Sorry I got massively distracted from this thread by the Pope's visit and the opportunities it invoked for winding up a much larger audience on the Guardian forums. Apparently if you protest the pope it's because you're a typical Brit, always trying to oppress the Irish. I could hear arteries hardening in Cork as I typed. Anyway...
Well before you moved to a new position of Buddhism == useless, we were nattering about Buddhism == Evil.
I think your particular exhibits were Tibet and Mongolia.
However you didn't have any evidence for that assertion, however you believed it never the less.
I want to know if that is a type of faith, and if not why not
Fair enough, it's a decent question. As an answer I'd point to the oft-quoted Steve Weinberg: "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil -- that takes religion." Or, perhaps more generously, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
So when I read that Lamaist Buddhism used to practice ritual mutilations and human sacrifices, I think, well, hell if that's what they're like when they're in charge I don't want to be around if they ever get into power again. If a religious doctrine can permit human sacrifice, it's obviously not a force for good.
The Mongolian Empire likewise was a pretty horrible place where dissenters were killed by being boiled alive. While this was going on, Buddhism was their official religion. If Buddhists can stand by while people are being boiled alive then if the religion is not actively evil then it can be at least passively evil.
Take your pick, as I see it the options are A) useless or B) evil. Either Buddhism is compatible with torture and murder as Tibet seems to suggest, in which case it's evil, or more generously, it's not able to prevent it, in which case it's useless.
I still don't see how this is a faith-based position.
The question of a concept containing 'Good' ideas yet unable to physically enforce them in all circumstances (or even at all) is interesting.
The police as a concept don't stop all crimes.
Democracy as a concept can't prohibit bad people coming to power.
How would you feel about those two statements, in the context of our talk?
Well paraphrasing what Stephen Fry said to Anne Widdecombe during the Intelligence Squared debate on Catholicism, if a religion can't prevent atrocities, what good is it? Her defence over the child rape scandals was that the same levels of abuse were reported in non-Catholic institutions at the time, but if religion empirically doesn't make you a better person then one has to question what the point of it is in the first place. If Buddhists can stand by chanting Hare Rama as another human being is being boiled alive, as has happened in history, then what how can it possibly teach someone to be a better person?
But to address your points, I don't believe the police intend to stop crimes - if they did they'd be out of a job. The police keep crime at a level sufficient to justify their existence. I saw a documentary about a police helicopter the other week, and it was obvious that the money they got from busting marijuana grow-houses was enough to pay for the helicopter so they take the helicopter up and bust a couple of grow-houses. It's bread-and-butter for them, but if they ran out of grow-houses to bust there would be no more money to pay for the helicopter, so there's an incentive there to keep people growing marijuana, or at least not "thin the herd" too much. In short, I think the police has become an industry, one which knows it can get away literally with murder because it's "too big to fail".
I also have grave doubts about the concept of democracy. Our own particular approximation is terrible because it's been co-opted by the party system and within those parties, electoral systems that allow the **** to rise to the top. Sadly though, I don't really see an alternative - sadly, I predict "true democracy" in this country would mean that the public would vote for Simon Cowell or Jordan. The system of politics - rotten to the core as it is - at present provides a safe buffer zone away from those horrors but honestly it's so entrenched I don't see it shifting. And yes, it does allow evil (but charismatic) people to lead.