My churchlessness must be heading into even deeper irreligious territory, because lately I've been enjoying criticisms of some minimally churchy spiritual systems -- such as Buddhism -- that I used to identify with.
The problem I'm having with Buddhism is that it really doesn't deliver on the promise I often have heard from Buddhists: "You don't need to believe anything; just study your own mind and observe what is experienced in meditation."
Well, that sounds good. But actually there's a pretty extensive list of preconceptions in this supposedly conceptionless faith.
Reincarnation or rebirth. Karma. Non-existence of the self. The four noble truths (including "life is suffering").
Buddhists aren't genuinely open-minded about what they'll find when they look within their minds. Expectations about what will be learned through meditation are quite narrowly bounded, not expansive.
For example, it's unlikely that one's satori will be recognized as valid if the big realization is:
Today I came across a piece by John Horgan about why he gave up Buddhism. I could resonate with much of what Horgan said. Such as...
Horgan has written widely about mysticism and religion from a properly skeptical scientific perspective. Check out his web site. There are links to some interesting articles on the right side.
More and more, it seems to me that no organized spiritual practice is going to lead anywhere other than where we already want to go.
Meaning, we search out a religion, meditation approach, mystical system, or metaphysical philosophy that matches up with what we believe to be true. So long as our beliefs remain in sync with the teachings we've embraced, all is well and good.
But when our experience doesn't dovetail with dogma, we refashion the teachings to relieve the discrepancy. If the gap gets too large, then we say "Adios" to the organization and seek a faith that does a better job of validating us.
But why join a group in the first place, if all we're looking for is validation of what we already believe?
Horgan discusses this nicely in "Keeping the Faith in My Doubt." He ends with: