could you post on 'rebirth' re your comments agreeing with 'onemind' at 'thebuddhawaswrong.com' I would be interested to read more of your view on this matter since you place a particular emphasis on it and it is a seeming point of agreement between you and the owner of the anti-Buddhist website.To recap; OneMind had said that without rebirth, the whole structure of Buddhist teaching falls apart. Phrased a little strongly, but essentially he is correct. (The only correct statement on the web-site perhaps)
There have been many attempts to cobble together some kind of Buddhism that leaves rebirth out of the picture. I can't really understand why anyone would try. The result is either stoicism or existentialism with an optional dash of vegetarianism perhaps, but it sure isn't any Buddhism that the old teachers would recognize. I guess the motivation comes from a misguided impulse to make the Dhamma more palatable to modern people by pandering to their delusions.
Actually, and I've said this before, rebirth per se isn't the most important issue. Denial of rebirth means a total misunderstanding of the First Noble Truth. But the real damage in these bastardized materialist/agnostic/existential "Buddhisms" is to the Third Noble Truth. I'll go into this in a little detail, bear with me here.
The First Noble Truth is the statement of the problem. It implies dukkha, annica, anatta in every moment of consciousness. But it implies something much more profound than this; it teaches that there is no way out within the confines of samsaric existence. At each moment there is just mind vainly seeking satisfaction from the ten thousand objects. This is repeated ad infinitum. The only way out is to stop doing that.
Now, it is vitally important for the full grasping of this situation to realize that this process has been going on for an indefinitely long period in the past, and has the potential to go on for an indefinitely long period in the future. The true hollowness of samsaric satisfaction can only be fully understood in the context of manifold lifetimes.
This makes a crucial difference in the depth of meditation. If one is to realize the unconditioned, then there has to be a complete and radical relinquishment of the conditioned. No half measures will do. Every arising object, and every potential object, must be seen as completely empty, vain and undesirable. This is possible if one has really internalized the reality of multiple lifetimes. Whatever fantastic desirable thing may be out there is essentially just more of the same. Been there, done that, billions of times.
If however, one is working from the concept of one life-time only, this level of relinquishment is not possible. The experiences of the senses take on a different flavour, a greater importance or perhaps one should say, piquancy, if this is the only shot at the can. In fact, it would be fair to ask if relinquishment is even a worthwhile goal in this context.
So awakening is simply not possible if one adheres to miccha-ditthi (erroneous views.) Sorry to all the "agnostic Buddhist" but the Unconditioned is one place that particular eel is unable to wriggle to.
This brings us to the Third Noble Truth. Nibbana has to be written out of materialist or agnostic reworkings of the Dhamma. This is for both philosophic and experential reasons. Philosophically, there is no possible place for a transcendental reality in a materialist world. Experentially, Nibbana cannot be realized by adherents of false view, so none of them deal with it their writings. Or they redefine it into something that "fits" onto the flat-land of their impoverished world-view. And if one of them ever did attain the path and fruit, he would immediately and forever cease to be a materialist thereby.