problems my life presents ... even further mental breakdowns and life/death crisis.  Basically I don't get in my own way anymore.  That is Enlightenment.  And you don't have to be Buddhist to do that ... religion is the vehicle, not the destination.
שלום

Offline Baruch

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2017, 07:12:04 AM »
Feel free to search meaning, beauty, poetry in any philosophical or religious stretch of mind you can find. I don't mean to stand in anyone's way when it comes to spiritual or (as I personally see it) personal growth.
Just realize that your view on buddhism and perhaps the grander 'oriëntal' more 'in tune' way of living is formed as much by your own cultural upbringing and teaching of how to view the Far East, at least as much as how the Far East itself is.
What I'm saying is; be careful when romanticising the Oriënt. Despite our own problems, it's not perfect. And to seek what you hope for may be misguided.

I could never be a real Buddhist, because I am not Japanese etc. however much I admire or study them.  It has taken a lifetime to discover inner peace, and discover to my surprise that I really am Jewish (in spite of many prior influences to the contrary).  Orientalism by the Westerner, or Occidentalism by the Easterner ... are false paths.

This is an oldy but a goody .. BBC ...


.. but of course, one has to see beyond the Japanese culture/way of thinking.  Amida Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism are theistic.  S Asian Buddhism is monastic, not lay oriented.  Chan/Zen as Mahayana Buddhism, is more E Asian, and effectively atheist.  The Japanese businessman, at the start of the film, saved himself from suicide, because of pranayama.  I understand that, I did the same.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 07:21:13 AM by Baruch »
שלום

Offline SGOS

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2017, 08:30:47 AM »
Sam Harris has a new book called "Waking Up".  By waking up he implies a spirituality available to everyone, including atheists.  I would quibble with his equivocation, because he is referring to self awareness as spirituality, and there is nothing spiritual about self awareness, except that the euphoria experienced during moments of clarity in the process of self awareness are the same as spiritual insights like feeling God's presence.  Granted the moments of clarity cannot be verified as authentic and accurate perceptions, just as spiritual insights, since both are a form of "knowing" on limited understanding.  They seem correct and enlightening for what that's worth.  So yeah, whatever.

He frequently refers to Buddhism and sees value in meditation done according to Buddhist philosophy and I recall him writing that he has actually pursued Buddhist instruction just to experience what it might offer, and given but a limited understanding of Buddhism, I would agree, but I see Buddhism as just another route to self understanding.  Whatever route is taken, I see self understanding as one of life's goals, although not second nature for any of us.  I have little interest in Buddhism, but that one aspect is praiseworthy.  The rest of the stuff might be mumbo jumbo and ritual.  I can't say from experience, however.

And speaking of that, what you say you have enjoyed about church appears to me to be the ritual, and I believe that is a big part of the experience for many people.  Myself, I never enjoyed the rituals, because it seems like they are but vaguely related to the pursuit of understanding the Devine.  In fact, I was bored by the ritual of church.  I saw it as trivial, and just wanted to get on with it; Save my soul or lead me to enlightenment or make something else happen.

None the less, I'm a fan of self understanding.  You can knock psychiatry and counseling, but the goal of self understanding is laudable.  How you get there is your choice.

Offline SGOS

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2017, 09:38:27 AM »
Thinking about ritual some more, I think it's added to create a feeling of evoking the spirit world, which would be an integral part of communing with a deity:

"Oh, the priest is chanting.  Sounds like he is calling on the spirits, just like they did in medieval monasteries.  But I'm confident a priest would never summon a demon to church, so we're good here."

"Oh listen to sound of the congregation reading a passage from the King James Bible.  We sound like we are all taking exactly the way Jesus talked."

"Oh my, now the pastor is jumping up and down hollering like an idiot because he's possessed by the Lord.  Now everyone in the congregation is doing it too.  We are all possessed by the Lord.  I can feel it."

"I love to sing my heart out like an animated character in a Disney Cartoon, where magical stuff always happens."

Whether this actually works or not, it's all kind of fun and mysterious.  As kids, my friends and I would stand in front of a brick wall and chant, "Open Sesame!"  No passageway ever appeared, but it was great fun, and helped us build companionship.

Offline Sorginak

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2017, 10:45:19 AM »
I was never a fan of Buddhism due to how illogical it is.

Example:

"It is hot but it is not hot."
Religion is primitive, inventive nonsense.

Online Shiranu

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2017, 01:19:19 PM »
But that is extremely logical...
"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." - Mahatma Gandi

Offline Munch

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2017, 02:53:38 PM »
I was never a fan of Buddhism due to how illogical it is.

Example:

"It is hot but it is not hot."

A 500 pound woman tanning on a beach in Florida

Offline aitm

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2017, 07:16:16 PM »
What's there to Buddhism that could be beneficial to my life?


There is a very simple rule that life has adapted as true for millennia..."do what is best for your survival". And it appears that one of the main tenets, perhaps the first, is to: "help those around you so they will help you". Selfishness rules even when it appears not to be selfish.
A humans desire to live is exceeded only by their willingness to die for another. Even god cannot equal this magnificent sacrifice. No god has the right to judge them.-first tenant of the Panotheust

Offline Baruch

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2017, 08:59:21 PM »

There is a very simple rule that life has adapted as true for millennia..."do what is best for your survival". And it appears that one of the main tenets, perhaps the first, is to: "help those around you so they will help you". Selfishness rules even when it appears not to be selfish.

There is wise behavior and unwise behavior ... of course it is selfish either way.
שלום

Offline Cavebear

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2017, 04:21:00 AM »

There is a very simple rule that life has adapted as true for millennia..."do what is best for your survival". And it appears that one of the main tenets, perhaps the first, is to: "help those around you so they will help you". Selfishness rules even when it appears not to be selfish.

Most religious beliefs have, at their core, basic ideas that people had for living together peacefully previously.  Before religion raised the threat of "a bad afterlife" in any way you choose to define it.  The success of all religions is based on thread and fear.  Religion followed sensible interpersonal relationships, not religion establishing them.

Religion is merely a writing of social rules already established in society with terror thrown in for some scam control.

I choose to ignore the threats as irrational.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2017, 04:32:11 PM »
I've thought about converting back to Christianity just for the purpose of being accepted again. Like it or not, there is a bbenefit to religion. It helps people assemble and thrive as a cohesive unit and support system. It sucks being on the outside and being ostracized. I think becoming atheist was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I wish I could go back and not have the awakening I had that made me change my mind.

Online Shiranu

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2017, 05:33:24 PM »
Honestly, do what's best for you, so long as it hurts no one else.
"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." - Mahatma Gandi

Re: Buddhism for atheists
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2017, 06:50:53 PM »
I've thought about converting back to Christianity just for the purpose of being accepted again. Like it or not, there is a bbenefit to religion. It helps people assemble and thrive as a cohesive unit and support system. It sucks being on the outside and being ostracized. I think becoming atheist was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I wish I could go back and not have the awakening I had that made me change my mind.
Then I would suggest that you stop saying you are atheist, keep it to yourself, and go church shopping.  If the feeling of belonging is that important to you, then that is one way to address that.  Or join an active club of some sort--bird watching, collecting something, a book club (an active one), square dancing, dancing of any kind,----I could go on and one--just be sure whatever it is is active. 
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?