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Oh bullshit. Not to you, to Strand. Why does everybody have to have a religion? Once again this prescribing. Those who are drawn to have a religion, have one. Those who are drawn to have a nontraditional spiritual practice, let them have that. This mutual invalidation sucks.


I thought he was saying you **don't** have to have a religion.


I think that as soon as people get together and form an organization of any kind, if it's successful, it will eventually gather superstitions and mythology, and it will eventually acquire a dark history.

The United States, for example -- because it has been successful and has lasted a while, had the chance to do things that make it a target of intense criticism.

The Catholic Church, of course, is another example. Its great success and long history guaranteed that it would have behaved very badly at times.

The Soviet Union and all temporarily successful communist experiments also.

So sophisticated Americans reject Judaism and Christianity in favor of Buddhism. I can understand it, I think, but I also disagree in a way. Buddhism tries to get rid of superstitions, mythologies and gods. But is that really necessary, and is it realistic? Are we so much better off without gods and mythologies? Doesn't something always rush in to fill the vacuum?

So you probably wind up with people who think they're Buddhists but aren't really, because we all believe mythologies and we all worship something. Maybe if you live in the forest away from society, as Buddhists are supposed to, you might meditate long and hard enough to free your mind of images and attachments for moments at a time.

But I have a hard time believing the typical sophisticated American Buddhist in his SUV, talking on his cell phone, has freed his mind of mythologies and idols.

Does Buddhism appeal to educated Americans because they think it doesn't conflict with science? Well I would say that it conflicts very much with what people are calling science now days. What they're calling "science" is actually very much like any religion -- a system of non-rational mythologies.

I believe that you can't win, ultimately. Get some kind of advantage here, lose one there. Look at the way Buddhism is practiced in Asia -- Buddha is worshiped as a god and there are statues of him everywhere.

It doesn't matter if it's Buddha or Jesus or Shiva, or whoever -- people like, or need, to worship images.

Maybe that's why Judaism was never very popular, and why many or most Jews are not religious. The Old Testament prophets constantly struggled to stop Israelites from worshiping idols. And of course they wouldn't stop, they liked their idols.

Educated Americans have their own mythology and their own idols. I wonder if they are really practicing Buddhism.

I have the same problem, because I believe in god and I feel religious, but can't relate to any of the existing religions. So my image of god is vague and my faith is probably not as strong as a devout Christian's faith. I don't have a clear image of god, and I think that is a problem because human beings need that.

Charlie (Colorado)

Educated Americans have their own mythology and their own idols. I wonder if they are really practicing Buddhism.

Um, I *think* I'm really practicing Buddhism. how could I tell if I weren't *really* practicing Buddhism?



That's a great question -- it would be a great question for any practitioner of any religion. In the case of Zen Buddhism, sometimes it becomes self-referential and narcissistic; in other words, this is how you know someone isn't quite practicing the real thing: everything is about them.

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