Stephen Batchelor, to my knowledge, was one of the first Western writers to try and render Buddhism secularly intelligible. Let me back up a little and say that many Western Buddhist writers have always felt a need to make Buddhism chime with the demands of modernism but never to quite the extent of Mr. Batchelor who has no problem, it seems to me, ignoring much of the Buddhist canon (the Nikayas). The big thing he is missing is nirvana. It seems not to be an important part of Buddhism which I must say is rather odd since it is the most important part of Buddhism!
So how does Mr. Batchelor treat Buddhism in his most important secular Buddhist work, Buddhism Without beliefs? First we begin with:
“Over time, increasing emphasis has been placed on a single Absolute Truth, such as "the Deathless," "the Unconditioned,” "the Void," "Nirvana," "Buddha Nature," etc., rather than on an interwoven complex of truths” (p. 4).
“We could decide simply to remain absorbed in the mysterious, unformed, free-play of reality. This would be the choice of the mystic who seeks to extinguish himself in God or Nirvana—analogous perhaps to the tendency among artists to obliterate themselves with alcohol or opiates” (p. 102).
And finally (yes, really),
“After his awakening, the Buddha spent several weeks hovering on the cusp between the rapture of freedom and, in his words, the "vexation" of engagement. Should he remain in the peaceful state of Nirvana or share with others what he had discovered?” (p. 106)
By the way, this is the extent of Batchelor’s treatment of nirvana! This should tell anyone a lot about the depth of secular Buddhism, that first of all it is pseudo-Buddhism! I hazard to guess that Mr. Batchelor could not care less about nirvana; certainly, not the way Guy Richard Welbon did who was the author of The Buddhist Nirvana and its Western Interpreters (1968). This omission—and that is what it is—puts secular Buddhism on one side of the Buddha’s teaching, that of impermanence, suffering and the absence of self or âtman. The other side is simply not there, that is, nirvana. This is extremely pessimistic and also incomplete. For those who are strongly inclined towards materialism this is what is to be expected by such deranged minds.