Ok, I can see where this comes from, and that's all fair.
I'm going to ask what might seem like a facetious question here, again I mean no offense (just trying to be mindful of Right Speech):
How much buddhism makes one a buddhist?
You know that in the end those are mere labels. The question shouldn't be what makes one a Buddhist. It should be how much Buddhism do you need to know to attain enlightenment as it is seen by Buddhist schools. People can call themselves Buddhists as much as they want, even if they decide to make up a whole new version of Buddhism, if that makes them pleased. It doesn't matter. It's just a label. What matters is when Buddhism stops being as useful as it was meant to be by its founder.
And what I mean is, is rebirth the real sticking point here? It's certainly a hot-button issue. How about the rest of the Buddha's (
) cosmological or supernatural teachings? Is there a point at which literal can become metaphorical or representative, or even anecdotal, and still "qualify" as buddhism?
The point is not accepting rebirth without having good reasons to do so. The point is when one outright denies it, and I'm going to bold the next part, so that Buddhism fits under an incompatible metaphysical system
. Instead of considering Buddhist metaphysics (although this is not exact, let's use the expression) as working hypothesis, you accept another system of beliefs
(in this case biased towards materialism) that renders Buddhism pretty much useless. What lies at the root of the mindframe that leads one to reject rebirth, other realms and literal karma is the problem. Not not accepting them right away. It's not doubt
that hinders your progress in the Buddhist path. It's an illusion of knowledge, as Alan Wallace would put it. It's a belief that many times is not presented as such.
In ways that I'm not going to detail, the path to cut trough illusion is twisted to lead nowhere else but inside that same illusion. You can improve the illusion (and even this is somehow debatable), but can't cut through any longer because you accepted it as real. Reality is not like a dream any longer. Only your ideations. Bang, from that point up you've ruined Buddharma because you fell in the trap of your senses, to put it simply. You see, what you find in those materialistically prone versions of Buddhism is a caged and twisted version of the Dharma. It has been forced to conform to an alien worldview and lost its value in the process.
And I'm certainly not saying let's strip all the tradition or ritual or whathaveyou out of Buddhism and call it a new religion, I'm just curious as to where the perceived line is.
For me and my personal tastes you could strip all the traditional, ritual and so on. That doesn't make me tick. But when I see the ritual, I understand why some people are helped by it, where is its place. I'm not the only Buddhist around the block and perhaps others have different propensities and needs. Some people like these aspects so they help them, even if I'm not one of those cases. But I see their value, a relative value. They can indeed help if you carefully learn their meaning and what really is going on. But they are not indispensable, not for everyone at least. However, what may look simple superstition at a first glance may end up being considered very different when you study it deeply. These rituals and tales and what have you are not what makes Budddhism valuable. They add value, in some cases though, as there are people who love that richness. But in the end they are just ways to help the practitioners, skillful means. Not ends in themselves, but means. While there are paths very ritualistic inside Buddhism, there are others very naked. They don't cancel each other. If carefully analyzed, they do not disagree on epistemological or ontological aspects about the nature of reality, unlike those new versions. Even when they don't agree completely, they are very close, all things considered. Just different strokes for different folk.