I have been a member of this forum now for a few months, but have not posted anything, so this will be my first. At any rate, in reading some of the posts listed here, it seems that there's a pretty large variety in the interpretation of what it means to be atheist or not. I do not believe in a god or gods. I simply see no reason to suppose supernatural causes when empirical observation itself seems to suggest little reason to believe in such hypotheses (if no god is required for an explanation of how the universe works, why posit the existence of one?). At any rate, I have been a practicing Buddhist for about the last 15 years and have attended several retreats, including a month long retreat last year.
I have no interest in the dogmatic or religious aspects of Buddhism, do not believe in reincarnation, and have to admit that I'm fairly skeptical about the actual existence of the “Buddha” as a historical figure at all. I do not believe there is a state called “enlightenment” in which one has escaped the wheel of samsara, nor that if the Buddha did exist, he was anything but an ordinary human being with some exceptional personal insight.
With that said, I think that the process of meditation, examining the nature of self, and the understandings on suffering presented in Buddhist doctrine of the four noble truths can be quite beneficial, even when one has adopted a more empirical process of viewing the world (maybe especially in an empirical process of viewing the world).
A lot of the other posts I've noticed on this site seem to have a bit of a bent towards the supernatural, or towards the dogmatic or religious aspects of Buddhism, even if the poster themselves identifies atheist. Given that, I guess I'm curious how many people who are members of this network find themselves enjoying the benefits of meditation, but like me, are not interested in the esoteric religious aspects of Buddhism.
I'm very interested in hearing about the experiences of other practitioners of Buddhism who have no belief in the supernatural, psychic abilities, or anything else that smacks of spirituality in general. I've heard plenty from folks who embrace the more spiritual components of Buddha, but am more curious now about others who practice Buddhism from a more skeptical or scientific worldview. Anyone else out there? How long have you practiced? And maybe why do you practice?