Peacebang has started a fascinating discussion with her two latest posts, Humanists, or "Vague Buddhists?" , Humanism or Vague Buddhism, Part II ,and ChaliceChick continues with The ChaliceBlog: Response to PB's "Vague Buddhists" post . The timing is, for me, amusing, as our last small groups meeting was about Buddhism!
I think Peacebang has something in concept- I believe we are headed for “Buddhism Lite” as a denomination. First consider Buddhism stripped of the cultural trappings such as vegetarianism or reincarnation, and look only at the 4 Noble Truths, and the 8fold path, and the Middle Way. The Middle Way is merely avoiding extremism- don’t we hear that every single week in a UU congregation? If you reworded the 8 fold path such as to make its Buddhist origins less obvious, any humanist would be happy to claim it, and if you’re careful with the translations of the 4 Truths, (I’m told the word “suffering” is not exact), the same is true of them as well. Buddhism and Humanism both put the emphasis on behavior rather than belief. Where Buddhism differs from Humanism is that Buddhism does not require a deity, but has no trouble with your worshipping of one, whereas the wording of the Humanist Manifestos denies the possibility of the existence of a deity. One could say that a Buddhist is a Humanist who has no beef with god-Talk.
This difference is where UU comes in. It seems as if it were a near thing, but the UUA could never quite bring itself to become formally atheistic- in fact, the pendulum now seems to be swinging in the other direction, with the recent “Language of Reverence” debates. Oh, we’re still embarrassed by words such as “God” or “Prayer”, but openly expressed hostility is no longer common. It seems, just from my limited experience, that what growth we are enjoying is because of that, that we’re getting religious humanists, often young families who believe in God, but not religion, and are looking for a generically religious tradition for their children.
It seems inevitable to me that the UUA head in that direction. There are very few of the old-school “anti-theist” type of humanists left; vocal as they are, they’re starting to get drowned out in debate. More and more New-Age types are joining, largely people who have been unchurched for 20 years, and are starting to want fellowship again. There are the UU Pagans and the UU Christians who are getting more vocal. All of these trends, it seems to me, are bound to result in a denomination that will more openly embrace Divine inspiration, but retain the behavior-oriented posture of our humanist tradition. If you were to take Buddhism and intentionally rewrite it for western ears and cultural references, is that not exactly what you would get? Is there a better word for that than Peacebang’s, “Vague Buddhism”?
Peacebang asks “What I was wondering was whether or not we were mostly putting Buddhist teachings and readings and quasi-spiritual practices (like 30- second 'meditation') where Christian instruction and ritual used to be.” Well, of course! Inertia is the most powerful force in the universe- the forms and trappings will change last, if ever; the content is much less important than the format. After all, in any religion not one congregate in a thousand truly understands their own creed and liturgy- ask the man on the street the theological differences separating the Methodists from the Episcopalians. in fact, the way our own members treat the PPs like a creed should demonstrate that point. So if the content must change to permit more open acceptance of theists and spiritual issues without the minister being accused of sounding too Christian, the only way to do it is to insert Buddhist teachings into an otherwise normal Protestant church format.