Problems with atheism?

Sam HarrisSam Harris has created some controversy with his argument against the use of the term “atheist.” Harris, usually classified as one of the “New Atheists” (he is author of the books The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation), was speaking at the U. S. Atheist Alliance National Convention held in Virginia last week. An edited transcript of his speech was printed by The Washington Post (Sam Harris: The Problem with Atheism).

Harris said “I think this whole conversation about the conflict between faith and reason, and religion and science, has been, and will continue to be successfully marginalised under the banner of atheism.” This argument is not new and was rejected by some of the other speakers. See report in the Humanist Network News (Sam Harris: We Should Not Call Ourselves Atheists) for comments by Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett and Chrsitopher Hitchens.

Meditation and contemplation

I think Sam Harris’s speech is well worth reading, but mainly for the other content. These include an argument that atheists should differentiate between different religions in their criticisms. He argues that Islam presents a much greater danger to today’s world than does Christianity. Harris also argues for a more sympathetic consideration of some “spiritual” aspects of certain religious tradition. Specifically he argues that meditation and contemplation has much too offer. He has some experience of these subjects, being a practitioner of Buddhist meditation, but rejects the superstition and supernaturalism that is often associated with these subjects.

Personal perceptions and experiences of the Atheist Alliance Convention are presented in the weblogs Friendly Atheist, (here, here, here , here and here) and Homo economicus’ Weblog (here, here and here).

Related Articles:
The “New Christians”
Agnostics – what do they stand for?
The atheist wars?
Atheism and religious diversity
“I’m an atheist, but ……”
The Atheist Blogroll
Atheist book sales overtake Christian books

One response to “Problems with atheism?

  1. Sam Harris obviously enjoys being what is known in Australian lingo as a shitstirrer. Having said that I think that much of what he says is right even if he goes over the top and there are very good reasons for people continue to identify as atheist. The deeper point is the one you make in your next post, i.e. that religion should not be treated as “the source of all evil”. I like to compare religion to cigarette smoking. I would prefer it if people did not engage in it and certainly do not approve of them involving children, I think it causes serious harm to many people and opens a way for unscrupulous individuals to profit at the cost of other while at the same time recognising that it helps many to cope with their lives and that it is in many ways more a symptom than a cause of much that is wrong with our world.


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