the most compelling world view yet

October 3rd, 2007

I've had my share of exposure to the Christian world and pretty much decided I don't belong there. I haven't had very much to do with the atheist society, and so I've familiarized myself with the ideas through Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Granted, when people write books for the mass market, it's sometimes hard to know to what extent they really assert their own beliefs or whether they are just exaggerating on purpose.

Having seen Dawkins in a number of talks, I would say that he is very consistent in the ideas he expresses, and his book is true to this as well. Reading Dawkins I once again feel a little alienated, on several points. There is the notion of being atheist and proud of it which it isn't at all convincing. It is nice to know that one isn't alone in the world with some idea, but the whole thing of some kind of virtual march with banners telling people you're *proud* of what you are just doesn't register with me. Why would you be proud of the way god/evolution determined you would become? What is the accomplishment here? And the second thing is the black and white classification of all things religious. Dawkins won't say that some beliefs are more harmful than others, he just wants to condemn everything under the banner of religion.

Sam Harris, on the other hand, takes a much more nuanced stance. In fact, while his book is provoking and inflammatory, I find his talks to be much more compelling, and the best reflection yet of what I could agree with wholeheartedly. In particular, this talk (transcript) is as close as anyone has ever come to write something I agree with completely.

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5 Responses to "the most compelling world view yet"

  1. Brian says:

    I think a big part of "atheist pride" is a reaction to the expected feeling of shame and guilt and "you're evil" that many theists try to push onto non-theists. Someone needs to stand up and say there's nothing wrong with being an atheist because so many people do think that there is something wrong with it.

    I think I read in one of Dawkins' books that he does believe some beliefs are more harmful than others. But the less-harmful ones often act to enable the more-harmful ones. i.e. the fact that there are so many wishy-washy Christians gives the few crazy fanatics a legitimate voice they wouldn't otherwise have.

  2. numerodix says:

    I know that, Brian. But this is an emotional reaction, not a rational one. I totally agree that atheism is a pointless term that's not serving the cause. It's being pushed into a corner and forced to declare yourself with a label. People often say "so if you don't believe in god what do you believe in?" As if there is no other way around this issue, as if you have *be* something. It's much like political affiliation on your side of the pond, you're either A or B, there's no in between.

  3. Brian says:

    Oh yeah, as far as the term itself, it's really a loaded word nowadays. I read the Harris article and now I get more of what you're talking about. Dawkins says this too, when he talks about a mother telling her daughter "Not believing in God is one thing, but to be an ATHEIST?" Atheism isn't a religion or a philosophy, it's just a term for "none of the above", but no one thinks that when they hear the word, which is a problem.

  4. aca says:

    Martin meets Dawkins :D

    Atheists have one, and only one thing in common - their disbelief in god. Atheists come in all forms and kinds and there is no way that anyone, Dawkins included, will manage to put them under the same umbrella.

    I think that the whole idea of the "out" campaign is not to create movement or a label. It is more an attempt to make this segment of the population visible, to inform that atheists do exist and they want their voice to be heard.

    Unfortunately, there is nothing stopping ppl to throw all the eggs in one basket and call it a movement...

    btw, as far as books go, you should try Sagan.

  5. [...] is one of the best books I’ve read about religion. It is also a rather deep book. Unlike Sam Harris, who apart from presenting examples also includes a lot of his own reasoning, Hitchen tries to [...]