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Buddhist atheism

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

It has occurred to me, while doing a bit of exploring of thoughts and attitudes, that I’m actually an atheist. And I was wondering how this fits in with Buddhism, because on the one hand Buddhism says “there is no God” and on the other hand it says “there is a heavenly realm and there are lots of gods there, you can be reborn in that place”.

Your thoughts on this are very welcome...

[Deleted User]
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Comments

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    For myself I had to give up on Atheism when I found Buddhism. I had previously given up on Theism when I found sense in Atheism.

    I realised that to take on any beliefs and even to outright dismiss them without analysis was conjecture.

    When I'm asked about this stuff (and surprisingly I get asked quite a bit) I've gotten fond of saying I have that which makes he most sense to me according to the information I've gleaned so far and then I have a bunch of competing theories.

    In my mind it's like I've sort of equated belief to clinging and disbelief without analysis to aversion so the only position I could ever take is an agnostic one.

    That is, until we run out of the potential for incoming information.

    personlobsterScottPen
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I always thought I was an agnostic, until I ran across Russel’s teapot. At that point I realised that agnosticism was actually a position with a lot of problems - if you say you’re agnostic about God, then there are an awful lot of other things on the edges of imagination that you need to be agnostic about. Say the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for example, which is patently absurd.

    So from the fact that I felt safe ruling out all those other things bordering the imaginary, I came to the conclusion that I actually felt ok about declaring that I ‘knew’ God didn’t exist, atheist with a capital A. That and other reasons. Similarly I have significant doubts about karma and rebirth, although I’m willing to consider some form of afterlife because of experiences me and my father had together around the death of my stepmother.

    The one thing that bothers me about this is I feel rather churlish acting in opposition to other people’s beliefs, and saying it isn’t so especially when it is a spiritual belief is quite difficult for me. I guess I am naturally a very live-and-let-live person.

    herberto
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Kerome said:
    I always thought I was an agnostic, until I ran across Russel’s teapot. At that point I realised that agnosticism was actually a position with a lot of problems - if you say you’re agnostic about God, then there are an awful lot of other things on the edges of imagination that you need to be agnostic about. Say the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for example, which is patently absurd.

    So from the fact that I felt safe ruling out all those other things bordering the imaginary, I came to the conclusion that I actually felt ok about declaring that I ‘knew’ God didn’t exist, atheist with a capital A. That and other reasons. Similarly I have significant doubts about karma and rebirth, although I’m willing to consider some form of afterlife because of experiences me and my father had together around the death of my stepmother.

    The one thing that bothers me about this is I feel rather churlish acting in opposition to other people’s beliefs, and saying it isn’t so especially when it is a spiritual belief is quite difficult for me. I guess I am naturally a very live-and-let-live person.

    Also, deep down, there is probably a part of you that knows you don't know either way for a lack of information. Russell's teapot doesn't really apply here because there is no burden of truth to contend with.

    I can say that in light of what I have gathered that a creator deity (a conscious prime mover or first cause) makes no sense to me. If I say there is in reality no creator deity because it contradicts what I know then I am only fooling myself.

    This is why I think agnosticism is really the only intellectually honest position.

    personKundoseeker242
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I like Russell's Teapot in thinking about this, it really helps clarify an important principle in opposition to Pascal's Wager. Namely that our choices aren't binary, but potentially infinite.

    Having said that I think we can use some metaphysical reasoning to help make some sort of educated guesses as to what might be more or less likely. Certainty in metaphysics is generally pretty pointless, though as an aside I think Nagarjuna's meta metaphysical approach has merit, but it can help narrow down possibilities.

    For example, Russell's Teapot or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Both of them have a logical fallacy, that sort of begs the question. Specifically they both assert a man made construct and then place them in a situation where something man made is impossible except via magic. Less fallacious examples would be believing in a specific magic rock orbiting earth, or worship any sort of potentially naturally evolved alien species that we have no evidence for.

    To refine my position on karma and rebirth in light of infinite possibilities, reasons that make them more likely not less are that they are naturalistic and follow patterns we can see in the world and the nature of the first person, conscious experience is unexplained. That still leaves a lot of room for other explanations so belief in them beyond the possibility doesn't hold much water for me. Karma could just be that people react to you according to the demeanor you put out in the world. Consciousness could be, as Max Tegmark hypothesizes, an emergent property of the arrangement of matter.

    KeromeDavid
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited July 28

    @David said:

    @Kerome said:
    I always thought I was an agnostic, until I ran across Russel’s teapot. At that point I realised that agnosticism was actually a position with a lot of problems - if you say you’re agnostic about God, then there are an awful lot of other things on the edges of imagination that you need to be agnostic about. Say the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for example, which is patently absurd.

    So from the fact that I felt safe ruling out all those other things bordering the imaginary, I came to the conclusion that I actually felt ok about declaring that I ‘knew’ God didn’t exist, atheist with a capital A. That and other reasons. Similarly I have significant doubts about karma and rebirth, although I’m willing to consider some form of afterlife because of experiences me and my father had together around the death of my stepmother.

    The one thing that bothers me about this is I feel rather churlish acting in opposition to other people’s beliefs, and saying it isn’t so especially when it is a spiritual belief is quite difficult for me. I guess I am naturally a very live-and-let-live person.

    Also, deep down, there is probably a part of you that knows you don't know either way for a lack of information. Russell's teapot doesn't really apply here because there is no burden of truth to contend with.

    Well it does as an example of a thought experiment that people can think of to “put you on the spot”. Also you may not have direct information to prove God doesn’t exist, but neither does the believer have any evidence to prove that he does, and the burden of proof is on them.

    I can say that in light of what I have gathered that a creator deity (a conscious prime mover or first cause) makes no sense to me. If I say there is in reality no creator deity because it contradicts what I know then I am only fooling myself.

    This is why I think agnosticism is really the only intellectually honest position.

    I’ll apologise in advance for disagreeing. Say I ask you as an agnostic what your position is on the Russel’s teapot in space between the orbits of Earth and Mars. I believe in it and I ask you to believe too... are you going to be agnostic to spacefaring teapots? And if not, then why not?

    Fosdick
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:

    @Kerome said:
    I always thought I was an agnostic, until I ran across Russel’s teapot. At that point I realised that agnosticism was actually a position with a lot of problems - if you say you’re agnostic about God, then there are an awful lot of other things on the edges of imagination that you need to be agnostic about. Say the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for example, which is patently absurd.

    So from the fact that I felt safe ruling out all those other things bordering the imaginary, I came to the conclusion that I actually felt ok about declaring that I ‘knew’ God didn’t exist, atheist with a capital A. That and other reasons. Similarly I have significant doubts about karma and rebirth, although I’m willing to consider some form of afterlife because of experiences me and my father had together around the death of my stepmother.

    The one thing that bothers me about this is I feel rather churlish acting in opposition to other people’s beliefs, and saying it isn’t so especially when it is a spiritual belief is quite difficult for me. I guess I am naturally a very live-and-let-live person.

    Also, deep down, there is probably a part of you that knows you don't know either way for a lack of information. Russell's teapot doesn't really apply here because there is no burden of truth to contend with.

    Well it does as an example of a thought experiment that people can think of to “put you on the spot”. Also you may not have direct information to prove God doesn’t exist, but neither does the believer have any evidence to prove that he does, and the burden of proof is on them.

    I agree with this bit wholeheartedly and I often have to remind certain believers that although we are all entitled to our opinions and beliefs if we choose to hold them, we are not entitled to our own objective facts.

    This of course works for both believers and deniers.

    I can say that in light of what I have gathered that a creator deity (a conscious prime mover or first cause) makes no sense to me. If I say there is in reality no creator deity because it contradicts what I know then I am only fooling myself.

    This is why I think agnosticism is really the only intellectually honest position.

    I’ll apologise in advance for disagreeing. Say I ask you as an agnostic what your position is on the Russel’s teapot in space between the orbits of Earth and Mars. I believe in it and I ask you to believe too... are you going to be agnostic to spacefaring teapots?

    That question/request makes no sense from an agnostic viewpoint. I can't just choose to believe in something I find unbelievable any more than I can choose to like the taste of sushi.

    The validity of Russell's Teapot and the FSM would depend on their probability of being true. They are way down on the list sure, but who am I to say there is no potential for it to be true somewhere even just by virtue of being imagined? Mind is kind of odd in case you haven't noticed.

    If there is indeed an infinite amount of potential versions of the universe within an eternal cycle then somewhere there could indeed be a teapot with Russell's name engraved on it via laser beam just waiting to be discovered.

    But that's just off the top of my head and yes, I surely sound silly but that doesn't mean what I say couldn't be true.

    That being said, I would still remind the believer that they don't really know for a fact because if they did they wouldn't have to hold it as a belief and it could be objectively known.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited July 28

    So you choose to not be agnostic, saying I don’t know, to spacefaring teapots in this universe? So how is this different from the case with God? In both cases you were asked to believe in something incredible - a God who created the Earth in seven days and made man in his image, or a spacefaring teapot - yet your response and approach to evaluating the problem were quite different. As @person rightly pointed out, there is a potentially infinite variety of things we could repeat this with, and you’d happily be ruling them all out. Is there an element of social pressure to this, of not wanting to take an atheist position?

  • ajhayesajhayes Northern Michigan Veteran
    edited July 28

    My understand of things is that Buddhism leaves the idea of the divine to the individual. Buddhism simply points at the path and it is up to us to follow it and find guidance as we need it (within the realm of our own understanding).

    Kundokando
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Kerome said:
    So you choose to not be agnostic to spacefaring teapots? So how is this different from the case with God?

    Maybe I was editing but that question makes no sense and I feel I just went over it.

    Agnosticism stems from the recognition that we simply don't know for a lack of information.

    In both cases you were asked to believe in something incredible - a God who created the Earth in seven days and made man in his image, or a spacefaring teapot - yet your response and approach to evaluating the problem were quite different. Could it be that social pressure causes this difference?

    No, not even close actually.

    There is what makes the most sense according to the information I have gathered at the time and then I have a bunch of competing theories.

    A deity that made everything is less probable to me than a spacefaring teapot. The reason being the teapot hav a chance of existing within an infinite and eternal universe whereas a beginning to that universe or even an outside of that universe does not.

    Agnosticism does not mean accepting all beliefs as equally valid or all possibilities as equally probable are you kidding me?

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Not all beliefs no, but everything within the bounds of the imagination has to go through the same hopper to see if it’s true or not. Your bunch of competing theories has one entry point and a few exit points apparently.

    I reckon that if we started going through the infinite possibilities - leprechauns? angels? - we would soon find a few you’d have to put an agnostic “I don’t know” label on, because you couldn’t disprove them (in fact the teapot can’t be disproven either).

    The point is, we know darn well these things don’t exist. It’s just that social conditioning has likely shifted the boundaries at which you feel justified saying that about a Christian God.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 28

    No, sorry lol. It doesn't work that way.

    If I've offended you I apologize but you asked a question and all I did was answer to the best of my personal abilities. You need more than logical fallacies to counter my position.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 28

    I enjoy my gods, thank you very much.

    I just don't believe in them is all.

    I don't want to risk making my mind into their prison.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I actually don't give it much though one way or the other.
    If God exists, it really doesn't affect me.
    If God doesn't exist, it really doesn't affect me.

    I'm far too busy getting what I can see, hear, taste, touch, smell and think about, right, without even venturing into the "Yeah, but.... what if....?"

    Waste of time.
    And I honestly don't know how much of that I have left.
    So I'd rather spend it practising, than speculating.

    personlobsterDavid
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @David said:
    No, sorry lol. It doesn't work that way.

    If I've offended you I apologize but you asked a question and all I did was answer to the best of my personal abilities. You need more than logical fallacies to counter my position.

    I’m not offended at all :) by all means I’d like to know how you think it works, and where I may have taken a wrong turn

    David
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Russell's teapot? Huh.
    Pop kettle on, would be my suggestion....

    DavidKundolobsterKerome
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:
    No, sorry lol. It doesn't work that way.

    If I've offended you I apologize but you asked a question and all I did was answer to the best of my personal abilities. You need more than logical fallacies to counter my position.

    I’m not offended at all :) by all means I’d like to know how you think it works, and where I may have taken a wrong turn

    I'm not exactly sure what you're asking here so I'll just say that my position is that we simply do not know 100% either way and if we think we do we should at least consider the fact that we could be wrong and/or kidding ourself. This is why I feel it is the only truly honest position in this.

    Not all the information is in as far as I can say and so to come to a conclusion is the definition of conjecture which is something Buddha wasn't too keen on afaik.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Well, I was attempting to show the logical process by which I arrived at my position that agnosticism is largely a cop-out, and there is no such thing as an “I don’t know” position on this.

    But it’s the first time I’ve tried to show this argument, and perhaps I missed out a step.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I might divide agnosticism into two categories as well. There is the I think something exists, but I'm not sure and there is there is no evidence for something to exist but it remains a possibility.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said: ....there is no such thing as an “I don’t know” position on this.

    Yes there is.

    I don't know.
    But as I already said, I also, don't care.

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @federica said:
    Yes there is.

    I don't know.
    But as I already said, I also, don't care.

    I'm with Fede 🙏🙏🙏

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Well, I was attempting to show the logical process by which I arrived at my position that agnosticism is largely a cop-out, and there is no such thing as an “I don’t know” position on this.

    But it’s the first time I’ve tried to show this argument, and perhaps I missed out a step.

    Yes, you do seem to have a mistaken premise about what agnosticism really is.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @federica said:
    I actually don't give it much though one way or the other.
    If God exists, it really doesn't affect me.
    If God doesn't exist, it really doesn't affect me.

    I'm far too busy getting what I can see, hear, taste, touch, smell and think about, right, without even venturing into the "Yeah, but.... what if....?"

    Waste of time.
    And I honestly don't know how much of that I have left.
    So I'd rather spend it practising, than speculating.

    In the end all the thinking in the world doesn't change us much, if at all, on the ground floor. So to that extent it does come down to practice. We've had our share of belligerent academics come through here, who could parse the hair off a fly's behind but quite obviously hadn't put a lick of it into practice.

    As per Lipstick on a Pig? maybe all we are doing is post hoc rationalizing of our intuitive positions. I do feel though that humans, as a species, has made philosophical and moral progress because we are able to articulate our attitudes "on paper". When we "show our work" we are able to let others peer review it and work out in the market place of ideas which views are worth putting into practice. The Buddha didn't just pass on his realizations by giving the flower sermon over and over again, he expounded his philosophy, answered questions, gave stories and arguments for his positions and against others.

    We all have differing dispositions, and speculating isn't such a waste of time for you that you weren't able to take a few seconds to comment here on the proper attitude towards metaphysical uncertainty.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @David said:
    I enjoy my gods, thank you very much.

    Me too. <3

    They are probably healthier if steamed ... (demons are best roasted, angels taste of chicken)
    Until transubstantiated, gods are as much use as sliced bread/eucharist ...
    Invite them and dead philosophers for tea and spaghetti monster sandwiches, which are more substance/real ... o:)

    I just don't believe in them is all.

    I don't believe in belief, gods created for fun, prophet/profit, yidam practice or story telling ... :)

    I don't want to risk making my mind into their prison.

    Tee hee. We iz god trap? If you love your gods, set them free. Are we still
    imprisoned? O.o

    [No gods are harmed by being in prison, in mind or out of our mind]

    Are gods enlightened? No? Poor things ... :p

    personDavid
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 29

    It's funny because I do have gods on my shrine but I have them there to remind me of the qualities they are said to possess and not because I believe they objectively exist.

    I am OCD about it though. My shrine has to be arranged just so.

    I want to find Jesus for my shrine as well but he would be close to Lao Tzu or maybe as an incarnation of Vishnu, not sure.

    lobster
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    @David said:

    I want to find Jesus for my shrine as well but he would be close to Lao Tzu or maybe as an incarnation of Vishnu, not sure.

    I'm not sure if that's wise, you might come in and find them shoulder barging or maybe doing the. tango - not sure which is the most disturbing. Let's face the music and have a tea dance :)

    David
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Well @David if allah has a daughter you might like:

    Failing that there are crucified Buddha images from China ... or perhaps ...

    Long Live His Divine Noodliness
    https://www.venganza.org

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 29

    Oh wow, I wouldn't have him on my shrine stuck on a stick in his death throes. I wouldn't take away from his personal message by putting him in full lotus either. If all else fails I'll substitute a Ben Kenobi action figure. Yoda might end up there too actually.

    lobster
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited July 29

    @Kerome said:
    It has occurred to me, while doing a bit of exploring of thoughts and attitudes, that I’m actually an atheist. And I was wondering how this fits in with Buddhism, because on the one hand Buddhism says “there is no God” and on the other hand it says “there is a heavenly realm and there are lots of gods there, you can be reborn in that place”.

    Your thoughts on this are very welcome...

    I'm not aware that Buddhism says anywhere in its scriptures, that "there is no God". What the Buddha said, is that whether or not there is a deity, a Creator, a Supreme Being (or Beings), is irrelevant to personal Liberation.

    There are debates among scholars of the Buddhist canon, as to whether some of the teachings attributed to the Buddha actually found their way into the canon as a result of later outside influence. For example, in the Buddha's earliest discourses, he responds to a question about karma manifesting in later rebirths, by exhorting his followers to not concern themselves with how their present actions might influence future rebirths. He says, rather, to focus on the benefits to the current lifetime, of cultivating virtue, compassion and insight.

    lobsterShoshinKeromeKundo
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I’ve been reading about a process called street epistemology which is quite interesting, it is intended to lead people to a reasoned way of viewing the world. It is surprising how poor humans are at reason, when we consider ourselves reasonable beings...

    Street epistemology website

    personScottPen
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    if you say you’re agnostic about God, then there are an awful lot of other things on the edges of imagination that you need to be agnostic about

    Why? Is there a rulebook somewhere that says this? =)

    @Kerome said:
    that agnosticism is largely a cop-out, and there is no such thing as an “I don’t know” position on this.

    Carl Sagan would disagree and he was very logical. =) He believed "I don't know" is the ONLY logical thing to say. As he used to say " “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Otherwise, you would be committing the logical fallacy of "Argument from Ignorance". If you want to be purely logical, one should never "argue from ignorance". God exists is an argument from ignorance, God does not exist is also an argument from ignorance. So, the only logical position, is no position. A truly logical position is based purely on positive evidence, not a lack thereof.

    personFosdickScottPenDavid
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited July 30

    @seeker242 said:
    God does not exist is also an argument from ignorance. So, the only logical position, is no position. A truly logical position is based purely on positive evidence, not a lack thereof.

    However, there are a near-infinite number of things one is ignorant about. Yet we know the vast majority of them are not true. We know intuitively, out of our pool of extended knowledge, that this is so, that if someone claims that the moon is filled with spare ribs, they deservedly get shouted down.

    Still on the question of a creator God, we don’t seem to apply the same logic, although it is just as far-fetched a position. It is in fact a mythology, of which we as a species have made many. For example the Thai people have a myth that a great serpent threshed around in a milky sea, and out of the churn man was made. So what makes one myth more true than another?

    You can say you are a-gnostic (a: not, gnosis: knowledge) on the subject of all mythologies, but the fact that they are all man-made artefacts points to something more correct, that none of them are true, and the scientific process of examining the astronomical origins of the universe are closer to a realisation of the truth of creation.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @seeker242 said:
    God does not exist is also an argument from ignorance. So, the only logical position, is no position. A truly logical position is based purely on positive evidence, not a lack thereof.

    However, there are a near-infinite number of things one is ignorant about. Yet we know the vast majority of them are not true. We know intuitively, out of our pool of extended knowledge, that this is so, that if someone claims that the moon is filled with spare ribs, they deservedly get shouted down.

    Still on the question of a creator God, we don’t seem to apply the same logic, although it is just as far-fetched a position. It is in fact a mythology, of which we as a species have made many. For example the Thai people have a myth that a great serpent threshed around in a milky sea, and out of the churn man was made. So what makes one myth more true than another?

    You can say you are a-gnostic (a: not, gnosis: knowledge) on the subject of all mythologies, but the fact that they are all man-made artefacts points to something more correct, that none of them are true, and the scientific process of examining the astronomical origins of the universe are closer to a realisation of the truth of creation.

    I largely agree with you but don't think all truth claims are equally reasonable. Take the spare ribs in the moon example. Spare ribs are a human created phenomena made from an animal. So to make the claim that the moon is full of them isn't just a truth claim made in a vacuum, it directly contradicts what we do know about reality. To make a claim within the gaps in our knowledge isn't equally dismissible. That's not to say it IS true or we need to accept a claim on insufficient evidence, just that we can make a differentiation between contradictory claims and claims from ignorance.

    FosdickDavid
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I’ve been reading about a process called street epistemology which is quite interesting, it is intended to lead people to a reasoned way of viewing the world. It is surprising how poor humans are at reason, when we consider ourselves reasonable beings...

    Street epistemology website

    Here's a short video explaining a similar technique.

    I agree with your video that the goal isn't necessarily to convince someone their beliefs are wrong but to help them think and reason about beliefs in a more productive way. Directly challenging beliefs often just causes people to dig in and reject any arguments out of hand because "FU".

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited July 30

    @person said:
    I largely agree with you but don't think all truth claims are equally reasonable. Take the spare ribs in the moon example. Spare ribs are a human created phenomena made from an animal. So to make the claim that the moon is full of them isn't just a truth claim made in a vacuum, it directly contradicts what we do know about reality. To make a claim within the gaps in our knowledge isn't equally dismissible. That's not to say it IS true or we need to accept a claim on insufficient evidence, just that we can make a differentiation between contradictory claims and claims from ignorance.

    Agreed. =)

    @Kerome said:
    However, there are a near-infinite number of things one is ignorant about. Yet we know the vast majority of them are not true. We know intuitively, out of our pool of extended knowledge, that this is so, that if someone claims that the moon is filled with spare ribs, they deservedly get shouted down.

    Still on the question of a creator God, we don’t seem to apply the same logic, although it is just as far-fetched a position.

    It is a far fetched position, if you are going to try and assert it as fact! However, to make a claim about things where we have NO extended knowledge at all, on either side, is also far fetched if you want to be purely logical.

    We DO have extended knowledge when it comes to spare ribs and tea pots, because we invented them, etc. We do have extended knowledge of the moon because we have visited it and studied it, etc. We don't have ANY extended knowledge, that meets modern scientific standards, in either direction, when it comes to things like hell realms or devas, etc. How would it even be possible to have gain extended knowledge of such things, assuming for the sake of argument that they are actually real? You can't. When you have no such knowledge, nor any way to obtain such knowledge, no claim can reasonably be made. You can formulate beliefs sure, but you can't assert them as if they are facts. Not if you are being purely logical. You can assert that it's logical to not believe in hell realms, sure, because there is no real evidence of them. However, as soon as you try to assert that belief as if it is a fact, that's where it becomes illogical, because all you have to go on is lack of evidence to the contrary.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited July 30

    @seeker242 said:
    You can formulate beliefs sure, but you can't assert them as if they are facts. Not if you are being purely logical. You can assert that it's logical to not believe in hell realms, sure, because there is no real evidence of them.

    Well, what we are debating is almost entirely about whether it is reasonable to hold certain beliefs, not what can be solidly proven as a fact. If you’re happy to say it’s not logical to believe in things that have no direct evidence for them, then fair enough, that’s a stricter standard than I would have set.

    Admittedly the argument crosses some boundaries. We now know the Earth is some 4 billion years old. That is fact. That contradicts the Book of Genesis, and so disproves the Biblical creation story which was long held as literal truth. What does that mean for the truthfulness of the bible, and the existence of god? You decide.

    It may not be possible to assert as a fact that deva’s and hell realms do not exist, but it is very likely that they don’t. We have enough extended knowledge of how the world works and how mythology comes about that we can say that much ;)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Now I would make a distinction between two types of truth claims made by the Buddha. The first type are claims about internal subjective states of mind, these sorts of claims do seem to be very reliable and, at least so far, have stood up to scientific evaluation. The second type are claims about the external world, to the best of my knowledge pretty much all of these types of claims that can be checked scientifically have been shown to be false.

    That is my experience and understanding. These internal subjective mind states can have increasingly subtle effects on our external being and experience. However beneficial, calming, euphoric or difficult, they are generated projections. Our real enlightened mind is free from such ups, downs and sideways. Nirvana is free of subjective qualities, however refined ...
    https://zenarchiving.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/learning-to-sit-instruction-in-the-practice-of-meditation/

    As Quan Yin constantly says: 'I am not real'

    Who would have thought ...

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited July 31

    @Kerome said:
    What does that mean for the truthfulness of the bible, and the existence of god? You decide.

    I don't know, I don't believe in the bible or in God. =)

    It may not be possible to assert as a fact that deva’s and hell realms do not exist, but it is very likely that they don’t. We have enough extended knowledge of how the world works and how mythology comes about that we can say that much

    I don't think you can say that much because hell realms are not even of "this world" to begin with. They are purported to be an entirely different realm of existence. We have knowledge of human and animal realms and that's it. The extended knowledge we have of the human realm is not even applicable. Even if you had full and complete knowledge of the human realm, that still wouldn't help you. The only thing "very likely that they don’t", has to stand on, is lack of evidence. That isn't much at all, not from the standpoint of logic. According to the knowledge we actually have, there is nothing to base any likelihood on to begin with, in either direction.

    However, belief in hell realm can be reasonable, if you believe the Buddha was actually fully enlightened, knower of all worlds, etc. It's not unreasonable to simply believe that the Buddha was telling the truth. Especially so when you have personally tested many of the things he has said, and personally found them to be true. When that is the case, it's not unreasonable to assume the rest of what he said is true also. For example, say a person tells you 100 things. With 80 of these things, you can go out and personally verify for yourself their truthfulness. You actually go and do that and determine, for yourself, that all 80 things are in fact true. With these other 20 things, you don't really know how to test them for yourself or you just can't. However, the person that told you these things now has an impeccable track record for telling the truth so far. You have personally found for yourself that this person is very wise, much wiser than yourself, and extraordinarily trustworthy. You are fully confident, due to your past experiences with them, that they actually do know what they are talking about and they are in fact a most supreme expert in such matters. Given all of that, it's quite reasonable to just believe them.

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @seeker242 said:
    However, belief in hell realm can be reasonable, if you believe the Buddha was actually fully enlightened, knower of all worlds, etc. It's not unreasonable to simply believe that the Buddha was telling the truth. Especially so when you have personally tested many of the things he has said, and personally found them to be true. When that is the case, it's not unreasonable to assume the rest of what he said is true also. For example, say a person tells you 100 things. With 80 of these things, you can go out and personally verify for yourself their truthfulness. You actually go and do that and determine, for yourself, that all 80 things are in fact true. With these other 20 things, you don't really know how to test them for yourself or you just can't. However, the person that told you these things now has an impeccable track record for telling the truth so far. You have personally found for yourself that this person is very wise, much wiser than yourself, and extraordinarily trustworthy. You are fully confident, due to your past experiences with them, that they actually do know what they are talking about and they are in fact a most supreme expert in such matters. Given all of that, it's quite reasonable to just believe them.

    The above point is, I believe, where Buddhism becomes a religion as opposed to a philosophy. Which is OK! But not for me, and not for many other folks who approach Buddhism from a skeptical point of view.

    I don't believe anyone just because they're trustworthy. It helps, but it isn't an absolute determining factor. On the other hand, I also don't disbelieve someone because other claims they have made are either implausible or proven to be untrue.

    Here's an analogy... I'm coming up with this off the top of my head, so please tell me if it doesn't hold water. Let's say there is a math teacher. This teacher shows problem after problem and provides the method of solution. She encourages the class to utilize the method and see for themselves what happens. When students have trouble grasping, the teacher changes the angle of the lesson to attempt to explain in a way that each student can understand. She patiently directs each students' irrelevant questions toward a line of thinking that will be helpful towards solving the problems, and away from lines of thinking that may confuse or obfuscate. Eventually the class comes to see the teacher as knowledgeable, trustworthy, and sympathetic- and the class, through experience and observation, believes that future experiences with the teacher regarding math will be similar. Why wouldn't they? In all of these students' minds she has never been wrong, never been unkind, never been disingenuous, and has always been able to eventually guide the students toward a solution that they can reach on their own using the method that the teacher provides.
    One day the teacher shows the class a problem, shows the solution, encourages practice, just like always. The students, respecting her and expecting the experience to be in line with previous ones, work on the problem. Some follow the method to the solution. Some, however, find that there are gaps in the method that make the solution impossible to reach. They pose their questions, and the teacher answers them by saying that certain parts of the method require assumptions that are unverifiable. These assumptions are part of the method because they have been a part of other mathematical principles in the past which were generally accepted by most mathematicians. She has created this method of solution and is confident that it works, even though it has gaps that cannot be resolved through observation. The students ask why- if other lessons in class only included provable methods of solution, should they make unverifiable assumptions in order to solve this problem? Instead of making assumptions which aren't provable, why not just leave this problem aside and consider it to be without a solution for the time being until more verifiable information comes to light that can solve the problem without assumptions?
    The teacher states that her track record should show them that taking her advice and doing math in the way that she teaches has never failed them before. She tells them that she has the greatest mind in mathematics- and that although she cannot prove the assertions that her assumptive method makes, they should have faith in her ability to teach them correctly. In fact, having faith in her ability to make these assumptions will be the only way to get high marks in class, while having doubt will be a hindrance. Other students in the class were able to make this leap of faith and are happily satisfied with the result, not conflicted in any way. Content. The skeptical students are not satisfied with her answer.
    Now... some of the skeptics are conflicted, and from that point find it difficult to trust the teacher, even when the solutions to other problems can be reached just as she teaches them. However, their trust in the teacher has now been undermined- causing them to quit the class and question everything that she ever taught them. They've been tricked before and hold bitterness about it. They associate those past experiences with this one, and decide to quit math and become mass-comm majors.
    However, a few of the skeptics remain in the class. They are true skeptics, evaluating and investigating not only the claims that teachers make, but also their own emotional reactions to the world around them. They decide that the unverifiable claims are irrelevant obfuscations, and resolve to continue to pursue mathematics. They accept the fact that they won't get A's in this class due to their lack of faith, but have made that choice in order to pursue the subject matter with curiosity, openness, diligence, honesty, and critical thinking.

    @person said:
    Now I would make a distinction between two types of truth claims made by the Buddha. The first type are claims about internal subjective states of mind, these sorts of claims do seem to be very reliable and, at least so far, have stood up to scientific evaluation. The second type are claims about the external world, to the best of my knowledge pretty much all of these types of claims that can be checked scientifically have been shown to be false.

    And the above point is why, as a person who does not have a belief in god, gods, or even that the Buddha was somehow a sort of elevated human being, I can practice the dharma without being turned away by the parts that I would have to accept on faith.

    kando
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited July 31

    @ScottPen said:
    The above point is, I believe, where Buddhism becomes a religion as opposed to a philosophy.

    I would agree. =)

    But not for me, and not for many other folks who approach Buddhism from a skeptical point of view.

    Which I think is fine. =) My point was just that after 20 or 30 years of practicing, it's not unreasonable to let go of the skepticism. Of course, people don't have to if they don't want to. Some people do, some people don't. But if they do, that doesn't mean they aren't being reasonable. : =)

    kandoKundo
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @seeker242 said:

    @ScottPen said:
    But not for me, and not for many other folks who approach Buddhism from a skeptical point of view.

    Which I think is fine. =) My point was just that after 20 or 30 years of practicing, it's not unreasonable to let go of the skepticism. Of course, people don't have to if they don't want to. Some people do, some people don't. But if they do, that doesn't mean they aren't being reasonable. : =)

    It’s where you go when you “let go of the skepticism” that I find curious. For me, the natural world around us is our greatest teacher, and that natural world does not point to any man-made fancies such as hell realms. I’d say this is part of the basis, the grounding in the normal world which is our first birthright as humans.

    It’s not just skepticism which encourages this line of thinking, although of course the world is full of religious con-men trying to sell you their latest idea, and it behooves one to carefully probe with critical thinking what they’re selling before you take on board one iota.

    For me, the actions of the real world gradually accumulate into a body of evidence of how the world works. I find myself becoming more questioning of the miracles in religious scripture, the more I see of the real world. Levitating monks, teleportation, it all seems the stuff of dreams, not of the solid here and now.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    My Teapot is wise & compassionate, and calms me in difficult times, and perks me up when need be

    I liked your ode to the teapot, and a very beautiful example it is too...

    Shoshin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Thought this was relevant ...

    ScottPenpersonKeromeShoshin
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran
    edited August 1

    OMG @lobster that would have saved me a lot of time

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 1

    @Kerome said:
    It’s where you go when you “let go of the skepticism” that I find curious. For me, the natural world around us is our greatest teacher, and that natural world does not point to any man-made fancies such as hell realms.

    It doesn't! But, when the hell realm is said to be a different world, it's not rational to look to this world, to try and gain information about a different world and then form conclusions about a different world, using the information you gained from looking at this world.

    It would be like a fish examining it's underwater environment to try and gain information about a mountaintop environment. Then, forming conclusions about a mountaintop, based on what it found underwater. That doesn't make sense. A fish has no mechanism or method to gain any information, at all.

    That's why things like hell realms are "unfalsifiable" and don't even fall within the realm of any kind of scientific investigation at all. To even try and investigate things like this, from a scientific perspective, is literally impossible.

    it all seems the stuff of dreams, not of the solid here and now.

    I would agree it is not of the here and now. Because the here and now is the human realm and that's it. =)

    personBunksDavidBodhiTzu
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