Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

8. Is Buddhism Atheistic, Non-theistic or Theistic?

Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

Peter Harvey [+-]
University of Sunderland
Peter Harvey is Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Sunderland. He co-founded with Ian Harris the UK Association for Buddhist Studies and edits its journal Buddhist Studies Review. His research has been on early Buddhist thought and practice, Buddhist ethics and making accessible the rich history of Buddhist thought.


Buddhism is not focused on the idea of an eternal creator God, but from its beginning has included belief in a range of mortal gods (devas), who are seen as part of the round of rebirths along with humans, animals, ghosts, and beings in hell. None of these rebirths is seen as lasting forever, although some are seen as very long-lasting. The Buddha did not see himself as an incarnation of a god, but as a human who had been radically transformed by becoming enlightened, and as a “teacher of humans and devas.” Although Buddhists do not believe in a creator God, they do believe in an ultimate, transcendent reality: nirvana. Nirvana is beyond time, change, and death—a transcendent reality the peace of which is beyond that of even the subtlest heaven. Like the God of theistic religions, it is eternal, at least in the sense of being beyond time, rather than lasting forever in time. It is not seen as creating the world, and is a seen as a state to be experienced rather than a being.

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Harvey, Peter. 8. Is Buddhism Atheistic, Non-theistic or Theistic?. Buddhism in Five Minutes. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 40-44 Nov 2021. ISBN 9781800500907. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=40745. Date accessed: 23 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.40745. Nov 2021

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