The most common criticism about Buddhism that it is an atheistic religion.
Buddhists definitely do believe in God but they would not normally use the word ‘God’ because that word is almost always taken to mean belief in a personal God, in other words a Theistic belief in God. Theism is a belief in a personal God, who created everything and intervenes in the Universe. He is a supernatural being, loving, all-powerful, wise and merciful and although present everywhere is always considered to be utterly separate from mankind.
The Buddhist conception of God is sometimes thought to be Pantheistic, which suggests that God is the sum total of the universe, in other words that God is identical with everything that exists. Buddhists believe that God is not just equal to the universe, He is absolute and transcendent. This world is a manifestation of God and is limited and imperfect.
Most Buddhists believe that all the various phenomena that exist originate from one reality, and although they appear diversified, they have a common nature and this nature is not located in any particular time and place and words used to try to describe this nature would be completely inadequate and even misleading.
Human beings are rarely satisfied with this kind of explanation and are always looking for some unifying principle which unites this world of relative and imperfect phenomena and longing for that transcendent reality which some might call ‘God.
The principle of everything being different is called in Buddhism, ‘nanatva’ and the sense in which everything is really the same, or all one, is called ‘samata’. All religions acknowledge these two divisions of reality although they would use different words to describe them. Christians would call samata, ‘God’, and nanatva, creation.
Buddhism does recognize these two principles of sameness and difference: things are many and yet one, I am not you and you are not I, and yet we are one, essentially. A Japanese poet wrote:
“Rain and hail and ice and snow,
Neither like the other, So!
When they melt, however, lo,
See one stream of water flow!”
There is no intellectual answer to the paradox of the statement, “I am not you, but you are the same as I”. The paradox is an inward mystical truth and the realization of this truth leads Buddhists to see that ‘God’ is both transcendent and immanent in the universe, God is in us, we cannot regard the world and God as dual. Religion is not about leaving the world to find God but to find Him in it. The flowers in the garden and the choirboy in the cathedral equally sing God’s praises.
The differences and arguments about and between religions are all part of the world of differences, ultimately religions have different names and different concepts of the same reality. True peace is found in that reality, or if you like, in God.