Atheists and Buddhism

Unlike Kyle, I prefer my Hotties with slogan t-shirts.

Unlike The Reformed Buddhist , I prefer my Hotties with slogan t-shirts.

From Pharyngula – on something completely unrelated to Buddhism.

As to the charge that atheism is a purely negative philosophy, I also said that wasn’t so: that it’s a rejection of old dogmas and superstitions, sure, but that it’s built on the positive value of rationalism and materialism, and scientific thinking. We adopt moral values from humanistic ideas that are centered on stuff that actually exists, like other human beings, rather than imaginary commands from an invisible man in the sky.

Wow.  Sound familiar? I think the rise of a secular Buddhism in the West can be largely attributed to this viewpoint.  Buddhism offers a workable religious (or philosophical) framework for individuals that reject (or like me, just don’t give a shit) about various dogmas and superstitions.  Buddhism allows for this but is not dictated by it.  One of the things I enjoy about my practice is that those I practice with offer a huge range of beliefs, from agnostic to atheist to deist to Christian or Buddhists (with or without the comsological aspects of it).  This range of diversity is, in my mind, a strength and monkey load of fun.

Cheers,

John

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14 thoughts on “Atheists and Buddhism

  1. T-shirt hotties? Well, ok, if you insist.

    Jeffy Coyne? Uh, no thanks.

    Coyne loves his “reason” so much that he openly and proudly advocates religiously based discrimination against those he deems insufficiently rational. Coyne and the others in the New Atheist cult became completely unhinged when Francis Collins was recently nominated by Barack Obama to head up the National Institutes of Health. They went on a vitriolic campaign to smear Collins, one of the world’s most accomplished and respected scientists, as a psychotic fool who is incapable of “thinking like a scientist.”

    In the old days atheists advocates for religious freedom. These New Atheists are another thing altogether.

    • The whole “New Atheists” is not something I really enjoy playing around with. In one direction I have a firm understanding of evolutionary theory and apply it in my own studies and thesis (finishing off a Masters in Geology) but dislike the “scientist” slant on everything.

      One thing I do like is the push for equal time as the theists. At one point in time saying you were an atheist would lead to snap judgements but is being more and more accepted. I think they do advocate for religious freedom but, as with any group of people, there are always assholes in the flock.

      Cheers,

      John

  2. too bad you decided to quote one of the assholes. Lots and lots of intelligent atheists out there, as far as I can tell, none of them reside in the camp that insists on scientific reductionism and fundamentalism of a stripe that rivals some Christians (http://www.salon.com/books/int/2008/03/13/chris_hedges/).

    Read some Derrida or even Stanley Fish and rachet up your understanding of who you’re quoting. There are intellectually respectable atheists out there.

    • Well Merton, I do agree with you somewhat that Myers can be an asshole but maybe for good reason? Also even an asshole can have an intelligent quote and I think that he does. I know exactly who I am quoting and I delight in the fact that he is honest with his feelings and reactions. I don’t agree with them all the time but I do find them refreshing…

      Now the comments section can get a little grating though. For a nicer slant to atheism I like to poke around at the http://www.friendlyatheist.com.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Cheers,
      John

  3. The problem I have with many atheist and most atheist organization is that they are not a-theist but are anti-theist. At least that was my experience for the 12 years I was an activist atheist.

  4. Jeez – it was Myers, not Coyne. I honestly do have a lot of trouble telling these guys apart. I go back and forth about which of them I think is the worst among the second string New Atheists.

    And it really is true that one can find perfectly reasonable atheists, although I do think it is become more difficult. Today their are far too few Isaac Asimov’s and Carl Sagans, and far too many Sam Harris’ and Richard Dawkins. The current crop of evangelical atheists can be traced back to the 1970’s and an outfit that called itself CSICOP, The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. The Committee, in fact, carried out precisely zero scientific investigations of anything, and instead focused exclusively on a “public relations campaign” to smear anyone deemed insufficiently “scientific”. The whole Angry Atheist movement had peaked by the late 90’s (if not before). But then 9/11 came along and blew fresh wind into their sails.

    • You know, I was sorta wondering about that since I never found Coyne to be all that unreasonable (in fact I quite enjoyed his book. Myers has his voice and his place in the conversation that many are having about belief. In one way I look at him and shake my head at some of the constant attacks against other’s beliefs (mind you atheists get a rack of shit from theists, themselves).

      I do agree that there are far too few Sagans in the world these days but I think that Neil deGrasse Tyson is a close second.

      And again, my point being is that many atheists and agnostics find Buddhism to be a possible spiritual path since it does not make any definite stance on the supernatural and can be very centralized to individual practice.

      Would I like to see Myers as a Buddhist? Yes, it would be great to have a few angry Buddhists out there. Would I drink with Myers? Hell, Yes! I don’t agree with everything he says but *damn* would it be an interesting conversation.

      Cheers,
      John

  5. “I do agree with you somewhat that Myers can be an asshole but maybe for good reason? ”

    Like what?

    Myers is a secular fundamentalist who parses the universe down to science. While love, the beauty of a simple flower, and the term God can all be explained as a chemical reaction in our brains…. I have trouble seeing this as a worldview that future generations will find as a reasonable articulation of the human experience.

    While I guess it might be interesting to have a beer with Pat Robertson and OK to quote him, I think he is someone to be derided for what he is: a man who thinks he has found truth and feels justified being a jackass cause darn it, he is right! Myers and the other new atheists often fall into this catagory even though their brand of fundamentalism is fashionable.

    check out the christopher hedges interview in slate on his book, I Don’t Believe in Atheists (he also wrote a book skewering Christian Fundamentalists).

    • While I am not going to get into a debate on whether or not Myers is a fundamentalist or an asshole (or both), I will say that if you are Godless and spend any amount of time in this country’s education system you see how little your opinion matters. Science in the States is a joke. I spent a few years teaching science as did my wife and without a doubt we were undermined by a system that places more emphasis on myth than on science.

      And while Myers is on the extreme side of this debate, I have spent most of career in the sciences (soft and hard) and have known quite a few atheists and agnostics (soft and hard) and rarely do I see the worldview that you describe. I myself don’t share the same worldview.

      For the work he does and the stink he raises concerning science education I am more that willing to allow Myers his views. Because not many are taking up that battle-standard and I wish they would. If in return Myers is going to think of me as an irrational ass for chanting in front of a statue then fine.

      Thanks for commenting. I love the discussion. I will look into the hedges book.

      Cheers,

      John

  6. my last word on the subject, I’ve enjoyed the discussion and would urge you to take your atheism seriously and seek out some more reputable sources.

    “I will say that if you are Godless and spend any amount of time in this country’s education system you see how little your opinion matters.”

    I’d say the opposite is also true (if you are religious…) and I’ve spent ten years as a middle school teacher.

    the presumption that God can be disproven because a lack of empirical evidence (rationality and empirical evidence being the dogma of the new atheists) really puts them in a pickle when that logic is applied elsewhere. For instance, love would be impossible to prove with that criteria and yet most people would balk at the suggestion that they don’t love their child or spouse or parents. So while my example of brain chemicals may seem absurd, if you tease out some of the stock arguments made by atheists, you arrive at some silly places or an admission that the arguments aren’t all that well thought out.

    This epistemological debate (empirical evidence being the only worthwhile way of knowing) was had by your atheist forebearers about one hundred years ago. they would be rolling over in their graves hearing Myers or Dawkins….those guys may be solid scientists but as philosophers they are out of their league.

    • Thanks for your words, Merton, I appreciate all of them. I admit that I don’t take my atheism seriously but am more than willing to seek out some new sources. Frankly, though, if you are religious (or anti-religion) your opinions on the matter have absolutely no worth in a public school setting. This would include everything from atheism to christianity to buddhism.

      In fact, if I saw a Buddhist spouting out his/her bullshit while acting in the role of an educator in secular school, I would tell the person to shut the fuck up about it. I never “spread the word” to my students and saw many “religious” people thumpin’ their bibles (mostly). Never did I hear anyone spouting atheism though. Although, I grant that it probably happens.

      Myers and Dawkins may not be good philosophers (good writers and decent scientists, though), but I rank that as a positive. Philosophy is such a drag.

      Cheers,

      John

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