Sunday, July 31, 2011

Religious Atheism

Religious Atheism
by Scott Bradley

"The Buddha's answer is trenchant. Only an atheist religion can be a religion. All the rest is idolatry, the worship of a God who is the work of our hands or our mind...This, in my view, is at once the point of contact and the difference between Buddhism and the attitude of our times. Religious atheism, a religion without God...was what the Buddha preached. And the denial of God as the basis of life (that is, of the human religious attitude), epitomizes and synthesizes the phenomenon of contemporary atheism." — Raimundo Panikkar (The Silence of God)

This, in a nutshell, is Panikkar's message. Buddhism, he tells us, is a mysticism without belief, and as such, both speaks to modern humanity in its own language (atheism) and provides it with a spiritual dimension (religion) that it otherwise does not have. I would certainly agree with his general thesis, but question whether Buddhism is, in fact, without belief. It seems to me to be rife with belief and unquestioned metaphysical presuppositions, even in its most rarefied forms, and always opaque in its convoluted psycho-philosophical pronouncements. It is no 'simple way'.

Philosophical Taoism, on the other hand, especially taken as only a springboard for one's own philosophical and mystical journey, fills this need more truly. This is only my opinion but, unlike Panikkar, I do not envision a universal remedy for humanity's ills, but merely my own. Were I a Buddha, I guess I'd be no bodhisattva, who defers Nirvana until the world is saved through his compassion and virtue (this is not belief?), but rather, would jump right in — goodbye, and good luck!

This apparently extreme individualism, I might add, is predicated on the belief that all is well and nothing needs to be saved, in any case.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. My sentiments, exactly.

  2. Right Buddhism is not a simple way. It can be said to be great as it calls for you to question everything and it can be seen to be bunk as it provides you many 'truths' that are not to be questioned.

    Philosophical Taoism (at best) is the simplicity, the openness that we know in our hearts and have an egoic urge to find in text. It is not though cool or well known so people write about Buddhism instead to gain a wider audience than 3.

    When it is seen that what is now is what it is, and that's it, then the books and the blogs and the ancient scrolls and the internet trolls no longer have an audience. The ones who realize the simplicity of it, the nothing to seek, the needlessness and downright folly in personal change, end up purifying their words until they can fit their philosophy into such a few potent words (when read by them) that the intended audience are at loss, seek something more complicated to embellish the egoic need to find what they already know in an ancient text or modern blog.

  3. Excellent post. I think there is a trend toward this philosophy.


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