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Harris speech (transcript) on atheism 
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Post Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Here's an excellent speech given by Harris called "The Problem with Atheism"
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfa ... heism.html

A few excerpts:

Quote:
Attaching a label to something carries real liabilities, especially if the thing you are naming isn’t really a thing at all. And atheism, I would argue, is not a thing. It is not a philosophy, just as “non-racism” is not one. Atheism is not a worldview—and yet most people imagine it to be one and attack it as such. We who do not believe in God are collaborating in this misunderstanding by consenting to be named and by even naming ourselves.


I've heard him say this before:
Quote:
I think that “atheist” is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people “non-astrologers.” All we need are words like “reason” and “evidence” and “common sense” and “bullshit” to put astrologers in their place, and so it could be with religion.


I also think his view on mysticism, meditation, etc. is interesting, and makes me want to learn more about it -- he also had a discussion of this in The End of Faith. As he says, many atheists (it's hard to get away from that word) are uncomfortable with his interests in that area.

Also see a short response to his critics after this speech: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... -atheists/



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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Dexter wrote:
Here's an excellent speech given by Harris called "The Problem with Atheism"
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfa ... heism.html

A few excerpts:

Quote:
Attaching a label to something carries real liabilities, especially if the thing you are naming isn’t really a thing at all. And atheism, I would argue, is not a thing. It is not a philosophy, just as “non-racism” is not one. Atheism is not a worldview—and yet most people imagine it to be one and attack it as such. We who do not believe in God are collaborating in this misunderstanding by consenting to be named and by even naming ourselves.


I've heard him say this before:
Quote:
I think that “atheist” is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people “non-astrologers.” All we need are words like “reason” and “evidence” and “common sense” and “bullshit” to put astrologers in their place, and so it could be with religion.


I also think his view on mysticism, meditation, etc. is interesting, and makes me want to learn more about it -- he also had a discussion of this in The End of Faith. As he says, many atheists (it's hard to get away from that word) are uncomfortable with his interests in that area.

Also see a short response to his critics after this speech: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... -atheists/

His argument makes sense. If you don't believe in God, that surely isn't the only thing you don't believe in, so why identify yourself by that one lack of belief. However, in discussions where religion is the topic, the two poles have to be belief in God and non-belief, so atheist will be around for a while.

In the debate with Chopra, I thought Harris might cut Chopra a little slack because of some shared interest in mysticism, but he didn't, and properly so. Chopra was claiming scientific validity for things that were wildly speculative. Harris merely says that mystical experiences such as meditative trances and even things like ESP and reincarnation can be investigated scientifically. Making all the wholesale cosmic connections that Chopra made was far from scientific.



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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
I support the position that the word atheist is not necessary and suggest that BT set an example by not using it. Therefore, I suggest that the ATHEIST box be removed from the BT homepage, and the Atheism and Freethought Forum be renamed Rationalism and Freethought.


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
stahrwe wrote:
I support the position that the word atheist is not necessary and suggest that BT set an example by not using it. Therefore, I suggest that the ATHEIST box be removed from the BT homepage, and the Atheism and Freethought Forum be renamed Rationalism and Freethought.

I wouldn't go that far. Not labeling oneself "atheist" doesn't mean that atheism isn't a useful word in the discussion of religion. It's interesting, though, that I almost never see anyone defend theism, except some who don't believe in a god at all. I see defense of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, but rarely from any believer defense of just the idea of a supervising god, regardless of brand name. There isn't, among theists, any appreciable "we're all in this together" spirit. There appears to be more esprit de corps among those who do call themselves atheists.



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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
DWill wrote:
stahrwe wrote:
I support the position that the word atheist is not necessary and suggest that BT set an example by not using it. Therefore, I suggest that the ATHEIST box be removed from the BT homepage, and the Atheism and Freethought Forum be renamed Rationalism and Freethought.

I wouldn't go that far. Not labeling oneself "atheist" doesn't mean that atheism isn't a useful word in the discussion of religion. It's interesting, though, that I almost never see anyone defend theism, except some who don't believe in a god at all. I see defense of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, but rarely from any believer defense of just the idea of a supervising god, regardless of brand name. There isn't, among theists, any appreciable "we're all in this together" spirit. There appears to be more esprit de corps among those who do call themselves atheists.


For me 'theist' is a term which people without belief use. If you have a belief system defend it by name. It is a bit like Bill O'Reilly (pause for groans) referring to God as, 'the deity' what's up with that. Atheists can call themselves whatever they want, it doesn't matter to me, I was just commenting on the impression SH statement made on me.


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
DWill wrote:
stahrwe wrote:
I support the position that the word atheist is not necessary and suggest that BT set an example by not using it. Therefore, I suggest that the ATHEIST box be removed from the BT homepage, and the Atheism and Freethought Forum be renamed Rationalism and Freethought.

I wouldn't go that far. Not labeling oneself "atheist" doesn't mean that atheism isn't a useful word in the discussion of religion. It's interesting, though, that I almost never see anyone defend theism, except some who don't believe in a god at all. I see defense of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, but rarely from any believer defense of just the idea of a supervising god, regardless of brand name. There isn't, among theists, any appreciable "we're all in this together" spirit. There appears to be more esprit de corps among those who do call themselves atheists.


Fundamentalist Christians have very specific ideas of a personal God and so are more likely to defend their religion. Someone who brands himself a theist, on the other hand, would probably have a very vague notion of "God." God is love, God is "infinite consciousness" etc. There's very little there to be defensive about. On another thread we see that Deepak Chopra has devised a rather extensive pseudo-scientific mythology around the idea of "God", but it is specious at best. Chopra's very livelihood depends on selling (to the converted) superficially plausible explanations for a New Age deity, and he's actually very good at it. Someone like that is invested in this particular belief system and, therefore, he would defend it.

We have talked here about the the difference between "agnostic" and "atheist." The two words address different domains: "agnosticism" has to do with knowledge and "atheism" has to do with belief. Someone who has distanced himself from a personal god and is willing to entertain notions of a universal god could be described as an agnostic or an agnostic theist. It should be pointed out that all "atheist" means is without belief in god. But an agnostic typically would be as much an atheist with regards to the Abrahamic God as an atheist is. And both are atheists with regards to the Greek pantheon. So you can see that "atheist" can be pretty meaningless word. You would have to first define "God" before you can truly get a sense of what an atheist is, but you can't because there are so many different concepts of "God".

What "atheist" has come to mean in our Christian-centric society is someone who doesn't buy into that particular myth. But in an increasingly pluralistic world, "atheist" becomes more difficult to pin down semantically.

I like to think of myself first and foremost as a skeptic. But a skeptic has to address religion in a world that frequently assumes Christianity or Islam as undeniable truth because those assumptions affect us all.


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
geo wrote:
DWill wrote:
stahrwe wrote:
I support the position that the word atheist is not necessary and suggest that BT set an example by not using it. Therefore, I suggest that the ATHEIST box be removed from the BT homepage, and the Atheism and Freethought Forum be renamed Rationalism and Freethought.

I wouldn't go that far. Not labeling oneself "atheist" doesn't mean that atheism isn't a useful word in the discussion of religion. It's interesting, though, that I almost never see anyone defend theism, except some who don't believe in a god at all. I see defense of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, but rarely from any believer defense of just the idea of a supervising god, regardless of brand name. There isn't, among theists, any appreciable "we're all in this together" spirit. There appears to be more esprit de corps among those who do call themselves atheists.


Fundamentalist Christians have very specific ideas of a personal God and so are more likely to defend their religion. Someone who brands himself a theist, on the other hand, would probably have a very vague notion of "God." God is love, God is "infinite consciousness" etc. There's very little there to be defensive about. On another thread we see that Deepak Chopra has devised a rather extensive pseudo-scientific mythology around the idea of "God", but it is specious at best. Chopra's very livelihood depends on selling (to the converted) superficially plausible explanations for a New Age deity, and he's actually very good at it. Someone like that is invested in this particular belief system and, therefore, he would defend it.

We have talked here about the the difference between "agnostic" and "atheist." The two words address different domains: "agnosticism" has to do with knowledge and "atheism" has to do with belief. Someone who has distanced himself from a personal god and is willing to entertain notions of a universal god could be described as an agnostic or an agnostic theist. It should be pointed out that all "atheist" means is without belief in god. But an agnostic typically would be as much an atheist with regards to the Abrahamic God as an atheist is. And both are atheists with regards to the Greek pantheon. So you can see that "atheist" can be pretty meaningless word. You would have to first define "God" before you can truly get a sense of what an atheist is, but you can't because there are so many different concepts of "God".

What "atheist" has come to mean in our Christian-centric society is someone who doesn't buy into that particular myth. But in an increasingly pluralistic world, "atheist" becomes more difficult to pin down semantically.

I like to think of myself first and foremost as a skeptic. But a skeptic has to address religion in a world that frequently assumes Christianity or Islam as undeniable truth because those assumptions affect us all.


Nicely done. Very well thought out and worded.
Chopra's a hack.

thanks again for the post.


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Harris's view of the word "atheism" reminds me of the way cognitive linguist [url=George Lakoff]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lakoff#Political_significance_and_involvement[/url] views political discourse. Lakoff argues that conservatives come up with terminology that supports their worldview, and that liberals should do the same. While there's some merit to that approach, in practice it's very difficult to alter the terminology people use, especially when then the opposing side has much more influence on the general discussion.

Also, it's helpful having a term to describe people who don't believe in god, and "atheist" is the best word for that purpose. It makes sense to use terminology everyone can understand, unless there's a clear disadvantage to doing so, which isn't the case here.



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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... rt-1-of-7/

I am following what is being said on this forum but I am watching these video clips of Sam Harris's lecture tour, and believe that in them he is expanding on what he is expounding in the book. At any rate, I seem to be able to follow his lectures, aurally, more easily than following the words on the page.

I have found his comments on the Talliban's treatment of women quite illuminating, having just watched the film of 'The Kite Runner' and been very affected by it. The Talliban, it seems, are a group of uneducated tribesmen, little better than bandit gangs who have always inhabited the hills around Afghanistan. I saw a parallel with Mugabe in Africa.

The saying goes that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely - well, if that power is in uneducated and barbaric hands - then it surely corrupts everything around it as well as the individuals in power.

I used to think that all people had a knowledge of what was 'right' within them
but now, I seriously doubt that. Some people seem to have no notion of compassion......and it would seem, morality, needs to be taught.

But not taught through religion......because who is more religious than the Talliban?

So, I am with Sam Harris all the way......Science must teach us morality. I believe we must look at the origins of virtue and how our idea of virtue developed.


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Harris is right.

I came to realize that it isn't religion which is the issue, but the refusal of reason and evidence. Religion is a dime a dozen, and if it all disappeared this instant, we would only have to contend with new ones in a week with completely different gods and magic, but still deriving from the same source of magical thought.

It really is not religion i have a problem with, as that is just the expression of flaccid thought processes. It is the underlying state of magical thinking that has to be addressed.

Think of Stahrwe. His arguments have been so badly destroyed on this site that it is laugh out loud funny, but we haven't gotten anywhere with dissuading him from using those terrible, silly arguments. It is worth a good chuckle, now and then, but in the end he has gotten no better, and if anything is probably even more deeply entrenched in his mythologies than when he came to this site.

It is not that he believes in the bible, but that the standards he sets for knowledge are so low that anything at all can pass muster, or could if it fit within his pre-defined goal posts of "truth".

With a proper appreciation for the power of evidence and reason, religion sorts itself out. After all, most people who now identify themselves as atheists started off as believers. it was only through an appreciation of evidence and reason, and the corresponding demand that our beliefs meet those standards, that religion dropped away.


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Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

Confidence being an expectation built on past experience, evidence and extrapolation to the future. Faith being an expectation held in defiance of past experience and evidence.


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Quote:
Johnson wrote:

With a proper appreciation for the power of evidence and reason, religion sorts itself out.


No, it doesn't sort itself out. I have appreciation for the power of evidence and reason but we are not all about evidence and reason.

Quote:
johnson wrote:

It really is not religion i have a problem with, as that is just the expression of flaccid thought processes. It is the underlying state of magical thinking that has to be addressed.


By accusing those of us who have respect for 'gut instinct' and 'intuitive, non-thinking processes' of flaccid thought - you are NOT addressing the underlying state of magical thinking.

I agree with you, it does urgently need to be addressed, bearing in mind the state of the world's religions/politics today, as outlined by Sam Harris - but refusing to allow people to explore the inexplicable part of us is to diminish us as human beings.

Anyway, there are no flaccid thought processes in Buddhism - but it is a philosophy which helps us to explore and come to terms with that part of ourselves which causes so much trouble.


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Quote:
By accusing those of us who have respect for 'gut instinct' and 'intuitive, non-thinking processes' of flaccid thought - you are NOT addressing the underlying state of magical thinking.


I don't think there is any such path to the truth that doesn't involve thinking of some sort. What is gut instinct, really? Is it instinct that has evolved within us to help us survive in certain situations? Or is it instinct that taps into a magical alternate reality to help us arrive at the truth?

Appeals to 'instinct' or 'intuition' as a path to arriving at truthful conclusions are last ditch efforts to hold on to treasured beliefs.

Can you explain something you believe in for which there is no reason, but you believe it based on your 'gut instinct'? I can almost guarantee that when such beliefs are further analyzed, you can separate the wheat from the chaff, and find that some are in fact supported by reasons. The ones that aren't are false, or at least are irrationally believed.



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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Quote:
Interbane wrote:

Can you explain something you believe in for which there is no reason, but you believe it based on your 'gut instinct'?


I believe in 'The Mozart Effect'. That playing Mozart to little children affects their brain waves, and makes them cleverer, because the sound waves alter the vibration of the neurons in their brans. I don't know why, but I believe it.

I believe Mozart was a genius who composed music by intuition - as well as education of course, but if it was possible to compose such music 'just' by education and science and rationality - well, then all composers would be Mozarts - which they evidently are not.

There is a very close affinity between Music and Mathematics. They call the works of Bach, musical mathematics. But what is that extra - emotion - resonance, genius - that Mozart had that has never been matched.

To call it 'Gut Instinct' is to demean it.....but it was something I believe in because there is the evidence of his music.....but I cannot begin to explain it.


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Is it not true that we have a mathematical/rational/scientific side to our brains and an artistic/intuitive/instinctive side?

This is provable now that we have electro-encephalographs which measure our brain activity and produce computer diagrams to illustrate it.

This is why I keep banging on about the need to balance the two. If we accept only the rational side, we become monstrous. If we pander only to the artistic side.....we can become monsters. Equally hateful either way.

We can balance both sides of our brains, because this is what we do when we can see the 3D image in those 'magic eye' pictures, composed of dots.

Am I being rational enough for you?


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Post Re: Harris speech (transcript) on atheism
Penelope wrote:
I believe in 'The Mozart Effect'. That playing Mozart to little children affects their brain waves, and makes them cleverer, because the sound waves alter the vibration of the neurons in their brans. I don't know why, but I believe it.


But don't you think this claim is amenable to evidence? One study may not be enough, but either it's true or it's not.

And if it's not true, you still may wish to play Mozart for your children. And being rational does not mean you can't appreciate art for it's own sake.



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