kayy wrote:So for me, a "don't know" position is conducive to wisdom. For you, maybe accepting a rebirth view is conducive. For others it may be the opposite, i.e. that the idea that we only have this one life, that gives them a sense of urgency.
Do we really need to hold a view on rebirth? Can we not just remain honest and agnostic, unless we truly know better? I don't know any better, so the whole idea of debating and putting forward "arguments" about it is just totally irrelevant.
Without wanting to getting bogged down in the Great Rebirth Debate, what I can say from personal experience is that when I began studying Buddhism, rebirth was not something I factored in, and there were aspects of Buddhist teachings that didn't add up. For example, it wasn't quite clear why one should follow precepts or even try to live a good life. If it's all about recognizing that phenomena are impermanent, arising and passing away, etc, well then the same can be said for wars or crime or any number of ills. Why sweat it? Just chill and savor the emptiness, man...
In other words, there's a risk of slipping into a kind of relativistic nihilism...and this has happened, arguably, within the Zen tradition more than a few times.
However, when we add kamma and rebirth back into the equation, we get the basis for Buddhist ethics. Now somebody is going to come along and say "well, but this is just selfish...you don't want to make bad kamma because you personally don't want to suffer, and how does that go along with no-self and all of that?" To which my answer is, yes, most of us are not that far along the path. We need "conventional" dhamma until we get to a certain level of realization.
On another note, I think the rebirth teaching helps with developing compassion towards other beings, particularly animals. Instead of thinking of them with an attitude of separation and superiority, we start to think "well, I was like this in a past life, and this being might be me in another life. This could be me."
Let me also say that I'm fairly agnostic about the whole issue, having gone from intense skepticism to a more accepting view. If we were having a discussion with scientists and skeptics and non-Buddhists, I couldn't honestly say that the evidence out there is particularly supportive of rebirth. And I have no problem, personally, with what you are saying or what Stephen Batchelor is saying, etc...this may turn out to be the right road for Buddhism in the West. We'll see. But as practitioner, I've found it helpful to take rebirth as a provisional assumption and try to work with it to see where it leads.