Secular view - The Future of Religion

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Buckwheat » Sat May 12, 2012 2:54 pm

Coyote wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:How many non-religious types get together in a group once a week (give or take) and discuss ethics, inspiration, and goodwill? This doesn't mean non-religious people can't be ethical, inspired, or full of goodwill, but they are not constantly drilling that into their minds at church or temple every week. I'm inclined to agree with Kim, although I would like to see a scientific study of some sort to support that conclusion.


And how likely are non-religious people to abstain from lying, stealing, killing, drinking entirely, rather than take the position that these things in moderation, or if they don't adversely affect others, are OK? At least most religions maintain that it is morally wrong to kill, steal and lie, whereas the non-religious have a variety of views on these actions.


I think this is taking my point too far. I think there is a similar percentage of non-religious people that consider it immoral to kill, steal, and lie. Drinking is more likely, and therefore some reckless behavior, but I don't think any higher percentage of non-religious people would be so foolish as to justify their killing, stealing, and lying as morally acceptable. My point was one simply of behavioral conditioning, that coming together in church, temple, or forum, we come together as a group to reinforce the moral lessons, keeping them at the fore and pondering the minutia of how to enhance virtue. As a former non-religious type, I can say that non-religious still have these discussions, but not as frequently.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Coyote » Sat May 12, 2012 3:50 pm

Buckwheat wrote:
I think this is taking my point too far. I think there is a similar percentage of non-religious people that consider it immoral to kill, steal, and lie. Drinking is more likely, and therefore some reckless behavior, but I don't think any higher percentage of non-religious people would be so foolish as to justify their killing, stealing, and lying as morally acceptable. My point was one simply of behavioral conditioning, that coming together in church, temple, or forum, we come together as a group to reinforce the moral lessons, keeping them at the fore and pondering the minutia of how to enhance virtue. As a former non-religious type, I can say that non-religious still have these discussions, but not as frequently.


I don't know. I think there are quite a lot of non-religious people who see it morally acceptable to kill during times of war or if it protects the lives of enough people. I think the same can be said of lying in certain circumstances, or at least this has been my experience as someone brought up non-religious and with the people I have known throughout my life. Stealing perhaps less so, at least, in our property-focused society.
Also it depends what you mean by religious. Just because someone claims that label for themselves doesn't mean they are going to abide by the moral code of that particular religion, so I can see your point there.
I do think a point can be made that religious people are more likely to adhere to strict or absolutist views of morality, whereas the non-religious are more likely to make certain immoral acts justified by their circumstances.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Sat May 12, 2012 4:01 pm

Coyote wrote: I do think a point can be made that religious people are more likely to adhere to strict or absolutist views of morality, whereas the non-religious are more likely to make certain immoral acts justified by their circumstances.


Adherence to strict morality codes from religious dogmas is at the root of abortion clinic bombings, countless misogynist policies, and human sacrifice, to name just a few. Suggesting that religious adherence equates with stronger and better ethical reasoning & moral behavior is spurious.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Aloka » Sat May 12, 2012 4:14 pm

daverupa wrote:
Coyote wrote: I do think a point can be made that religious people are more likely to adhere to strict or absolutist views of morality, whereas the non-religious are more likely to make certain immoral acts justified by their circumstances.


Adherence to strict morality codes from religious dogmas is at the root of abortion clinic bombings, countless misogynist policies, and human sacrifice, to name just a few. Suggesting that religious adherence equates with stronger and better ethical reasoning & moral behavior is spurious.



Some of my friends are atheists and have never had any interest in religion and yet they're amongst the kindest, most moral and trustworthy people I've ever know.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Coyote » Sat May 12, 2012 5:10 pm

daverupa wrote:Adherence to strict morality codes from religious dogmas is at the root of abortion clinic bombings, countless misogynist policies, and human sacrifice, to name just a few. Suggesting that religious adherence equates with stronger and better ethical reasoning & moral behavior is spurious.


I am not talking about strict morality codes or dogmas, I am talking about moral absolutism. My point is that religious and non-religious people tend to approach morality in different ways, and the way religious people understand morality might lend them to see certain acts as always wrong, whereas the non-religious are more likely to make exceptions even in banal cases. Personally, I find the first to be more in line with what I understand about morality. I only have my own experience with non-religious people as proof.
Besides, I think it is a bit of a leap to say a person who blows up an abortion clinic is motivated by adherence strict morality codes or dogmas. Believing that abortion is wrong in every circumstance doesn't logically lead one to go and blow up an abortion clinic, rather it might be belief that the end justifies the means or even mental health issues. I don't know if either of us are in a position to know what makes a person blow up an abortion clinic or sacrifice another human being.

Aloka wrote:Some of my friends are atheists and have never had any interest in religion and yet they're amongst the kindest, most moral and trustworthy people I've ever know.


All I can say is that my experience has been the opposite, in terms of being "moral", but I think you are right in terms of kindness. :shrug:
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Kim OHara » Sat May 12, 2012 10:26 pm

Coming back to this discussion after a good night's sleep (clear conscience and all that :tongue: ) I think Buckwheat's earlier suggestion - that it would be nice to see some scientific studies on the subject. You are all arguing from what you have seen around you (as I was, to be fair) and the discussion can go no further without a broader view.

I'm curious, though, about the views of those who believe that religion does not make people better people. What do you think it does for people? And why are you religious (as I think you must be, hanging out on DW as you do) if you don't see that benefit?

:namaste:
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby ground » Sun May 13, 2012 1:19 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:I'm curious, though, about the views of those who believe that religion does not make people better people. What do you think it does for people?

Mental support, mental guidelines, comfort, refuge, something to focus on/cling to (thoughts, concepts) which is "broader" in scope than the things of daily life, alleged meaning of life and death ...

Kim O'Hara wrote:And why are you religious ... ?

I cannot confirm your assumption. Actually I find that the the teachings of the Buddha inspire to investigate into the nature of religious thought and its causes and are helpful for doing so. I do not reject religion. No, I think that religion is an optional aspect of being human and conditioned by the fact that humans can be (self-)conscious.

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Buckwheat » Sun May 13, 2012 5:13 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:What do you think it does for people?

One reason people support religion is peer pressure. Social acceptance is very powerful.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Mr Man » Sun May 13, 2012 8:41 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:I'm curious, though, about the views of those who believe that religion does not make people better people.


I don't hold a view theat religion "does" or "does not" make people better. I was just questioning the idea that we need religion because the alternative was a society without morals.

This touches again why I am not happy with the term "Secular Buddhism" I am fully in favor of modern society being strongly secular and feel that it is no longer appropriate for religious institutions to have any great input in the guiding of a modern society. However at the same time I don't think religions need to be overly stripped down. Within the Theravada, I personally find many of the traditions deeply moving and beautiful.

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue May 15, 2012 9:33 pm

Other than Stephen Batchelor's lack of confidence in Karma as a type of conditionality I dont think he says anything out of line with what he calls "religious" Buddhism. He says "“Enlightenment,” therefore – though I prefer the term “awakening” – is not a mystical insight into the true nature of mind or reality" bu he also says "flourishing first stirs in that clear, bright, empty space where neurotic self-centredness realizes that it has no ground to stand on at all" Which is what I would call a "mystical insight into the true nature of mind or reality".

Take care

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Last edited by Prasadachitta on Wed May 16, 2012 5:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Buckwheat » Wed May 16, 2012 3:48 am

Prasadachitta wrote:Other than Stephen Batchelor's lack of confidence in the Karma as a type of conditionality...

That's pretty huge. (I know very little about Mr. Batchelor's views.)
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed May 16, 2012 5:38 am

Buckwheat wrote:
Prasadachitta wrote:Other than Stephen Batchelor's lack of confidence in the Karma as a type of conditionality...

That's pretty huge. (I know very little about Mr. Batchelor's views.)


Hi Buckwheat,

I agree that it is very significant. What Im saying is that his tone seams to indicate that everything else he is saying is somehow indicative of what he is calling "secular Buddhism". Really he is just describing Buddhism but adding a lack of confidence in the efficacy of Kamma and calling it "secular". Its as if he thinks that he has figured out what Buddhism should be and then goes about saying what most Buddhists would agree it already is except for that one single point. A point which I agree is no small issue. It seems a bit strange to me.

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Kim OHara » Wed May 16, 2012 7:07 am

Mr Man wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:I'm curious, though, about the views of those who believe that religion does not make people better people.


I don't hold a view theat religion "does" or "does not" make people better. I was just questioning the idea that we need religion because the alternative was a society without morals.

This touches again why I am not happy with the term "Secular Buddhism" I am fully in favor of modern society being strongly secular and feel that it is no longer appropriate for religious institutions to have any great input in the guiding of a modern society. However at the same time I don't think religions need to be overly stripped down. Within the Theravada, I personally find many of the traditions deeply moving and beautiful.

:anjali:

Hi, Mr Man,
You broaden the debate enormously with the words I have emphasised above.
So far we have been talking about individual religious attitudes and practices. Every member of a society can be religious (whatever than means to him/her) without the society as a whole being religious or guided by religion. Like you, I prefer society to stay out of religion. (I also prefer religions to stay out of politics.)
If there is a separation between religion and society, everyone can choose and practice their own religion. IMO, the alternative is no longer possible.
But I think it's a separate topic.

:namaste:
Kim

P.S.: Just came across this blog post http://uselesstree.typepad.com/useless_tree/2012/04/godless-goodness.html which presents two more viewpoints, of Alain de Botton and a Daoist, on secular vs religious societies. It's still a bit OT but I figured soem people here may be interested ...
:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Wed May 16, 2012 11:23 am

Prasadachitta wrote:Really he is just describing Buddhism but adding a lack of confidence in the efficacy of Kamma and calling it "secular". ... It seems a bit strange to me.


I do think this is the root point, so as to the strangeness of it, let me try to put it in an encompassing way:

The Dhamma is taken as being in an epistemological category, and not a metaphysical one, a distinction made in Western philosophy. Now, metaphysical claims have usually been associated with God/gods in Western philosophy (whence the idea 'secular' being deprived of such), and god realms and hell realms - essential to an explication of kamma, on the traditional view - fall into this category by definition. Therefore, gods and realms must have a symbolic interpretation, else be later interpolations, else be wholly tangential, e.g. ad infinitum.

On this view, to say otherwise opens the door to competing metaphysical claims, which would eliminate the premise that the Dhamma has unique epistemological veracity. The Kalama Sutta is often (mis-)used for this purpose, and "kamma is intention" is also well known. Furthermore, the presumption that personal interpretations, when at odds with tradition, are nevertheless potentially valid, is a way of 'doing' personal religion that has been growing since the Protestant Revolution. Combined with an interest in Pali philology (saddha, et al), period Indian religious studies & sociology, neuroscience, and other related fields which favor a scientific Weltanschauung - with a similarly unique (sic) epistemological veracity - the whole approach seems well-captured by the term "Secular Buddhism".
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby kirk5a » Wed May 16, 2012 1:59 pm

Prasadachitta wrote: Its as if he thinks that he has figured out what Buddhism should be and then goes about saying what most Buddhists would agree it already is except for that one single point.

And the point about nirvana. The attainment of which he does not regard as the aim of Buddhist practice.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed May 16, 2012 3:32 pm

The Dhamma is taken as being in an epistemological category, and not a metaphysical one, a distinction made in Western philosophy.


Hi Devarupa,

I have trouble getting much from this statement. How much background in Western philosophical categories do I need to understand what you are saying here.


Now, metaphysical claims have usually been associated with God/gods in Western philosophy (whence the idea 'secular' being deprived of such), and god realms and hell realms - essential to an explication of kamma, on the traditional view - fall into this category by definition. Therefore, gods and realms must have a symbolic interpretation, else be later interpolations, else be wholly tangential, e.g. ad infinitum.


All language is "symbolic". If we are to place the Dhamma into a Western philosophical view then I think it might be better to call it phenomenological. There is no reason to fuss over existence or non existence. What we take to exist is what we practice with and our modern world is full a spectacular myriad of points of view on existence. The Dhamma is not one of these and you dont need to reinterpret it from the bottom up as Batchelor says in order to realize this.


On this view, to say otherwise opens the door to competing metaphysical claims, which would eliminate the premise that the Dhamma has unique epistemological veracity. The Kalama Sutta is often (mis-)used for this purpose, and "kamma is intention" is also well known. Furthermore, the presumption that personal interpretations, when at odds with tradition, are nevertheless potentially valid, is a way of 'doing' personal religion that has been growing since the Protestant Revolution. Combined with an interest in Pali philology (saddha, et al), period Indian religious studies & sociology, neuroscience, and other related fields which favor a scientific Weltanschauung - with a similarly unique (sic) epistemological veracity - the whole approach seems well-captured by the term "Secular Buddhism".
[/quote]

I am having trouble seeing your point but I suspect that you are doing the same thing I percieve Batchelor to be doing.


Take Care

Prasadachitta
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Wed May 16, 2012 3:51 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:I am having trouble seeing your point but I suspect that you are doing the same thing I percieve Batchelor to be doing.


I am simply trying to explain the approach, since you said it sounded strange.

Taking the Mahavamsa at its word when it says that Visnu is the protector of Sri Lankan Buddhism is a bit strange, as well, from certain points of view, not least of which is the bald anachronism of it. The question here really seems to be over how much of that sort of thing one needs to accept in order to successfully and authentically practice the Dhamma. Answers to that question vary based on numerous factors, but the groups of people who answer it in similar ways tend to group together. One such group is Secular Buddhism, which answers that such metaphysical things are immaterial. As a result, the traditional explanations of kamma, paticcasamuppada, etc. are not seen as tenable when held alongside the "personally verifiable" claim which is made about the Dhamma.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed May 16, 2012 3:54 pm

kirk5a wrote:
Prasadachitta wrote: Its as if he thinks that he has figured out what Buddhism should be and then goes about saying what most Buddhists would agree it already is except for that one single point.

And the point about nirvana. The attainment of which he does not regard as the aim of Buddhist practice.


Hi Kirk5a,

You Mean this

Rather than attaining nirvana, I see the aim of Buddhist practice to be the moment-to-moment flourishing of human life within the ethical framework of the eightfold path here on earth.


What does he mean by nirvana? Is he insinuating that it is other than a result which arises from the eightfold path here on earth? What does he mean by moment to moment flourishing? I would suggest that he will start describing nirvana.

Like this...

For human flourishing first stirs in that clear, bright, empty space where neurotic self-centredness realizes that it has no ground to stand on at all


or this where he describes enlightenment in "his terms"...

a way of being-in-this-world that is no longer determined by one’s greed, hatred, fear and selfishness


Earthy versus other worldly or human versus beyond human are smoke and mirrors. Im not clear on what Batchelor wants to convey his opposition to other than the pivotal influence of intention upon further lives.


Take care
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed May 16, 2012 4:00 pm

daverupa wrote:I am simply trying to explain the approach, since you said it sounded strange.

Taking the Mahavamsa at its word when it says that Visnu is the protector of Sri Lankan Buddhism is a bit strange, as well, from certain points of view, not least of which is the bald anachronism of it. The question here really seems to be over how much of that sort of thing one needs to accept in order to successfully and authentically practice the Dhamma. Answers to that question vary based on numerous factors, but the groups of people who answer it in similar ways tend to group together. One such group is Secular Buddhism, which answers that such metaphysical things are immaterial. As a result, the traditional explanations of kamma, paticcasamuppada, etc. are not seen as tenable when held alongside the "personally verifiable" claim which is made about the Dhamma.


Hello Daverupa,

Batchelor says...

So what sort of Buddhism does a self-declared “secular Buddhist” like myself advocate? For me, secular Buddhism is not just another modernist reconfiguration of
a traditional form of Asian Buddhism. It is neither a reformed Theravada Buddhism (like the Vipassana movement), a reformed Tibetan tradition (like Shambhala Buddhism), a reformed Nichiren school (like the Soka Gakkai), a reformed Zen lineage (like the Order of Interbeing), nor a reformed hybrid of some or all of the above (like the Triratna Order – formerly the FWBO). It is more radical than that: it seeks to return to the roots of the Buddhist tradition and rethink Buddhism from the ground up.


Since I practice with one of the groups which he brings up, I am looking for a distinction and truthfully I dont find one other than the one point I brought up. Every Tradition or school has many explanations and contexts for those explanations and it is always up to each individual to sort that out. This is not the domain of some special "secular Buddhist".

Prasadachitta
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby kirk5a » Wed May 16, 2012 6:28 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:What does he mean by nirvana? Is he insinuating that it is other than a result which arises from the eightfold path here on earth? What does he mean by moment to moment flourishing? I would suggest that he will start describing nirvana.


So having denied that nirvana is the aim of Buddhist practice, he will start describing nirvana?

Stephen Batchelor wrote:Likewise, nirvana – i.e. the stopping of craving – is not the goal of the path but its very source.

That's an interesting interpretation. Not sure how we could square that with the Pali teachings.
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