Question: Some say religion, including Buddhism, can lead to indulgence or addiction. Or if put in a condescending way, lead to fanaticism. How should I respond?
Answer: (As we cannot speak for all who respond in various ways to various religions, the below are Buddhist perspectives only.) When they refer to Buddhists, enquire on how being enthusiastic about the Buddha’s precious teachings harmed anyone, adding that many can benefit instead.
Indulgent and fanatical addictions lead to suffering, while Buddhism learned and practised properly leads to the end of suffering, and to True Happiness for all beings. It is addiction to everything else that distracts many from Buddhism, which leads to continual suffering instead. As the Buddha emphasised on the Middle Path, proper Buddhist practice will never be extreme in nature, never leading to neglect of self, family and society. It will bring joy instead of conflict. If otherwise, it simply means the practitioner in question is neither learning nor practising properly.
Another way to reply is with your everyday life interactions with them, which applies what learnt into practice. What you need to do is be an ever kinder and wiser person, to gradually let them realise how wonderful Buddhist learning and practice has made you, and how they have led you to even benefit them. This is the best way to convince others of the worth of Buddhism – by being a good and shining example, instead of by winning in theoretical debates. Of course, having discussions is alright, but they should be done with patient compassion and open wisdom.
Are There Buddhist Extremists?