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Frank Merton

Is Buddhism a philosophy or a religion?

284 posts in this topic

You don't change the US Constitution with a plebiscite. It is a much more difficult process.

I don't trust the people anywhere when it comes to religion. That the US is religiously fragmented is what keeps the majority favoring separation of church and state. If one sect came to dominate, the tone would change. As it is you see majorities trying to impose religious belief all over the place (abortion, creationism, public ceremonies, euthanasia, etc.), often getting their way in spite of the separation.

Its not actually difficult at all in theory. Actually it is very simple.

The only thing preventing more changes has been natural conservatism of human beings and their distrust/fear of change combined withthe difficulty in getting common popular agreement which would compel elected representatives to act on the voter's wishes.

Then all that is required is a 2/3 majority of both houses, and ratification by 3/4 of the state legislatures .

Where there is an overwhelming democratic populist desire for change, it can be quickly and easily accomodated, and indeed must be done within a set period. In practice the process usually takes some years from start to finish. In some historical cases a period of 7 years was set for the process to be completed.

The present changing demographics of the USA make constitutional change more likely than in a period of demographic stability.

Ps I trust my fellow humans, absolutely, because they are the same as me, and I trust myself. Not to agree with me, always, but to create a workable society for us. Democracy can't work if we do not trust each other, and have faith in the common humanity of our fellow beings.. Pps euthanasia abortion and the right to public ceremonies are not religious issues. They are philosophial moral and ethical issues which transcend religion Australia doesnt have the separation of religion and state as found in america yet we dela with all those isues logically and effectively We have on demand abortion paid for by the state Euthansia is being debated and is in various stages of introduction around the nation And public speaking prayer cereony etc is protected for all in every place but with logicla restrictions and afeguards.

So a buddhist, or a jew, or a christian or a gaean, or an atheist, can go into a govt school and, if there is a reason for it, talk to students and offer prayers or meditation or reasoned argument. It is not compulsory for anyone to attend, but all have the freedom to do so. In some government schools, parents and students can opt in, in other schools they can opt out.

Govt schools have secular and spiritual/religious counsellors paid for by the state, working side by side, so an atheist can get what they need and a believer also. Govt hospitals have chapels, chaplains, AND atheistic secular counsellors. Public and school libraries must have copies of ALL religious books, as far as practicable.

I was teaching at a school once, where an atheist wanted to remove bibles from the library. It was explained to him that as a multicutural society we offer access to all beliefs and theologies, and make them a part of our society, as well as atheism. That school had students from 50 different nationalities, with a huge diversity of religious and cultural beliefs in its 1000 population. It had books on dozens of religious beliefs in its library.

Edited by Mr Walker

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I think I would prefer a system like what is in Vietnam now, where a Party of carefully selected people runs things through its own internal democratic mechanism. Rather Platonic, actually, and without checks prone to settle into a dictatorship.

If Western democracies were honest with themselves they would realize that this is largely the form of government nowadays in most countries -- that elections tend to determine which party is in power but the parties decide who really rules, and the focus here is on a carefully selected elite. The parties carefully protect their position as either the party in power or the "loyal opposition," with here and there an additional party or two.

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I think I would prefer a system like what is in Vietnam now, where a Party of carefully selected people runs things through its own internal democratic mechanism. Rather Platonic, actually, and without checks prone to settle into a dictatorship.

I used to work with some Vietnamese boat people who fled the Communists, and I know why.

"After the 1975 war "the government embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. This caused an economic collapse and resulted in triple-digit inflation. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow, and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the communist regime. At least one million South Vietnamese were sent to reeducation camps, with an estimated 165,000 prisoners dying. Between 100,000and 200,000South Vietnamese were executed." from Wiki

Yup, that's Communism alright. It wasn't until later when The Party decided to implement some economic reforms that life improved.

If Western democracies were honest with themselves they would realize that this is largely the form of government nowadays in most countries

Most countries in the world are Communist?

-- that elections tend to determine which party is in power but the parties decide who really rules, and the focus here is on a carefully selected elite. The parties carefully protect their position as either the party in power or the "loyal opposition," with here and there an additional party or two.

There's another party? Are they just as effective as the opposition parties in other Communist countries?

I don't mean to denigrate the Vietnamese people, just Communism. Communism is a fictional Utopia whose path is paved with blood. That's simply the way Marx envisioned it.

Anyways, back to the OP. I think Buddhism is both. For many Westerners, Buddhism is a philosophy with no beliefs (faith). For many Asians it's a religion. Too bad in Vietnam religion is controlled by the Communists. The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam is still banned and some members have been imprisoned. Nice of them to let Thích Nhất Hạnh return out of exile for a visit, although it was probably just a photo-op.

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From my experience living during the civil rights movement here in the US, democracy can be used to keep some from civil liberties. Majority rules can be abused to keep others from their rights if they are not part of that majority. Most of the changes in jim crow laws (Black people had to sit in the back of the bus, etc type of law.) came from the courts not from the the voting booth. In history it can be shown and in modern governments religious law by its nature does not allow for the civil liberties needed for a happy life.

As far as women having to wear Muslim dress in a Muslim school is up to the employer unless the school is supported by the state, it would be a uniform. If school has state support then I would say true seperation of Church and state would dictate no you can't force women to wear Muslim dress in a state run school.

All schools in Australia receive considerable govt support but that's not really the issue. Even in a non govt place of employment people cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of race religion age or gender so a jewish law firm for example cannot just employ jews and must demonstrate hiring practices and policies based on merit. Thats the law.

However, because we use British case law, each new form of case has to be tested to create a legal precedent which applies to all similar cases. Generally the courts support the aim of the legislation to allow non discriminatory equal opportuniies for all. So an employer cannot insist on religious or non religious dress, but might be able to deny certain items on the grounds of health and safety. That COULD include a common uniform to allow easy identification of staff, but the need for this would have to be established. I suspect such a uniform could not legally be either topless, or a muslim coverall, and be legally enforcable, if it offended individuals beliefs and rights. There is no way in a democracy to prevent the will of a majority becoming law. The best that can be done is to create laws that treat all people equally and hope the majority find them acceptable.

For example I am philosphically opposed to abortion on demand because I believe all humans have some right to life, even those not born yet, but accept that is the law in my country because at the moment it has popular assent.

I am for such abortion being subsidised, like all other medical procedures by my taxes, precisely because it is the law even if I disagree with it. I am for voluntary euthanasia and accept that up until now that has not been acceptable to the majority; but times, beliefs and practices all change. I am opposed to compulsory voting and so have never voted in my life despite penalties if I am caught.. But in that case my behaviour affects no one but myself and I take full responsibility for it.

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Depends on how you follow it. If you follow it's traditions and use it as a way of life, it's a religion. If you follow it without the traditions and ceremony, it's simply a philosophy.

Lol closer look aside I might actually be a Buddhist just by my nature alone. I really should take a deeper look in to it(I never really looked all that deep in it to it because I never run in to anybody who actually is besides online, I'd gladly take any suggestion on good sources). Actually it's kind of creepy how much I have in common with it.(The whole middle way thing comes right to the forefront, Nirvana is a better way to explain how I feel about life; basically bliss through understanding, is how I explain it but it just doesn't seem to give it justice)

Honestly, I don't know why people would ban books holy books or want to get rid of them, the only things about religion I would get rid of are the ones who teach it, that end up causing more harm then good. I love secular places not separatists places makes for a less dull experience.

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The boat people phenomenon in Vietnam arose from the flight of those who had prospered under the South Vietnamese government losing their underpinnings and having to deal with a government that had previously been their enemy and hence had little sympathy. Over time the hates that had existed have moderated.

It is not accurate to describe Vietnam today as a "Communist" state. It is less socialist than most of Europe. It is a successful mixed market economy. Nor is it dogmatically atheist as is often seen in Communist states. What it is, is "Communist" in the sense of a single-party government that has autocratic power (the judiciary, for example, is not independent, but all officials nevertheless must act within the framework of law). Membership in the party is nowadays generally limited to college graduates not active in law or business or a church, so that it becomes a government of an unelected internally selected group, where leadership is democratically selected within the party.

This is one of the benefits of this system -- there is no tyranny of the majority. Some religious belief held by a majority of the population cannot be imposed on everyone. Buddhists tend not to want to do this anyway (for example they oppose abortion and actively discourage it, but also oppose the use of criminal law against it). Christians and Muslims tend to want to use the state to enforce their beliefs.

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I often think of Buddhism as often practiced in the west as a modern Stoicism: as a set of insights that help one keep their composure and even their happiness in spite of it all. No creed, no worship, no organization, no meetings to attend, nothing. The one thing one might do is to learn how to meditate using mindful breathing.

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I often think of Buddhism as often practiced in the west as a modern Stoicism: as a set of insights that help one keep their composure and even their happiness in spite of it all. No creed, no worship, no organization, no meetings to attend, nothing. The one thing one might do is to learn how to meditate using mindful breathing.

Yes, Buddhism in the West has been stripped down and presented as a forerunner to Cognitive Based Therapy. Satipaṭṭhāna and

Vipassanā are two good examples of Buddhism that don't require faith. Stoicism is also very similar as you mentioned, and can also claim to be a foundation of CBT.

What's missing of course is the societal contact. I would love to live in a cultural Buddhist nation to experience the immersion of art, architecture, music, vegetarian food, chanting and rituals.

p.s. I'm glad to see Vietnam has recovered since the war and its aftermath. I imagine though there's still lots of land mines and unexploded ordinance, or they have been cleared?

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Every now and then you hear of a mine hurting someone, generally in the North or in the mountains. For the most part though the problem is solved. There is also some unexploded munition around, but over time it has been decaying and is unikely to explode now. Still the public is aware and treats it with respect.

I would not say that Buddhism is much of a social religion, and this is not good but just is. You go to temple alone or with others as you like, without any schedule, and you can do whatever rituals are normal there or not as you like. Sometimes there are monks about but usually not. (I should advise Westerners going to temple in Vietnam that many of the things they do are Vietnamese-derived and will strike you as superstitious if not outright fortune telling).

Of course the art in most temples is wonderful; I can sit myself somewhere on the floor and just take it all in. The chanting is hard to miss when it happens, every now and then.

Few Buddhists are strict vegetarians, except monks. There are certain days and certain times of one's life when one does not eat meat or drink alcohol, and going without meat is often suggested if one is upset or grieving or depressed. The church encourages vegetarianism, but does not push it, much as it also encourages marital fidelity or business honesty. It is not a group inclined to be preachy -- what you do is your business and you have to live with the consequences that will follow.

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