non theism

The Buddha Was Human

‘Shambhala  Sun: You said that the Buddha was a human being. But the Mahayana says that there are countless buddhas and bodhisattvas at many levels of existence who are sending their compassion to us. How are we rationalist Westerners to understand these beings? How can we open ourselves to them when we can’t perceive them with our five senses?

Thich Nhat Hanh: In Buddhism, the Buddha is considered as a teacher, a human being, and not a god. It is very important to tell people that. I don’t need the Buddha to be a god. He is a teacher, and that is good enough for me! I think we have to tell people in the West about that. And because the Buddha was a human being, that is why countless buddhas become possible.’

- Love Without Limits: An Interview with Thich Nhat Hanh from the March 2006 issue of the Shambhala Sun.

 I’m REALLY excited and happy with the Cosmos series. I hope the spam and long history of being an advocate for secularism and a vocal loud and proud Atheist science geek has illustrated that fully.

That being said, I know the average Cosmos viewer is not an Atheist. So I’d like to really thank Fox and the producers of the show for showcasing the intolerant, crippling, and flat our inhuman effects church has had on scientists and scientific discovery.

I was surprised that they actually tackled how religion has prosecuted people that dared challenge the dogma of religion throughout history. I think it is important for religious people to see the intolerance religion has had on scientific discoveries that contradict religious texts. How this dogma has slowed scientific discoveries and how it has harmed us all.

Some people will inevitably complain about the context, and those same people should be looking in the mirror at themselves and realizing that they’re the same brand of superstitious that burned Giordano Bruno at the stake.

This show is so, so, SO important.

Buddhism; The Religion Without God

‘The great divide between Buddhism and the world’s other major religions is the idea of God, a creator deity. Buddhism is a nontheistic religion: it is the religion with no God. The Buddha was a human being who practiced and achieved enlightenment, and if we follow his example and practice as he did, we can wake up too. If a religion has no God, everything changes.

In Buddhist, the starting place is a very human problem: suffering. Some people have accused Buddhism of being negative and obsessed with suffering. Buddhists call it realism. Life has its obvious sufferings, such as illness, loss, and death, and beyond that, all lives, even the most pleasant and privileged, are marked by an underlying sense of fear and unease…

If working with such suffering is the challenge, then the bad news is that Buddhism doesn’t offer us an outside refuge or savior. It would be great if there were one - who wouldn’t want that? - but the truth, at least according to Buddhism, is that we’re on our own. The good news is that we can do it. We have the inherent resources - the intelligence, courage, wisdom, and love - to handle our problems.

Many schools of Buddhism call this our buddhanature. It is the opposite of original sin. You could call it original virtue. Our true nature is awake, open and compassionate, and the ignorance and neurosis that obscure it are only temporary.’

- Melvin McLeod, from the Introduction to The Best Buddhist Writing 2010.

An atheist church in North London sounds really fucking cool

Not many sermons include the message that we are all going to die and there is no afterlife.

But the Sunday Assembly is no ordinary church service.

Launched last month, as a gathering for non-believers, it is, in the words of master of ceremonies Sanderson Jones, “part foot-stomping show, part atheist church, all celebration of life”.

A congregation of more than 300 crowded into the shell of a deconsecrated church to join the celebration on Sunday morning.

Instead of hymns, the non-faithful get to their feet to sing along to Stevie Wonder and Queen songs.

Living With Uncertainty

‘The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or doesn’t believe in God. It’s an issue that applies to everyone, including both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Theism is a deep seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves.

Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves. We sometimes think that Buddhist teachings are something outside of ourselves - something to believe in, something to measure up to. However, dharma isn’t a belief; it isn’t a dogma. It is the total appreciation of impermanence and change. The teachings disintegrate when we try to grasp them. We have to experience them without hope. Many brave and compassionate people have experienced them and taught them. The message is fearless; dharma was never meant to be a belief that we blindly follow. Dharma gives us nothing to hold on to at all.

Nontheism is finally realizing that there’s no babysitter that you can count on. Just when you get a good one then he or she is gone. Nontheism is realizing that it isn’t just babysitters that come and go. The whole of life is like that. This is the truth, and the truth is inconvenient.’

- Pema Chodron, Comfortable With Uncertainty.

Options

I’ve been working a few things out lately, and seem to have come to a few realisations that I hadn’t seen before.

When I was in primary school, I grew up knowing scripture stories of Christianity. I lived in a predominantly white neighbourhood and wasn’t exposed to any other religions or philosophies. My family weren’t devout Christians in any way, but it was a status, like if they were given a census form they would’ve ticked ‘Christian’ or whatever. So the ways of a church weren’t drilled into me at all, but looking back on my education, I remember a very distinct feeling of confusion. I understood the concept of God, I understood that people believed in that concept with an element of faith that you could intangibly possess. I also thought that I was at some point supposed to accumulate this faith, that because I was born into this environment and it was taught to me there was a certainty that I would at some point fit into this belief - so I would no longer just practice, but also believe in that practice.

I have just recently graduated from a Catholic highschool. It wasn’t strict or excessively dogmatic, Catholic education was just the way to go because it was a good school. However, all through junior and middle school I still had some idea that I was pending on the discovery of God or the concept of faith in a transcendence. It was not until my final year of schooling that I came across a teacher that has had a great impact in the realisations I have recently come to.

He was my religious studies teacher and from the countless personal discussions we have had over the year, I know that he was an 'active’ Christian and he was also gay, living with a partner he had loved for fifteen years. He is without a doubt the most remarkable and intelligent man I have ever met. He at no point tried to convince me that I was to find faith or that it was an inevitability, instead he slowly taught me about options.

As soon as I begun extended studies into that of Judaism, Islam and other philosophies, I began to come to terms with diversity on a more personal level. When I realised that people all across the world not only were part of these religions (ticking them on their census forms), but practiced them within their cultures and lifestyles, it became clear how personal these convictions were, and also how they could be influenced by where you lived and how you were brought up. Not only that, but how they can and should be conscious and informed convictions. It was then that he showed me the work of Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan. This opened me up to a whole new society of people that turned out to be thinking what I was beginning to discover about myself and that they had been discussing it for a long while. I realised that faith wasn’t inevitable and my own logical compatibility with Atheism and Humanism gave me more purpose than any thing else I had encountered.

The reason I suppose I’m babbling about this is that I’m pretty proud that I have finally found this round of comfortable thought that doesn’t constantly make me uncomfortable with questions of 'why isn’t this working for me?’ and 'I know I should believe in this, but I can’t help but thinking..“

I’m in no way saying, 'guys you should be thinking this way too!’. I think what I’m saying is that there are options and there is a place for you in your purpose and convictions (whatever those may be) and that I think it’s worth some thought and some contemplation so you can fit your world view to your own logic rather than a world view imposing itself upon you.

Hannah