Again and again Christians have taken these and similar statements as evidence that Buddhism is atheism, as, for example, Paul Williams, formerly a practising Tibetan Buddhist, now a convert to Roman Catholicism, who is widely known and renowned for his introduction to Mahāyāna Buddhism:3

The statement of Pope John Paul II in his Crossing the Threshold of Hope that ‘Buddhism is in large measure an “atheistic” system’ became quite famous.5 A number of the Buddhists who replied agreed. To be sure, there was a strong Buddhist

repudiation of the Pope’s further characterization of Buddhism as having ‘an almost exclusively negative soteriology’.6 But, to quote Bhikkhu Bodhi, they agreed that ‘Buddhism is an atheistic system in the sense that it does not admit the existence of an all-powerful creator God …’.7 However, this consent was in a number of cases not without further qualification. Bhikkhu Bodhi emphasizes that for ‘Buddhism Nibbāna is a supramundane reality, a reality which is utterly transcendent to the world …’.8 And hence he reminds us that ‘Buddhists themselves prefer to describe their religion as “non-theistic” rather than “atheistic”.’9 From a Mahāyāna perspective, Masao Abe also admits that ‘Buddhism is not a monotheism which is based on the belief in one absolute God who is creator, lawgiver, judge, and redeemer.’10 But, according to Abe, Buddhism teaches ‘that everyone and everything is respectively the manifestation of the absolute Reality. Buddhism is not an atheism, but a religious realism beyond monotheism.’11