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May 11, 2006

The "A" Word -- 3

My hesitation over using the word "atheist" in the book's title has come from its apparent starkness. But, in researching the remarkably energetic disbelief scene in ancient India, I've begun to fear it isn't stark enough.

buddha.jpgIf atheist refers to a denier of the existence of gods, then early Jainists and Buddhists might qualify, as might devotees of what may be the oldest of the orthodox schools of Indian philosophy, Samkhya, which also makes do without gods. However, all these faiths do, as I understand them, share a belief in the soul, rebirth and karma. Is the term "atheist," therefore, too broad? Do we need another designation in order to restrict the club to those, including plenty in ancient India, who reject gods and also reject the notion that we live on after death?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at May 11, 2006 11:00 PM


How about humanist?

Although realist may be more appropriate.

Posted by: JustinOther at May 12, 2006 12:49 AM

Is there truth in description? Can symbols convey the essense of meaning?

We are struggling with a truthless tiger.

How can one find a word to describe non-belief when words require belief to work?

"We are dreaming we're not dreaming
The paradox reality."

Posted by: Jay Saul at May 16, 2006 8:07 AM

Perhaps we should all be "Anoccultists", because we tend to believe that there is no permanently hidden, un-knowable component to reality.

Posted by: Crosius at May 16, 2006 2:54 PM

By testing for arrousal to pictures, researchers have been able to determine that sexualality is a continum purely hetrosexual to homosexual with the large majority of people falling in between the two. (February/March issue of Scientific American's MIND magazine)

I would expect that the inclination to believe in the supernatural is genetically spread out the same way. Which is to say there is no "we".
Just like with sexuality we want to put people in boxes: homo/hetro, believers/non-believers.

So searching for a word that accurately and honestly describes people who are disinclined to "have religion" fails to recognize the continum of this attribute.

Posted by: Jay Saul at May 17, 2006 11:37 AM

I think you are incorrect in stating that Buddhism denies the existence of God, or Gods. The concept is simply not germaine to the Buddhist's goals.

Posted by: Michael at July 21, 2006 6:26 PM

I sincerely believe that if we were all atheist there would be no more killing, ie the taleban or the like. We would believe that once you are dead that is it. I saw a Larry King TV program on this subject some 6 months ago. He had a number of Jewish and Christian people on this show and one atheist.
I cannot remember her name but she left me with an impression that I have not soon forgotten.
I also believe that if we were all buddhist then the world would be a much safer an happier place. Buddhist do not believe in violence.
As for a God, who knows? It would look as if most Buddists are agnostics, would that be correct? thanks

Posted by: steve zimmett at September 11, 2006 1:51 PM

Well I don't know what most Buddhists are, Steve but this is a historical record of Buddha himself...so to follow him is to be following one who is said to have died for the sins of the people and rise again. Born of a virgin and a doer of miracles...how is it that Buddhists do not worship him as god and have a theistic religion, when it contains so many of the benchmarks of the Christian relgion and Christians worship Jesus who is said to have done the very same things only hundreds of years later?

Buddha - ca 500 BC

- Born of the virgin Maya on Dec 25th.
- Birth was announced by a star, and attended by wise men, who presented expensive gifts
- Taught in the temple at age 12
- Tempted by the Evil One, aka Mara, while fasting
- Baptized in water with the Spirit of God present
- Healed the sick
- Fed 500 from a small basket of cakes
- Walked on water
- Obliged followers to poverty and to renounce the world
- Transfigured on a mountain
- Died (on a cross in some traditions), buried, then rose again after the tomb opened. Ascended into heaven (nirvana)

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at September 11, 2006 4:42 PM

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