I've just recently looked into Buddhism, therefore please forgive the ignorance I'm sure is contained in this post!
Question one: I understand that part of the Noble Eightfold Path, right intention, includes the intention of "renunciation of desire". What exactly does this mean? I'm confused in the following way. If "desire" means merely wanting something (ie, wishing it was the case that the state of affairs ("reality") was different in any way to the way it is at this very moment), then it includes eating, drinking, sleeping, even simply moving about. If one completely renounces one's desires, then one has no desire to eat, drink or even move. Therefore, this renunciation implies a swift death by starvation (as an aside, I am led to understand that this type of renunciation is desirable in Jainism).
Question two: Are rebirth and the various "heavans" and "hells" mandatory to "believe in"? The thing that has drawn me to Buddhism is that it appears to be extremely pragmatic and its concerns very relevant, even after over two millenia from its founding. For example, the focus on ending suffering and the lack of metaphyiscal guesswork concerning a "God" set it apart, in my opinion, from most contemporary religions. That said, rebirth and the numerous worlds, because they do not stand up to scientific scrutiny, appear to be on par with Chrisitian/Islamic/Jewish notions of heavan and hell, the host of Hindu gods, the gods of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Fiji etc etc. In short, these aspects seem to require mere faith. This strikes me as doing severe violence to what I see as the Buddha's preferred approach of rational, systematic enquiry and observation into the nature of existence and experience.
Question three: Related to the above, is the doctrine of wholsome and unwholsome kamma
to be accepted merely on faith? Are we to "believe" in it just because someone told us to, or can we actually verify the principle in experience? Certainly, sometimes wholesome actions are seen to bear wholesome fruits and some unwholsome actions unwholsome fruits. But not always. It is no answer to say "the causal matrix is so unbelievably complex that we can never know or observe exactly the nature of the "seeds" of kamma
ripening into corresponding "fruits"; ergo, just believe in it because I, or someone else, has claimed it is true".
Any help much appreciated!