Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Confession of a Buddhist Atheist” as Want to Read:
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,781 ratings  ·  173 reviews
Written with the same brilliance and boldness that made Buddhism Without Beliefs a classic in its field, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist is Stephen Batchelor’s account of his journey through Buddhism, which culminates in a groundbreaking new portrait of the historical Buddha.

Stephen Batchelor grew up outside London and came of age in the 1960s. Like other seekers of his
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by Spiegel & Grau (first published 2010)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
First, I should say a brief word about the title: Buddhism is an atheistic religion, so being a Buddhist atheist is not anything at all unusual. Now, granted, many sects of Buddhism believe in various deities and spirits; however, one of the key teachings of Siddhattha Gotama (Batchelor uses the Pali spellings) was his rejection of the theism--his rejection of the existence of Brahman and Atman: God, The Absolutle, the Self--of the Hindu culture in which he lived. Gotama's atheism, as Batchelor ...more
Nandakishore Varma
This we may term the fundamental posture of the Buddhist mind. The serious commitment of the Occidental mind to the concerns and value of the living person is fundamentally dismissed, as it is in Jainism, and in the Sankhya too. However, the usual Oriental concern for the monad also is dismissed. There is no reincarnating hero-monad to be saved, released, or found. All life is sorrowful, and yet, there is no self, no being, no entity, in sorrow. There is no reason, consequently, to feel loathing ...more
Not since Chogyam Trungpa's "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" has an analysis of Buddhism had such a profound effect on me. Part spiritual autobiography, part scholarly text. Batchelor's monastic journey led to studies and work with many important teachers (the Dalai Lama, for one). But his quest became stymied by increasing unease, due to unquestioning allegiances, archaic conventions and, eventually, as he dug deeper into the Pali Canon (bless his patience), contradictions about the hist ...more
While this book was a bit scattered, it was well worth reading.
Full review:
Frank Jude
Sep 22, 2011 Frank Jude rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Open-minded people.
This is simply a wonderful book! The reaction to it from the more 'conservative' Buddhists (like B. Allan Wallace, from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and others from the Theravada) is all the evidence one would need to prove Batchelor's point: there are all too many Buddhists who praise the Buddha and the Buddhist traditions for it's rationality and critical questioning, but keep their questioning from reflecting back on the tradition. For such people, it's as though their understanding of wha ...more
Jim Coughenour
Mar 20, 2010 Jim Coughenour rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of 1 star reviews
Shelves: memoir, spirituality
"I am glad I belong to a religion that worships a tree." No, this is not Jake Sully saluting the Na'vi in Avatar – it's Stephen Batchelor explaining his "Buddhist atheism." But in this case, 3D means dull, dispiriting and diffuse.

I enjoy confessions, especially when they involve spiritual conturbation: Mark Matousek's Sex, Death, Enlightenment; Andrew Harvey's The Sun at Midnight; even Frank Schaeffer's half-cocked Crazy for God. I also (if rarely) appreciate oblique approaches to spirituality,
"To practice the Dharma is like making a collage. You collect ideas, images, insights, philosophical styles, meditation methods, and ethical values that you find here and there in Buddhism, bind them securely together, then launch your raft into the river of life. As long as it does not sink or disintegrate and can get you to the other shore, then it works. That is all that matters. It need not correspond to anyone else's idea of what "Buddhism" is or should be." P229

So concludes Stephen Batche
Rebecca Dobrinski
Atheism is NOT About You

Really, it’s not. It is not an affront to your existence. It is about science. It is about questioning and searching for answers. It is about thinking for oneself.

For the God-themed issue of Zen Dixie, I read three books on atheism. No, these books did not provide me with any life-changing realizations – it was more like, as “they” say, “preaching to the choir.”

Yes, I am an atheist. No, I do not believe in anyone else’s God. And, like I said in the opening paragraph, my a
This is the first Stephen Batchelor book I have read, and it definitely won't be the last. It's exactly what I was looking for. The first half of the book describes his own experience as a Buddhist monk primarily in Tibet and Korea, up until he disrobed. The second half focuses on the Buddha's life and teachings, based on Batchelor's research of the Pali Canon and his own experience in Asia as a lay practitioner.

I think it's safe to say that Batchelor is a representative of Western Buddhism, whi
David Teachout
There are some reviews describing the book as a meandering and sometimes confusing foray into Buddhism and quote the author in his confession of taking on projects in an erstwhile and haphazard fashion. I won't go against the author in his self-description but I will note that the result is neither confusing nor meandering, if anything it achieves exactly what it declares itself to be, a journey of confession where searching for the man behind the myth, the Gotama behind the Buddha, becomes an e ...more
I'd give Part One, the autobiographical section, a four; my only criticism is that it is too short and lacks detail. Part Two, however, merits at most a two. It is the bulk of the work, and should really be called "In Search of the Historic Buddha." Other reviews have commented that they are not historians and so don't feel that they can judge. I, on the other hand, am an historian, and can and do judge it. This is not a work of history; it is, at best, a speculative work. It is a work written b ...more
Juan Alvarado Valdivia
The first half of this book was enjoyable. In picking up this book, I was excited to read about Batchelor's spiritual journey, to find out how he arrived to become a "Buddhist Atheist." I guess I was under the impression--especially with the choice of title--that the book would primarily be about this journey, but I guess I should have read the jacket description more carefully.

I felt like there are two books in this one: a story of his lifelong spiritual journey and then Batchelor's obsession
Daniel Roy
A thought-provoking book with some fascinating insight into the world of Buddhism, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist is ultimately marred by a scattered approach to its subject matter.

The first part of the book (its first third, roughly) appealed to me immensely, as Mr. Batchelor recounts the path that took him from eager convert to Tibetan Buddhism, to that of a secular thinker critical of the modern edifice of his chosen religion. Unfortunately, in the second part Stephen Batchelor is more conc
Stephen Batchelor has been an advocate of Buddhism for several decades, but his thought has turned to stripping away from Buddhism what he feels are extraneous beliefs and practices. His book Buddhism without Beliefs caused a firestorm for suggesting that the doctrines of rebirth and karma, present in all historical expressions of Buddhism across Asia, are not essential to the religion. In Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, he expands on this new viewpoint.

This is essentially two books in one. Ba
"I have to sustain the illusion of a self-assured narrator who has known from the outset what he wants to say and how he is going to say it. I experience the same tension between formal rules and arbitrary content as in making a collage."

Batchelor makes this confession near the end of his book, but it was already pretty apparent by this point. This book started out as his story, a nice little Bildungsroman of his journey as a Buddhist--but then it veers off into a discussion of the historical fi
Pooja Kashyap
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist is beautifully woven and presented by Stephen Batchelor in form of a written collage, as he himself mentions at the end of the book. Although the book is in narrative mode yet no where we found it a story presented by the writer in fact, while I was into the book, I felt as if Stephen is talking to me and describing the sequence of his life’s events which led him towards Buddhism and finally his discovery of motif in life.

Having scant religious indoctrination the
Talbot Hook
It was immensely refreshing to finally read an author's approval of having biases, and an individuality based upon lived experience. This is one of the better books on Buddhism I have read, and that is simply because it was not trying so damn hard to be objective. Batchelor realizes that his conceptualization of Buddhism, and of the historical Buddha, is highly personalized, and all the more meaningful because of it.

I gave up. He lost me when he ran out of stuff to say, but still had half the book left to write.
Maughn Gregory
This book confirms my suspicions and observations that Buddhism - especially of the Tibetan varieties - can be just as rigid in its orthodoxies, just as jealously sectarian, and just as ridiculously superstitious as the other religions of the world. Batchelor's recommendation, as always, is not to treat Buddhism as a religion at all: a set of necessary beliefs, an agenda of personal salvation tied to an eschatology (what happens after I die, how the world will end), or trust in magical priestcra ...more
In Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, Stephen Batchelor narrates the story of his life, how he went from a British child who did not receive “the basic instruction in Christianity that was part of the British educational curriculum” (p. 10), to a discontented young man who abruptly left not only his job at an asbestos factory but also the British Isles for a life of world wandering, to a young Tibetan Buddhist monk and later Korean Zen monk, and finally to a married lay practioner and secular Bud ...more

In the first half of this book, Stephen Batchelor tells the story of his transformations from a young secular English hippie to a monk in Dharamsala studying in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition, to a monk in a Korean Zen monastery and finally to a "lay Buddhist" trying to live an authentic Buddhist life without religion. Buddhist in practice, but not in ideology. I would call it maximum entropy Buddhism, meaning basically that unproven assertions are left out. The panoply of deities sits by the r

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it dragged a bit toward the end as Batchelor recounts the life of Buddha, a story that isn't as relevant to his premise as I think he thinks it is. Still, Batchelor's journey from his UK upbringing to studies in India to a shift in schools of Buddhism to secular Buddhism is quite fascinating. He articulates the problem I've had all my life with Buddhism since I first read Hesse's Siddartha in high school--I don't buy the supernatural aspects of it any mor ...more
Enjoyable read--Batchelor (the author also of Buddhism Without Beliefs) is always lucid, knowledgeable, and thoughtful. He describes his ten years as a Buddhist monk, first in the Tibetan and then in the Korean Zen tradition, his growing skepticism about central Buddhist tenets such as reincarnation, and his eventual decision to disrobe. In later parts of the book he goes in search (both in terms of study & travel) of the actual, historical Buddha, and shows how that personage differed from ...more
Nishant Mishra
This is the first book of Stephen Batchelor that I have read and though I do not agree with some of his ideas and hypotheses, I truly believe that I needed to see Buddha and his 'religion' in a new light of 21st century world.

There are many issues in Buddhism which have not been researched into, those specially dealing with creating a more personal and human image of Buddha and process of the development of his Dhamma, and this book does the task. After reading it, I find that my focus and belie
An absorbing book which may upset any romantic notions of buddhism created by images beatific buddhist monks in serene meditative poses. Since the post hippie-generation, Buddhism, like Yoga, is "in". It's gone mainstream with much distortion. Nowadays dozens of fake "Buddha" quotes are viral on social media which are nowhere to be found in Pali Canon.

Stephen Batchelor goes further down this path of question what exactly the Buddha taught - and what was added later as Buddhism spread through dif
Nicole Cleary
Stephen Batchelor does a nice job researching and reporting on the historical Buddha. I especially liked the way he teased out prevailing Indian spiritual beliefs at the time that seem to pervade the Buddha's teachings (such as reincarnation), but which Stephen does not find as central in the Dharma as he researched the Pali Canon. I enjoyed reading Stephen's description of his Buddhist evolution, interspersed with an objective historical accounting of the Buddha's life. It was a good read.
This is about four books in one-- it is a autobiography of a monk turned lay Buddhist meditation teacher, it is a telling of the historical Buddha's life, it is a travel guide to the "holy land" of Buddhism, it is a discussion of a methodology for creating a secular Buddhism.

The autobiography was pleasant to read, it is a good story. The story of the historical Buddha's life as reconstructed from the Pali texts using, of all things, a reference dictionary of names, to reassble the jumbled story
Catherine Froggatt
Really interesting and challenging book - both in subject matter and intellectually (for me.) Having said that Stephen Batchelor is a great storyteller and despite not knowing very much about Buddhism I still really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in this area. His arguments are quite revolutionary and although I don't know much about Buddhist scripture I think if you have this background knowledge it would be even more interesting.
Stephen Batchelor has written two books here, I think. The first is biographical, the second more of an examination of the possible conditions and circumstances of the historical Buddha's life and teachings. Both are excellent books and worth reading, but are a bit difficult to follow (being combined as they are). Still, recommended to anyone who is attracted to Buddhism but finds the doctrine of established sects troublesome.
Janine Wilson
This book clearly articulates the particular Western, secular type of Buddhism that feels absolutely right to me. It's not a religion, it's a philosophy and moral code based on reason, with no need to accept anything mystical or irrational. It was interesting to read about Stephen Batchelor's path to his beliefs, and impressive how much effort he put into it.

The part about the life of the historical Buddha dragged a bit, but it was useful in that it illustrated how the words of a great teacher
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha's Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness
  • Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom
  • Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume
  • In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon
  • One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism
  • What Makes You Not a Buddhist
  • Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living
  • Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution
  • For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life
  • Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah
  • Open to Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life - Insights from Buddhism and Psychotherapy
  • Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist  Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything In Between
  • The Bodhisattva's Brain : Buddhism Naturalized
  • Indestructible Truth: The Living Spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism
  • Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs
  • How the Swans Came to the Lake
  • The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations
  • Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki
Buddhism without Beliefs : A Contemporary Guide to Awakening Living with the Devil Alone with Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture The Faith to Doubt: Glimpses of Buddhist Uncertainty

Share This Book

“To embrace suffering culminates in greater empathy, the capacity to feel what it is like for the other to suffer, which is the ground for unsentimental compassion and love. (157)” 40 likes
“The Four Noble Truths are pragmatic rather than dogmatic. They suggest a course of action to be followed rather than a set of dogmas to be believed. The four truths are prescriptions for behavior rather than descriptions of reality. The Buddha compares himself to a doctor who offers a course of therapeutic treatment to heal one’s ills. To embark on such a therapy is not designed to bring one any closer to ‘the Truth’ but to enable one’s life to flourish here and now, hopefully leaving a legacy that will continue to have beneficial repercussions after one’s death. (154)” 25 likes
More quotes…