It is one of the debates that has been around for decades, maybe longer. Sometimes it rears its ugly head and other times it lies dormant waiting on it's next moment to shine. Referring to the debate of whether Buddhism is a religion or not, we take a look at recent news articles. According to the Gaurdian, in an article dated October 7, Michael McGhee, a renowned Gaurdian.com philosopher, talks about his views as to whether or not Buddhism should be referred to as a religion or a spiritual practice.
Although, I do not know if McGhee is a Buddhist or not, it is obvious that he has a high level of intelligence and has a intellectual way with words. In one statement McGhee said, "But it is one thing to seek to liberate Buddhist practice from unsustainable or unbelievable worldviews and another to reduce it to a mere technique, even one that is therapeutic. The usual culprit is the calming technique that makes it easier to carry out the bombing run or makes one a more sharply predatory capitalist. The reason one might want to say that meditation has been reduced to a technique is that it has lost its essential rootedness as a practice of ethical preparation."
In this article we can also see that this will be the first installment of what is promised to be a series of more to come. There are some good points to the article in which it talks about how some, if not all, of the traditional Buddhist practice has been watered down or changed as it came to the United States. It is also true that according to the Tipitaka, the actual Buddhist cannon of Siddhartha's original teachings, the real name of what the world refers to as "Buddha", that Buddha was paraphrased as saying that as time goes on the real meaning of the Dharma, the teaching of the Buddha, will lose it's value. He was also credited with saying that as time goes on more and more people will need the dharma but will not accept it's teachings.
McGhee raises questions as to whether or not Buddhism is a religion because in it's traditional form it was both a spiritual practice as well as a religion. Today however, sometimes it is hard to tell and there are those that believe one way of the other. Buddhism is actually a way of life practiced how you see fit. Another credit to "Buddha sayings" is "Do not listen to what I teach and base your life, your path off it. Instead, take what I teach and go into the world and try it out. If it works, great, if it doesn't then throw it out and find what does." Even though the Guardian's article starts the debate that is soon followed up by Mr. Justin Whitaker's article at Patheos.com, there seems to really be no conclusive idea as to what Buddhism actually is.
This seems to always be the result every time this debate has been brought up. The reason for that is because Buddhism is what you want it to be. Just like for every person the path to peace if different, the idea of what it is is also different. This is a good thing because it shows, as McGhee put it, "Thinking of Buddhism as a philosophy brings it into dialogue with the ancient conception of philosophy, one of whose essential components was precisely what was called spiritual practice or exercise, the various ways in which one is able to liberate oneself from illusion and make oneself better capable of ethical action and, of course, the ethical refusal to act."
The bottom line is still the same, for some it becomes a religious practice, to others it never will. To those that are into the actual prospects of things, Buddhism teaches nothing about a God, which according to the Chambers dictionary online, religion is defined as- religion noun 1: a belief in, or the worship of, a god or gods. 2: a particular system of belief or worship, such as Christianity or Judaism. 3: colloq anything to which one is totally devoted and which rules one's life.
In order to debunk any idea that Buddhism is 100% a religion, all it takes is understanding of the definition. Number one- Buddhism does not teach a practice in a God, nor includes worship of anything. Number two- There is no particular belief of worship in Buddhism at all. Number three- Buddhism does not advocate the "ruling" of anyone's life. In fact it teaches the destruction of ones ego and equality with all beings.