Either Buddhism has been erroneously called a religion by very many people for a very, very long time, or it is a religion which recently has been very successfully marketed to atheists.
Just today in an online discussion, I was saying Yu-huh it is too a religion, and this other person, possibly a Buddhist, I don't know for sure, was saying no it's a philosophy, and I indicated that I was tired of the discussion, and the other person said Okay if you don't want to discuss religion...
*sigh* I pointed out that -- *sigh*
I'm so sick of them. "Buddhism is not a religion. We don't worship deities or preach any sort of metaphysics. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to go to a temple and kneel in front of a statue of the Buddha alongside some Buddhist monks, and chant and meditate in my quest to attain eternal bliss."
This little tiff started off with a quote from the Dalai Lama: "I believe that the only true religion consists in having a good heart." I replied: "I don't think you need any religion to be a nice person."
The other person tossed me an LOL and said that that was exactly what the quote meant, because Buddhism isn't a religion, and we were off.
It's one thing if you think that the Dalai Lama is a great person and a powerful force for good in the world. Maybe he is. I admit that I can't really judge his personality or his effect on the world objectively, because all of this it's-not-a-religion sticks in my craw.
I happen to like Pope Francis very much. (I didn't right at first, as you can see by reading what I wrote about him in this blog immediately after he was elected Pope. But part of that, of course, was just my own personal disappointment because I hadn't been elected Pope.) I like him more and more.
I'm not sure whether I would like him if he and/or some of his followers started to claim that Catholicism is not a religion and never has been. If, for example, Catholics suddenly started to claim that the belief in the Resurrection isn't really a belief in the Resurrection and never was such a belief, the way that some Buddhists have suddenly begun to claim that Buddhists beliefs in reincarnation -- reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, for example -- are not actually beliefs in reincarnation and never have been.
If you're a Catholic and also an atheist, that's fine with me. Just don't try to tell me that no Catholics believe in anything supernatural and that none ever have.
If you're a Buddhist and you don't believe in reincarnation, I have no problem with that.
If you're trying to tell me that "Buddhists don't believe that the Dali Lama has been reincarnated, they believe that aspects of one Dali Lama are transferred to the next, because they all share one heart," and that I'm just silly for thinking this is a religion and not a philosophy, and for thinking that what you just said has anything to do with reincarnation, then I don't want to talk to you any more.
Not about Buddhism, not right now anyway.
Why? Because I'm always struggling to make sense, and that struggle is difficult for me under the best of conditions. Maybe it's actually much harder for me personally because I'm autistic. Perhaps if I were neurologically-typical I wouldn't loath theology so because it wouldn't pose such a threat to me. Perhaps if I were neurologically-typical and someone were to say to me: "Buddhists don't believe that the Dali Lama has been reincarnated per se, they believe that the ideals of the last Dali Lama have been transferred to the new one. The one who owns the heart," I'd find it fascinating, and we'd be able to discuss it all day and all night and I'd find it all ever so delightful. I seem to remember a line from a poem by Jack Kerouac about Buddhism being delightfully empty baloney any way you slice it. I'm sorry, I can't find that line right now. And often I remember lines completely wrong. (Is that also because I'm autistic?) But assuming that Kerouac did actually write something more or less like that -- is this a matter of some people finding a perfectly good and healthy sort of nonsense in religion?
Is it possible that it's similar to the wonderful stuff I find in Gertrude Stein, which so many people have had to explain so laboriously to each other but which no one ever had to explain to me, which I loved from the first instant?
Maybe. Or maybe I simply have a very good point here and I'm right to call some Buddhists on their nonsense.
[PS, 20. March 2016: Another thing has occurred to me lately: how seldom anyone seems to wonder whether the feats of archery described by Eugen Herrigel in his famous book Zen in the Art of Archery were faked. (Herrigel tells of a Zen master shooting an arrow at a faraway target in the dark and hitting the center of the bulls-eye, and then shooting a second arrow which splits the first one right up the middle.)]