What is Buddhism's stance on paper vs plastic bags? Mixing Religion And Other Concerns

I always see questions about what the Buddhist position is on X issue that didn’t exist 2,500 years ago.

Interestingly, my intuition is that many people who come here would acknowledge how damaging it is to both religion and politics to mix religions and politics. Especially in the USA starting in the 80s.

I think people want justification for their political stances.

I think there is a pre-conscious sentence among many people to the effect

“My religious hero was a god, had superpowers, and he is for X,Y,or Z”.

The key to feeling validated in your political stances is to keep informed about current events, and read up on the facts of the issues you care about.

If you can’t reach a person with facts ( vs “my god said…” ) than that person is not worth trying to reach.

It is better use of your time to try to get people to vote and to reach open minded people.

It is better use of your time to try to get people to vote and to reach open minded people.

I was most certainly a very closed-minded person once, and perhaps I still am. It’s hard to gauge, in all honesty.

I’m certainly glad that I didn’t give up on myself.

Appealing to “facts” is no less an attempt to feel justified than appealing to god. When people are convinced that beliefs need to be justified, it becomes difficult to see that this very conviction is just another belief, gaining its validity from people’s acceptance which is always linked to appealing to some sort of authority (whether this authority is called facts or god does not a big difference). As such, it comes at no surprise the incessant attempts to convert each other.

Politics is about the way that societies organize themselves. Political issues are almost always moral issues, as they have a genuine and meaningful impact on the happiness and suffering of people, and all sentient beings.

To argue that religion and politics should be kept separate is a political argument, and it doesn’t accurately reflect the role of either religion or politics in any culture that I am aware of. It certainly doesn’t apply to any traditional Buddhist culture.

Rather, the question to be asked is, what kind of role should religion play in politics? The values and morality that one learns in religion must, if it is to mean anything, be applied to live a life where the benefit and happiness of others is considered as well as one’s own. In the Buddhist case, that means taking principles such as compassion, non-harming, and moderation, and applying them as best we can to the choices that we make as a society.

The problem arises when religion becomes corrupted by political forces and used to justify state injustices. For this reason, religions should always maintain financial, ideological, and administrative independence from the state, else they will become corrupt.

The voice of morality should be a critical voice that stands up for the weak against the strong, and refuses to be cowed by convention or by power. Without such a critical voice, politics will inevitably revert to the pure exercise of power by the powerful in their own interests.


While some thing that are claimed to be “facts” seem more like opinions, others are much more certain. If one eats a poisonous plant, jumps from a tall building, or walks in front of a bus there is a high probability of dying. There are many similar “facts” involving increasing complexity, that are quite reliable, including the “facts” used to design the technology that we are using to communicate here.


Indeed, if one takes one’s religion seriously how could it not affect one’s political views?

Perhaps the problems suggested in the OP is about intolerance, rather than religion itself.


Well, religion can be used to argue for bad political morality as well as for good. But the solution is not to reject any attempt, but to learn the difference between good and bad arguments.


Conditional statements are not facts as they are rooted in uncertainty by claiming that certainty (or knowing outcomes) is possible pending the conditions. Uncertain outcomes that relies on conditions outside it to become certain is turned into a universal truth, a sort of common reference point of which everything else has to be interpreted through it (similar to god). If one eats a poisonous plant and does not die or get harmed, the conditional statement is not questioned to be another interpretation to begin with, but that there must be other conditions at play which prevented the universal truth or fact from manifesting itself (possibly gods protection? but no, this is the old superstition that we need to let go of)

Through its appeal to feelings, facts associates feelings with well-being. When people hold certain beliefs that makes them feel good such as the belief in god, they are accused of being dishonest. It becomes a sign of maturity to decouple truth from feelings, so the belief in god is replaced by the belief in facts, which is equally supposed to eventually make us feel good once we let go of the old superstitions (similar to faith in god, which needs time for people to have strong convictions about it and see how beneficial it is). This is where usually appeal to technology and democracy and equality comes into play, which becomes a reference point to imagine and evaluate how miserable and foolish our ancestors, who believed in god, have been. The material increase in wealth and manipulation of conditions is universal and has to manifest itself as a sense of well-being. If one is not experiencing this state of well-being, his/her sense of lack has nothing to do with the universal truth (the facts) but probably some inner resistance and refusal of accepting things as they really are (the facts). :wink:

That’s why I talked about probabilities, not certainties. The probability of jumping off a tall building and living is very small. I fail to see any connection with “making us feel good”.

Such knowledge of how things work is much more useful than some random opinion. In my opinion… :rofl:

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I agree/ The problem is that in modern discourse, science is often contrasted with religion, especially in the west, as if the two are mutually exclusive. The narrative usually goes by citing Galileo, Darwin, Charles Lyell, Freud and others as a huge step forward against the more dogmatic beliefs of religion. This probably made western science as missionary as religion. Opinions became as valid as supported by science, and science became another appeal to authority.

The older theory of god succeeded in providing people with ways of interpreting the world, organizing and governing themselves, producing predictable behavior and largely succeeded in doing so. The shift towards the scientific method, the emphasis on justifying beliefs, separating science from philosophy and religion through the dogmatic adoption of empiricism, are often portrayed as “enlightenment”, and the striking similarities with the older system are often overlooked. Denouncing god is as closed minded as denouncing science. The same human fantasies still persist such as finding immortality, justice and utopia, only the narrative seems to have changed.

In my opinion :joy:, this is what the Buddha might have said if he was reading this thread… :rofl:

“Sir, my teaching is such that one does not conflict with anyone in this world with its gods, Māras, and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans. And it is such that perceptions do not underlie the brahmin who lives detached from sensual pleasures, without doubting, stripped of worry, and rid of craving for rebirth in this or that state. That’s what I teach, and that’s what I explain.”

" A person is beset by concepts of identity that emerge from the proliferation of perceptions. If they don’t find anything worth approving, welcoming, or getting attached to in the source from which these arise, just this is the end of the underlying tendencies to desire, repulsion, views, doubt, conceit, the desire to be reborn, and ignorance. This is the end of taking up the rod and the sword, the end of quarrels, arguments, and fights, of accusations, divisive speech, and lies. This is where these bad, unskillful qualities cease without anything left over.”

The Buddha of the EBTs would probably have called it as it is…he was a realist. Yet he would have done it at the right time in the right way because he was a humanist too. And for the life of me, I can’t see him as ever getting worked up or upset about the way things presently are. I can just hear him saying… “This is how things are, because of these causes. If you persist in more of this, you will reach that destination, which might, or might not be to your liking. Your Choice. I’ll respect your decision.”

:pray:t2: :laughing: :pray:t2:


I think the key “fact” is that in certain contexts science is highly successful because it gives reproducible results that allow complex engineering, such as the technology making this conversation possible.

Yes, there are other knowledge systems, and many of them have value.

The science/technology I’m talking about is not an “appeal to authority”. It’s based on repeatable experiments and modelling.

To me, the problem with science is non-scientists not understanding how science/technology works, its domains, and it’s limitations. Some is very certain, but at the cutting edge it is very uncertain. And it is not a substitute for other knowledge systems in other domains.

Probably this is where we differ, which is a point of emphasis. The belief in god has been repeatable or reinforced as long as people saw value and in it, and until today, many still do. The repeatability issue is driven by the desire to repeat it, not by it being factual. Describing it as “factual” is presenting it as if it was not the product of our desire, but as having the ability to produce reliable results regardless of how we feel about it, hence called objective and therefore authoritative. It is akin to a dictator who have the power to kill people, or spare their lives, regardless of what they believe or feel about it. Similar arguments have been made in favor of god, and in denying it.

I completely agree with your wise answer @faujidoc1

I had similar question one point of time about buddhism stance on paper vs plastic, I did not come to a conclusion, later realised that it’s waste of time for me.

Monks follows according to Buddha’s discipline lives with minimal footprint

He is content with a set of robes to provide for his body and alms food to provide for his hunger. Just as a bird, wherever it goes, flies with its wings as its only burden; so too is he content with a set of robes to provide for his body and alms food to provide for his hunger. Wherever he goes, he takes only his barest necessities along.
Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, he is inwardly sensitive to the pleasure of being blameless.
-Snippet from MN 38


Hi @five_aggregates! Welcome to our community and to the conversation! :smiley:


Hi Bundokji,

You might be interested to know that only a third of actual scientists have a problem with religion, and a majority could be described as at least quasi-religious, or religion-curious.

Also, while I can’t back this up with data, I’m highly confident that a fairly large majority of scientists would accept the tenets of Humanism, which is not in conflict with religion and seeks harmony where belief systems collide.

In my experience, the science vs. religion debate is massively overblown and fueled by highly opinionated people with entrenched viewpoints. I can’t name a prominent anti-science religious figure that would be recognizable internationally, but on the science side, Richard Dawkins is the obvious example. Quite frankly, while I can only speak from experience and impressions, the scientific establishment is sick and tired of Dawkins presuming to speak for them. It’s pretty clear that the internet has facilitated this entrenchment, just as it has facilitated the dangerous left/right partisan divide that might end up sending all of us into the next life!

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Yes, we obviously have a completely different understanding of knowledge systems. You appear to be saying that different knowledge systems in different domains are all the same. I think that devalues all of them. The repeatability of physical measurements is in a different domain from religious systems. Religions don’t provide the information required to build an airplane. On the other hand, the knowledge required to build an airplane doesn’t solve various personal and societal problems, whereas knowledge systems such as religion can be.

Yes, I’d agree with that. I saw Dawkins speak a couple of decades ago, well before “The God Delusion”, and even at that time I felt he was stepping outside his area of expertise. His earlier science communication work (such as “The Selfish Gene”) was excellent, whereas “The God Delusion” seemed very superficial.

Unfortunately opinionated speculation not firmly based on actual knowledge seems to be a rapidly increasing trend in all areas…


Hi Sinjin,

The personal convictions of “scientists” might vary, but the term “scientist” is often used to describe those who work in natural science, not formal or social sciences. Natural science, by definition, is defined through negating the supernatural and human subjectivity. This works through emphasizing the laws of nature as a reference point which has to be known empirically. A reference point is a way of perceiving. When people take “a way” of perceiving the world to be “the way” to perceive the world, science becomes another dogma.

Humanism inclusive of religion is based on portraying religion as a human phenomena. In this mindset, believing in god is a conscious choice lacking evidence, but valued as an aspect of the human psyche.

Dawkins and the new atheists seem to be quite religious in terms of the time and energy they spend in denying god.

In my view, they reflect the same values.