On Neo-Atheism

Here is the first of a number of short videos I made to promote the forthcoming release of my book There Is No God and He Is Always With You.

Enjoy!

69 Responses

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  1. SoF
    SoF May 24, 2013 at 9:40 pm | |

    Let’s call it Vishnu Consciousness – or something else…

    My dog Shiro is, of course, the 3,003 avatar of Vishnu.

    Krishna (Sanskrit: कृष्ण Kṛṣṇa), literally “attractive,” is just the eighth avatar of the Supreme God Vishnu. So Krishna Consciousness amounts to living in the eighth heaven… This reality is just one ‘shared base-line consciousness.’

    Heavens, a plural in Hebrew, consist of seven levels – all noted in Scripture. Their names are: Vilon, Rakia, Shechakim, Zevul, Maon, Machon, and Aravot.

    And, there are alternate theories (e.g. HERE)

    In reality (whatever THAT is), there are just parallel universes. Parallel universes would seem to be the most unlikely prediction of relativity, but their proposal is just as fact-based as those dealing with black holes (which were, once upon a time, only predicted – like when I graduated from college – 43 years ago).

    The nice thing about Zen is it’s not BACK THEN and it’s not WHEN (projecting into the future) … and it’s not somewhere else. It’s just here and just now.

  2. drocloc
    drocloc May 25, 2013 at 3:47 am | |

    Brad erred when saying, “l heard the plane. . . .” He meant, “I AM the plane. . . .”

  3. penn
    penn May 25, 2013 at 5:44 am | |

    Brad, I’m a long time reader and a first time commenter. I really like your writing, but I think your comments in this video are off the mark. Neo-atheists focus on that anthropomorphic man in the sky making commands because there are a lot of powerful and even dangerous people and groups that do believe in that type of God. For example, 46% of Americans believe that God created human beings in their present form in the last 10,000 years (and many of them want to teach it to our kids). That is a direct outcome of believing in the kind of God that you say most people don’t believe in. It is believers in this same idea of God that prevent gays from having full rights and women from having access to contraception and reproductive health care. It is believers in this same conception of God that perform honor killings and threaten blasphemers and apostates with death for insulting their God. Just look at what’s happening with the atheist bloggers in Bangladesh right now. No one gets worked up into a homicidal rage over insults to their belief that “God is love” or “God is the universe”. Maybe most religious or spiritual people do share that kind of abstract conception, but those that believe in a man in the sky making divine edicts are a much greater threat to human rights, and they must be opposed. It makes sense that neo-atheists would spend less time arguing against believers that share humanistic values, because it doesn’t matter nearly as much.

    1. Yozilla
      Yozilla May 28, 2013 at 6:11 am | |

      47% or 80% or whatever the stats seems quite high and I’m not sure where these came from but if true it’s another reason I’m glad to not be American.

      Regardless of that I interpret what Brad said here naming ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ people as those who have given some level of deep thought to the subject of god, assumedly also atheists. The (large) population you are mentioning probably have not.

      I share the disappointment here because what I have seen is a lot of atheists seem happy to be wading through the muck and throwing mud at creationists while retaining the right to feel intellectually superior and smug about it, rather than having the much more interesting dialogue that the topic deserves.

  4. Shodo
    Shodo May 25, 2013 at 6:11 am | |

    hypostatise.

  5. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon May 25, 2013 at 6:24 am | |

    “I find that a lot of what happens in the sort of “neo atheist movement” is a reaction against a concept of god that I don’t think most religious people, or most “spiritual” people, anyway, have a lot of belief in anyway. Their reacting against anthropomorphized god who is a big white man with a beard sitting on a throne and I don’t know how many religious people believe in it. Of course there are religious people who believe in god that way but I don’t think that’s the majority.” – Brad Warner, from the video

    Jesus Christ is the quintessential “anthropomorphized god.” Alleged to be both fully god and fully human. Literally “a big white man with a beard sitting on a throne” in heaven. Probably the only Christians who would not say that they believe in that “concept of god” would be the extremely small minority who are either very liberal in their beliefs, like the Unitarian Universalists, or part of a small fringe group like Gnostic Christians. So apparently Brad doesn’t seem to think that somewhere between 75% to 80% of the U.S. population, if not more, is “the majority” and “most people.” If we expand to the global population there are about 2.2 billion Christians, 1 billion Hindus, and at least 200 to 500 million others, or a total of about 3.7 billion people, who believe in (an) “anthropomorphized god(s)” out of about 5.5 to 6 billion who claim to believe in some type of god. That is still “the majority.”

    Personally, I dislike the term “neo atheism” because the only difference that I see between atheism as it has been presented in recent years by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, etc., as compared to all previous atheists all the way back to the pre-Socratic atheist philosophers of ancient Greece, is that as science discovers more information about the natural, material universe it leaves fewer and fewer gaps for the supernatural “god of the gaps” argument that theists sometimes use. Referring to atheism of the 21st century as “neo atheism” would be like calling 21st century Christianity “neo Christianity.” But let’s not do that because that would probably result in a long discussion about The Matrix.

  6. Fred
    Fred May 25, 2013 at 6:50 am | |

    “But let’s not do that because that would probably result in a long discussion about The Matrix.”

    http://www.thedailyenlightenment.com/matrix.htm

  7. Fred
    Fred May 25, 2013 at 6:58 am | |

    Wiki:

    “Pantheism is the belief that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent God,[1] or that the universe (or nature) is identical with divinity.[2] Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal or anthropomorphic god.”

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 25, 2013 at 8:19 am | |

    I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK ON KINDLE!

  9. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 25, 2013 at 8:52 am | |

    Re; the video clip: If you are going out on an author’s tour, Brad, might I suggest updating your author “look?” Perhaps a dark turtleneck or at least a dicky under your shirt -no, not what you filthy kids are thinking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dickey_%28garment%29 -but along those lines also maybe lose the camel toe. Pipe optional.

  10. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 25, 2013 at 8:56 am | |

    Also, interior shooting locales for the vids would lend more of an air of seriousness to the message. The outdoor thing smacks of 1970′s pornos.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HU6t-eMqhU

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 25, 2013 at 9:46 am | |

    ‘In the Udāna (VIII,3), a collection verses belonging to the Pali-canon of the earliest scriptures of Buddhism, Buddha uses words that seem similar to the Katha Upanishad’s ‘unborn, eternal, permanent and ancient’. Here Buddha says,

    “Verily, there is the unborn (ajātam), the unarisen (abhūtam), the unmade (akatam), the uncomposed (asànkhatam). Were it not for this unborn, unarisen, unmade, uncomposed, escape from this world of the born, the arisen, the made, the composed would not be possible.”‘

    These Upanishads too have lots to say about the unborn, unarisen, but the through-and-through nouns in the vedic scriptures are now presented as qualifiers, as in the Kathā Upanishad: “The Soul is never born, nor does it die, not having come to exist will it again cease to exist. It is unborn, eternal, permanent and ancient. It does not die when the body dies.”

    That’s from this site: http://www.buddha-dharma.eu/the-unborn-uncreated-evolution.html, but I reversed the order of the paragraphs.

    The passage from the Pali Canon above is from the fifth Nikaya. Historians agree that this represents a later composition than the first four Nikayas. The fifth Nikaya also contains the familiar Jataka stories of the Buddha’s past births.

    From “Middle way”, on Wikipedia:

    “In the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism, the expression Middle Way is used by the Buddha in his first discourse (the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) to describe the Noble Eightfold Path as a path between the extremes of austerities and sensual indulgence.

    Later Pali literature has also used the phrase Middle Way to refer to the Buddha’s teaching of dependent origination as a view between the extremes of eternalism and annihilationism.”

    Whoa, wikipedia has the entire Brahmajala Sutta; an amazing read, and here’s the start of the section on eternalism:

    Chapter II
    The Eternalists
    1. ‘There are, brethren, some recluses and Brahmans who are Eternalists with regard to some things, and in regard to others Non-Eternalists; who on four grounds maintain that the soul and the world are partly eternal and partly not.
    ‘And what is it that these venerable ones depend upon, what is it that they start from, in arriving at this conclusion?
    2. ‘Now there comes a time, brethren, when, sooner or later, after the lapse of a long long period, this world-system passes away. And when this happens beings have mostly been reborn in the World of Radiance, and there they dwell made of mind, feeding on joy, radiating light from themselves, traversing the air, continuing in glory; and thus they remain for a long long period of time.
    3. Now there comes also a time, brethren, when, sooner or later, this world-system begins to re-evolve. When this happens the Palace of Brahmà appears, but it is empty. And some being or other, either because his span of years has passed or his merit is exhausted, falls from that World of Radiance, and comes to life in the Palace of Brahmà. And there also he lives made of mind, feeding on joy, radiating light from himself, traversing the air, continuing in glory; and thus does he remain for a long long period of time.
    4. ‘Now there arises in him, from his dwelling there so long alone, a dissatisfaction and a longing: “O! would that other beings might come to join me in this place! ” And just then, either because their span of years had passed or their merit was exhausted, other beings fall from the World of Radiance, and appear in the Palace of Brahma as companions to him, and in all respects like him.
    5. ‘On this, brethren, the one who was first reborn thinks thus to himself: “I am Brahmà, the Great Brahmà, the Supreme One, the Mighty, the All-seeing, the Ruler, the Lord of all, the Maker, the Creator, the Chief of all, appointing to each his place, the Ancient of days, the Father of all that are and are to be[154]. ‘These other beings are of my creation. And why is that so? A while ago I thought, ‘Would that they might come!’ And on my mental aspiration, behold the beings came.”
    ‘And those beings themselves, too, think thus: “This must be Brahmà,, the Great Brahmà, the Supreme, the Mighty, the All-seeing, the Ruler, the Lord of all, the Maker, the Creator, the Chief of all, appointing to each his place, the Ancient of days, the Father of all that are and are to be. And we must have been created by him. And why? Because, as we see, it was he who was here first, and we came after that.”

  12. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 25, 2013 at 10:00 am | |

    There’s also a story where Gautama describes the encounter between someone looking for the end of suffering and Brahma, where Brahma proclaims himself to be the Supreme One, the Might One three times in response to the seeker’s question, then whispers to the seeker that the seeker needs to locate the Buddha as only the Buddha can answer his question.

    The point I take from this being that if you want a god or a ground of being outside of material existence, you’re welcome and you will likely find something that represents what you already believe exists, but if you would like to know about the nature of suffering that’s another matter.

    The Zen, Chan, and Taoist traditions all harken to a kind of eternalism underlying physical reality. A universe of discourse that entertains Eternalism I believe leads to unresolvable contradictions, and that is why the heart of Gautama’s teaching doesn’t utilize such a universe of discourse, concerning itself with a restricted domain of discussion from which a verifiable result can be obtained.

  13. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 25, 2013 at 10:10 am | |

    “I was very impressed with Johannes Bronkhorst’s Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism. This academic study convincingly portrays how the area where the Buddha taught in India was almost entirely free from the influence of Brahmanism. The caste system was not in place, Brahmanic beliefs were not widespread, and Sanskrit was not in use outside Brahmanic circles. Bronkhorst argues that as Brahmanism came to define the social norms of India in the following centuries, it “colonized the past” by claiming that its influence was far greater than it actually was at the Buddha’s time. The tragedy is that when Buddhists came to believe this account as well, they tacitly accepted Brahmanism as normative, a step, says Bronkhorst, that contributed to its eventual disappearance from the sub-continent. In dispelling the shadow of Brahmanism, early Buddhism is able to appear in a much clearer, sharper light.” -Stephen Batchelor

    While those of us wait patiently for his new book to arrive, here is the latest revision on Secular Buddhism that seems to be cobbled from a couple of articles/talks I’ve seen/read elsewhere & expanded: http://www.globalbuddhism.org/13/batchelor12.pdf

  14. A-Bob
    A-Bob May 25, 2013 at 10:16 am | |

    Zen and God, that just seems.. wrong. I get so tired of all this God talk. In Christianity alone there are some 40,000 variations to consider. I also think there is a good chance that no two people imagine God in exactly the same way, so it’s pointless to discuss other than for fun. Even if someone has come to a transcendent understanding that God is love or God is the Universe or light or whatever, they probably still cling to the childish hope that God exists in some singular way. I just wish someday someone sane would explain to me what possible difference it makes anyway.. If God exists he/she is unknowable. That seems obvious by the amount of fighting over the notion. If you think it is important for you to define God then you are no different that the worst crazy theist.. If you think you know God you are undoubtedly delusional. So think about God all you want. Just please keep it to yourself.. Except for you Brad. Your speculations will be fascinating, I’m sure.

  15. A-Bob
    A-Bob May 25, 2013 at 10:35 am | |

    ” The outdoor thing smacks of 1970′s pornos.”

    It does sort of look like you are sitting in rubbish dump.. not that there is anything wrong with sitting in a rubbish dump. I guess it does give you a bit of privacy.

  16. Fred
    Fred May 25, 2013 at 10:39 am | |

    Even the nature of suffering is an illusion.

    A human is born, absorbs the knowledge of his/her culture, and what accounts as
    suffering is colored by the prism of that knowledge.

    In terms of the universe all is decay and the transmutation of form. There is no
    suffering; there is just change. Atoms and molecules come together and fall apart.

    An apparition in duality imagines that enlightenment is something other than the continuous, goaless practice of zazen.

  17. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm | |

    Fred, are you familiar with the late American jnani Robert Adams? A good friend of mine is 1,000 pgs into the more than 2,000 pgs of transcripts from his satsangs available here:

    http://robert-adams.info/

    I ran across him many years ago via the book Silence Of The Heart.

    “abide where there is no conclusion”

  18. Fred
    Fred May 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm | |

    Thank you John.

    “This double teaching that the world was not real, and we should only go within to find the Absolute, or the Self, did not fit well with the teaching that the manifest world was not as it seemed, and was really covering over a world of magic and infinite dimensions, a world of energies, ecstasies, astral projection (which he frequently talked about), mysterious healings, and the dead coming alive to be possessed by the presence of a dying master. (Also found in the life of Robert on the wearesentience.com website.)”

  19. Kman
    Kman May 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm | |

    Video response:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWdd6_ZxX8c

    That is all.

  20. Shodo
    Shodo May 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm | |

    just read something attributed to Nagarjuna…

    the “Vishnor-eka-kartritva-nirakaranam” which means:
    “The Refutation of Vishnu as the One Creator”

    … though the logic can be applied to all gods… :3

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot May 26, 2013 at 7:23 am | |

      Any of it online?

      Because of our cultural saturation with Abrahamic monotheism — even atheists usually accept a monotheistic framework within which they argue against it — it’s important to keep our categories clear when dealing with systems of thought outside of that framework. I see three basic stances in regard to the question of theism, or not, in South Asian religion:
      1) There is a Supreme Being in a monotheistic or henotheistic way, who is creator or generator, distinct from creation or not, the ground of being or not, and the micromanager of reality;
      2) There is no Supreme Being as above but there are unseen aspects of reality which include beings with power to affect our lives, and possibly places different from our physical reality which may be accessed with differing grades of difficulty, and possibily causalities other than those we are familiar with;
      3) No Surpreme Being and no existence beyond the material.

      Because of our cultural preoccupation with monotheism, when we see Buddha and prominent Buddhists reject stance 1, we tend to see them agreeing with stance 3. Any familiarity with Buddhist scripture or later writing shows this is not true, at least until we have writers like Stephen Batchelor. In fairness, I don’t know if he’s changed his tune lately, but he’s had to reject a lot of Buddhist teaching to embrace 3. He does a valuable job providing a form of Buddhism that people in the modernist paradigm can accept and use, but I think he errs in implying only his is “true.”

      There are different ways in which to take each stance as well. For myself, I’ve worked out that the most reasonable stance is number 2, albeit in an agnostic and provisional way. Any ancient path has its parts working synergistically to produce intended changes in its followers, and the deletion of elements from it risks weakening its potency. As I accept being on this path, I accept that Buddha knew/knows something I don’t, so I’m willing to accept pretty much all of the doctrine that’s come down to us, especially as it includes caveats and negations and contradictions that caution us to not accept it except as provisionally until we see for ourselves in what way the doctrrine may be true.

      So, it’s true that Buddhism is atheistic in the sense of stance 1. You could say it’s polytheistic, but the gods and demons it sees are not transcendent to our causal reality, so maybe that’s not that good a term. I like non-theistic, because Buddha basically avoided including the gods as necessary to our understanding of his path, and that puts it outside of the atheist/monotheist frame.

      1. The Grand Canyon
        The Grand Canyon May 26, 2013 at 11:19 am | |

        I don’t get the impression that Stephen Batchelor implies that he has a monopoly on “truth”. He even gave his unconventional definition of “true” on page 199 of Confession Of A Buddhist Atheist:

        “Following the example of William James, John Dewey, and Richard Rorty, I have relinquished the idea that a “true” belief is one that corresponds to something that exists “out there” in or beyond reality somewhere. For pragmatist philosophers such as these, a belief is valued as true because it is useful, because it works, because it brings tangible benefits to human beings and other creatures.”

        1. minkfoot
          minkfoot May 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm | |

          I’ll bet Stephen believes his belief in his idea of truth is true.

      2. drocloc
        drocloc May 26, 2013 at 11:38 am | |

        Per stance 2: physicists attached the “M-theory” to string theory and. . .well . . . google ‘introduction to M-theory.’ Not a universe – a multiverse.

  21. Fred
    Fred May 26, 2013 at 9:38 am | |

    “There is no Supreme Being as above but there are unseen aspects of reality which include beings with power to affect our lives, and possibly places different from our physical reality which may be accessed with differing grades of difficulty, and possibily causalities other than those we are familiar with”

    What exactly would they be?

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot May 26, 2013 at 10:36 am | |

      I left that open-ended, since there’s any number of such subtle or alternate causalities proposed in human history. I suppose “magick” is as good a term as any. Also, apparently useful, though not scientifically verifiable systems like the theory of chi/ki/prana in such disciplines as acupuncture and martial arts.

  22. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 26, 2013 at 9:44 am | |

    Google books has about the first 80 pgs in a preview; you may be able to download the whole thing here: http://brisana.eu5.org/buddhism-in-the-shadow-of-brahmanism.html -or go to a local university library and check it out/request an inter-library loan…

  23. Fred
    Fred May 26, 2013 at 9:45 am | |

    And if someone says that they can contact x on plane y with powers z1,z2 and z3
    can we observe if they still believe this after being injected with an anti-psychotic?

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot May 26, 2013 at 10:42 am | |

      Do you know such a person? Seems to me a sane person who “can contact x on plane y with powers z1,z2 and z3″ would keep their mouth shut in pretty much any case.

  24. Jiryu03
    Jiryu03 May 26, 2013 at 10:24 am | |

    Brad,

    I believe the other commentators have sufficiently made the point that many people, I would argue a significant amount, do believe in the kind of God you speak against. But to go further, I think the kind of God you advocate, although not wrong, is a bit vague the way you describe it.

    Consider this: It was you who made the point in a Suicide Girls article that “Buddhism isn’t spirituality”. However, in what way are practicing Buddhist are “spiritual”? Let’s not forget the root word “spirit”.

    Or what about a God that “can’t be pinned down and is a part of an underlying reality”? I ask this because I think the use of terms that have both romantic and literal connotations will be confusing. Is this God “intelligent”? Does it give the universe purpose? Does it have intentions? If that’s the case, I can still make a case against it. If it’s none of these then I can’t distinguish a world without a God but has a fundamental reality from the world with the God you advocate. In fact, I think it’s a stretch.

    I think it’s important to remember that different isolated cultures had a variety of figures, concepts, and rituals that may have been mistaken for equivalent practices in other cultures upon their discovery. No doubt, Brahma is different from God although it may have seemed to be the same at first glance to the western mind. Words will never neatly translate across cultures. So what was god in one culture may have only a few overlapping characteristics in another.

    With this in mind, why call it God? Do you answer this in your book? If so, just say “yes” and I’ll buy it.

  25. Jiryu03
    Jiryu03 May 26, 2013 at 11:58 am | |

    O yea I forgot! The use of “alive” and “dead” matter. Matter is neither of these. The matter that is in our bodies can still be considered dead even though they might compose a lively person. “Life” is a judgment we make about macro-level phenomenon. At the end of the day, the universe might just be the laws of physics. It’s kind of mystical because of the wide range of phenomenon possible, such as consciousness, but let us not dare call that God to avoid confusion.

  26. Fred
    Fred May 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm | |

    What about ” no-self upon the Absolute “? Is that alive or dead?

  27. Fred
    Fred May 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm | |

    And when ” you go to the other side of nothing,
    and you are held by the hand of the absolute ” ,
    do you really need a God?

  28. anon 108
    anon 108 May 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm | |

    minkfoot wrote:
    Any familiarity with Buddhist scripture or later writing shows this [atheist materialism] is not true, at least until we have writers like Stephen Batchelor. In fairness, I don’t know if he’s changed his tune lately, but he’s had to reject a lot of Buddhist teaching to embrace 3…I think he errs in implying only his is “true.”

    Anyone calling themselves Buddhist has to reject a lot of Buddhist teaching. There’s so much conflicting ‘Buddhism’ that any one school or interpretation is bound to disagree with a great many others.

    From what I’ve seen and heard of Stephen Batchelor, he’s an honest and committed practitioner, student and teacher of a form of Buddhism informed primarily by a rational, contextualised reading of the Pali canon. (Has he ever said his reading is the only “true” reading? I doubt it).

    Materialist? As far as I’m aware, SB has never denied the existence of God, spirit or reincarnation. He merely says he can find no reason to profess belief in that which he hasn’t directly experienced and which doesn’t make sense to him. Whatever other label might apply to such an attitude, it seems pretty authenticly ‘Buddhist’ to me,

    Stephen Batchelor is cool.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot May 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm | |

      minkfoot wrote:
      Any familiarity with Buddhist scripture or later writing shows this [atheist materialism] is not true, at least until we have writers like Stephen Batchelor. In fairness, I don’t know if he’s changed his tune lately, but he’s had to reject a lot of Buddhist teaching to embrace 3…I think he errs in implying only his is “true.”

      Replace the words in the brackets with [identification of Buddhism with atheist materialism] and I would accept it.

      anon 108:
      Anyone calling themselves Buddhist has to reject a lot of Buddhist teaching. There’s so much conflicting ‘Buddhism’ that any one school or interpretation is bound to disagree with a great many others.

      You’re implying one has to resolve the contradictions rather than wallow relishing them. C’mon, anon, you know the formula — “A special transmission . . .”

      anon 108:
      From what I’ve seen and heard of Stephen Batchelor, he’s an honest and committed practitioner, student and teacher of a form of Buddhism informed primarily by a rational, contextualised reading of the Pali canon.

      OK. But not really relevant.

      anon 108:
      (Has he ever said his reading is the only “true” reading? I doubt it).

      We all think our understanding is the truest until it is demonstrated otherwise, then we switch to a new understanding which is then believed to be true. When I read Batchelor, his implications come through strongly. Of course, I believe in my perception over yours, or I wouldn’t be saying this.

      anon 108:
      Materialist? As far as I’m aware, SB has never denied the existence of God, spirit or reincarnation. He merely says he can find no reason to profess belief in that which he hasn’t directly experienced and which doesn’t make sense to him. Whatever other label might apply to such an attitude, it seems pretty authenticly ‘Buddhist’ to me,

      I would not call it otherwise. His sincerity in his attitude and practice is not what’s being questioned. His attitude is.

      Why does he suggest Buddha’s acceptance of rebirth is either utilitarian or just plain cultural inertia? As part of a critique of the doctrine of rebirth, that’s acceptable, but does he allow the possibility of the traditional view? He does mention the usual doctrine that Shakyamuni obtained direct knowledge of rebirth as part of his awakening, but he paraphrases it in a “Scripture says . . .” passage leaving little doubt of his disinclination to allow its possibility. I don’t believe he’s sufficiently agnostic.

      anon 108:
      Stephen Batchelor is cool.

      Stephen Batchelor is valuable. He’s a great force against complacent acceptance.

  29. Brent
    Brent May 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm | |

    Fred, even the ability to type the word ‘absolute’ in a comment on a blog – it’s this miraculous? I mean, we are on this planet sitting at computers typing letters on a web page. Where are we exactly? How long has this been here? Where were we before we were born and where do we go afterwards? What is *this* life here now? I have no idea. None. No idea why ‘people’ are ‘deluded’ then become ‘enlightened’, none at all. Just consciousness is miraculous at all times, except of course when ‘I’ get caught up in everything, which is most of the time, which still is positively inexplicable to me. No idea. (but it’s kind of funny too).

  30. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 26, 2013 at 6:40 pm | |

    If you haven’t seen this, see it. Amazing.

    http://bewareofmrbaker.com/about-1/

  31. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 26, 2013 at 6:42 pm | |

    And this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIqa27Ml3jI

    There is no God, and His name is Ginger Baker.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 May 27, 2013 at 4:08 am | |

      Thanks John.

      Divine.

  32. MJGibbs
    MJGibbs May 26, 2013 at 8:10 pm | |

    My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech. It’s a pretty powerful little documentry.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NjKgV65fpo

    I really enjoyed this quote near the end:

    “Death is just another thing on the agenda kind of…yeah it’s scary…but the only reason it’s scary is because you don’t know what’s next… or if there is a next. So it’s kind of like sitting in the dark. So you can either choose to be freaking out in the dark and thinking, ‘Okay, what’s out there?,’ or you can just relax and fall asleep and just be happy and content with everything.” – Zach Sobiech

  33. MJGibbs
    MJGibbs May 26, 2013 at 8:30 pm | |

    I’m looking forward to the new book, Brad. I already pre-ordered a copy.

    Did you read Sam Harris’s The Moral Landscape during your research? I like that book a lot. His next book is suppose to be on the topic of spirituality. The thing I like about Sam is he is not afraid to piss off scientist, atheist, or religious people on his search for the truth.

    Here is a video titled Death and the Present Moment where he gets a room full of atheist to meditate:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ITTxTCz4Ums#!

    :

  34. SoF
    SoF May 26, 2013 at 8:43 pm | |

    So, if the Abrahamic god spoke Hebrew in Polynesia, what would the natives say?

    That’s right.

    What?

  35. anon 108
    anon 108 May 27, 2013 at 2:29 am | |

    Hi Minkfoot,

    Replying to your comment that SB has to reject a lot of Buddhist teaching to arrive at his position, I wrote: “Anyone calling themselves Buddhist has to reject a lot of Buddhist teaching. There’s so much conflicting ‘Buddhism’ that any one school or interpretation is bound to disagree with a great many others.” And you replied: “You’re implying one has to resolve the contradictions rather than wallow relishing them.”

    I can’t see how I implied that. I certainly didn’t mean to. (I thought your point implied that rejecting Buddhist teaching is not a good thing. If you didn’t mean that, then my point is redundant.)

    You wrote: “does he allow the possibility of the traditional view? He does mention the usual doctrine that Shakyamuni obtained direct knowledge of rebirth as part of his awakening, but he paraphrases it in a “Scripture says . . .” passage leaving little doubt of his disinclination to allow its possibility. I don’t believe he’s sufficiently agnostic.”

    Can you get this link? It’s to a 30 min BBC radio interview with in April this year: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01rl3cf/Belief_Stephen_Batchelor/

    – Asked if he believes in God, he says “In a very general sense, if someone were to ask me “Do you believe in God?” I would say “No.” But to probe that question further…I end up with a profoundly agnostic position. I simply cannot – in a living sense[?] – utilise or make sense of this term.” His position on all these metaphysical questions is the same, as I hear him, and has been for some time (despite the use of the catchy word ‘atheist’ in a book title).

    Of course we hear and evaluate others’ beliefs – including those of the long-dead – in the context of our own. For someone who is “profoundly agnostic” to preface remaks about Shakyamuni having obtained direct knowledge of rebirth as part of his awakening with “Scripture says” is simply honest, no?

    “Stephen Batchelor is valuable. He’s a great force against complacent acceptance.”

    We agree.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 May 27, 2013 at 2:58 am | |

      To further clarify what Stephen Batchelor says he believes (just in case it matters) -

      SB: “Wouldn’t my contribution be what I can do in this life? And then my legacy to future lives would be what I have managed to achieve now, through my work, through the effect I might have had on others now, or on subsequent generations? There may be past lives in common—I’m not saying that they’re not there—I just don’t know.”

      “To believe that there is nothing after death is just as much a view as believing there is something. ”

      “I would certainly not take the stance that after death there is nothing. The only honest position I can arrive at is: “I actually don’t know.” There could be possibilities after death that this current mind/body complex could not ever conceive. Theories of rebirth may actually constrain the mystery and the potentially extraordinary and inconceivable possibilities of what happens after death into the frame of what can be logically conceived of through this very limited human organism. To me death is not just a question of either continuity or nothing. They are two options that the human brain can conceive of because of our either/or logic. So the only position I can adopt is, “I really don’t know.” Not “don’t know” in a skeptical, superficial “don’t care” way. Not at all. I would much prefer to believe in rebirth. As you say, it offers a very attractive evolutionary perspective. But in all honesty, I see neither logical proof nor empirical evidence, and after all, the Buddha did suggest that we check these things out for ourselves.”

      http://www.tricycle.com/feature/reincarnation-debate

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot May 27, 2013 at 6:00 am | |

      OK, rereading the page linked in an earlier comment, and watching my own reactions, I may have erred in associating him with others who have a definite materialist bias. And quite annoying superciliousness.

      But note my original point, from which we’ve strayed considerably into talking about one writer. Although there were physicalists in the Buddha’s time (the Brahmajala Sutta gives a nice catalog of competing philosophies), Buddhists themselves have not frequently been physicalists *until* “writers like Batchelor” in Western Buddhism expressed the possibility of a Buddhism stripped of metaphysical doctrine. In my encounters around the country (US, that is), I met many practitioners in the Japanese-derived lineages for whom a physicalist interpretation of Buddhism was the norm. I felt that I had to mention this as an exception to my main point.

      Which is that, in the black-and-white frame of the Western atheist/monotheist, traditional Buddhism is often force-fitted into one or the other category, when it’s properly neither.

      1. anon 108
        anon 108 May 27, 2013 at 6:20 am | |

        Fair enough. I know a lot of other Buddhists feel as you do about what they identify as a particular trend in Western Buddhism. I confess that much of what’s said by writers associated with that trend makes alot of sense to me – fits my world view – so I often rush to defend it/me against what I hear as misrepresentation.

        Whatever, I do take the point you make in your last paragaraph: Buddhism is neither (with a capital N?).

  36. drocloc
    drocloc May 27, 2013 at 5:02 am | |

    Throw it ALL away.^^

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot May 27, 2013 at 5:09 am | |

      And see what crawls back.

    2. anon 108
      anon 108 May 27, 2013 at 5:22 am | |

      You’re very welcome to throw whatever you like away. Seems an awful waste to me – seeing as how very wonderful it ALL is.

  37. Fred
    Fred May 27, 2013 at 5:04 am | |

    How can you be reborn when there was no you in the first place?

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot May 27, 2013 at 5:10 am | |

      If there’s no you in the first place, what could possibly prevent you from being reborn?

      1. Fred
        Fred May 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm | |

        Formlessness is unborn

  38. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 27, 2013 at 5:56 am | |

    Report from the West

    by Tom Hennen

    Snow is falling west of here. The mountains have more than a
    foot of it. I see the early morning sky dark as night. I won’t lis-
    ten to the weather report. I’ll let the question of snow hang.
    Answers only dull the senses. Even answers that are right often
    make what they explain uninteresting. In nature the answers
    are always changing. Rain to snow, for instance. Nature can
    let the mysterious things alone—wet leaves plastered to tree
    trunks, the intricate design of fish guts. The way we don’t fall
    off the earth at night when we look up at the North Star. The
    way we know this may not always be so. The way our dizziness
    makes us grab the long grass, hanging by our fingertips on the
    edge of infinity.

    “Report from the West” by Tom Hennen, from Darkness Sticks to Everything. © Copper Canyon Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission.

  39. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 27, 2013 at 11:07 am | |

    Get washboard ribs and toes!

    A simple program of folding in around the hara as though holding to each breath with the ribs and toes can enable anyone to cross the Yellow River on a feather; hang ten and weight that gaze as you engage the light in a backwards step and lower that chin on ‘em:

    http://www.amazon.com/Transmission-Light-Enlightenment-Master-Keizan/dp/1570629498

    Don’t wait, grab that breath with those ribs and toes today!

  40. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm | |

    FROM THE DENKOROKU

    Shanavasa

    Case: The Third Ancestor was Shanavasa. He asked Ananda, “What kind of thing is the original unborn nature of all things?” Ananda pointed to a corner of Shanavasa’s robe. Again he asked, “What kind of thing is the original nature of the Buddha’s awakening?” Ananda then grasped the corner of Shavavasa’s robe and pulled it. At that time, Shanavasa was greatly awakened.

  41. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm | |

    and naked.

  42. Fred
    Fred May 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm | |

    “Ananda then grasped the corner of Shavavasa’s robe and pulled it. At that time, Shanavasa was greatly awakened.”

    Sasaki pulled on many women’s robes, but they didn’t awaken

  43. SoF
    SoF May 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm | |

    Bardo.

    After death, and before birth, you are offered an existence. It’s like catching a #37 bus in San Francisco or another bus…

    Just say “No” and you are not reborn.

    Ian Pretyman Stevenson was a Canadian psychiatrist. He worked for the University of Virginia School of Medicine for 50 years, as chair of the department of psychiatry from 1957 to 1967. He researched “Life before life” experiences in young children. To date, about 1,500 cases of whatever (don’t call it reincarnation) have been documented and a dozen or so published in JAMA.

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