I was listening to a discussion with David Benatar, and the point that Buddhism seems to be antinatalist was raised. It seems that people argue this both ways. Can Buddhism be said to be antinatalist? Or some strands but not others? If it is, what consequences does this have?
I have always kind of dismissed Benatar's ideas as being a kind of Larkin-esque pose, and making a mistake in hierarchy that puts pleasure above meaning, like utilitarians. But if the charge of antinatalism sticks, it seems I am going to have look more carefully at which of his points also apply to Buddhism.
EDIT TO ADD:
I'm pretty sure the Benatar discussion was with Sam Harris here. It's not been transcribed that I can find, so I'll have to re-listen..
But, this Big Think piece discusses the episode, and says this:
"Harris finds a correlation with Buddhism. According to a translation of Buddhist texts by Sir Hari Singh Gour, Buddha claimed that men are ignorant of the suffering they unleash; existence is the cause of old age and death. If man would realize this harm he would immediately stop procreating. That might offer insight into why Buddha named his own son Rāhula, which means “fetter” or “impediment.” Of course, Buddha had his son before embarking on his legendary quest, so selfishly the name implies Rāhula was getting in the way of his father’s search for enlightenment."
From the subtitles to the video, Harris speaking to Benatar:
"On the Buddhist account existence is the problem and they have this view of rebirth and karma and a wheel of becoming. You know, life after life you just can't get off this wheel, unless you become fully enlightened. Enlightenment consists in no longer being subjected to this continuous cycle of rebirth. There's obviously very good reason to doubt that picture of existence scientifically, but the core of the ethical view there, the soteriological view, is that what it means to be free is that existence has this intrinsically unsatisfying character and you know this is for reasons that we really haven't gone into yet it's just the fact that everything is impermanent, your pleasures no matter how good always fall away, and you're left with more of a search for pleasure. There's a kind of intrinsic dissatisfaction even in satisfaction. It wouldn't be bad if no one existed, and the fact that people exist in a circumstance that is perfect to frustrate the search for happiness and well-being is the problem, and enlightenment is the the act of canceling all of the the mental properties that would cause one to continually be reborn into existence. So your view is very Buddhist, without offering the methodology of enlightenment."
So the issue as I see, if you are a physicalist-materialist, ie the consensus scientific view, human lives without awakening are net-negative. Tge Buddhist analysis of the intrinsic conditions of existence becomes not only anti-natalist, but pro-mortalist.
Modern Western Buddhist thinkers, like say Stephen Batchelor, take a skeptical stance towards many of the theological verities around awakening in Buddhism too. It seems like keeping the wider analysis, but abandoning rebirth and awakening as ending suffering, is going to be anti-natalist, and pro-mortalist.
I guess this is in terms of Therevada specifically. The Mahayana doctrine of our original nature as awakened I think may sidestep this..