Batchelor and Gerstein

Two articles of local interest in the British newspaper, The Guardian:

Mark Vernon discusses Stephen Batchelor’s appearance at the Harvard Humanist chaplaincy to talk about the new Buddhist atheism.

Denis Campbell interviews Boston humanist Joe Gerstein about Smart Recovery, a non-theistic alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous.


3 Responses to “Batchelor and Gerstein”

  1. 1 David Kimball
    March 24, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    In the article about Batchelor’s book on the new Buddhist Atheism, the reviewer states that “For myself, as an agnostic, I was saddened that Batchelor has now definitively opted for atheism: the closure on the transcendent that decision represents felt like a partial turning away from his previous open efforts to discern the nature of things.” I wish that the reviewer had mentioned some specific points that saddened him rather than just resort to the labels of “agnostic” and “atheist”. I would be interested to know the difference within this context.

    If the fourth essential of Western Buddhism is “the self-reliance of the individual, so that nothing is taken on authority, and everything is found through experience”, then I have a problem with the third essential of “the tasks of knowing suffering”. It seems to me that the emphasis on “suffering” by most Buddhists is accepted from authority. With me, my experience would say that life is more about joy than suffering. It is our responsibility to experience joy and to help others experience joy also.

    I wonder if Western Buddhism still believes in a holy caste system where monks are considered “higher” than we normal working people even though it is us who are expected to support the non-working monks.

  2. March 25, 2010 at 9:09 am

    There are some aspects of Buddhism that are not supernatural yet I still question, like the notion of Enlightenment, and getting rid of the self.

    However, I think the Buddhist attitude toward suffering is both naturalistic and reasonably accurate. It’s true that Buddhist ideas developed at a time when there was more suffering and less pleasure in life than in our day, but it is still the case in our times that people will experience suffering, and ought to know how to deal with it. Not being attached to one’s joys so much that one feels awful when they depart is part of it. We can have joy, and I think even be biased toward joy, but we also need a little resilience when things go bad.

  3. April 21, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Like all religions, Buddhism is full of contradictions. Teachers of Mahayana, Vajrayana and the Theravada (Hinayana) have many doctrinal differences (as do movements within Christianity, Hinduism and Islam). In Japan, Pure Land is diametrically opposed to Zen.

    It has often been said, especially by other religions, that Buddhism is atheistic so Batchelor’s approach is not new. While Buddhism does not believe in a Supreme Being or Creator, many of its followers worship the Buddha, bodhisattvas or other celestial figures.

    Buddhism, as practiced in the West frequently differs significantly from Eastern traditions. There is less of a distance between monks, nuns and laypeople. Women play a much greater role in Buddhist activities outside of Asia.

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