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Henry Maldonado

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Is Buddhism a religion?

While I have taken courses in theology indicating Buddhism is a religion, for many atheists Buddhism does not equate to a religion.

Whether you have a Faith, is Buddhism a religion? If you are a practicing Buddhist--meaning you go to temple--do you view Buddhism as a religion? For atheists who identify with being Buddhist, what is at stake by calling it a religion?


There are many ideas as to why it is not a form of Faith. The primary one being, the religious aspect is regulated by local traditions instead of something uniformly structured and agreed. I mention this so that those who agree can elaborate.

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    Sep 3 2012: most criticisms toward religions do not apply to buddhism. it applies more to specific buddhist groups and their practices. but when it comes to the core teachings of buddhism, it passes many trials that other religions would fail miserably.
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      Sep 4 2012: A Christian might argue that there is nothing wrong with what Jesus preached, but that the Church is making a mockery out of it.
      What would you reply to that?
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        Sep 4 2012: i was not talking about good and bad. we are talking about whether it constitutes as a religion, or how is it related to science, etc. in many respect, buddhism is different than other religions.
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          Sep 4 2012: I see your point about how it relates to science. Indeed, others get an F in epistemology.
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    Sep 3 2012: I have a simple criterion of reference. It has nothing to do with theology though.

    If it takes your time and/or money - it's a religion.
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      Sep 3 2012: To add
      If it needs only Blind Belief then it is
      If it instigate fight against other belief then it is
      • Sep 3 2012: Buddhists are neither blind nor have they ever instigate a fight against others beliefs.
        A key word in the Buddhist faith: Compassion.
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          Sep 4 2012: I disagree Gale. There are faith based supernatural beliefs based on no evidence associated with many forms of Buddhism. Just Christians and Mithrans and virgin mothers etc.

          I have seen Buddhists suppress Muslim minorities.
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          Sep 4 2012: Hi GaleI am talking from my observation of people's practices who are follower of Buddhism ....having an advantage of living a country where 80%+ population follow & practice Buddhism....

          Don't disagree about the key word Compassion in Buddhism......

          moreover Buddha means "enlightened" or "awakened"......does that matter what it means if not in practice ?
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      Sep 3 2012: good god! computer games are religion!
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      Sep 4 2012: What activity does not take time to perform? Unless you can name something, your simple criterion of reference makes everything a religion.
  • Sep 11 2012: Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: `The flag is moving.'
    The other said: `The wind is moving.'

    The sixth patriach happened to be passing by. He told them: `Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.'

    Mumon's Comment: The sixth patriach said: `The wind is not moving, the flag is not moving. Mind is moving.' What did he mean? If you understand this intimately, you will see the two monks there trying to buy iron and gaining gold. The sixth patriach could not bear to see those two dull heads, so he made such a bargain.

    Wind, flag, mind moves.
    The same understanding.
    When the mouth opens
    All are wrong.
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    Sep 3 2012: Yes - it is a religion.

    I assume atheist being wrong about the gross over use of the word 'religion' (when it comes to Eastern practices) so they have to claim Buddhism isn't one of the worlds oldest religions (by not calling it a religion)... for some absurd reasoning.

    Faith takes measure in a lot of forms outside of religious practice - this is just nonsense... The amount of faith in something shouldn't be analyzed in religious behavior - because if it is - then religious naturalism hypothesis/position is more valid than atheism, any day. As human beings we are prone to religious behavior - whether they are formal or informal.

    There are tons of monist in Buddhism - men and women who do nothing except try to achieve Buddha status. Seems ritualized, culturally formatted, and traditional... Not a religion?

    The Buddhist practice is not similar to the Abrahamics in fundamentals (but get piled into the same accord with the word 'religion') except maybe a hand full of teachings (Jesus v. Buddha).

    So, yes it is a religion, and new age atheist tend to be religious themselves when it comes down to their arguments, positions, mindsets and language usage. Patternicity - we are too good at it.
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    Sep 3 2012: "...for many atheists Buddhism does not equate to a religion." Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. Buddhism is a religion indigenous to the Indian subcontinent that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha (meaning "the awakened one".

    Since religion is described as a belief system then I accept Buddhism as a religion.
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    Sep 11 2012: I don't think so.
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    Sep 4 2012: Most religions default into tribal political structures. This structure is what is most often associated with religions, yet those who actually practice the teachings of teh central prophets seem less concerned with the political trappings.
    Buddhism seems a little less prone to the default tribalism - particularly the Zen branches.
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    Sep 4 2012: There is a dark side to Buddhism. Like any religion.

    Buddhism can be used to justify why some are rich and deserving and others are not based on some fictional past lives.

    It can be used to support monarchy and authority and power that is not justified.

    And all the usual issues focusing on the next life rather than this one.

    However, all up I prefer it to Christianity, especially if you drop the supernatural stuff.
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    Sep 4 2012: I lived in a predominantly Buddhist country for years.

    I've been to Buddhist weddings and funerals and temples etc. Buddhism has much the same role, rituals, unsubstantiated supernatural type beliefs as religions following gods. So I would comfortably consider Buddhism a type of religion, but with some characteristics that differ from the traditional Western view.

    Now if you asked is Confucianism a religion, there is even more of a different with the Western model.

    I would point out that in practice I've seen Buddhist praying for help etc. While strictly, Buddhist don't follow gods, in practice most people believed in agency. There is also often a melding with Hindu and Brahamic beliefs and natural spirits and Daoism and ancestor worship etc all muddled in. There was not the purity or dogmatic approach you see in fundamentalists.

    As for those who don't think Buddhists individuals or countries are as violent as followers of say the Abrahamic Faiths. I suggest this is also oversimplifying. A cultural believing Buddhist is just as likely to do something violent as Cultural Christian. Also Buddhist majorities are fine with suppressing Muslim minorities. Buddhist countries have invaded other countries just fine.

    Part of the issue is that Islam and Christianity are associated with the most powerful empires.

    However the Old Testament god and teachings are more violent than Buddhist ones. Also less factional violence over the years.

    So there is a more subtle interpretation is worth considering.
  • Sep 4 2012: 'Buddhism' has many different meanings because it is practiced in many different ways.

    I read about the life of Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) and the principles that he taught. Based on those readings, this is my opinion: Buddha's teachings were actually very limited and many people came to him with questions he would not address. His teachings addressed just one question, how to live. IMO, this is philosophy, not religion. Also, his teachings did not require faith. His approach to learning how to live was basically trial and error. When he finally found an approach that worked for him, he stuck with it. This is the approach that engineers take to their work. IMO, Buddha was an engineer of living..

    There are many forms of 'Buddhism' and I am fairly sure that some of them would qualify as religions.