Over the weekend, I read this fascinating UC-Berkeley study about the trend of Americans moving surprising quickly away from organized religion. Among Americans under the age of 30, the trend is happening even more quickly. It seems, increasingly, we are looking for secular, rather than religious answers to our problems. Since I’ve always been a pretty non-religious person, this trend definitely resonates with me.
As I have stated before, I firmly believe that Buddhist meditation, philosophy and psychology should not be viewed as religious practices. I simply don’t believe that they meet the conventional criteria. Of course, there are many different views on this matter, all with valid thoughts behind them. Many of the different viewpoints arise from the fact that the word “religion” is so hazily and differently defined by different people. But in my view and approach, I don’t think there is a way of defining Buddhism as a religion without also defining Western psychology and science as religions, too.
At least in the United States, it’s becoming clear that the next generation is not looking for religion, so it would be really silly to try to sell a new religion to those people. Just call it bad marketing. I believe framing Buddhism as a religion is neither helpful nor true, although of course there are different valid viewpoints on this matter. But when something is neither helpful nor true, it should be abandoned. That seems a pretty simple rule. If something is helpful but not true, or true but not helpful, then maybe there is a skillful means in holding on to it. For me, Buddhism as religion needs to be let go.
Give the study a read. It’s very interesting.