My "screed" of a response is in deed a screed and lacking substance mainly because you are refusing to consider it or read it. My response did include many notable points that you somehow failed to see. I am not actually debating but simply introducing an idea that everybody seems to be afraid of recognizing. An idea that does have some philosophical and even historical substances. I don't think Sam Harris ever want to have any authority on Buddhism which I find it silly that we give people authority over a philosophy of life and living. Actually Sam wouldn't see the point of having authority on Buddhism since he doesn't see it as a religion to start off with. So I think that is a fallacy of an assumption you are attached to and can't let go. All that he is doing is expressing his stance and that he believes the teaching of the Buddha would probably be more beneficial when all the superstitions and rituals are removed.
What are the superstitions and rituals?
Karma is not a "Hindu thing", it is also very much a Buddhist thing and features heavily in the Pali canon, Karma and Rebirth are integral parts of Buddhist philosophy. I'm not saying one has to accept them, but to turn around and pretend they aren't a big part of Buddhist philosophy is incorrect.
What is wrong with self-help? You seem to also have a very negative attachment and perspective on the idea. So you think people who are suffering from mental illness or psychological problem such as depression shouldn't find help such as psycho therapy or counseling because they are going to die anyway? I think that is abit short of a thought process. What if Buddha teaching was just that, to help people to find happiness and peace while living? To gain control of their thoughts/mind? Isnt that Nirvana? We do have the tendency to exaggerate notable people throughout history especially if it was pass down orally as a story or a legend. Story teller knows that a story with no excitement or something out of this world is probably not the interesting story to tell. Have you ever play a telephone game? It is a children game where they are lined up then someone whisper a message to the first person and it is passed down, almost always at the end, the original message is morphed and dramatically change to still contain some of the words of the original message but with a complete different meaning/context.
Don't start that "you have an attachment to x" nonsense, it's the most common way of avoiding an argument on Buddhist forums and I ain't playing. No, Nirvana is not just gaining control of one's mind, no Buddhists think that either. You can say that's Buddhism if you want, but you don't seem to know what historical Buddhism is, and wish to just replace it with a sanitized version that has all the modern comforts.
Karma originated from Hinduism and there is many interpretation of its meaning. We can generally agree that karma is a term for the idea of causality, but to what degree do we take it. Religious Buddhist in general probably see karma as something that is beyond one life-time and extend to the next, a determining factor that decide where our next rebirth is going to be in Samsara. But what if Karma just simply means there is consequences to all actions such as unskillful deeds result in unpleasant consequences. If you killed someone, you may go to prison for life, or be executed, or you may live with guilt even if you got away. Samsara can also just be a metaphor to different stages in our life. You see, if Buddha was somehow born somewhere in Europe, his teaching probably wouldn't include Karma or Samsara, because these are just Hindus ideas in which he grew up with and that influence his philosophy.
You had this knee jerk reaction to the thread, how supposedly dogmatic I am etc.. and yet now you are railing about what "religious Buddhists" probably believe, pot, meet kettle.
The discussion has everything to do with being dogmatic. You are a great example of that. You hold belief that was probably taught to you by someone who hold authority in which you accepted. Buddhism probably have variety of rituals and ceremonious practice that you also engage in. I don't believe the Buddha would teach people how they can use the wooden fish or which sutras to chant. In fact he asked not to be worshiped and we proceed to worship him as we would worship a supreme god. These are practices and beliefs that was added as Buddhism progress and spread to different regions of the globe. Kind of like wherever Buddhism go, it tends to incorporate the native deity of that region.
Are you for real? I got into Buddhism and starting reading about it at the age of 17 (30 years ago), and would have considered myself a "secular Buddhist" for a chunk of that time. My take on Buddhism is my own, I listen to my teachers and try to sift through what they say, but I don't take anything for granted without examination,..but you know what? That includes the assumptions of orthodox materialist like Sam Harris too, there is plenty of assumption to chew in his philosophy..but of course it never gets mentioned because reduction of everything to physical property is the default belief of most people these days, even though it has some big logical holes. While it's true that new, more ritual practice methods were added to Buddhism, things like Karma and Rebirth were there from the beginning, if you dispute this you just don't actually know Buddhism that well.
I confess, I am a secular Buddhist and I see that rituals and superstitious beliefs are not the original teaching of the Buddha, and taking the same stance with Sam here, it overshadows the wisdom and teaching of the Buddha.
I seems like you don't actually know much about what you see as "superstitious beliefs" (i.e. ritual), and that (probably due to never reading the stuff), you are largely unaware that all Buddhism
including the oldest Pali Canon writings, make reference to Karma and Rebirth. Or at the least, you have confused actual use of ritual in meditation as being the same thing as what you'd term as folk belief or superstition, those may look similar, but are quite different IMO.
Does that mean you have to accept them? No, of course not, I have my doubts about plenty of it...everyone should have doubts. It does mean however that it's either 1) intellectually dishonest or 2) simply ignorant to claim that things like Karma and Rebirth are some modern thing that Buddhism didn't contain at one time.
In fact he asked not to be worshiped and we proceed to worship him as we would worship a supreme god.
Again, this pulled out of nowhere and I wonder if you have any idea what the historical Buddha taught on this one way or another (near as we can know at least), here's a sample:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Anyway, everyone's entitled to their beliefs, and I don't blame anyone for skepticism on any count, all reasonable. The thing is, if what Sam Harris (and I guess you) believe is so clearly divergent from many of the important notions of historical Buddhism, why be concerned with calling it Buddhism at all? Why do you even want to identify with it?
Also one last thing, accusing people of dogmatic or close-minded because they disagree with your position is nonsense, if you want to have real conversation. I'm willing to listen to what you have to say in terms of advocating for "secular Buddhism", but i'm not gonna do so based on some kind of guilt trip about me acting dogmatic and what not, either discuss in good faith or don't.