Theravāda Buddhism has during the past century been an annoyance to scholars who tried to find a general and crossculturally valid definition of religion. Durkheim refuted Frazer's minimal definition of religion being “the belief in Spiritual Beings” solely on the grounds of the notable exception of Theravāda Buddhism. He based his argument that “the idea of gods is absent, or at least, … plays only a secondary and minor role” mainly on the now classic work of Oldenberg, “Buddha, his Life, his Doctrine, his Community,” published originally in 1881. The same book was also used extensively by Max Weber who asked himself whether a system of “ethics without God” and “with absolute indifference towards the question whether gods do exist or not and how they exist” could be called a “religion.”

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