i told ya buddhism is a religion

Picked up from Tricycle is this horrible article. (I call it horrible because it’s from one of those thinly veiled conservative Christian organizations trying to pass itself off as “legitimate” or “impartial” news. Then again, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s wearing it’s agenda proudly on its sleeve. What the hell do I know?)

Anyway, the point of the article is that a woman is suing Prudential Insurance for “forcing” her to participate in the “religious practices” of Buddhism (and Hinduism, though the lawyers can’t seem to keep the two separate). Basically, some idiot in management picked up Nancy Spears’ Buddha: 9 to 5 and thought it would be a good idea to make all of his employees sit around meditating and chanting the sacred syllable (ॐ if you haven’t been paying attention).

Let me first say this: it’s probably not a bad idea for people to act more like Buddhists. Gosh, imagine a world where everyone was being mindful of other people and nice to them.

But let me also reiterate a sentiment I’ve made a million times before in this blog (and in endless arguments with people elsewhere on the Internets and the Real World): Buddhism. Is. A. Religion.

Is Buddhism a philosophy? Nope. Buddhism has a philosophy. But, unlike Neo-Kantianism or Sartre’s Existentialism, it’s got institutions. And institutions, boys and girls, is what makes something a religion. Take a bunch of ordained monks and nuns and priests and ministers running around ordaining each other and creating rules that say how you can join the religion coupled with morals and fun stories about what happens when you die and guess what you get — a religion!

Given that, imagine how’d you feel if your boss told you tomorrow that, starting Monday, all employees are required to attend a morning prayer session and accept Christ as their lord and savior. Ten bucks says you’d be on the phone to the ACLU faster than I can say “separation of church of state.”

You see, this, this right here, is why I get bent out of shape when people try and tell me that Buddhism isn’t a religion. Do I think we should all try and have a little Buddhist wisdom in our lives? Of course. But I’m not about to tell people that they must have a little Buddhist wisdom in their lives because some Buddhist wisdom directly contradicts the professed beliefs of non-Buddhists. I wouldn’t want to force them to be Buddhists any more than I want them to force me to be a Christian.

And what does this do? It gives the religious wackos out there who think Buddhists are all a bunch of idol-worshiping Satanists more ammunition. After all, the freakin’ article that inspired this rant is called “Faith Under Fire.” As if there’s a mad army of Buddhists trying to overthrow Christianity in America. Good god, it’s only a matter time before Bill O’Reilly is screaming at us about this.

You’re not helping here people. Leave Buddhism to the professionals (tongue firmly in cheek).

And while I’m on the subject, the reverse is also true. The First Amendment gives us the right to be free from religion, but it also protects our right to have a religion. Christian churches and religious non-profits enjoy considerable privileges in this country precisely because of the First Amendment. If Buddhism wasn’t a religion, we would not enjoy those privileges.

Alright. I’m done.

5 thoughts on “i told ya buddhism is a religion

  1. In college we had this debate come up when we were deciding whether to classify our Buddhist organization as a religious group or as a cultural group (back in those days, the UC mandated a difference). The tipping question for us was: “If Buddhism isn’t a religion, then do we have a place in interreligious dialogue?”

  2. Pingback: i told ya buddhism is a religion « Digital Dharma

  3. Yeah my partner always says he doesn’t mind that I’m converting to Buddhism because it’s not a religion, it’s a philosophy. Drives me nuts.

    But I’m slowly teaching him differently.

    As to that article, I completely agree with you. The manager who decided that it would be a good idea to do that, needs to rethink it. You are right that he would most likely be the first to say something if it were a Christian doing the same thing.

  4. I suppose it all comes down to what you classify as a religion… I personally always classified it as a belief in a superior being and whatever anyone might say, Buddha was not a god or holy being.
    He was a man and a certainly not a superior being to any other man. I call Buddhism a belief. You might say that that’s what a religion is but, hey, isn’t that what I said at the start…?

  5. VS: I respect your opinion that Buddhism is a “belief.”

    But like I said in the post, Buddhism has a philosophy (or a belief), but it’s considerably more than that. It’s got rituals and a rich and vibrant cosmology (which includes various supernatural things) and institutions and all the stuff that other religions have.

    In other words, religions are more than just “a belief in a superior being.”

    But, please keep in mind the following two very important points: first, my definition of religion is based firmly in the academic study of religions which necessarily has to classify stuff — not unlike biologists have to classify the platypus as something even though it doesn’t fit in with the standard definition of a mammal. Classifying stuff is what we academics do. So I classify Buddhism as a religions.

    Second, and somewhat more importantly, I think that people out there — a lot of people — think that Buddhism is a religion and that has consequences. Serious, legitimate, and even legal consequences, as this post tries to point out. If Buddhism wasn’t a religion (or if most people didn’t believe that it was a religion), there wouldn’t be this lawsuit.

    Something to think about.

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