Sunday, December 24, 2006


All right. Concentrate now. Sam Harris is NOT an “atheist.” He just says he is. He’s an “Anti-Theist,” always fighting against the theists if not the Theos. If he were an A-theist, he would be addressing other matters and not pretending to be a theos himself by handing down Ten Anti-Commandments about what the theists have got wrong about A-theists. He’s acting exactly like the most obnoxious theists but without even the supposed justification of belief in a theos. His missionary zeal is very trendy, however, and making him lots of money. The Billy Graham of the finger-pointers.

If he were an A-theist, meaning a NON-theist, he might be out on a walking meditation, or doing good for the poor, or contemplating the beauty of the planet without arguing about whether it is a “creation” that requires a “creator.” He would be out of the Theo-box.

One of the giveaways is that he is not Anti- the New Testament God, Jesus. Is anyone Anti-Jesus? Anti-Savior? Against the Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes, saying, “No, do NOT bless the downtrodden and deprived and suffering -- there’s no virtue in it for them in this life nor reward for them in any other life!” or “We admit there’s no virtue or reward, they shouldn’t be blessed. They already ARE cursed! God made them that way and they can just stay like that.” Or -- very trendy lately -- “It was their CHOICE.” This is a much harder problem than defying a bossy Old Testament God with a lot of rules, which a lot of Old Guys on this planet claim to have the God-Given right to enforce. Cursing the little guys is no way to make yourself popular, as that dowager hotel-owner discovered to her chagrin. What the heck was her name anyway?

So here comes Sam Harris, claiming to finally reveal to the world that God/Theos -- the OLD Testament God -- is a big phony. So? We already noticed. Don’t start a cult over it.

Here are the ten accusations that Sam thinks that religious people (right-wing evangelical Christians?) make against Atheists.
1) They believe that life is meaningless.
2) They are responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.
3) They are dogmatic.
4) They think everything in the universe arose by chance.
5) They have no connection to science.
6) They are arrogant.
7) They are closed to spiritual experience.
8) They believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.
9) They ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.
10) They provide no basis for morality.

A very strange assortment. I’d have to plead guilty to some of them.
1. Sometimes I do feel that life seems meaningless, unless you count the pure experience of it -- does everything have to “mean” something?
2. The greatest crimes in history have always been religious, directly or indirectly, actually or purportedly.
3. Dogma can be handy if you don’t believe it literally or if it’s not too entirely inscrutable, like the Trinity or something. (Did you read about the Virgin Births to the Komodo dragon?)
4. It’s clear that everything in the universe is connected, but the nature of the connection is totally unclear.
5. Anyway science says that other lizards than Komodos also achieve virgin birth, rather more routinely, and that the results are always male, YY. (Wouldn’t you know?) In other words, if Jesus had been a lizard, he could not have given birth to children. As it is, he was presumably operating as an X/?. (X from Mary, ? from God.)
6. One person’s arrogance is another person’s “thinking for oneself.”
7. Spiritual experience. What is that? Does it cost money? Can it be doled out on holidays?
8. Anyone who thinks there is only human stuff in the universe needs to go outside on a starry night (outside the city, please) and just stare.
9. The idea that religion is beneficial to society comes mostly from those who profit from religion reinforcing their power. I don’t know where that “extremely” came from, aside from Sam. And it sure has been hard on the rest of the environment.
10. As for morality, my position is that it’s a human construct and based mostly on what “works.” Kindness, generosity, friendship, fairness, honesty, all WORK. The Golden Rule. It rocks.

GNXP is a serious blog addressing genetics. They worry a lot about what makes people beautiful and sexy (they’re young) and they worry a lot about defining religion. I love them for their minds and the way they patiently unravel the patterns -- if not of the universe -- of the mystery of human life in more than molecular dimensions. They rediscover the obvious and historical all over again and completely miss other stuff, but it’s authentic and earnest and who knows what they might eventually come to find.

In the meantime, one of the recent stories was about the mutation that causes extra fingers and toes. That would be timely for Sam Harris who needs another finger, an eleventh point: These ten points Sam thinks are accusations against atheists are mostly about Sam Harris.


Brett said...

"Dogma can come in handy."
This gave me a chuckle, and it is surely true. I like to (half-jokingly) say that I'm "religious but not spiritual."

Steve Bodio said...

Lovely, Mary, and perfect for Christmas. "Atheism" re Harris is a dumb religion. Much to reflect on-- thank you, as always.

Anonymous said...

In reading the first few points, I had to revisit your explanation of what they were--to be sure that I had not misread. Most of the points seem to be what an atheist might think of a far right religious extremist.
Cop Car

prairie mary said...

I think there is a whole lotta projection going on. The scholar's theory on what "causes" fundamentalisms of all kinds is that the standing order is challenged enough (in the case of extreme right wing Christians by science -- in the case of defiant anti-Christians probably by perceived political power) that the fundamentalist agitator is driven to try to seize the argument with vehemence and over-assertion.

Prairie Mary

Anonymous said...

I've known extreme anti-Christians; but, none of them (except the one that I only knew through the media, Ms Murray) has been an atheist or agnostic. The atheists and agnostics do not, in my experience, try to convert others to their views.
Cop Car