Sunday, February 24, 2013

Buddhism and the God Concept

Even though Justin Whitaker seems to have reached some similar conclusions about Buddhism he also seems to have fallen prey to a number of misconceptions and stereotypes. The very title of his post poses the question "Would a Buddhist Affirm that belief in God is a Delusion?", apparently as a rhetorical device. Part of his conclusion and the reason a number of other American Buddhists agree that God is a delusion is premised on a variety of logical errors and misattributions.

He starts by pointing out that, "I have come across several reasons to think of God as a delusion. The first is the fact that believers in God seem very confused about God, or, at least, consistently unable to agree about what He (or, for fun, she) is like or wants humanity to do." So what? If this is one of the standards to judge something delusional then we are all delusion about a vast number of things. We all lack understanding and consensus on numerous topics.

Whitaker is both a Buddhist and an atheist. He sees no contradiction and since there is nothing indicating his views on such metaphysical Buddhist concepts as dharma and nirvana I see not direct contradictions, either. That said, he does not seem to grasp that there is more than one version of the God concept. He goes on to mention, "Buddhism might best be described as non-theistic in the Western sense, as it has no creator God. The Gods (devas) of Brahmanism (proto-Hinduism) do find their way into early Buddhism and have remained there ever since." While it is true that Buddhism does not officially recognize a personal God many of its beliefs are dependent on various supernatural elements that fit easily into more abstract ways of viexing God. If you didn't pick up on those few sentences do contain a contradiction. Traditional Buddhism does have a creator God, albeit in a round about way, in Brahma. Hinduism is not as polytheistic as many assume. All the Hindu gods are believed to be incarnation. They trace back to three gods and then those three are in turn seen as incarnations of Brahma.

Basically, Buddhism can be perceived as "non-theistic" or even "atheistic" from only the most narrow interpretation possible. As I have previously noted ("How Atheistic is Buddhism?" December 31, 2011), Buddhism is just as prone to supernatural/metaphysical nonsense as any other faith. That Whitaker and a decent portion of American Buddhists are themselves non-theists or atheists does not necessarily mean that the religion is itself amenable to disbelief in the God concept. I would have no problem with that being the case but it is not an accurate evaluation.

No comments:

Post a Comment