DaftChris wrote:However, from the more hardcore skeptics, they can claim that we Buddhists who, assuming we had another belief before, reject our previous religion in favor of this type of Buddhism are simply just leaving one bag of irrationality and superstition for another.
On what charge is Buddhism irrational?
Many sceptics are adept at building up straw men and attacking them. For those who understand their spirituality and its history, such people are like bellows: breathing hot air, but nothing substantial being said.
The present day prevailing ideology and worldview, which is more or less materialism, has plenty of its own irrational beliefs. For instance, that matter and energy are all that truly exist and anything else experienced is merely an epiphenomenon or in some extreme arguments an illusory process in the brain.
This is an arbitrary belief and they can try to say it is scientific and based on observation, but in our daily lives we observe a lot of phenomena which are neither material nor part of our reality perceived through the senses. It is quite logical to accept the existence of (non-physical) patterns, logic, numbers, feelings, emotions and mystic experiences as many have a clearly causal role to fulfil in the universe.
To believe reality is just chunks of matter floating around in space is quite arbitrary.
It's enough to simply follow the precepts and live a good life; why believe in things that ignorant people from the past believed?
This assumes that we know more than our ancestors did.
A lot of knowledge gained through yogic means are unavailable to common people and must be understood through the testimonies of reliable sources. If, for example, you do not have experience of the formless realm, then you have only to either reject it or accept the testimonies of reliable sources like the Buddha and others.
The idea if linear progress is built into modernity where people believe that we know a lot more than our ancestors did and that we can safely reject whatever primitive ideas they had. We indeed know more about some aspects of experience and reality owing to the massive resources poured into exploring the physical universe, though on the other hand other areas are neglected and not really available to be explored through physical sciences.
"Truth" is generally decided by prevailing ideas and common agreement. The reason for example that astrology is largely rejected as false is not because anyone tested it out, but simply because orthodoxy decided so. The same goes for the existence of ghosts, spirits, gods and other realms.
Nevertheless, plenty of people (including many forerunners of contemporary western civilization like Ptolemy) swear by astrology. Sane, healthy people around the world continue to have ghost experiences. Many others have visions of gods and so on. Yogis experience other realms.
Contemporary materialism is quite rigidly orthodox, dogmatic and hostile (the last quality was unfortunately inherited from its parent Christianity). Quite often it seems that the evidence is made to match the theory rather than the other way around. If you need an example of this, look at how a lot of academic studies of the paranormal are never taken into consideration despite it qualifying as evidence.
The other issue is that science, like any other human institution, is subject to human flaws. Falsification and cherry picking of data for various purposes such as funding and career advancement occur, quite often actually in the field of medical tests. Other areas are likewise subject to the same problem. This is why I don't necessarily take scientific canon as entirely foolproof.
Other areas of Buddhism like karma are metaphysical and demonstrated through analogy, inference and personal experience. It being subtle and profound, you cannot test for it as you would other aspects of causality.
If you study philosophy, even western philosophy, a lot of this becomes apparent and the purported monopoly on truth the sceptics and their lot claim to have vanishes.