It's not at all clear, which is why different people interpret these teachings in different ways.
The general consensus by scholars, teacher's, and practitioners states otherwise. The interpretations that say otherwise do not match up to any sutta/sutras. This disconnect is an issue that has not been addressed reasonably.
That's the situation with the teachings on rebirth. That is, they're not a literal, scientific explanation of events, but are an attempt to point to something that is difficult to express.
And yet, it was expressed quite clearly by Shakyamuni Buddha in the suttas I provided.
In a sense I also interpet the rebirth teaching literally, but the teaching literally means something different to me that it does to you.
That's because you see them all through a particular lens. When you see those same teachings through a different lens, they mean something entirely different.
You are dodging the question.
I would say that the central tenet behind Buddhism is to end ignorance, so perhaps we are practicing two different kinds of Buddhism.
And what do you think the ending of ignorance entails?
"If a monk abandons passion for the property of form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness, then owing to the abandonment of passion, the support is cut off, and there is no base for consciousness. Consciousness, thus unestablished, not proliferating, not performing any function, is released. Owing to its release, it is steady. Owing to its steadiness, it is contented. Owing to its contentment, it is not agitated. Not agitated, he (the monk) is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"
— SN 22.53
"But when one doesn't intend, arrange, or obsess [about anything], there is no support for the stationing of consciousness. There being no support, there is no landing of consciousness. When that consciousness doesn't land & grow, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. When there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering & stress."
— SN 12.38
"One neither fabricates nor mentally fashions for the sake of becoming or un-becoming. This being the case, one is not sustained by anything in the world (doesn't cling to anything in the world). Unsustained, one is not agitated. Unagitated, one is totally unbound right within. One discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'
— MN 140
Gone to the beyond of becoming, you let go of in front, let go of behind, let go of between. With a heart everywhere let-go, you don't come again to birth & aging.
— Dhp 348
Consciousness without surface, without end, luminous all around: Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing. Here long & short coarse & fine fair & foul name & form are all brought to an end. With the cessation of [the aggregate of] consciousness each is here brought to an end.
— DN 11
Some are born in the human womb, evildoers in hell, those on the good course go to heaven, while those without effluent: totally unbound.
— Dhp 126
I agree with your sentiments about the new-age, feel-good nonsense,
It doesn't seem so.
I have met people - human beings - who suffer terribly because of their karma. Some of them suffer so greatly that they have to kill themselves to put an end to the extreme pain. There's nothing "watered down" about their suffering. Their torment and horror is very real.
You have taken my comment out of context. It means that the central tenets of Buddhism have, and will further be watered down in the future.
Remember that all material things are expressions of Sunyata, and lack intrinsic existence, so be careful how you knock material things. They are the body of ultimate reality.
I haven't knocked materialism. I have knocked how so-called Buddhists in this age have preconceived material notions which is the lens through which they view Buddhism.