Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sam Harris: The Problem with Atheism and Being Spiritual Without Spookiness

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/sam_harris/2007/10/the_problem_with_atheism.html

4 comments:

Matt D Phil192a said...

Sam Harris, besides being an amazing writer/speaker, has a great point that using the label of atheist does have some negative side effects, but isn't there some positives to using the label? And is it really up to the atheist to decide what label is used to categorize non-believers?

I personally believe that in order to make any head way with "the atheist movement" or to make believers see the error of their way, we have to organize and we have to be able to identify with each other. Call it atheist, call it team no god, i don;t care, but taking this fight to an individual level will get us (Atheist) no where and fast.

Reginal Selkirk said...

Another problem is that in accepting a label, particularly the label of “atheist,” it seems to me that we are consenting to be viewed as a cranky sub-culture...

Who asked us to accept or consent to anything? Harris acknowledged himself that the label was applied to him, although he did not use it himself.

We should go under the radar—for the rest of our lives.

Is it possible to take this seriously coming from someone who has written two books on the topic of discussion?

Instead of doing this, consider what would happen if we simply used words like “reason” and “evidence.”

You would immediately be labeled "atheist." Anyone who has followed the Creationism issue or the separation of church and state issue knows this. Stand up against any particular brand of religious foolishness, and the A-word starts flying, whether it is true or not.


This is certainly not Harris' best work, and his use of the word cult to refer to those who disagree with his position shows a lack of intellectual maturity.

paulv said...

This post has cheered me considerably and is one the most encouraging thing I have read on this site. The acknowledgement that the world may be stranger than even the strangest religious views, and that science is a very long way from solving the universe, puts into perspective the task for atheists, and theists alike. It is more important to address really bad religion, than to eliminate religion altogether.

Anonymous said...

While I agree much with what Sam Harris says about invoking the term atheist, I think that using the label is necessary in overcoming the prejudice against atheism. If atheists are generally moral people (at least, those I know appear to be), I want others to know that those moral people are atheists so that extreme religious folk's argument that only religion -- that is, only their religion -- keeps people moral proves to be silly.

But in the larger scheme of things, how many atheists behave by considering their non-religious values first as do -- supposedly -- religious folk? I do not arise from bed in the morning and think to myself, "As an atheist, what should I have for breakfast?" The term "atheist" seems to exist in contradistinction to theist, but I do not need theists to define myself.

In fact, I think that using the term "atheist" might actually be validating in a sense the theists, giving them some sort of legitimacy. For instance, by contrasting Evolution with Creationism, people are indirectly making Creationism a possible option. I do not want my daughter thinking that if she does not want to be an atheist in the same way that I am that her only other alternative is being a theist. She could just as well be an atheist in some way other than I am. My point is that, as Harris contends, an atheist is one simply who does not believe in some god. Whatever other values an atheist has is dependent upon him or her. These values are not based on prescription. While commonly atheists are associated with accepting scientific ideas rather than religious ideas, an atheist could easily be one who rejects both.

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