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tbradnc
New Member

10 Posts

Posted - 06/01/2011 :  15:53:42  Show Profile Send tbradnc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Greetings All:

My first post - I am wondering if there are any other skeptical, secular Buddhists around anywhere.....

I practice Buddhist meditation and practice the method suggested by the Buddha for reducing suffering in my life (and by extension, the world) but leave the religious trappings behind.

I'm also an agnostic leaning atheist and search for truth through science and critical thinking.

So, I'm wondering - in general are Buddhists welcome in skeptical circles?

p.s. Secular Buddhism is relatively new - I would suggest a google search on "Stephen Batchelor" for more info - he is a well known teacher of SB....

H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 06/01/2011 :  16:01:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by tbradnc
So, I'm wondering - in general are Buddhists welcome in skeptical circles?
Of course. Although, as expected, we subject Buddhist claims to the same level of critical scrutiny we would give any religious claims. From what I've seen, some claims are dodgy, some are essentially secular philosophy, and some (like Karma) depend on how the idea is presented. I hope you stick around because I've been mulling over a few thoughts about Buddhism recently and would love to hear an educated opinion on the subject.

Welcome to the SFN, tbradnc.

"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 06/01/2011 16:01:38
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tbradnc
New Member

10 Posts

Posted - 06/01/2011 :  17:51:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send tbradnc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thank you for the welcome..

I have been studying the Theravada school of Buddhism seriously for the past 5 years. I have done some reading about Buddhism on various skeptic related forums and have found much misinformation and will happily provide any clarification I can.

Regarding Karma - it is simply cause and effect. For example, if I eat a gallon of ice cream every night and never exercise I will gain weight. But, as far as a connection between disconnected events - such as "If I steal a dollar from you someone will steal a dollar from me." - well, I don't subscribe to that view of Karma either.

Basically, my interpretation of karma is that the current moment conditions the next. I think that even the most skeptical person can connect with that.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 06/01/2011 :  18:31:12   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by tbradnc
I have been studying the Theravada school of Buddhism seriously for the past 5 years. I have done some reading about Buddhism on various skeptic related forums and have found much misinformation and will happily provide any clarification I can.
Cool. I was hoping you could explain the Buddhist approach to eliminating suffering and how it differs from nihilism.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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tbradnc
New Member

10 Posts

Posted - 06/01/2011 :  19:09:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send tbradnc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well, I'm not very knowledgeable about nihilism and will have to leave that to someone else...

As far as the Buddhist approach to eliminating suffering the place to start (and really, end) is with the 4 Noble Truths, which are:

1. We all experience stress/discomfort/dissatisfaction in our lives.

2. This distress is caused by wanting things to be different than they are.

3. This distress can be eased by accepting the way things are.

4. The path to acceptance is by practicing the Eightfold path - which is basically a lifestyle that is non-theistic and involves making skillful choices in how one conducts ones life.

Note that #1 does not say, "Life is suffering." Of course there is much happiness and pleasure in life and it's a wonderful thing. But, the one thing you, me, Bill Gates, Billy Graham, Richard Dawkins, and the Queen of England all share is that we have stress in our lives from time to time because we wish things were not as they are.

This is the $1.00 answer to your question.. :)
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tbradnc
New Member

10 Posts

Posted - 06/01/2011 :  19:16:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send tbradnc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I should clarify that you used the word "suffering" which is a broad term - like anxiety.

Anxiety can be anything from that feeling you get being late for a meeting to waiting on the results of a medical test to see if your cancer has returned. Likewise, suffering can be anything from stepping on a nail to the death of your family in a burning building.

I personally prefer more generic synonyms such as stress, discomfort, dissatisfaction, etc.

And finally, the Pali word is "Dukkha" which does not have an equivalent English interpretation and is very commonly translated as suffering - but it is considered a "near miss" and doesn't really capture the true meaning of the word. Many Pali translators are now using "stress", "discomfort", "dissatisfaction" - I've even heard the word "bulls*it" used... :)

and BTW, Pali is the language the Buddha supposedly spoke and is now a dead language.
Edited by - tbradnc on 06/01/2011 19:18:03
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changingmyself
Skeptic Friend

USA
122 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2011 :  18:04:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send changingmyself a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by tbradnc

Well, I'm not very knowledgeable about nihilism and will have to leave that to someone else...

As far as the Buddhist approach to eliminating suffering the place to start (and really, end) is with the 4 Noble Truths, which are:

1. We all experience stress/discomfort/dissatisfaction in our lives.

2. This distress is caused by wanting things to be different than they are.

3. This distress can be eased by accepting the way things are.

4. The path to acceptance is by practicing the Eightfold path - which is basically a lifestyle that is non-theistic and involves making skillful choices in how one conducts ones life.

Note that #1 does not say, "Life is suffering." Of course there is much happiness and pleasure in life and it's a wonderful thing. But, the one thing you, me, Bill Gates, Billy Graham, Richard Dawkins, and the Queen of England all share is that we have stress in our lives from time to time because we wish things were not as they are.

This is the $1.00 answer to your question.. :)


If I accepted the circumstances as the way things are, how could I or why would I ever attempt to change the circumstances if I just accepted them? This is not an attack on your beliefs, I am just curious as to how or if Buddhism explains that. TYIA!

"The gospels are not eyewitness accounts"

-Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School

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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2011 :  20:13:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by changingmyself
If I accepted the circumstances as the way things are, how could I or why would I ever attempt to change the circumstances if I just accepted them? This is not an attack on your beliefs, I am just curious as to how or if Buddhism explains that. TYIA!
Yeah, that's one of my questions actually. In many ways Buddhism seems to promote apathy--literally not caring about anything (because caring leads to pain and suffering). While that certainly may be a solution the problem of suffering, I'm not entirely convinced it's a psychologically healthy one.

But maybe there's some subtle shade of difference I'm missing.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2011 :  13:12:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Humbert wrote:
Yeah, that's one of my questions actually. In many ways Buddhism seems to promote apathy--literally not caring about anything (because caring leads to pain and suffering). While that certainly may be a solution the problem of suffering, I'm not entirely convinced it's a psychologically healthy one.

But maybe there's some subtle shade of difference I'm missing
It's been over a decade since I read about Buddhism, but as I recall, there was an idea that after one sees and accepts the facade of life, one can then go back to engage in that like play. I remember interpreting it in a way that, for example, one can sort of see the absurdity of say, the institution of marriage as it is practiced in one's culture, and yet one can still get married and have all the feelings and actions associated with that cultural practice. The difference being that if things go wrong and don't work out, one is much better equip to deal with that transition.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9677 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2011 :  16:07:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I propose there's an alternative to #3 and that is "setting your mind to change the things from what they are to what you want them to be".
And possibly hope for the wisdom to chose whichever version of #3 which minimizes the stress compared to the gain in joy.

What I mean is, instead of listening and coping with the screeching noise from the door hinge, pull out the WD40-can and lube the thing up.

Dr. Mabuse - "When the going gets tough, the tough get Duct-tape..."
Dr. Mabuse whisper.mp3

"Equivocation is not just a job, for a creationist it's a way of life..." Dr. Mabuse

Support American Troops in Iraq:
Send them unarmed civilians for target practice..
Collateralmurder.
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tbradnc
New Member

10 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2011 :  19:46:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send tbradnc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Accepting that things are the way they are does not imply a lack of action by any stretch of the imagination.

Acceptance is not apathy.

For instance, in an abusive relationship a person has to accept that the relationship they are in is unhealthy and then make whatever changes are appropriate.

Or, maybe better - if I have a flat tire on the way to work I can get worked into a frenzy because I'm going to be late, get my hands dirty, get my shirt dirty, etc. Or, I can just accept that I've had a flat tire and change it. No amount of lost composure is going to change the fact that the tire is flat and getting in a twist about it just causes me to suffer.

From my own life.... I collect coffee cups. And I have 3 children so on a fairly regular basis one of my cups gets broken. It used to drive me crazy and I would get very angry.

Then one day it dawned on me that it was the nature of cups to break, and that every single cup on the face of the earth, given enough time, would get broken. So.... I started seeing my cups as already broken. Problem solved. :-)
Edited by - tbradnc on 06/03/2011 19:51:28
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tbradnc
New Member

10 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2011 :  19:47:53   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send tbradnc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dr. Mabuse



What I mean is, instead of listening and coping with the screeching noise from the door hinge, pull out the WD40-can and lube the thing up.



Exactly. :)
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2011 :  19:49:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Mab, you just advocated for the Serenity Prayer. Although I like to think of it as not a prayer, but just really good advice.

God grant me (I just leave these first three words out) the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2011 :  19:54:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I find that religious and philosophical wisdom, no matter what it is, is used well by people with good intentions and intelligence, and poorly by people with bad intentions and/or little intelligence. So no ideas by themselves can uplift humanity because, as Bertrand Russell put it: "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand." So find whatever works for you and try to be as honest with yourself as you can.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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tbradnc
New Member

10 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2011 :  19:56:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send tbradnc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The thing I appreciate most about Buddhism is that there is nothing to believe, or believe in. Everything is experiential - it's there to try and if it works, that's great and if it doesn't ... oh well.

For instance, I don't "believe" in the 4 noble truths. They're just there and I'm free to try it out... So, let's see.. I'm upset, so why is that?

Oh, my fr**ging cup is broken again! No... I'm upset because I wish my cup wasn't broken.

So... oh well, my cup is broken - all cups will break one day and today was the day for this cup.

Cool, I feel better now!

This is not "believing" in the 4 Noble Truths - it is experiencing them.

See what I mean?
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tbradnc
New Member

10 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2011 :  20:33:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send tbradnc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

I find that religious and philosophical wisdom, no matter what it is, is used well by people with good intentions and intelligence, and poorly by people with bad intentions and/or little intelligence. So no ideas by themselves can uplift humanity because, as Bertrand Russell put it: "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand." So find whatever works for you and try to be as honest with yourself as you can.


Yes, I think you're right...

I enjoy finding out that I am wrong about something I believe because it means I have learned something new and can take another step forward.
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