Shaking Things Up: Atheism and Buddhism

Now some time ago, I wrote in a post that I would be studying up on Eastern religions and their concept of God; because, typical arguments against God in the West only really work towards the monotheistic Western deity of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Now, I have been reading up quite a bit between my studies at university. I can’t say that I’m finished studying up on these interesting and highly complex religions, but I will go over where I am, personally, at the moment.

Let me start out by saying, I was always leaning more towards existential nihilism to begin with and less towards humanism. Humanism sounds great, but for various reasons I found it problematic. Maybe I just don’t share Humanism’s optimism, but I digress.

So let’s talk about Buddhism. Buddhism, unlike many religions doesn’t require an all powerful, all good, and all knowing creator. Now, this doesn’t mean Buddhism is naturalistic. To assume this, would be far from the truth.

There is no “soul” and the “self” is an illusion, but the mind is not materialistic in nature. It is eternal, and we have all been through an infinite amount of deaths and rebirths due to bad karma. (Karma here being the law of cause and effect.) The earth is not the only place one can be reborn. Minds can be reborn in the lower realms, “hells,” or higher realms, “heavens.” Neither of the former are places people go for eternity.  However, the aim of Buddhism is to reach enlightenment, “nirvana,” and the end of the cycle of death and rebirth NOT to end up in heaven or hell.

Now, this is where the Buddha comes into play. The Buddha was someone who reached enlightenment, and then proceeded to teach others how to do so themselves. The idea is that we can all become buddhas.

Now perhaps interestingly, I, a materialistic nihilist, went to a Buddhist Sangha, a gathering of Buddhists. Why? Well, for one there is no better and easier way to learn about a religion than to go to their religious service. Secondly, I seek to meditate properly, as mediation has many beneficial effects. Thirdly, and most importantly, I am an open minded person.

I am starting to realize that the Buddhist view of human nature seems to be quite accurate. Human beings are not “fallen.” Still, every  intentional action has moral significance, and we would all be happier if we learn to control our mind. In a nutshell, it’s not the situation that’s the problem, it’s what we think about a given situation that’s a problem. If you think a situation is horrible, terrible, or unlivable it is. If you think the situation isn’t that bad after all you won’t suffer as much. Now, if you don’t believe me about the thinking part, consider asking any psychologist. I have. However, their supernatural claims are another story.

The Western monotheistic deity I, certainly, see as false. (See many of my other posts.) Still, I am playing around and toying with different ideas. I am not saying I am converting to Buddhism, but so far, it’s been fun!




Indoctrinating Children

When we use the word “indoctrinate,” we usually have religion in my mind. Many atheists have long spoken against the idea of indoctrinating children into religion, but in reality, all parents indoctrinate their children. Some of us raise our children to be good members of society. Some of us raise our children to be racists, and some of us raise our children to be religious. None of this changes the fact that all children are indoctrinated. So, what is important is what children are indoctrinated to believe.

Say what you want about the religious, but if they actually believe that non-believers are going to burn, how can we expect them to not teach their children about God? This is something I’m concerned about, and so, I can only conclude that some amount of religious indoctrination will always have to be excused. If someone strongly believes that “meat is murder” it cannot be expected that the person won’t teach their children the same.

Of course, some teachings are so horrible that they cannot be excused. There may be certain teachings that are so abhorrent that teaching is tantamount to child abuse. Should we take a child away from her KKK member parents?

I think the only thing people can do is to refuse parents the right of isolating their children. Children need to be introduced to the age-appropriate things society has to offer. Parents may play the biggest role in a child’s life, but society as whole can play a part. This can be done in schooling where thinking skills need to be taught.

Nevertheless, I’m skeptical that society could play a big role, and I’m skeptical that proper schooling will teach actual thinking skills, as opposed to teachers’ biases.

Do Atheists get their Morals from Christianity?

I’m not one of those atheists who completely ignore theology or apologetics, but now, unless I uncover a book containing an argument that is unique, I feel like I’ve put in my time. I’ve read theology, apologetics, and watched many video lectures by the more prominent theologians. I’ve even taken a 300 level philosophy of religion course. (I am aware this doesn’t make me a theologian.) Not to mention, I’ve read the Bible several times.

Recently, a commenter recommended a book. I looked at the book on amazon, and the book’s premise was that even atheists use Christian morals. I have heard this argument before. The premise is usually a variant on the idea that people, here anyways, grow up in a largely Christian society, and this is where atheists get their morals. Thus, an atheist’s moral values originate from Christianity.

While no one can doubt that Christianity has had a large effect on many societies, I think the idea that all atheists nowadays are following and should follow Christian morality is wrong. The fact of the matter is that people know, without the Bible, that murder is wrong. Yes, the Bible points out certain things are wrong that most of agree on, but other pre-Christian ethics have done the same thing. The Code of Hammurabi predates Mosaic law with eerie similarities in some places. (Here’s a wikipedia article on it.) The Code of Hammurabi has laws on slander, theft, and more. Still, I do not claim to follow The Code of Hammurabi or the Bible. Just because some of the prohibitions are good doesn’t mean the entirety of the text should be kept, and just because we can all agree on some things, like do not kill, doesn’t mean we got that rule out of the Bible. I do not think most of us would ever be that barbaric with or without the Bible.

Now, I think most atheists keep their morality simply by contemplation. However, their is a wealth of content on morality from philosophy. Moral philosophy has been going on since the ancient Greeks, and I for one try to look at these systems of beliefs. (Although, my work is not done.) I suggest others consult moral philosophy as well. I have posted before that I think any good moral system should look at sources such as psychology, moral philosophy, sociology, and neuroscience. We can turn morality into a system that works for everybody. I think we should try our best to do this.

Who Created God?

Many atheists think positing God as the cause of the universe is a bad idea. This is due to the inevitable question: Who created God? In many atheists’ minds, using God as the cause of the universe just adds more problems.I am a devout skeptic. Still, I think this a bad line of reasoning. I do not think one has to research every theological argument from early Christendom onwards, but I think understanding basic concepts of the western monotheistic deity is somewhat necessary. This is especially true if one is arguing with any believer who has some level of sophistication about their religious beliefs.

The deity is considered eternal and self-existing. In other words, God does not have a beginning, and thus, he doesn’t need a creator. (The main arguments for God’s existence take for granted these ideas.) Now, some may say this is a cop out, but at the same time, this is part of the definition of God, if we are talking about western monotheism. If an atheist chooses to ask the question, then the theists may turn the argument around. They might say, for example, that the atheist is caricaturing their God.

Now, I’m not posting in order to tell people how to argue. That’s really none of my business. Still, I hear this question posed over and over again by atheists to theists, and this includes some outspoken famous atheists. I would, however, like my fellow atheists to be aware of the problems involved in asking this question. It makes debates on YouTube more interesting to watch when the previous ideas are taken into account by the deity. (Okay, I guess I’m selfish. Sue me.)

Sick Children and Religion

I’ve been sick for a week, but I’m getting better. I still can’t hear out my ears very well, but I’m sure it will get better. I thought I had allergies until I kept getting sicker. Anyways, at least I’m no longer in pain or leaking fluid out my eye sockets!

Being sick reminds of Christian Scientists who don’t believe in modern medicine. ( I know a portion of them do receive some medical intervention, especially for vaccines.) I mean if a grown adult would rather die than go to a hospital, then I suppose we should let them. (After a healthy dose of education of course!) Still, what about their children?

I, actually, find the idea of neglecting a sick child in that way is barbaric, but I also, truly, don’t want to live in a world where people aren’t allowed to practice their beliefs. While I do think it necessary to help a child who is being neglected, I do prefer for Big Brother to stay out of a parents’ relationship with their children. Of course, we could just simply state that if a child is knocking on death’s door, then it is appropriate to intervene.  Then again, how many cases against parents would be successful in the end?They are, obviously, going to use a freedom of religion defense. What about the child’s freedom of religion? What about a teenager’s? If a minor wants to receive medical attention, at what age do they have a right to it without parental approval? Still, to what degree does minor living with their parents truly have autonomy?

Also, what if the children arent‘t on death’s door, and they are just needlessly suffering? I know some will disagree, but the parent, in my view, who allows a child to touch a hot stove in order to learn better is wrong.

I’m not answering my questions, intentionally. There are no good answers. If we take away the children, then the children are being robbed of what, might, very well be otherwise a loving home, and then, what if the children grow up with resentment towards society. If we do take the children, it could be a good thing, physically. for the child. I supposed the government could demand regular check ups in order to monitor the children, but that’s a heck of a lot of freedom to give up. This just one of those times where belief puts the rest of us between a rock and a hard place.

You Don’t Choose What You Believe

I’m not going to address free will here; although, I could add that to this equation. However, I won’t. My concern is this: you cannot change your beliefs like you change your clothes. I’m not saying people don’t change their beliefs; because, they obviously do. However, people can’t just change their minds without good reason. People cannot just simply choose a belief system in order to make someone else happy, or because, it would be really nice for a belief to be true.

Some people truly believe in a deity, but they have their reasons. Deep down they feel that their belief is correct. Their faith makes sense to them, and they have experiences that confirm their beliefs to them. (Of course, I’m not claiming their experiences are good evidence for a deity.) They may have been indoctrinated as well. Unless something happens to them whether internal or external, they will maintain their belief.  In order for disbelief to occur, faith in a deity has to stop making sense, and their has to be a realization that maybe their experiences are not what they thought they were. Likewise,  an atheist cannot believe in a deity , even if they wanted to. Until a deity makes more sense, an atheist cannot  truly believe.

Doubt is real. It’s a voice deep in the mind, that is echoing what makes sense to an individual. In some cases, people use a double think to stick with their belief in a deity. People will tell themselves they are going through a phase. People seek pastoral counseling, in order to be further indoctrinated. Some people accept the doubt as a part of faith, which has never made much sense to me. (I don’t believe in God right now, but hey, I’m Christian.) A person’s doubt might be telling them that they’re unsure about a deity or that they are an atheist. However if people aren’t exploring their doubt and revaluating what make sense to them , then they are just lying to themselves. A person can confess that they believe in a deity all they want, but that doesn’t make it true. Deep down no matter what a person tries to do to themselves, they know the what their true convictions really are.

My point is this: no more self deception. There is nothing reprehensible about being unsure  about a current belief, or even deciding it’s not true. However, we all need to ask questions on our own, in our own good time. Look at both sides and decide. Don’t be ashamed of doubt. Don’t attempt to self-deceive. It won’t work. The doubt will not go away, if the belief doesn’t make sense anymore. Forced belief isn’t true belief. It’s time to stop playing pretend.