Hello friends, thank you for all your wonderful replies. Being a complete noob and trying to take baby steps into this, I feel quite overwhelmed by some of your deeper responses but I appreciate them much, thank you!
I read the usual skeptic stuff by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins etc. people who say good things about Buddhism but would almost exclusively equate it with meditation. None of them would touch the mystic side of things, well except for Harris who appeared uncomfortable that "there are college-educated men and women who apparently believe that Guru Rinpoche was actually born from a lotus." http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... he-buddha/
I know I'm not alone in wanting to embrace and reconcile the Buddhist view towards life which makes so much sense to me with the deistic side of Buddhism that makes no sense to me. References of deities and magical things seem to appear all over the suttas, especially the Mahayana ones hence why I opted for Theravada. That's why I wondered, if one just adopted the philosophy and mental cultivation bits and ignored (or disbelieved) the magical deity stuff, would the Buddha have approved? I noted some said yes, some said no to the question whether one could pick and choose beliefs and still remain a Buddhist. If no, does that mean faith is a requirement for enlightenment, i.e. truth is something you believe in rather than discover for yourself?
p/s about the nihilism bit, until I know better - through some kind of evidence that I can understand, I assume that when life ends, it ends. There is no rebirth, no karma. I don't usually believe in something just because its a comforting thought or because everyone says so. But the point is, if this is the one and only life we have - a point in the journey where atheists depart from Buddhists - why be good? That is the mental dead-end that I've found rather distressing.
p/s again: I'm going thru all the links given in this thread and I like what I see, especially the Apannaka Sutta which I'm reading now.