I am now officially an Atheist… Apparently

Or so say a few family members. Let’s dig into this particular path of reasoning, shall we?

For the record, my family is Buddhist.

I don’t enjoy going to temple. Nothing wrong with the temple or the monks or anything with the atmosphere.  In fact the monks were more than kind and inviting and were very sympathetic to my situation. I just despise the people going to temple with me. Which I do know, also goes against Buddhist principle.

The Buddhist temple I go to (I would rather not disclose a specific name) in New York is frequented by ugliest, most petty, jealous, busybody and wretched creatures I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering. Oh they look wonderful on the outside. But on the inside, they’re as putrid as rotting corpses. Many of them are also fellow Sri Lankans (I somehow doubt this is a coincidence).

As one monk put it succinctly. “If they insist on sinning here, they might as well stay home.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Now I have an, admittedly, terrible flaw where I rarely succeed at preserving someone’s feelings when it comes to pointing out an obvious error upon request for correction. I was asked to say “what’s wrong”. When I replied, I could have sworn, I turned into Hitler incarnate. Or so it would have seemed at the expressions I was getting. I am by far the perfect Buddhist, but I do make a point to be as honest as possible. Sometimes I may, unintentionally, be rude. But I’m trying, damn it!

When being asked the question “is she married to an American” (which, incidentally, has no bearing whatsoever on what we were there to do), pointing out that “marriage to one’s own race isn’t a prerequisite in Buddhism” shouldn’t evoke such hatred. It was a perfectly reasonable and restrained response. Or so I thought.

Well this bear trap eventually got into a theological discussion that culminated with the following statement. “You’re an Atheist!”

I’d like to evaluate this assumption.

a·the·ist [ey-thee-ist] – noun
A person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

In that regard, I’m technically an atheist as I count on myself for everything. But we all know this label isn’t applied technically. It’s a blanket label for anyone who rejects the supernatural, based on lack of evidence, in everyday use. Well then, I’m obviously not an atheist as I believe in such ridiculous notions as reincarnation and karma (at least from an atheist’s perspective). But why is it considered such a stigma? Why has it become an insult?

Fear.

Fear of truth, fear of those who search for the truth, and fear of those who reject anything based on flimsy or contrived evidence. The latter sends chills down the spine of religious adherents because it implies everything they belive may be all for naught.

So?

I have not now or ever taken much of anything at face value. I didn’t become Buddhist (or rather reaffirmed my moral center and philosophical doctrine) because of stories of the Buddha, of his followers or those who follow the same path. I’m a Buddhist because of the lessons in those stories.

Lord Buddha lived 2500 years ago. Of course his words would have been tampered with, as would have happened to many other religious or philosophical teachers in antiquity. It’s entirely possible that everything that has ever been written about him and his teachings are false. If that’s the case, then one must shed all of those teachings for true Buddhism does not fear truth. This is, however, unlikely as most of Buddhism is based on grounded sense and objective reasoning rather than specific doctrine.

That came later with the creation of different sects.

As the old saying goes :

If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha
– Rinzai

The moral isn’t to commit or condone murder, but to remind us that enlightenment comes from within. Not without. Doctrine and scripture mean nothing. They are just words. What matters are the lessons carried within those words. The ultimate goal of any Buddhist is the attainment of truth in regard to the nature of existence. Once we “get it”, we will know how to correct all other aspects of our lives and need not return here. That is the nature of Enlightenment.

Now, back to the “atheist” epithet. This was all due to the mere rejection of a completely arbitrary and unfounded basis for relationships and hypocrisy combined with ignorance of a staggering level considering the age we live in. Something that deeply hurts us to a degree yet to be defined and, I believe, contributes to the conflict taking place in Sri Lanka to this day.

I think the term she should have used is “Apatheist“. As in, I really don’t care as it has no bearing on what it should mean to a Buddhist. Rejection of stupidity or silliness doesn’t necessarily make one an atheist.

Belief in reincarnation or karma doesn’t necessarily make one a Buddhist either.

Update 09/18/08

I found more evidence that online “assessments” are woefully inaccurate and, in the end, pointless.


You are an Atheist


When it comes to religion, you’re a non-believer (simple as that).
You prefer to think about what’s known and proven.
You don’t need religion to solve life’s problems.
Instead, you tend to work things out with logic and philosophy.
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3 thoughts on “I am now officially an Atheist… Apparently

  1. You’re an Atheist…just like, since I’m Catholic, I’m not a “real” Christian.

    Considering the reputation of your typical Christian of late, though, I can’t say I’m disappointed with my classification. Though my sister has expressed interest in converting to Buddhism; she loves the culture associated with the religion, and after being given a tour of a Buddhist temple in Illinois, I’d have to agree. “Atheist” is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the faith…

  2. It’s nice to know there are people interested in other aspects of it than just the dogma, but I’d much rather see our current Buddhist population adopt those same principles before influencing others.

    Lead by example and all that…

    Yeah, in the strict definition of the term, you could argue certain sects are “atheistic”, but really no one does that.

    It’s sad that the word has been turned into an insult.
    In this case, since we know what she meant, I took it as a complement.

    I am a bit (pleasantly) surprised that Westerners have an appeal for Buddhist aesthetics.

  3. Hi, I am Sri Lankan too (Kandy) I feel much like you do about religion and am very interested in speaking about religious matters (philosophy).

    So, I recently created http://www.officiallyatheist.com – A social network for atheists….so we can unite, share our views, learn, and debate about various aspects of religion and science.

    The site is new but I think you could be a great addition.

    Thanks for your time and a great blog…

    Raaaj

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