Sam Vara wrote:Perhaps you could provide us with a definition or two?
With a quick Google search, I immediately stumbled on this interview with David Chapman
, the blogger who seems to be credited with creating or popularizing the term "Consensus Buddhism". He goes over the problem he intended to highlight by coining the term, and ties it, in part, to a variety of Western Buddhism that rose up in the 60's and 70's with the Baby Boomer generation and hippie cohort (some of the earliest large-scale adopters in the west who laid the ground-work for talking about Buddhism in English outside of academia). I am not sure where to start in summarizing it (plus, it doesn't deal with the atheism-question directly), but it's surely an interesting read if you have a few minutes.
"Western Buddhism" of course is a trickier beast to consolidate a definition for, because it isn't a young term coined by a single blogger with a specific intent. I think, with Western Buddhism, all we can generally talk about is Buddhism practised in the Americas, Europe, Australia/NZ or perhaps even anywhere that Buddhism arrived in the era of globilization. This includes a variety of traditions, each with their own unique origin story—some traditions were brought back by westerners who travelled east, some were brought with immigrant communities, and some were specifically exported to the west by eastern monastics/missionaries—and their own unique historical baggage. However, Chapman seems to suggest that Consensus Buddhism has its own desire to one day make the words "Western Buddhism" refer to a single, unified tradition. This makes sense giving its origins, no? If you're looking at Western Concensus Buddhism as being rooted in the Buddhism that was available to the west in the 60's and 70's, between the generation that adopted it (i.e. Baby Boomers, who sociologists would argue, as a generational cohort, valued individuality and team-building) and the Buddhism that was available to them (i.e. more Mahayana and Zen than Theravada due to historical immigration restrictions against South Asians—Japanese Zen in particular coming from a very competitive religious landscape) you have a collection of value-sets and social markers that were already given to concensus-building. Of course, while this might hint at where Concensus Buddhism's push for a single, encompassing "Western Buddhism" comes from, with the sheer amount of variety in Buddhism in the West, the term really doesn't lend itself to generalization, like we see in the OP.
@Shaswata_Panja, I'm curious if you're able to narrow down your experience specifically to the history of Buddhism in your region/community, or the starting points of the sources you read (magazines, websites, message boards, etc...), because I only see Buddhism really engaging the atheistic debate in some
western traditions. It has never come up in either of the Canadian Theravada communities I frequent, for example.
Otherwise, I admit I've seen the word "atheism" carry a politically-charged, adversarial connotation in many circles (most obviously, those connected to evangelical Abrahamic traditions, where it is considered a moral-imperative to proselytize to some degree). Out of sensitivity to this, I've always been hesitant to vocally identify myself as an "atheist" when I am in mixed company. I'll usually settle for just calling myself a Buddhist, explaining that my tradition is not-all-that-interested in metaphysical debate, and leaving it at that. If pressed, I sometimes will clarify my position as "nontheism", hoping the rarity of the word carries less sting for the theist who is used to conflicting with "atheism".
I don't do this because I feel guilty that my atheistic metaphysical position is in anyway negative. It isn't. There is nothing inherently negative about an atheistic world view. In a vacuum, it's only a mundane belief—entirely distinct from the atheistic political position. I only recognize that there is a polarized conflict to work around, and that I don't value the issue at hand enough to let myself get drawn into it.
The real question to me is, why do the Buddhists referred to in the OP value the issue so much when Buddha himself emphasized that metaphysical certainty is inconsequential to the path?
Apologies for my wordiness,