Is it important to distinguish between "Atheists" or "Nontheists" when talking about Eastern religions that do not subscribe to a godhead? Religions like Buddhism and Taoism seem to function perfectly without the intervention of divinity. Buddha himself was noted as saying that God was not necessary in achieving an awakening, nor was he necessary in the world at all. All things accomplished by man, including his conquering of suffering, is done on his own through himself.

Taoists take an even more lax position in that the religion says pretty much nothing on whether or not there is a deity. Instead, Taoism seems to leave it entirely up to the believer whether or not God is a part of their life. Taoism seeks to emphasize the important of balance (light and dark, good and evil) and in that, does not focus on divinity. It could be argued that because the natural exists, the supernatural must exist to balance it, but not many Taoists necessarily adhere to this argument.

I'm an Atheist Taoist myself. I live every day recognizing the importance of opposing forces, but completely deny the existence of a deity. Is it right to call myself Atheist? Should any Buddhist or Taoist, whose religions are inherently without a god, call themselves Atheist? Or should the proper term be distinguished as Nontheist?


What about Buddhists who claim to subscribe to a deity? My father associated with Buddhism but adamantly believed in a divine being. Are the two ideas really compatible, given Buddha's outright rejection of a god?

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Personally I am not inclined to believe in "God". If there were to be a representation of a higher power to me, it would be karmic/energetic in nature. I understand that I am living life, and that is what should be the forefront of my concentration. Not worrying or contemplating what may or may not happen at the end of my life because it isn't upon me. A moral compass does not necessitate a belief in a deity. I believe that each individual person has the ability to discern what is right and what is wrong.

Also to note that as a Buddhist, I take great interest in science of all kinds. Whether it be molecular, biological, quantum. I think that science and Buddhism work well together in respect for the craving of knowledge and enlightenment. However conversely despite that knowledge gained through science we keep a humble no-minded aspect to how we live and present ourselves. It's great to know the answer to complicated problems, and interesting things. In the end however you must remember to keep humility and concentrate on the life you have.

When I say no-mindedness I am not saying "Don't plan for the future." so to speak. Like in Chess you should try planning ten steps ahead. But what I mean is that when hard and stressful times come upon you (and even when times aren't tough) you should enter into a no-mindedness about it. Accept the change as it happens, do your absolute best to adapt to that change in whatever form it takes. And by doing so you can overcome a great deal.
Thinking about it, some Buddhists who subscribe to a god may better be referred to as pantheists, or those who believe God transcends a single physical entity and instead is omnipresent in all living things which it represents. In that, some entirely escape the label of either strictly theist or atheist all together.

I think that like any religion, Buddhism both works well with science and doesn't in aspects that, as it's inherently devoid of a deity, there is no higher power stopping a Buddhist from learning about the world. But in being so inclined toward zen, it is not something they tend to actively pursue, rather passively observe. The problem with knowledge is that it leads to envy and greed, and things that Buddhists will tell you will also eventually lead to suffering. In Buddhism, knowledge is achieved in the recognition that one really knows nothing at all. But I think we are all humbled by the grandeur of this world in ways that escapes Theists entirely. The majesty of the universe does not lie in a god who popped it into existence, but in the painstaking grains of sand built upon each other in this big space we call home, creating swirling balls of gas and clusters of stars and twirling galaxies flying through space away from one another, leaving us only like specks of dust in the distance.
You should read up on sects of Buddhism such as "Pure Land Buddhism" (aka Jodoshu, the largest sect in Japan). Adherents believe that by chanting Amitabha Buddha's name they will, upon their deaths, be reborn into his "pure land" that is "beyond the Western direction," where they will instructed by Amitabha Buddha on how to obtain enlightenment.

Yes, Buddhism can be just as silly as other religions.
The problem is that that's not really Buddhism. Someone was quoted as saying that "Buddhism should be taken away from Buddhists". That's as much Buddhism as saying that Christianity is really Judaism. It's a branch of it, but they don't teach the same things when it comes to specific aspects of the religion. Just the same, the Buddha's original teachings, when not taken as written (this includes: worshiping him as a deity, believing in some paradisaic afterlife, believing in God) begins to deviate from what Buddhism really is and these branches should be regarded as entirely separate from the original intention of Buddhism which did not ever teach that worshiping him would bring enlightenment in a 'pure land'. Siddartha would certainly look poorly upon people who tried to treat him as a deity that grants enlightenment. He taught that every man was responsible for his own awakening; part of departing from suffering is departing from worldly attachments, including relying on others to make one happy, and this would by nature include relying on the Buddha to bring you an epiphany or enlightenment. It just doesn't work in the original texts, so I certainly can't consider that actual Buddhism, no more than the atrocities "Buddhists" cause in other nations such as Tibet that has absolutely no correlation with the texts. I fully agree with the previously mentioned quote. Frequently I feel that Buddhism should be taken from Buddhists.
It's hard to know what Siddhartha would think of modern Buddhists, because very little is actually reliably known about him, his life, or his authentic teachings. The earliest writings that we have from Buddhists date from hundreds of years after the time he was supposed to have live and biographies of him conflict with each other and are filled with supernatural elements. The situation with respect to reliable information about him is even worse than for Jesus, and you probably know how hotly it is debated who the "real" Jesus was.

And for the record, adherents of Jodoshu Buddhism don't worship Siddhartha Gautama.
The suggestion of reading up on sects of Buddhism that may or may not practice original Buddhist guidelines, is like asking me to read up on extremist Muslim terrorists and then grouping them in with the whole of the Muslim world. Which if you don't understand, is wrong.

Buddhism can also be argued that it's more of a philosophy than a religion. So more on point, I believe your comment to be nothing but a facetious attempt to point out the "error" of our thoughts and ideas.
Look, you're free to define Buddhism any way you want, just like any other word, but when you are using the term in such a restrictive way that it actually excludes the majority of people who claim to be Buddhists in a large country of them, you may want to rethink your definition a bit. It's like Protestants claiming that Catholics aren't Christians, or Sunnis saying that Shias aren't Muslims.
Obviously Catholics ARE Christians, because the only requirement of being Christian is that you follow the word of Christ. That's pretty black and white.

That being said, it's obvious he's treating Buddhism in the traditional sense, not the theistic sense. And it's true, the Theistic interpretation is not, no matter how wide-spread, the same as original Buddhism as we know it because it rejects the essential teaching that it's a human duty to let go of all desires and achieve Nirvana, and that it has nothing to do with divine intervention. Buddhism as it's most widely accepted is nontheist. This is because in the beginning, the biggest difference between Buddhism and other religions of its time was specifically that it refuted the existence of gods. But the eventual acclamation of some Buddhists to the idea of a deity was probably inevitable. In the same, I agree it represents a corrupted form of the teaching and isn't true to the core values of the original text.

As Buddha put it, anyway, even believing in a Creator would cause suffering, and therefore was counterproductive to following the Truths and Paths.
I am wondering if you could describe what the functional difference is between atheism and nontheism, as you see it?
There is no real "functional" difference in my opinion. I suppose the distinction is made in effort to link the label Atheist and Buddhist together in a way. They are nontheistic. I'm not trying to say that the people are the same. I'm saying that my preference is that instead of just passively going "Oh I'm an Atheist.".. I explain that this is where I can be likened to someone who claims to be Atheistic, because my beliefs/views come to the same end result.
What!!!! Atheist-Daoist?? I am sorry but you are sorely mistaken. Daoism has plenty of deities and knowing them is extremely important if you want to call yourself daoist. I recommend the book "The Taoist Body" by Kristofer Schipper (this is standard university literature on daoism).
I don't know where you got that information from, Zenshaft. There are gods, but studying them is not at all vital to calling oneself Taoist; the gods are not worshiped and are rarely mentioned during discussions. To any Taoist, the only possible legitimate belief in a 'God' is the Tao itself, which is supposed to be beyond words and conception, which could by definition be God (if one COULD define it, which it's said adamantly that one cannot anyway). Even then, most Taoists I know are neutral on religion and tend to lean away from a belief in any sentient deity as anything more than interesting literature.

Why isn't is necessary to be a Taoist? Because Taoist beliefs are only connected by certain core principles. Not all Taoists believe in an afterlife, but some believe that souls go to a paradise similar to ones described in sects of Buddhism. Most, but not all, Taoists believe immortality can be achieved in some way, shape, or form. Some Taoists believe you shouldn't ejaculate during sex so you can stay younger for longer-- most don't.

The reason Taoism describes any gods at all is its association with Chinese folk religions that were contemporary to it. They are by no means material to be taken seriously when studying it. In fact, I believe the existence of deities, as taken seriously, contradicts the nature of Tao entirely.

http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=91&catid=3

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