Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; not upon rumour; nor upon what is in scripture; nor upon a surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, “The monk is our teacher”.Kalama Sutta- The Buddha’s charter on free enquiry
No, this is not true. That title is my attempt at clickbait. I hope it works.
So if you are reading this, I guess the clickbait worked and we are in business. This post has nothing to do with Shakespeare. We are not going to discuss a pound of flesh or to do or not to do or even much ado about nothing. But because we have mentioned Shakespeare, we may say the world is just a stage and each one must play their part and depart.
Many times when I blog or tweet about Christianity, there is some backlash from religionists who claim atheists are only against their religion. The last census we had put the percentage of Christians in Kenya at above 80%. Anytime I throw a stone, there is 8 in 10 chance, it will fall on a person who claims to be a Christian. Most of these believers think without their death cult, we would have no laws. That society would be living in a state of debauchery and anarchy. Voodoo believers are not knocking on doors are carrying open air crusades in our neighbourhoods. Maybe, just maybe if Christians kept their beliefs a private matter, they would not be a subject of interest. Just saying.
When I have written Jesus did not exist, I have been often asked if Socrates, Buddha or Confucius lived. The point here being that as historical figures, there is scant information regarding their lives and they should be treated the same way we treat Jesus. I don’t know about other atheists, but no one is going to hell because they think Socrates is a creation of Plato. In fact, you will not be punished by anyone for thinking the Republic is Plato’s Utopia. That it is not possible to have such a government of philosopher kings. In general, it has no real world effects whether one doubts the existence of Socrates. For all his teachings, Buddha said live the good life. But the Christians make extra-ordinary claims about their Jesus with a rider that those who don’t believe will suffer for eternity plus one.
I demand more to work with. The gospels will not do. They are inconsistent and contradict each other. Your pastor’s testimony will not cut it either. If my life or any other life is to depend on the sayings of Jesus, you are going to have to work hard to give evidence that he lived. Until you are able to do this, don’t bring up Julius Caesar or Buddha.
On our continuing series of posts from the gospel of Buddha, allow me to share this passage from the book.
Again it is said that the Absolute has created us. But that which is absolute cannot be a cause. All things around us come from a cause as the plant comes from the seed; but how can the Absolute be the cause of all things alike? If it pervades them, then, certainly, it does not make them.
Again it is said that the self is the maker. But if self is the maker, why did it not make things pleasing? The causes of sorrow and joy are real and objective. How can they have been made by self?
Again, if we adopt the argument that there is no maker, our fate is such as it is, and there is no causation, what use would there be in shaping our lives and adjusting means to an end?
Therefore, we argue that all things that exist are not without cause. However, neither I?vara, nor the absolute, nor the self, nor causeless chance, is the maker, but our deeds produce results both good and evil according to the law of causation.
Let us, then, abandon the heresy of worshipping I?vara and of praying to him; let us no longer lose ourselves in vain speculations of profitless subtleties; let us surrender self and all selfishness, and as all things are fixed by causation, let us practice good so that good may result from our actions.
In our continuing series of quotes, I will present two snippets; one on why there is so much sorrow and evil
The world is full of evil and sorrow, because it is full of lust. Men go astray because they think that delusion is better than truth. Rather than truth they follow error, which is pleasant to look at in the beginning but in the end causes anxiety, tribulation and misery.
and a second one that talks about consciousness. And those god people who keep saying an intelligent creator is responsible, the Buddha says shut the hell up. It is written,
In the beginning there is existence blind and without knowledge; and in this sea of ignorance there are stirrings formative and organizing. From stirrings, formative and organizing, rises awareness or feelings. Feelings beget organisms that live as individual beings. These organisms develop the six fields, that is, the five senses and the mind. The six fields come into contact with things. Contact begets sensation. Sensation creates the thirst of individualized being. The thirst of being creates a cleaving to things. The cleaving produces the growth and continuation of selfhood. Selfhood continues in renewed births. The renewed births of selfhood are the cause of suffering, old age, sickness and death. They produce lamentation, anxiety and despair.
Folks, many times theists berate atheists because we[ most of us I believe] realize the universe in without purpose. No design and no goal, things in nature are indifferent to our whims or feelings, they just happen. Our lives are inherently absurd and meaningless or as the writer of Ecclesiastes writes in Chapter 3
18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
Faced with this meaninglessness what does man do? You have to choices to choose life through christianity which is a denial of reality. It is a pessimistic view of life based on the mistaken belief that human beings are created by their god to worship him and revere him so that in future they may spend endless time singing hallelujah hosana! or you can choose to live knowing that life ends when the final curtain is drawn, that we have this one life to live to the fullest so that should there be another life elsewhere, the gods shall be proud that we lived a full life here and wouldn’t punish us for that.
One of the greatest teachers to have walked the surface of the earth, Siddhartha Gotama, said of the people who claim to have a passionate relationship with god to be like a young man who has declared he is in love with the most beautiful lady in the village but on being asked how she looks like admits he has never seen her! it is groundless, based on human consciousness alone and nothing more. It is not suggested to us by nature and therefore to claim god gives our lives meaning is to claim unicorns give lives meaning since the existence of the two are just conjecture.
For an apologist to write
The Christian, by contrast, admits right up front that there is more to the universe than physics and chemistry, that minds and meaning do indeed exist, and that we have ultimate purpose in life because there is an ultimate that exists, God. Without God, Dawkins is quite correct that there is no meaning in the question “why do we exist?” But with an infinite God, we have infinite meaning in the universe.
is to pretend to possess some knowledge that isn’t available to the rest of us. It is a mark of arrogance that can only be explained by assuming the author is so brainwashed into believing his religion as true that any other opinion that challenges his world view false short. And what does it mean to talk about an infinite god? Rather what does infinity mean? Isn’t infinity a human concept to describe large numbers the human mind can’t simply conceive and what infinite meaning do we have in the universe?
I contend that our lives are inherently without meaning, but that each of us has to create meaning in their lives. The believer through believing in transcendence hopes that his life has a greater purpose than just spreading his/her genes and the non believer believes that he/she has a duty to live a meaningful life here without attaching any meaning to superstition.
Most religions claim to have an answer to the ‘big’ questions of life; is the universe finite or infinite, where did life originate, what happens after we die, do we have a soul separate from our physical bodies and many more questions people consider as ‘big’ or important. Whether this claim is true, I leave it to you to decide.
I think as Buddha many years ago observed, these questions are at best irrelevant. We need to concern ourselves with living this one life we have here and now. This by far I think is the most important thing. We must live a full life. Don’t misunderstand me, I love all the work scientists in different fields have put into answering these questions. Here, am addressing the man on the street who has no idea what the 1st Law of Thermodynamics is ( I also don’t know) and telling him/ her to live life fully. Am imploring you to live a life of compassion, to value your life and the lives of those around you and most of all to accept the eventuality of death that awaits all of us. I am forever hopeful, that if not in our time then in my daughter’s and grand children’s time, the answers to these questions and others yet to be formulated will be found. There is every reason to believe this; Bruno, Galileo, Einstein, Darwin and others before and after them have provided us with answers that have challenged most of the old claims advanced by theists and as we acquire more knowledge of our universe and continue research into all this areas, answers will definitely be found.
To get back to where we started, I want to posit a question in an attempt to deal with the above questions. To this end, I will use an example to get to my point. My question then is; is it of importance to you go when you go to a restaurant/ cafe to want to know from which coffee plant, who harvested the coffee bean and who roasted it or will just enjoy the coffee and its sweet aroma (that’s if you get good coffee) when served? If your answer to this question is similar to mine, then just enjoy the coffee. We can look at life in the same prism, and make each moment count.
The theists claim of having definite answers to these or any other question can’t be taken seriously until they adduce evidence to support their claims.