Saturday, August 15, 2009
The Science of a Religion
Some portray Buddhism less as a religion and more like a science -- namely, modern psychology and, in particular, psychotherapy.
Yet there is no question that Buddhism has come to command the devotion, imagination, and faith of its observants as any other mainstream religion.
Interestingly, Buddhism has reemerged since the British colonization of India. Prior to the British arrival in India Buddhism had been wiped out by Hindus and Muslims. British anthropologists discovered and recovered evidence that solidly roots Guatama Buddha in historical fact.
Throughout history, the general trend has been for external invaders to destroy indigenous religions, not help resurrect them.
The Life of Buddha is as much a movie about archaeology's ability to help restore lost religions as it is a movie about Buddhism itself.
Interestingly, this particular episode poses a real challenge to fundamentalist atheists -- those who have canonized science in the service of atheism, which they are building into a religion -- as the pursuit of a science has led to the reemergence of a major world religion, even if it is a non-theistic religion.
The fact that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion also presents something of a dilemma for those who insist that atheism cannot itself be a religion because it doesn't believe in a central or all-powerful god.
Intriguingly, atheists believe that science, via secularism, will ultimately destroy religion. Yet, historically, it has yet to be the case. Even as many great scientists have held their religious faith close to them, sciences such as archeology and anthropology continue to preserve and recover religious materiel, with it religious history, and with that the religions themselves.
If there are greater ironies at work in the world today there couldn't be many of them.