What should we believe in?

Perhaps you are wondering how I can be a Buddhist and not believe in a god. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English religion is defined as “a belief in one or more gods”. Few would argue with this definition.

I said few.

There are thousands of religions out there. If Justine religion does not include a god or gods within it, then, the definition fails. And Buddhism is one such religion. (Another is Jainism.)

Buddhism is atypical of religions in that it rejects the worship of gods. Buddha is not a god and had never said he was. It should be noted it was those who came afterwards that added the gods, perhaps incorporating aspects of the local culture.

But far from rejecting existence of a god or gods it is, in my opinion, far healthier to accept the concept of a god or gods as part of what it means to be human.

Sramana

To understand the conditions of The Buddha’s time is an important aspect of understanding his thinking. Key to this is the tradition of sramana, the wondering of ascetics which do not follow the “orthodox” Vedic or Brahmanic tradition. It is interesting that persecution of unorthodox traditions seem to be minimal in the culture at that time. Even when persecution occurred it seemed to be at the hands of non-Vedic non-local traditions like Islam, for example the destruction of Nalanda in the beginning of the 12th century.

What links Sramanic traditions is the rejection of the authority of the Vedas, and also the rejection of god or gods. There is a mix of acceptance and rejection of the soul among these unorthodox traditions.

The insistence of existence

I am a Buddhist. But I do not believe in the existence of gods. I do, however, believe in the existence of their concepts. They are the stories in our minds to help us understand and make sense of the world we live in, to relate to things and each other as people and animals.

All concepts help us to communicate and think. We are good at making concepts (though we are not the only creatures to be able to do so).

Given our time, our knowledge and our understanding I think it is time we had moved on, after being held back for so long by the insistence of existence.

Rejection One, Two, Three

1.
Can I reject a god if there was not a god to reject in the first place?

What I am rejecting then is not a god but the notion or the concept of a god. Theists want to know how you can reject a god or God by positing its (or His) existence first by naming it then asking you to how you can reject it when it exists. What the theists mistake for a god is its name.

There is no proof of existence of a god other than by its name and the actions based on the belief of its existence, not on actual proof of its existence.

I do not believe in God, a god or gods but I do see the concept of God, a god and gods all around me in the form of human behaviour and nothing more.

2.
An atheist, then, should not be a rejection of the existence of a deity, anymore than I should not reject the existence of, say, Donald Trump. By rejecting existence of Donald Trump I would be considered a lunatic. This kind of thinking is what theists uses against an atheist’s rejection (the “how can you not believe in the existence of God?! That’s absurd!” argument).

The very term atheist relies on (or presumes) a positive term of (or a presence of a god) to reject in the first place. The terminology dupes us into a double take on whether there is a god to reject or not. Agnostics, in return, tried to play the same game, being drawn into a competition of verbal trickery. This will no longer do.

3.
Undoubtedly, I believe in the existence of the concepts of deity and deities. This is what we like to do as humans. It is natural for us to broadly paraphrase Mary Midgley to want to be given a reason to live. We are scared to live in a meaningless world as Jean-Paul Sartre might have said.

Can you sell your soul to the Devil?

As a Buddhist I am taught to not believe in the existence of a soul. So if I sell my soul to the Devil I am in effect deceiving not only the Devil but myself as well. And not only am I deceiving myself about I having a soul but that there is even a devil to sell my soul to in the first place.

And I haven’t even come to the question of whether there is exist any meaningful value of things yet, let alone a price for my soul.

 

heart and soul

the necessary engine
of a body
the illusionary essence
of a being

hippocampus

a college (esp. for hippopotamuses) which specialises in the study of the workings of human short-term memory.