, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 27–30 | Cite as

Buddhism and atheism

  • Arvind Sharma


Penguin Book House Investment Dialectical Materialist Buddhist Philosophy Semantic Extension 
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  1. 1.
    See Edward Conze,Buddhism: The Essence and Development (New York: Harper & Row 1959) p. 38;Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For the implications of such a statement for Buddhism, see Edward Conze,op. cit. pp. 38–43. (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1973) passim. For problems of using culture-bound terms, such as atheism, in cross-cultural contexts, see Bror Tiliander,Christian and Hindu Terminology (Uppasala: Almquist and Winsell, 1974) passim.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For the problematical nature of the term “atheist” seeEncyclopaedia Britannica Vol. 2 (London: Encyclopaedia Britannica Ltd. 1951), p. 600; Vítêzslav Gardavsky,God is Not Yet Dead (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1973), pp. 180–202; sometimes the question, of the precise definition of atheism is virtually ignored, see Patrick Masterson,Atheism and Alienation Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Webster's New International Dictionary (second edition), (Springfield Mass.: G. & C. Merriam Co. 1940), p. 173.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., Webster's New International Dictionary (second edition), (Springfield Mass.: G. & C. Merriam Co. 1940), p. 2618.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For what may be intended by God if theism is defined as belief in God see Herbert H. Farmer,Towards Belief in God, Part I (London: Student Christian Movement Press 1942), pp. 15–19.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Thus I. B. Horner writes that “Buddhism recognises no God or godhead” (Buddhism: the Theravada in R. C. Zaehner, ed.,The Concise Encyclopaedia of Living Faiths [Boston: Beacon Press, 1959] p. 267). This is true (but see Huston Smith,The Religions of Man [New York: Harper & Row, 1958] pp. 126–127). Buddhism however does recognise gods as distinguished from a God. As a matter of fact one such god helped the Buddha overcome his hesitation about going out to preach a “religion” which he regarded as very subtle (Richard H. Robinson,The Buddhist Religion [Belmont, California: Dickenson Publishing Co. Inc., 1970] pp. 22–23). I. B. Horner, however, describes the incident in a deceptively “atheistic” way: “After a period of hesitation, for Dharma is profound and difficult to understand and it would have been wearisome to the Buddha to teach it if he were to fail to elicit any response, he was urged forward by anunseen source of power and finally decided to give his Dharma to all wo wanted to hear it” (Ibid., The Philosophy of Religion (New York: Random House, 1970, p. 280). Also see Ninian Smart,The Philosophy of Religion (New York: Random House, 1970) p. 29 and James Hastings, ed.,Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 6 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913) p. 270.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See K. N. Jayatilleke,The Buddhist Attitude to Other Religions (Ceylon: Public Trust Department) passim.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lama Anagarika Govinda,The Psychological Attitude of Early Buddhist Philosophy (London: Rider & Co., 1961) p. 43.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Collier's Encyclopaedia Vol. 3 (Crowell Collier and Macmillan Inc., 1966) p. 141.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    For another list of four sources of atheism see Sten H. Stenson,Sense and Nonsense in Religion (New York: Abingdon Press, 1969), pp. 20–21, 226–236.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Kathleen Bliss,The Future of Religion (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969) p. 156.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See Alasdair Macintyre and Paul Ricoeur,The Religious Significance of Atheism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    ibid., pp. 15–17.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Bertrand Russell,The Impact of Science on Society (London: Allen and Unwin, 1953), p. 25;Human Society in Ethics and Politics (London: Allen and Unwin, 1954), p. 215 etc.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See W. Cantwell Smith, “Religious atheism? Early Buddhist and Recent American”, in John Bowman, ed.,Comparative Religion (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972) pp. 53–81.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    But see Ninian Smart,op. cit., pp. 6–7.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer SBM B.V. 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arvind Sharma
    • 1
  1. 1.University of QueenslandAustralia

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