The End of "Atheism"?

This is a fascinating piece from the recent conference of the Atheist Alliance in D.C. by Sam Harris who--along with Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett--is regarded as one of the "four horsemen" of the new atheism. However, in this speech he argues, I think cogently, that we should abandon atheism both as a term and as a structured viewpoint.

(He makes analogies with "non-racists" and "non-astrologers" and points out how claiming to be an atheist lumps one in with nasty people like Stalin, at least in the minds of the religious.)

The speech apparently caused quite a stir, with one woman even vowing to throw away Harris' books in the Q&A session, but it reflects well on his author that he chose to be frank with an audience that was hoping for something quite different. I particularly like what he says about meditation and other such practices, in defiance of atheistic conventional wisdom.

My days of being a militant, anti-religious atheist are in the past, but I have tended to still use the term, even writing about it in a recent post. I think that I may continue to use it when forced to select among options for "religion" on various websites (it's the shortest answer for me to that question), but I have no reason to go around advertising myself as one.

On Facebook, where they allow you to type in a response to the religion question, I've called myself an "unbeliever", a description which is both apt and less problematic. I am also fond of the terms "materialist" and "naturalist"--although I also like to call myself an "unnaturalist", but with a different sense of the term "nature".

(If, by "nature", we understand the universe [or if you prefer, multiverse] and everything in it, I am a naturalist [as opposed to a supernaturalist], but if we instead mean that which is opposed to civilization, artificiality, and technology, I am an unnaturalist. Incidentally, if by "god", we understand the totality of all being, I am not an a-theist, because that "god" exists by definition. In short, a lot of this stuff is just a question of the meanings of words, but since these are always manifold, labels can be misleading.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a member of the church of the spaguetti monster :) It solves all problems ;-)