gods

Was Buddha God or human? Small 'g'? Capital 'G'? One of many?

 Was Buddha God or human? Small 'g'? Capital 'G'? One of many?

THE QUESTION IN HEADLINE:

It's a headline at the Website of Tricycle, a U.S. Buddhist magazine.

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Tricycle magazine is “unaffiliated with any particular teacher, sect, or lineage” and spans all forms of Buddhism with authority and style. The question above that it poses is quite pertinent since the online buddhanet, among others, states that Buddhists do not believe in any god because the Buddha “did not believe in a god” and he himself “was not, nor did he claim to be,” a god.

This agnostic or atheistic version of Buddhism is popular among seekers in western countries. But is it authentic?

Tricycle turned to two noted authors to jointly address this important question: Professors Robert E. Buswell Jr., director of UCLA’s Center for Buddhist Studies, and Donald S. Lopez Jr. at the University of Michigan. The article was part of their online series about the top 10 “misconceptions about Buddhism.” What follows is largely based on their explanations.

Without question, Buddhism does not believe in the capital-G God, that is, the one unique and all-powerful Creator of the universe who is worshiped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

However, the two scholars assert that it’s wrong to say “Buddhism has no gods” because “it has not one but many.” The religion believes in an elaborate pantheon of celestial beings designated by the same root word as the English “divinities.” Also, hosts of advanced spiritual beings called “bodhisattvas” and “buddhas” exist in the 27 sectors within the realm of rebirth.

Buddhist divinities lack the attributes of those other three religions’ one God, and are not regarded as eternal. But, importantly, they exercise powers beyond those of mere humans, are beseeched for favors, and “respond to the prayers of the devout.”

Turning to the Buddha himself, he was a human being named Siddhartha Gautama.

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Yes, that AP style issue again: OMg! That Christian McCaffrey guy is a real threat!

Yes, that AP style issue again: OMg! That Christian McCaffrey guy is a real threat!

Remember that Christian McCaffrey guy, the do-everything running back for Stanford University who is named “Christian” for some pretty obvious reasons?

Right, ESPN folks?

It seems that it is pretty hard to talk about this guy’s talents without references to near miracles and other religious topics. You can see that in the headline in a recent Los Angeles Times story, the one with this headline: “USC hopes for more tackling, less praying, against Christian McCaffrey.”

While this is pretty much a run-of-the-mill advance story for an upcoming game, there is a reason for that headline. You can see that in the opening anecdote:

When USC Coach Clay Helton saw the play develop during last season’s Pac-12 title game, he started to pray.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford’s All-American running back, had angled out for a pass and darted to the middle. USC was caught covering him with an inside linebacker.
“I’m like, ‘Please god, don’t throw it to him,’ ” Helton said. “And they did.”
McCaffrey took the third-down pass 67 yards to the seven-yard line, setting up the touchdown that erased USC’s lead and sprung Stanford to the Pac-12 title.

Yes, here we go again.

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OMg! OMg! Journalists continue to ignore the Associated Press Stylebook!

OMg! OMg! Journalists continue to ignore the Associated Press Stylebook!

Yes, here we go again.

I was interested in this Syracuse, N.Y., dateline story already, because of its obvious religious overtones -- both in terms of the scientist in the lede and the metaphysical, to say the least, nature of the issues involved in this breakthrough.

Then, later on, we had -- OMG! -- that whole revisionist Associated Press Stylebook thing going on again. But let's be patient and look at the actual story for just a second:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Peter Saulson sat in a synagogue for the Jewish new year Sept. 14, cut off from the rest of the world. He had turned off his cell phone and computer to observe the holiday.
Saulson was oblivious that his email inbox had started exploding around 7 a.m. with 75 messages that carried the same subject line: "Very interesting event."
Saulson wouldn't get word until that night, when he finally turned his computer back on, that he was on the verge of culminating his life's work, and the work of a thousand other scientists across the world.
That was the day two massive telescopes, one in Louisiana and the other in the state of Washington, detected for the first time gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes from 1.3 billion years ago.

I like the fact that this story opens in a synagogue, where one must assume that folks would upper-case the "G" in "God," as well as the "E" in Einstein, as in Albert, if for different reasons under Associated Press style.

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Oh my God, NBC News needs to print correction about story on U2's return to Paris

Oh my God, NBC News needs to print correction about story on U2's return to Paris

Picky, picky, picky.

Guilty as charged, especially when it comes to the details of life on the religion beat. Anyone who knows about the day-to-day work done by journalists know that when it comes to writing, editing and the Associated Press Stylebook, we think that God is in the details. You could also say that the gods are in the details, if you wish to do so.

Yes, it's that time again. Time for another look at that journalism trend that your picky GetReligionistas have discussed quite a bit (click here for a classic Bobby Ross, Jr., post) in recent years -- the strange tendency for some journalists to ignore AP style when it comes to references to God.

So let's head right over to the journalism bible (lower-case "b") where we find this:

gods and goddesses
Capitalize God in references to the deity of all monotheistic religions. Capitalize all noun references to the deity: God the Father, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Allah, etc. Lowercase personal pronouns: he, him, thee, thou.
Lowercase gods and goddesses in references to the deities of polytheistic religions. Lowercase god, gods and goddesses in references to false gods: He made money his god.

So with that in mind, let's look at a strange passing reference in an NBC News report about the return of U2 to Paris, for concerts that were cancelled amid safety concerns after the recent massacre there.

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Debating the new Associated Press Stylebook, round two

At this point, I still do not have a copy of the new Associated Press Stylebook, the 2014 edition with the chapter dedicated to issues in mainstream religion-news coverage. I think I will hold out for the spiral edition, which makes it so much easier to work with when writing, because you can open it up next to your keyboard and it stays open. Where do get one of those these days, since Amazon only sells the paperback? That said, I am really enjoying some of the online debates about the contents. You can see some of the battle lines in the comments after our initial post by Bobby Ross, Jr. Click here to catch up on that.

However, you can really sense some of the tensions in this short online piece at The Atlantic, written by Emma Green. This is not a news piece, of course, but it is an article directly related to the craft of religion-beat work, so I wanted to point our readers toward it. It also reminded me of something.

Long ago, as in the early 1990s, I heard a nationally known religion writer turned scholar opine that the true purpose of improved religion-beat coverage in the mainstream media was to promote diversity and pluralism in modern America, thus “undercutting Judeo-Christian hegemony.”

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O ye gods! WPost blazes trail in AP heresy (updated)

A reading, according to the Stylebook of the Associated Press.

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