Buddhists like Stephen Batchelor and other secular Buddhists who look up to him, are not far from Émile Durkheim’s view that religion is a social construct unlike, for example, a mountain or the ocean.
Totally the product of society, if we elected to abandon religion, it is like throwing away yesterday's newspaper, which is a socially constructed artifact. We would not be irrational in giving any religion the heave-ho, in other words. Religious beliefs are nothing but “the nightmares of primitive minds” according to Émile Durkheim.
Not entirely dismissive of religion, Durkheim seems also to be saying that religion acts as the basis of society creation; its sacralizing. This is opposed to the profane or secular which is antisocial. Religion, thus, serves as the main element that binds together a society in the example of Judaism.
While the external part of Buddhism is certainly a social construct with its robes and ceremonies, which can be abandoned without any loss to Buddhism, the core of Buddhism, like the example of a mountain, is not socially constructed. The Buddha, in fact, speaks explicitly about the unconditioned or immaterial element (asamskrita-dhatu), this being nirvana.
“Thus, bhikkhus, I have taught you the unconditioned and the path leading to the unconditioned. Whatever should be done, bhikkhus, by a compassionate teacher out of compassion for his disciples, desiring their welfare, that I have done for you. These are the feet of tree, bhikkhus, these are empty huts. Meditate, bhikkhus, do not be negligent, lest you regret it later. This is our instruction to you” (SN 43:1).
Buddhists are taught in the discourses of the Buddha to look beyond the arisen, temporal world to the unborn which even transcends their psychophysical body. Deep attachment to the constructed (samskrita) and constructing (samskâra), inevitably, leads to painful consequences most notably the cycles of birth and death (samsara).
The Buddha, it seems to me, is aware of social configurations such as a socially constructed individual ego which is born, lives and dies in a social world. This same ego, however, can criticize and reject the socially constructed world of cities and nations which, at bottom, are fictions—although useful ones—as is the fictional, socially constructed ego which lives and works in the social milieu. In this regard, Buddhism acts to set limits to social constructionism bringing awareness to its limits. On the same score, Buddhism is truly a religion, the core of which, is not a social construct.