‘I don’t believe in religion.’ So goes the response to my reluctant confession that I teach about religion for a living (obviously a religious nut). Yet, when I drop in that I teach about Buddhism, the tone changes. ‘But Buddhism’s not really a religion is it? More a way of life?’ While in some ways it comes as a relief that my cherished spiritual principles are not dismissed as so much garbage, if not positively harmful, it puzzles me that Buddhism should escape the wrath of the anti-religious zealot. Is it so anodyne as to cause no one offence? Are Buddhists so accommodating that they bend whichever way the wind blows? Or is it simply that the general perception of Buddhism is so rose-tinted and exoticized that it cheerfully resists the all-too-mundane reality?
There is no doubt that in general Buddhism has a very positive press in the Western media.