Buddhism is a philosophy.   Buddhism can be practiced by anyone of any religion, Agnostic,  Atheist, etc.

The following are the words and teachings of the Buddha --- anything else should be considered suspect.

Essentials of Buddhism


Four Noble Truths

   1. Suffering exists
   2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
   3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
   4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path 

Noble Eightfold Path

 Three Qualities  Eightfold Path
 Wisdom (panna)  Right View
   Right Thought
 Morality (sila)  Right Speech
   Right Action
   Right Livelihood
 Meditation (samadhi)  Right Effort
   Right Mindfulness
   Right Contemplation

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What I dislike most about Buddhism is something that is very similar to Christianity. It suggests that the purpose of life is to better oneself,

Not sure why that wouldn't be quite a good aim

to move from a default state of unworthiness to a higher state.

Perhaps a different way to look at it is this: To better oneself, as a way of being happier, is not just the sum of our genes. We can learn things which go contrary to our instincts. We learned, that pummelling the inconsiderate driver who's just cut us off, doesn't make anyone happier. We can act and live in a higher state - if we learn how.

Christians believe they are born in a state of sin

...or maybe born without the knowledge of how to achieve higher states.

It sets out a “middle path” about how to think, speak and act the “right way”.  Any philosophy that claims to be the (noble) Truth and looks for followers is a religion.

Disagree. I think you need god(s) to be a religion, whereas possessing knowledge of some good (but not obvious) ways to live a happier life and wanting to propagate these ideas does not need gods.

Meditating to the point of not thinking anything is escapism.

I'd say "not thinking" is pretty much the objective of meditating. I look at my dog. He's looking at me to find any signal of what I might do next. Simultaneously he's sniff-sampling the air for anything worth exploring. Simultaneously his ears are independent;y tuning in -  listening for the slightest sound he might have to attend to. He is living for NOW. He's not thinking (in my opinion). Meditation teaches us how to experience now. We can then take these lessons as tools for dealing with the "real world" - human interactions which seem to need more complex "thinking".

"What I dislike most about Buddhism is something that is very similar to Christianity. It suggests that the purpose of life is to better oneself,"

Just to clarify your above statement, are you saying that is a killer sees the error of his ways and decides to become a rapist, then sees the error of this lifestyle and becomes a preacher,then seeing the error of this life becomes a politician, and then realizes he has evolved into a government prostitute,  are you saying this man has wasted his efforts in trying to better himself? (no offence to the prostitutes is meant)

Just to be a little whimsical:

JOKE 1: A Buddhist monk, visiting New York City for the first time in twenty years, walks up to a hot dog vendor, hands him a twenty dollar bill, and says, “Make me one with everything.”

JOKE 2: The vendor pockets the money, and hands the Buddhist monk his hot dog.  The monk, after gobbling down the dog, asks for his change.  The vendor looks at him and says, “Change comes from within.” With a wistful smile, the monk walks away.

You would have made a good Zen monk!    

I remain calm whether I suffer pain or am indulging any nihilistic desires. I can get moments of clarity from both :-)

And in my secret life I am:

 Twoshoepattyfoot and The Stink Creek Holy Roller Salvation Caravan Band And Mystical Magic Show

  My bio can be found on any major Post Office bulletin board.  Absolutely not my  
 best picture, but then I was not the one who chose the photographer.    
  Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound,  I am charming beyond description and  winner of the Mr. America contest (twice) without entering.

  A Flagrant violator of socially acceptable behavior, I am bored, angry and only 
 
 marginally intelligent,  a walking contradiction of myself,  consistently inconsistent, a prudish pervert, a violent pacifist,  and an ordained atheist priest.  I am the last of my tribe standing - the last tree to fall.     

 

Do you happen to know Aron Ra :-)

To answer your query: No.

I have lamented the death of Chris Hitchens.  I have been concerned about who could take up his mantel and fight for Reason  ---- Aron Ra is impressive and may well be the leader who could fill the void left by Chris.

Thank you

I should have credited my 2 jokes above to Hitchens. I can't remember where but I am sure someone here will remind us of the video. I only drink alcohol on one day of the year,  April the 13th. One glass of the Breakfast of Champions :-)

I'm pretty sure the "Make me one with everything" joke didn't originally come from Hitchens; I heard it almost 20 years ago.

This is a Hinduism story, but I suppose it could be adapted for Buddhism.

The guru was sitting in the square with several dozen students enraptured by his sermons.

He was discoursing on the concept of Maya, the notion that the world is merely an illusion, when a mad elephant burst into the square.

Everyone, including the guru, got up and started running .

One of the students caught up with the guru and asked, "You said that the world isn't real, but is illusion."

"So I did," replied the guru, who was running like a jackrabbit.

"Then why are we running from the elephant?" asked the student.

The guru looked at him in all seriousness and replied, "What elephant? What running?"

The following are the words and teachings of the Buddha --- anything else should be considered suspect.

Sounds suspiciously like a religious teaching... not a philosophy.

2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires

I disagree. I assume Buddha went into more detail, can you explain how suffering arises from attachment to desires? Is this true for all desires? i.e. any desire one is attached to will cause suffering?

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