Atheist Buddhists

A place for those who consider themselves Atheist Buddhists, or those who simply don't see this as a contradiction in terms.

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Latest Activity: Mar 24, 2015

Discussion Forum

What is different in your life's perspective because of Buddhism.

Started by Philip Jackson Armstrong. Last reply by Philip Jackson Armstrong Aug 15, 2013. 7 Replies

The Teachings of Ethical Culture

Started by Dave Salyers. Last reply by Napoleon Bonaparte Jul 11, 2013. 1 Reply

My power

Started by Joan Denoo. Last reply by Steph S. Apr 4, 2012. 2 Replies

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Comment by Kevin on January 23, 2009 at 5:36am
Hi Calvin. Thanks for your comments. Are you Korean? Im sorry if im not familiar with the form of buddhism you were brought up in, perhaps you could fill me up on that. There can be many kinds of misunderstanding since buddhism is practiced differently - therevada, mahayana, its suboffshoot zen buddhism...

I think we are on the same point actually, that there are some types of people who do deitify the buddha (hence non atheist) and some who do not regard him as god (your family, my family also). However, practicing buddhists, also believe in some aspects of buddhism such as transfer of merit, karma, rebirth/reincarnation, different realms of birth etc. And these beliefs form the basis of their socio-religious structure. For example, in theravada buddhist thailand, accural of merit is done by donating to the temple, serving as a monk etc so that they can get a better rebirth their next lifetime, or in mahayana chinese temples, pple to good deeds or donate to the temple to transfer merit to their ancestors as well.

So the line of debate is, even if buddha were not a god, by broader definition of atheism, do atheists also accept such "mystical" and non provable concepts which buddhism partly inherited from hinduism? After all, atheists are rational people who are unsure about god because it "cant be proven" - neither are these ideas of mysticism.

However, should we choose to narrow the atheist definition just to the probable non existance of "gods" alone... It is also acceptable to the buddhists (in the doctrines) that spirits, hungry ghosts, and beings from other realms of birth do exist, although Gautama the buddha was reborn as a man in his final birth, and hence he was not a god or spirit.

Hence how atheist a buddhist can be depends on his adopted form of buddhism, or if the person merely subscribes to buddhist philosophy. We could ask ourselves what are we...

Cheers, Kevin
Comment by Calvin on January 23, 2009 at 1:28am
Hi Kevin, I was a little confused by your comment on the only way a person can be an atheist Buddhist? You are correct by definition an atheist is someone who lacks a belief in gods or deities. If someone believes that Buddha is a god or a deity, then again you are correct, they can’t be an atheist Buddhist. But if you are a Buddhist and don’t believe that Buddha is a god or deity then you are an atheist Buddhist, even if you are not sure, that is still the lack of belief. I was raised as a Buddhist, my parents belong to the Jikoen Hongwanji Temple, we never thought of Buddha as a god.
Comment by Kevin on January 18, 2009 at 9:06am
I had a debate with a friend recently who insists that he, a staunch theravada buddhist, is also atheist. I guess it all boils down to strict or broad definition.

If atheism were the non belief in the existence of gods or deities, it would rule out all monotheistic (xtianity,islam, judaism) and polytheistic religions (hinduism, chinese religion/taoism).

I think the complication lies here. The Mahayana branch of buddhism is intertwined with taoism ... forming what sociologists regard loosely as Chinese religion. Another complication arises because Hinduism regards gautama buddha as a reincarnation of their god brahma (so yes the buddha himself can be considered a deity to the hindus, and the chinese temples - and for the chinese temples a few other bodhisatvas come alongside teh buddha)

The only way I can see buddhism as being atheist is restricting its definition strictly to the Theravada form of buddhism, where the teachings of the Dharma is philosophical in nature and regard the buddha as a living man.

HOWEVER again with theravada buddhism is that it STILL has its roots in hinduism, meaning that they still retain some precepts such as the concept of rebirth and reincarnation. And by broader definition, atheists should not believe in such non-empirically provable precepts which buddhism borrows from hinduism.

So the only way a person can be a "atheist buddhist" is a student of buddhist philosophy and dharma, but not a practitioner of buddishm in its religion sensel.
Comment by Calvin on October 7, 2008 at 4:35am
Hi all, glad to see other Buddhist here on an Atheist website. Although I’ve been a Buddhist all my life, it was really just something that was in the background as I was growing up. When I was in my thirties, I started to look into it a bit more seriously and was surprised at the variety of Buddhism. I’m looking forward to our conversations.
Comment by Seth R. on September 30, 2008 at 11:31pm
Wow I'm so glad I'm not the only one who loves Buddhist Philosophic outlook on life and is an Atheist!

I was on a Buddhist retreat a couple weeks ago and I said to a couple people there I'm an Atheist Buddhist and I got a "what do you mean?" from one person, and a "Atheism is a religion." from one of the Monastic Students.

Any way I do not believe in "reincarnation" as such, but when it talks about past lives and being born into different realms I look at that like this. In this life I've changed so many times, and each time I've either started in a different unenlightened mind set or a more enlightened mind set. Within ones own lifetime there maybe thousands or millions of new mind sets and therefore new perspectives and new realms of thought.

I absolutely love the Four Noble Truths as a core philosophic outlook, The concept of Altruism - Try to help someone. but if you cannot at least don't hurt them. I dig the 2 truths of existence, The Impermanent Nature of Reality and The Interdependent Nature of Reality. I'm not quite there yet with The Eightfold Noble Path, but I'm getting there.

Comment by Andrew on September 12, 2008 at 1:21am
I am new here and happy to contribute.
Comment by shaman sun on August 28, 2008 at 8:02pm
Hey everyone. New here... Good to see this group up :)

Been meditating/studying Buddhism for a few years now...
Comment by kezz on August 9, 2008 at 4:01am
I love buddha-farians....that is a wonderful word....

To me buddhism is simply living in the present moment and being nice to others....the reincarnation bit is off beam for me...except in that i reincarnate into another form of carbon when i die...i also love the buddhist respect and encouragement to question everything....
alines perfectly with the questioning atheist in me....

I have had lotsa conversations with atheists who cannot condone the word spirituality and atheism in same breath let alone same person....i am an atheist with a dash of buddhism, epicureanism, confucianism and pantheism...oh and naturalism ....and .....spiritualism in an honest rational spirit ( lump of the dirt of the cosmos type way)...
but i ramble....

i look fwd to some intriguing discussions here...

Comment by Jas Brimstone on August 6, 2008 at 11:09am
I'm not strictly a Buddhist but I agree with much of the philosophy that I've read and I don't see much contradiction.
Comment by Sherry on August 3, 2008 at 11:53pm
As Buddhism is a beautiful philosophy, and atheism is beautiful reality, I see no contradiction. When my kids were small, they decided we were "Buddha-farians"

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