No, my homies, I just ran across this article, see -- "Killing The Buddha", by Sam Harris. In his piece, Harris argues that worship of the Buddha as a religious figure is actually to Buddhism's detriment.
I agree with him.
Being an atheist does not mean being closed-minded. It means not being convinced of the existence of a supernatural power that is to be worshiped. Atheists are skeptics, they have a naturalistic world view and prefer free thought without dogmatic principles.
That's why I'm totally in Sam's corner when he says,
"[T]he continued identification of Buddhists with Buddhism lends tacit support to the religious differences in our world. At this point in history, this is both morally and intellectually indefensible—especially among affluent, well-educated Westerners who bear the greatest responsibility for the spread of ideas. It does not seem much of an exaggeration to say that if you are reading this article, you are in a better position to influence the course of history than almost any person in history. Given the degree to which religion still inspires human conflict, and impedes genuine inquiry, I believe that merely being a self-described “Buddhist” is to be complicit in the world’s violence and ignorance to an unacceptable degree."
Later on he compares Buddhism to science, and goes on to point out that, if freed from its religious framing, Buddhism could be a very positive force for good.
I've been thinking that for years, myself.
My home town is the location of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. It's not uncommon to see the monks shopping for shoes at the mall, or walking together downtown. They always seem to be in such a good mood. I've long thought that, based on what little I've known about Buddhism, these guys would really rock if they dropped the Woo, maybe stopped denying themselves so many of life's simple pleasures and just focused on saying, "Dude, ease up. Take a minute or two to relax and think about how weird Life is, and make your peace with it."
Plus, maybe then they could teach me to relax. It'd be an epic achievement, though, so they'll have to work in teams.