Sure. No disagreement from me.
To say that the Buddha "taught a path of practice" is not to exclude the importance of faith as a component of the path. The Buddha clearly emphasized the centrality of Right View. I believe there's a sutta passage somewhere where he says that no other factor has as much impact on our existence as View.
Nevertheless, the dharma IMO is not a "belief system" as we generally use that term. In a belief system, the assumption is that conviction in itself constitutes realization of truth, whereas the Buddha's teaching is provisional -- a way to get from A to B (perhaps can I skip the raft analogy?). That's what I meant by "pragmatic". It seems that people confuse pragmatism with relativism, to the detriment of the dharma, but these are not the same thing. Pragmatism, in a nutshell, just means that the merit of the vehicle depends on whether it actually takes you where you want to go. I think the Buddha made a memorable statement to that effect as well.
However, quite often there are people who stretch the whole encouragement of critical thinking to include dismissing whatever they disagree with or fail to properly understand. In our present day you have individuals in print who say that since Buddha encouraged people to not take things on the basis of tradition or lineage, then they have the liberty to dismiss concepts that they find disagreeable such as rebirth and karma. In their minds, since the Buddha encouraged critical thinking, they should critically dismiss whatever they dislike. Their interpret right view in such a light -- their distorted vision of critical thought is right view.
This is one reason why actual Buddhadharma will struggle to root itself in present day industrialized nations. There is increasing hostility towards anything that smells of religion. Hence why a lot of Buddhists like to announce that Buddhism is not a religion but a "way of life" or a "path of practice". The result is zazen and exotic oriental culture sanitized of disagreeable religious elements. This is likewise a problem even in countries where Buddhism has for centuries existed. Here in Japan it is hard to find Buddhist clergymen who actually address the problem of samsara. My friends from mainland China likewise seem to think Buddhism is a feudal superstition.
We live in a degenerate era unfortunately. While Buddhism is said to be spreading throughout the west, I see a rapid decay at the same time. Likewise in Asia where Buddhism was once probably the largest religion in the world (even larger than Islam and Christianity), what used to be an important aspect of daily life has largely been designated as something for grandparents or an individual pursuit. There are still plenty of devout Buddhists and thriving Buddhist organizations, but in general Buddhism has lost its position and role in East Asian countries.
As the fruits of industrialization and adoption of materialist thinking appear fewer young people in particular will see any point at all in Buddhism. To them it is just a foolish superstition. What's real and real important is money, science and popular culture. If you're given an education where no thought of past or future lives is given, why would you ever spend an ounce of strength on liberating yourself from samsara? The whole point of Buddhadharma is liberation from samsara. However, if you think samsara is just a foolish superstition of some bygone feudal past we'd rather forget about, why invest any thought about it? I've noticed in East Asian Buddhism of the present day, generally speaking, a lack of discussion about dukha and samsara. Humanistic Buddhism, the dominant development in Chinese Buddhism, in particular seemingly ignores samsara and dukha, and prefers to discuss building a Pure Land paradise on Earth.
Basically, what constitutes "right view" is likely to continue being distorted and warped as time goes on. That's not adaptation but degeneration.
If you don't mind me asking, how did you first develop conviction and belief in the Buddha and the dharma? Were there any sticking points for you initially? How did you overcome them?
When I was young I had a natural inclination towards Buddhism. I had a favourable disposition. I didn't know anything about it, but I was attracted to images of Buddha statues and monks. When I was a teenager I started reading and found much of it agreeable, though not everything at first.
What I initially found disagreeable were the teachings that pointed out all the fun things in normal life like sex, sensory pleasures (even music), idle chit chat, booze, culinary arts, porn, video games, screwing around and wasting time are counter productive to the path. They all have to be abandoned if you're serious about liberation. I didn't want to agree to that at first. I wanted my zazen AND several girlfriends plus drinking parties. Here in Japan that'd be fine, but that isn't what Buddha or even the original Japanese patriarchs taught.
Here Buddha was telling his assembly that such activities (of course he didn't mention porn or video games given his time period) are hindrances. I didn't agree with that at first.
However, I continued reading, contemplated what I was taught by my teachers and saw that the Buddha had a point. I also verified that engaging in sensory pleasures actually does prevent deep samadhi. The Buddha taught that the first jhana/dhyana is not possible without forsaking lust, which usually means you don't get to the first stage without giving up all sexual activity. Without the first dhyana, the other three are not possible. As Nagarjuna further elaborates prajna is furthermore not possible without the appropriate mental fitness which is cultivated with mastery of the dhyanas.
I don't live like a saint, but I agree that sensory craving is suffering and moreover it prevents one from developing as a yogi. I'm a hypocrite in that I say what needs to be done given what the Buddha and hundreds of Buddhist masters have taught, but I don't 100% live up to it. There is prescriptive and then there is descriptive. I know I shouldn't listen to music or waste time playing virtual samsara, but I still do.
Incidentally, the teachings I just outlined are unpopular in English language Buddhist publications. Telling people that they need to forsake lust if they're going to go anywhere seriously with meditation is going to summon images of puritanical Christianity...