If we do, we are probably not being honest with ourselves.
We lie to ourselves many times, unfortunately. There are reasons for us to act like that, fear being one among them. The fear of death can lead to denial: people end up needing to believe in rebirth and actually skipping the part where they should try to understand the rationale supporting it. As I said above, beliefs don't cut it, but at least if someone acts morally because of fearing a bad rebirth that's better than nothing, I guess. Still, morality based on compassionate wisdom seems more solid, but not all people are alike, so I won't be judging.
I think it is reasonable to put ideas such as these on the shelf and later you might find good reason to either believe or disbelieve them. You don't have to believe all the doctrine and you can still be a good Buddhist. I'm sure there are some people who consider being Buddhist but reject it because they don't believe in reincarnation. I think that is unfortunate, because had they become Buddhists, they may have been very good Buddhists and Buddhism may have been very beneficial to them. It has been very beneficial to me even though I neither believe nor disbelieve in reincarnation. You might say that they had thrown away the baby with the bath water by rejecting Buddhism.
Well... I don't really know what to say to this comment, I mean... what is a good Buddhist? I think we could find a lot of answers depending to whom we ask. Is it someone who accepts the doctrine hypocritically? Is it someone who acts with compassion towards the fellow beings? Is it a mix of both, at some extent? It's hard to define. People need to be honest and investigate why they think the way they do. When we face new ideas that go against our preconceived worldview, a clash is to be expected. We need to leave our comfort zone sooner or later. If we don't, we are kidding ourselves and paying lip service to the teachings. Of course one can practice while rejecting (yes, rejecting, not simply being agnostic) the theory of rebirth. That, per se
won't be the problem. The problem lies deeper and is entangled with the whys of such rejection. Now, I assume we shouldn't label others as good or bad Buddhists. We just need to be honest and admit our discordance with the teachings. I remember when I encountered Dharma 15 years ago or something, I had to struggle with a few concepts and ideas. It was a very nice challenge which I embraced gladly. I can say that if I had swallowed hook, line and sinker without investigating the reasons supporting the teachings more exotic to my culture, I would have suffered a great loss. It's a bit as it is said: "great doubts, great realizations; small doubts, small realizations". If we just accept the teachings blindly, we will miss a lot. We may also end up mistaking the cup with the water.
I think you are being somewhat condescending which I don't like. If I believed that tradition should always be followed I wouldn't be a Buddhist, I would be a Christian as I was brought up to be. I rejected Christianity because what they were saying didn't make sense to me. Now I am saying that a certain part of the Buddhist doctrine doesn't make sense to me but am not outright saying it's false. It is not a matter of "preference"; it's what makes sense to us. We all have to practice the way in a manner that makes sense to us.
Am I? I'm sorry if it sounded that way. It wasn't meant like that. I wasn't talking about you in particular. I was just speaking of. The thing is, if we start picking apart a tradition according to our own likes and dislikes, can you imagine what a, let's say, "Paris Hilton" would do to Dharma?
I doubt it would worth a dirty dime after she was finished with it according to her own tastes. There are reasons for our experience being samsara. We need to investigate them. Not always we like what we see and then we go to the first paragraph. People sometimes lie to themselves. Notice that I am not saying you do. I'm saying it happens.
And you are right, we need to practice in a manner that makes sense to us. But perhaps we should investigate why there are parts that don't. Some really don't make sense and are more cultural ornaments than anything else. But we need to be careful before throwing away main tenets like rebirth. I don't think it is wise.
Let me tell you why I think this way. It's not a matter of adhering to doctrine or anything like that. I'm a Dzogchen student, so my own view and practice could be fiercely criticized by many other schools. A teaching beyond causality? Malediction!
No, my point is that we should cultivate right view the best we can. This also means not harboring, for instance, competing metaphysical systems of beliefs, like nihilism. There will come a time when our practice will be deeply influenced by the view that guided it. If the view isn't constantly revised and updated, we may end up going astray. Having a nihilist or annihilationist view, for instance, will seriously hinder one's practice and halting one's progress. This is the reason where a say we should draw a line somewhere. It's not a matter of judging people as good or bad Buddhists based in their beliefs. The practitioner himself and himself alone is responsible for his path. So it's up to him.
I'm not convinced that the answer will be found that way. And as I said above, I've come pretty far in Buddhism without believing in reincarnation, and as far as I can tell that belief is not essential to Buddhism.
Well, in Buddhism we talk about rebirth and not reincarnation. It's a crucial difference right there. Reincarnation assumes that there is a self, which is permanent, going from one body to the other and so on. That would be eternalism, the opposite of nihilism and an extreme we should avoid.
The answer, definitively, can only be found that way, through practice. Every other option, so far, is no more than speculation or hearsay. Now, we can choose to believe people we take as honest, but that's up to each practitioner. To know for sure, there's only one way and that way is practice. Of course you are not sure about it, otherwise we wouldn't be having this pleasant conversation!