I was engaged in a discussion the other day with a team member: Topic of discussion? Atheism.... What exactly IS Atheism? My personal opinion as well as one I have shared with many people that I have spoken to about the topic is this: An Atheist is void of a belief in something higher than ourselves, be it "God" or any other being that has some sort of divine control over the lives and / or actions of people. It does not ONLY refer to the lack of belief in the Christian concept of god. At least, like I said, to me. To my team member, Atheism refers to the disbelief in "God," but allows Atheists to believe or at least have an Agnostic view towards other religions.On a side note, we had a brief conversation about Buddism, which he referred to as an "Atheistic religion," a term which I did not share the same feelings about.

 

Anyway, before I get carried away, what IS atheism? Help me out here.

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Have any Atheist been documented to experience the supernatural; like  hauntings, plates falling out of

the cabinet by themselves, Bad Ouija board experiences  or an out of body experience.  

I don't know about documented but I've had many experiences of inanimate objects spontaneously falling over or off a shelf.  I once had a bad Ouija board experience that ended in some same sex experimentation after 3 bottles of strawberry angel sparkling wine.  I may have had an out of body experience on a mushroom trip once.

 

I think the difference is in whether or not you attempt to explain such events with spooky fictitious stories.

"...that ended in some same sex experimentation after 3 bottles of strawberry angel sparkling wine." <- thought you said it was a "bad" experience. ;)
Have you ever consumed a significant share of 3 bottles of Strawberry Angel sparkling wine?  I don't think they even allow it to be sold anymore.
Candid Heather, I wish 99.9% of so called Christians were as honest as you.

Atheism is the lack of belief in gods.  So you are correct in that it does not matter at all whether or not the god belief is in the "Christian God."  If you believe in any god / divine being then you are a theist.  If you lack such a belief then you are an atheist.  It's also good to know that it does not matter how you came to your conclusion.  That is to say, not all atheists are atheist rationalists.

 

However, your friend is right in saying that it is quite possible, and quite common, to be both a Buddhist and an atheist.  I would not say that Buddhism is atheistic as much as it is non-theistic.  That is, it doesn't take a stance either way with regards to gods.  Throughout history local traditions and cultures have mixed with Buddhism in various countries, so in some cases there were attempts to integrate the existing religious ideas into Buddhism.  With regards to atheism and rationalism, you can basically break Buddhists up into three groups as follows:

 

1)  Theistic Buddhism.  Buddhists in this category believe in divine beings / gods.  An example of this kind of Buddhism would be the Pure Land Buddhist schools in Japan and other East Asian countries.  In this form of Buddhism, people pray to Amitabha Buddha to take them to a "Pure Land" upon their deaths.  In my experience living in Japan, I feel that this type of Buddhism is usually (but not always) for people who are not very religious, but they want to go along with their cultural heritage.  It gives them a way to celebrate marriages and a way to hold funerals without the need to go to a temple to meditate regularly or practice any other strenuous activity.  In any case, praying to divine beings for cosmic help after death definitely puts you in the category of "theist."  Wiki link for Pure Land Buddhism here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Land_Buddhism

 

2)  Atheistic non-rationalistic Buddhism.  There are a whole lot of Buddhists who fall into this category, and are quite possibly the majority of all Buddhists.  Tibetan Buddhists would be a good example of this kind of Buddhism.  They do not believe in gods or help from any divine beings, and work to attain "enlightenment" completely through their own efforts.  However, they do have what I would say is "blind faith" in metaphysical concepts such as "cosmic" karma and rebirth.  Sometimes it is said that in deep meditation one is able to experience glimpses of past lives, therefore offering personal proof of karmic rebirth.  Now while I see this as taking something on faith because this method in no way is a legitimate way to provide evidence for anything, the faith is not in a god or any kind of divine being.  To these Buddhist, the laws of karma and rebirth are facts of nature just like life and death.  There is no "being" in control of anything.  This makes them atheists but not rationalists, just the same as atheists who believe in the healing power of crystals, etc.

 

3)  Atheistic rationalistic Buddhism.  These Buddhists tend to be found in what is coined as "Western Buddhism" although in reality you can find people in this category all over the world.  People in this category view karma as simply "the law of cause and effect."  The idea is to be mindful of your actions because everything we do impacts others.  Many Zen Buddhist communities leave it up to the individual to decide for themselves how they want to view rebirth.  So it is quite possible to participate in meditation, chanting, and even become a Buddhist priest and still be an atheist rationalist.  There are a lot of contradictory ideas that all fall under the aegis of "Buddhism."  One short case for Buddhist rationalism can be found here:  http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=8,4175,0,0,1,0

You rock! Thanks for taking the time to break these down. Much more understandable now.

Atheism is a possition on the belief in the supernatural. If you believe in the supernatural then you have a religion, like Christianity, Islam, Scientology, etc.

 

If, now, I ask you "Do you have any religion?" or "Do you believe in a supernatural being?" there are two ramifications.

1. If you respond with "Yes" you are referred as a theist ( and can further branch into the known religions ).

2. If you respond with "No" then you are referred as an atheist.

 

"Atheist" is just a word invented to clasify those who lack a belief in a deity OR do not belong to any religion. A while back, atheists where referred to as "doubters" but that was ambiguous, so humanity imported the word 'atheist' ( from the greek 'atheos' ; a = without ; theos = god, deity ).

I disagree.  Atheism is not a position on the belief in the supernatural.  It is a position on the belief in a god or gods.  You said that if you answer "yes" to the question "Do you have any religion" then that makes you a theist.   First of all, the definition of theism:

 

1. (Christian Religious Writings / Theology) the form of the belief in one God as the transcendent creator and ruler of the universe that does not necessarily entail further belief in divine revelation Compare deism

2. (Christian Religious Writings / Theology) the belief in the existence of a God or gods Compare atheism

 

Information about how one can be an atheist and still belong to a religion:  (from wikipedia)

 

In Western culture, atheists are frequently assumed to be exclusively irreligious or unspiritual.[11] However, atheism also figures in certain religious and spiritual belief systems, such as Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Jainism and some forms of Buddhism do not advocate belief in gods,[12] whereas Hinduism holds atheism to be valid, but difficult to follow spiritually.[13]

 

Full link on atheism:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

I gotta throw my vote in with Johny on this one.

 

I actually self describe as a 'devout Atheist' and continually argue that position.  For me, Atheism is much more than a lack of belief - it is a philosophical outlook.  I continually strive to make my decisions based on evidence that reflects the importance of the decision being made.  The more profound the potential consequences of a decision, the more time I should spend researching the evidence, and that applies as consistently to selecting a soft drink as it does to continually giving 10% of my earnings to someone who is selling eternal youth.

Agree.
I see and understand where you are coming from, Heather, but I don't call that atheism. I call it skepticism, and my atheism is a result of my skepticism in regard to religious claims and claims on the existence of deities of all sorts.

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