When I first started studying Buddhism, I had assumed that it was a purely atheisitc set of teachings. I read a "life of Buddha" book which stated that the Buddha didn't believ in a god-that there was no outside savior. We must work to reduce our own suffering.
On further research, I discovered that many Buddhists do believe in deities and spirits. The missing idea is one of A God who creates and judges. There is no god comparative to the Christian god.
Things are never simple when it comes to what people believe.