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Sam Harris: 10 myths—and 10 Truths—About Atheism
Sam Harris' Blog from his Los Angeles Times article ^ | Dec 24, 2006 | Sam Harris

Posted on 02/11/2010 7:34:10 PM PST by SeekAndFind

SEVERAL POLLS indicate that the term “atheism” has acquired such an extraordinary stigma in the United States that being an atheist is now a perfect impediment to a career in politics (in a way that being black, Muslim or homosexual is not). According to a recent Newsweek poll, only 37% of Americans would vote for an otherwise qualified atheist for president.

Atheists are often imagined to be intolerant, immoral, depressed, blind to the beauty of nature and dogmatically closed to evidence of the supernatural.

Even John Locke, one of the great patriarchs of the Enlightenment, believed that atheism was “not at all to be tolerated” because, he said, “promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist.”

That was more than 300 years ago. But in the United States today, little seems to have changed. A remarkable 87% of the population claims “never to doubt” the existence of God; fewer than 10% identify themselves as atheists — and their reputation appears to be deteriorating.

Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society, it seems important to deflate the myths that prevent them from playing a larger role in our national discourse.

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave. Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived. Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness … well … meaningless.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.

People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

3) Atheism is dogmatic.

Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn’t have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.

No one knows why the universe came into being. In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the “beginning” or “creation” of the universe at all, as these ideas invoke the concept of time, and here we are talking about the origin of space-time itself.

The notion that atheists believe that everything was created by chance is also regularly thrown up as a criticism of Darwinian evolution. As Richard Dawkins explains in his marvelous book, “The God Delusion,” this represents an utter misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Although we don’t know precisely how the Earth’s early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance. Evolution is a combination of chance mutation and natural selection. Darwin arrived at the phrase “natural selection” by analogy to the “artificial selection” performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases, selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species.

5) Atheism has no connection to science.

Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God — as some scientists seem to manage it — there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.

6) Atheists are arrogant.

When scientists don’t know something — like why the universe came into being or how the first self-replicating molecules formed — they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn’t know is a profound liability in science. And yet it is the life-blood of faith-based religion. One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows. When considering questions about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, atheists tend to draw their opinions from science. This isn’t arrogance; it is intellectual honesty.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.

There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don’t tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences. There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely — because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences.

There is, in fact, not a Christian on this Earth who can be certain that Jesus even wore a beard, much less that he was born of a virgin or rose from the dead. These are just not the sort of claims that spiritual experience can authenticate.

8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.

Atheists are free to admit the limits of human understanding in a way that religious people are not. It is obvious that we do not fully understand the universe; but it is even more obvious that neither the Bible nor the Koran reflects our best understanding of it. We do not know whether there is complex life elsewhere in the cosmos, but there might be. If there is, such beings could have developed an understanding of nature’s laws that vastly exceeds our own. Atheists can freely entertain such possibilities. They also can admit that if brilliant extraterrestrials exist, the contents of the Bible and the Koran will be even less impressive to them than they are to human atheists.

From the atheist point of view, the world’s religions utterly trivialize the real beauty and immensity of the universe. One doesn’t have to accept anything on insufficient evidence to make such an observation.

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.

Those who emphasize the good effects of religion never seem to realize that such effects fail to demonstrate the truth of any religious doctrine. This is why we have terms such as “wishful thinking” and “self-deception.” There is a profound distinction between a consoling delusion and the truth.

In any case, the good effects of religion can surely be disputed. In most cases, it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons are actually available. Ask yourself, which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.

If a person doesn’t already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won’t discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran — as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine. We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.

We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn’t make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery — and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture — like the golden rule — can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Skeptics/Seekers
KEYWORDS: atheism; atheists; evolution; faith; god; religion
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1 posted on 02/11/2010 7:34:11 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Well Atheism is not a lack of belief..

You have to believe there is no God to be an Atheist...

Most people who think they are Atheists, are at best just Agnostics...


2 posted on 02/11/2010 7:38:29 PM PST by Tennessee Nana
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To: SeekAndFind

Poppycock.


3 posted on 02/11/2010 7:41:31 PM PST by Psycho_Bunny (ALSO SPRACH ZEROTHUSTRA)
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To: SeekAndFind

Ok so where are the truths?


4 posted on 02/11/2010 7:45:06 PM PST by svcw (If you are going to quote the Bible know what you are quoting.)
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To: SeekAndFind
being an atheist is now a perfect impediment to a career in politics (in a way that being black, Muslim or homosexual is not)

So is being a white male fundamentalist Christian.
5 posted on 02/11/2010 7:48:49 PM PST by Question Liberal Authority ("My...health care plan is a Bolshevik plot... which will destroy America." - Barack Obama)
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To: SeekAndFind

Very good summary. Couldn’t agree more.


6 posted on 02/11/2010 7:48:51 PM PST by warpsmith (New Yorkers for Sarah Palin - palinistas.com)
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To: SeekAndFind
There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

Atheists are more reasonable just because they say so? Atheism automatically equals reason? That is what I think this sentence is implying. Surely some of history's biggest mass-murderers, mostly Atheists, had that same belief.
7 posted on 02/11/2010 7:53:11 PM PST by Fingolfin
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To: SeekAndFind

Atheists claim not to believe in God, but what they actually deny is the interconnectedness of all things. Religious people, in believing in God, believe in the interconnectedness of all things through God (God being infinite, and thus disconnected from nothing).

So when Atheists claim that they are “rational” or “reasonable,” inevitably they mean these terms as applied to the “reality” of fundamental isolation - so, to someone who is completely isolated, “community” becomes the overwhelming goal. Thus they see compelled collectivism as the ultimate solution - whether in the form of socialism, communism, progressivism, totalitarianism, or any other mandatory group organization.

This is why liberals not only disagree with, but are so frightened by conservatives - conservatives fight for individual freedom, which liberals see as forcing them to be alone in an isolated universe. It terrifies them, so they fight with the fury of the damned against it, because that’s exactly how they feel.


8 posted on 02/11/2010 7:53:19 PM PST by Talisker (When you find a turtle on top of a fence post, you can be damn sure it didn't get there on it's own.)
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To: SeekAndFind
[the atheist] "reputation appears to be deteriorating."

Does Mr. Harris have a theory why this is so (other than mindless prejudice)? Or does he take it to be simply implied in his manifesto?

9 posted on 02/11/2010 7:55:06 PM PST by YHAOS (you betcha!)
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To: SeekAndFind

What a twit. I guess this nearly 50 year-old trust fund graduate student has found a way to give meaning to his life.


10 posted on 02/11/2010 7:55:45 PM PST by achilles2000 (Shouting "fire" in a burning building is doing everyone a favor...whether they like it or not)
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To: Talisker
This is why liberals not only disagree with, but are so frightened by conservatives

Except in the case of conservative atheists.

11 posted on 02/11/2010 7:57:00 PM PST by warpsmith (New Yorkers for Sarah Palin - palinistas.com)
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To: SeekAndFind

Being an atheist is a respectable position. Being an atheist activist is the sign of a deep mental illness.


12 posted on 02/11/2010 8:08:46 PM PST by Minn (Here is a realistic picture of the prophet: ----> ([: {()
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: SeekAndFind; informavoracious; larose; RJR_fan; Prospero; Conservative Vermont Vet; ...
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

14 posted on 02/11/2010 8:14:13 PM PST by narses ("lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi")
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To: SeekAndFind
This is a truly absurd strawman. No one claims athiests don't have feelings, don't believe in morality, don't believe in a purpose, etc.

It's just that, for an atheist, these are logically inconsistent positions to take.
15 posted on 02/11/2010 8:18:34 PM PST by mike182d ("Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?")
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To: SeekAndFind

Psssst...[wispering] I hear they don’t believe in God.


16 posted on 02/11/2010 8:22:06 PM PST by RavenATB
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To: Gen-X-Dad
Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society...

I think that your calling out of this arrogant attitude is correct. With your permission I will post the following:


17 posted on 02/11/2010 8:27:35 PM PST by MarkBsnr ( I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.)
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To: Gen-X-Dad

Do not use potty language - or references to potty language - on the Religion Forum.


18 posted on 02/11/2010 8:33:25 PM PST by Religion Moderator
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To: SeekAndFind

There is nothing new here. Atheism is based upon faith as much as any other religion. Atheism is a religion. As the writer indirectly admits, Atheism has lots of questions but few answers. Ignorance is the new intelligence. How does an Atheist know that we are hardwired to act in a moral way? Who or what hardwired us? Why be moral? What does it mean to be moral? Who determines who or what is moral? How do you know that man is more moral today and in previous generations? Who decides that? Why is morality even important? Morality does not exist in nature. If man is nothing more than a naked ape, why do we even care about morality? The idea that Atheists enjoy life more than a Theists is absurd. Only an Atheist could believe that. Atheism is dogmatic. It is as dogmatic as Theism. Atheism makes the dogmatic statement that God does not exist. It also believes that Atheists are somehow more intelligent and enlightened than the other 96% of the world. The reality is that everyone worships a god. The Atheist simply worships himself.


19 posted on 02/11/2010 8:40:25 PM PST by Nosterrex
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To: Nosterrex

Good writing. And, I agree.


20 posted on 02/11/2010 8:42:32 PM PST by Lower55
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To: SeekAndFind
The reason that an Atheist should not serve in an elected office is that he would have to deny the foundation of the Declaration of the Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. He would have to lie in order to be elected. Our freedoms come from God and therefore they are unalienable rights. Our rights do not come from the government. How can an Atheist accept that unless he is a liar.
21 posted on 02/11/2010 8:44:47 PM PST by Nosterrex
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To: SeekAndFind
Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society...

Atheists (as shown in the above sentence) are "legends in their OWN mind".

...it seems important to deflate the myths that prevent them from playing a larger role in our national discourse.

Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. The religion of atheism (moral relativism) has done enough already to ruin a great country that was founded on Christian principles (not "religous principles" as in Muslim, Buddhist or secular humanist, but CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES).

Atheism has given us abortion, homosexuality, pornography, prostitution, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Really, we appreciate your gracious offer to do "more" for our society, but really, you've done enough already.

(Myth 2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history. People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions..

Hitler (who DESPISED Christianity), Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were "religous people". Their religion was a totalitarian government that wanted nothing to do with God. Because the almighty state was their "god", they hated anything or anyone that opposed their tyranny. In other words: when it came to being worshipped, they didn't want any "competition" from God.

100-200 million murdered under communist regimes since 1917. I wonder if they had believed in one of the most basic dogmas of Judaism and Christianity: "Thou Shalt Not Murder", if those innocent lives would have been spared.

But wait, there's more!

45 million innocent unborn babies murdered in the name of "choice" in the past 37 years (I highly doubt that the butchers at Planned Parenthood hold Christian worship services at the end of the day).

500,000 plus dead from the "gay disease" (if you asked homosexual's what their "religion" is, they'll laugh in your face if you talk to them about being "saved" by Jesus).

Yes, atheists are a "intelligent" bunch; so intelligent that they don't even realize that it is because of Christianity that they have the freedom to act like the fools that they are in public.

22 posted on 02/11/2010 8:52:43 PM PST by aSeattleConservative
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To: Tennessee Nana

yes. i have to agree with your assessment.


23 posted on 02/11/2010 8:55:05 PM PST by GOP Poet (Obama is an OLYMPIC failure.)
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To: SeekAndFind

We're here, we're back just as G-d said we would be thousands of years ago.
24 posted on 02/11/2010 9:07:38 PM PST by ari-freedom (Chris Wallace: I can tell you, Ronald Reagan would never have quit.)
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To: SeekAndFind
"6) Atheists are arrogant."

"When scientists don’t know something — .........they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn’t know is a profound liability in science."

......well not in the case of Climate Change, where faking evidence is a very lucrative affair, and as a bonus, you can count on the majority of scientists to cover your butt when you lie.

25 posted on 02/11/2010 9:16:15 PM PST by cookcounty (Let us not speak of the honor of men. Rather, let us bind them with the Constitution. --Jefferson)
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To: SeekAndFind

1. Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

Deny the eternal, and you bump into Solomon’s conclusions in Ecclesiastes.


26 posted on 02/11/2010 9:18:36 PM PST by lurk
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To: Tennessee Nana
"Most people who think they are Atheists, are at best just Agnostics...

Well the angry ones are not agnostics, they are atheists, and they are so proud of have proved a negative....at least to themselves.

27 posted on 02/11/2010 9:18:40 PM PST by cookcounty (Let us not speak of the honor of men. Rather, let us bind them with the Constitution. --Jefferson)
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To: SeekAndFind

Very interesting article, SeekAndFind. Thanks for posting it. I’m a Christian who has had conversations with athiests and agnostics. Much of what this article is saying rings true, in my opinion.

I learned a valuable lesson from a preacher’s wife many years ago. She basically said, “I don’t argue religion, because religion is based on faith” and “I don’t argue against other religions (our conversation was about Mormons) because we are all taught our beliefs and hold on to them regardless of whether we are right or wrong”.

I trust in God and if I was wrong in not becoming a Mormon, or Jew, or Catholic, or ‘name your religion’, then I pray He will forgive me.


28 posted on 02/11/2010 9:23:28 PM PST by CaribouCrossing
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Comment #29 Removed by Moderator

To: All; SeekAndFind
I find this particularly presumptuous:

"There is, in fact, not a Christian on this Earth who can be certain that Jesus even wore a beard, much less that he was born of a virgin or rose from the dead. These are just not the sort of claims that spiritual experience can authenticate."

These are precisely the kinds of things that spiritual experience can authenticate, if that is the proper term. I would say 'reveal'. Jesus said "The Kingdom of God is within you." On what basis does a materialist pronounce judgment on the 'authenticity' of inner visions? (which are actually quite common occurances). Even some religious people have trouble with visions, prophetic dreams, and other Divine revelations.

My brother left the church, partly because he was visited by Jesus one night in his bedroom. When he asked the junior minister about it, he was told to get out of his office and not talk about such things. Sadly, he remains an atheist to this day.

30 posted on 02/11/2010 9:44:26 PM PST by ARepublicanForAllReasons (Give 'em hell, Sarah!)
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To: svcw

Not everyone requires an answer for the unknown.


31 posted on 02/12/2010 1:36:09 AM PST by TNdandelion (While Obama plays with his balls, Afghanistan falls.)
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To: CaribouCrossing

This is well said. I think religion can be, and mostly is, a beautiful thing. But call me a “Doubting Thomas” or whatever. I have absolutely lost all trust in mankind to secure and deliver religious truth. And if there is a God, he/she should have known better than to put his “truth” in the hands of man. Just look what they’ve done in his name. :(


32 posted on 02/12/2010 1:48:53 AM PST by TNdandelion (While Obama plays with his balls, Afghanistan falls.)
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To: SeekAndFind

The Psalmist always said it best for me:

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”


33 posted on 02/12/2010 1:58:10 AM PST by MrDem
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To: SeekAndFind
There's no possibility of proving or disproving either the theist or the atheist proposition. These things are beyond objective investigation on this side of the grave, which makes atheism a religious creed quite as much as any variety of theism. That's the stumbling block for Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and their aggressively atheist confreres. It's what they're unwilling to concede...and until they do, they deserve no respect whatsoever.

(Why no respect, you ask? What respect do they show theists?)

Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Eternity Road

34 posted on 02/12/2010 2:39:36 AM PST by fporretto (This tagline is programming you in ways that will not be apparent for years. Forget! Forget!)
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To: SeekAndFind
Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society

Article turned me off right there. Dont know any such thing
35 posted on 02/12/2010 3:23:50 AM PST by D1X1E
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To: fporretto

“There’s no possibility of proving or disproving either the theist”

Just because one human can’t prove it to another doesn’t mean that God doesn’t prove it to whomever He decides.


36 posted on 02/12/2010 4:28:44 AM PST by dsc (Any attempt to move a government to the left is a crime against humanity.)
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To: ARepublicanForAllReasons

“My brother left the church, partly because he was visited by Jesus one night in his bedroom. When he asked the junior minister about it, he was told to get out of his office and not talk about such things. Sadly, he remains an atheist to this day.”

I don’t uinderstand why those two events would push him into atheism.


37 posted on 02/12/2010 4:30:59 AM PST by dsc (Any attempt to move a government to the left is a crime against humanity.)
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To: SeekAndFind
which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it

We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.

Anyone thinking of voting for an atheist in high office will do well to reflect on these words, coming from an Atheist in his own defense.

The good that we do is, according to him, done SOLELY because of concern for suffering; that concern is a product of intuition strengthened by centuries of thought.

That would explain Stalin and Hitler. It is therefore entirely possible that whatever theory we invent in our own mind about the ways to help the suffering, is good enough to act upon. As easy as the atheist had discarded religion he will discard the "thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness" and substitute his own cogitations.

Don't trust them, folks.

38 posted on 02/12/2010 5:40:57 AM PST by annalex (http://www.catecheticsonline.com/CatenaAurea.php)
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To: SeekAndFind
"Being an atheist is now a perfect impediment to a career in politics."

There are more avowed Scientologists in the US Congress than there are Atheists.

http://www.adherents.com/adh_congress.html
39 posted on 02/12/2010 10:32:15 AM PST by EnderWiggins
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To: SeekAndFind
The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions.

Actually, both fascism and communism are only made possible by atheistic philosophic assumptions.

Locke also was right, not only can the promises of an atheist not be trusted--but neither can ethics in general. If one really believes he is unaccountable to anyone--he is more likely live amorally--without fear of penalty for doing wrong to others--having one's only "ethic" as what he can get away with... As a matter of fact, atheism has no basis of understanding right or wrong in the first place. One cannot know ought from is, or morals from behavior....ultimately, without a law giver, there is no law.

40 posted on 02/12/2010 11:00:17 AM PST by AnalogReigns
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To: AnalogReigns
"Actually, both fascism and communism are only made possible by atheistic philosophic assumptions. "

Except of course for religiously motivated fascism and communism. Never hear of "liberation theology?" Never heard of Islam?

"If one really believes he is unaccountable to anyone--he is more likely live amorally--without fear of penalty for doing wrong to others--having one's only "ethic" as what he can get away with..."

And where, pray tell, is the spot on the planet where anybody can be "unaccountable to anyone?" Last I looked, most places have laws that hold people accountable whether they are theists or atheists. I know that whenever I get a speeding ticket it never seems to matter to the cop what my religion is.

"As a matter of fact, atheism has no basis of understanding right or wrong in the first place."

Huh?

How do you figure? It seems to me insanely easy to understand right from wrong. If I don't want somebody doing something to me, it's wrong to do it to them. It's called empathy. Even bonobos have it.

"One cannot know ought from is, or morals from behavior....ultimately, without a law giver, there is no law."

Only if you are a psychopath. Thankfully, that would only be about 1% of us.
41 posted on 02/12/2010 11:58:47 AM PST by EnderWiggins
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To: SeekAndFind
Mr. Harris has compiled quite a collection of observations about Atheism, including many of its political implications, so that his ensuing manifesto takes on a compelling characteristic to some degree or another. However, his remarks arouse more issues than they illuminate.

the term “atheism” has acquired such an extraordinary stigma in the United States that being an atheist is now a perfect impediment to a career in politics

Why is that, Mr. Harris? Do the polls you mention, but do not cite, fail to explore the reasons, content merely to establish that Atheism virtually precludes the possibility of a successful political career? But the words you use to describe Atheists’ lack of political success (‘extraordinary,’ ‘stigma,’ ‘now,’ ‘perfect, ‘impediment’), possess a value sufficient to establish a study well beyond a simple ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ response. Are you, perhaps, engaging in a little bit of gratuitous polemics?

Atheists are often imagined to be intolerant, immoral, depressed, blind to the beauty of nature and dogmatically closed to evidence of the supernatural.

By whom? Is this the response elicited only from prospective voters with strong religious affiliations, or does it include the Atheists’ assessments of their own electoral prospects, Atheists who propose to do nothing more than vote for others, and voters who have no particularly strong religious affiliations (there’s no doubt Atheists are dogmatically closed to evidence of the supernatural . . . by definition)? It would be helpful, Mr. Harris, if you would be a little more fulsome in your sharing of the polling data upon which you rely.

. . . fewer than 10% identify themselves as atheists — and their reputation appears to be deteriorating.

What does the one have to do with the other? Does their deteriorating reputation explain why fewer than 10% of our population identify themselves as Atheists? What or whom has caused the deteriorating reputation of Atheism? Is it real or imagined? Just what, Mr. Harris, is your point?

[in the more than three hundred years since John Locke (et al)] “ in the United States today, little seems to have changed.

It’s true. There is little in the Judeo-Christian tradition that has changed over the ages. Nevertheless, the culture has seen fit to eschew show trials, summary executions, exquisite tortures, and bloody political pogroms. Can the same be said to be true of bloodily oppressive, avowedly Atheistic or Islamic regimes?

Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society . . . “

Really?! Leaving aside the issue of the many forms in which intelligence manifests itself, even a person of the most modest scientific literacy (such as myself) knows that a scientifically literate person cannot claim Atheism as a matter of scientific fact anymore than any other religion can be embraced on that basis. Citing Science as a justification for Atheism can hardly be thought intelligent. It should be remembered that Science exists as a “handmaiden” of the Christian Western Civilization which created it, and whose sole function is to serve as a fact-finding institution. It was never intended to generate moral or cultural values (perhaps it was intended to be one aid to our civilization in its development of values . . . at most).

it seems important to deflate the myths that prevent them from playing a larger role in our national discourse.

Let’s begin, Mr. Harris, by deflating the myths about Atheists that exist in your own mind.

42 posted on 02/12/2010 12:06:49 PM PST by YHAOS (you betcha!)
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To: SeekAndFind; GodGunsGuts; Ethan Clive Osgoode; wideawake
1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave. Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived. Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness … well … meaningless.

This is dishonest double-talk.

If there is no Ultimate Meaning, there can be no objective "immediate meaning." Unfortunately, most atheists seem to be filled to the nines with an illusory "meaning" that makes them the most militant crusaders in the world, for either Marxism or capitalism (Ayn Rand). A consistent belief that everything that exists is the product of coincidence would not produce this crusading spirit. Rather, they'd wait for all the "problems" they are currently trying to "solve" to be alleviated by another "coincidence."

43 posted on 02/12/2010 12:16:11 PM PST by Zionist Conspirator (Vayo'meru, "Kol 'asher-dibber HaShem na`aseh venishma`!")
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To: Zionist Conspirator
"A consistent belief that everything that exists is the product of coincidence would not produce this crusading spirit. Rather, they'd wait for all the "problems" they are currently trying to "solve" to be alleviated by another "coincidence.""

Very good, my Zionist Friend. ( ^: }

44 posted on 02/12/2010 12:53:17 PM PST by YHAOS (you betcha!)
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To: Zionist Conspirator

How do we construe the term “meaning”? Atheists and sloppy theists love the word because it is so empty of specifics. What they are doing is using an analogy (casting lives as if they were words or symbols) and analogizing poorly.

The word “meaning” indicates “to signify” - that is, to assign a place to a sign, symbol or word in its proper context.

The word “harpadzei” does not signify anything in English. In the context of the English language, it is nonsense.

In the context of the Greek language it occupies the same signification as the phrase “he grasps” does in English.

Something, like a word or a human life or a carburetor, only has “meaning” in a larger context.

Words are uttered by speakers who have the skill to locate them in a linguistic context and thus give them a signification or a “meaning.”

We can figure out what words signify. What do lives signify? What is the context of a human life? Who utters a life the way human beings utter words? Who contextualizes these lives so that they can be assigned a signification? A meaning?

A life assigning itself its own context is as nonsensical as a word assigning itself a signification. A human life only has “meaning” in the context assigned to it by someone who is able to signify something by it. Claiming that lives can have “meaning” outside of the will of the Father who creates them begs the question.


45 posted on 02/12/2010 5:28:52 PM PST by wideawake (Why is it that those who like to be called Constitutionalists know the least about the Constitution?)
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To: SeekAndFind

That probably should have been entitled “Ten Truths—And Ten Assertions—About Atheism”.


46 posted on 02/12/2010 5:36:25 PM PST by RichInOC (No! BAD Rich! (What'd I say?))
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To: SeekAndFind
On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave.

Not my experience. Nor of anyone’s I know. Is this assertion the product of thousands of interviews conducted with religious persons or extensive observations conducted on thousands of religious subjects? Non-Atheistic religious subjects, that is. Or, is it the product of a dialectic attempt to counter an assumption with an opposing assumption? It certainly follows a dialectic fundamental: attack – never defend.

Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious.

Really, Mr. Harris? Are you proposing this characteristic is exclusively Atheistic? We’ve seen many a ruler of an Atheistic regime not extend that preciousness value beyond his own life, just as much as we’ve seen it in other religions. But it’s probably safe to say that many people, of most every persuasion, think life to be precious.

Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived.”

Are you saying “the meaning of life is the living of it”? Here I am, alive . . . so I might as well live until I’m not (alive) any more? Is life really nothing more than a more complicated, advanced model of the flinching reflex? If that’s all there is, then, by all means, let’s keep dancing.

Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so.

Is that your concept of a spiritual life, Mr. Harris? Or your understanding of the concept held by religions other than your own (things will go very much the same as now, only in another, presently hidden, dimension)? A slightly more sophisticated version of the question, “can we have sex in Heaven”?

Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness … well … meaningless.

I tend to find this “fear” a mere invention in the Atheists’ own minds. But that is simply my opinion. I don’t have thousands of interviews or observations to support my assertion as I’m sure you do. Right, Mr. Harris?

The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions.

”No true Scotsman.” I’m surprised, Mr. Harris, that you would fall for this ‘fallacy’ so often used against the defenders of the faiths you, and others of your persuasion, scorn.

Atheism is dogmatic.

It certainly is with respect to its insistence that God does not exist. Science in crisis. There is no difference between the religionists of Atheism and other religionists in their philosophical disputes, save the certitude of science “proving” God does not exist. Yet, in contexts outside the religious controversy, Darwinian Mullahs and other defenders passionately argue that Science concerns itself solely with ‘facts’ and does not indulge in philosophical speculations. Which is it, Mr. Harris? You keep switching in and out like a MIG 15 ducking back and forth over the Yalu to avoid an F86.

No one knows why the universe came into being.

Except that Atheists are certain that it wasn’t a plan of The Creator. The one thing in an uncertain world about which you may be sure.

In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the “beginning” or “creation” of the universe at all . . .

Yeah, the discovery of the background radiation announcing the creation of the universe is incoherent to the point of a twittering babble. The knowledge that Science confirms the first three words of the OT . . . like burning coals on your head, Mr Harris?

Well, I’m off to prepare for an early trip to see my grandson compete in a track & field event on the morrow. Thanks for posting an interesting article, SeekAndFind. Perhaps more later. Perhaps not.

47 posted on 02/12/2010 8:35:41 PM PST by YHAOS (you betcha!)
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To: wideawake

Thank you so much, dear friend! As usual, you put it as no one else could and in a way that shows it to be undeniable!


48 posted on 02/13/2010 5:18:49 PM PST by Zionist Conspirator (Venatatta 'el-ha'aron 'et ha`edut 'asher 'etten 'eleykha.)
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To: SeekAndFind
Although we don’t know precisely how the Earth’s early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance.

Right. It’s simply that, like Topsy, it just growed. But, what does any of this have to do with the alleged discriminatory treatment accorded Atheists by an overwhelming religious electorate? I’ve not heard of an election where an Atheist had as a plank in his campaign platform that everything in the universe arose by a combination of chance and non-random effects. Nor of an opponent claiming his foe should not be elected on account of such a plank. What myth are you exploding here? I must confess to being aware of few elections hinging, in any manner, on the Atheistic beliefs of one or another of the candidates. Perhaps, because of my naïveté, I’m blind to thousands of such political campaigns raging across the nation each silly season. But (quoting Monk), I don’t think so.

Nor have I heard of an avowed Atheist running a political campaign with his Atheistic beliefs serving as the central theme of his campaign. Why, Mr Harris, did you even bother to introduce Science into the topic of the electoral discrimination of Atheists? Because you’re convinced that no Scientist can be anything other than Atheistic, save by a willingness to live with some very large unresolved conflicts? Or, simply because you wished to subtly introduce the suggestion of the superiority of Atheist thinking?

As far as politics is concerned, there have been some local flare-ups respecting Science and education, specifically controversies involving the teaching of evolution, accompanied by the politics that are unavoidable in discussions which include the public financing of education. FR has been witness to the heated arguments that have roiled its forum over this issue. The most salient Atheist argument has been that reality (Science) can not be subject to a vote. This without the least concern that the meaning of that argument is that those who are financing public education are not to be allowed any say in how their money is to be expended. One would think that a significant number of the most brilliant among us, would have come to realize that education can not occur in a vacuum. Consequently, it should be obvious that Congress can not be permitted to make any law respecting the establishment of Education, any more than it can be permitted to make any law establishing Religion, and for the same reason. Yet, to my knowledge, no Atheist has admitted coming to that realization.

Darwin arrived at the phrase “natural selection” by analogy to the “artificial selection” performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases, selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species.

Analogy. Really? I wasn’t aware that Science dealt in analogy. Religion? Sure. Likewise, other systems of Philosophy. Literature too. But, what is analogous in a lab report describing the protocol, practices, results and conclusions of an experiment? Or of any like endeavour in some other scientific discipline? Trained scientific minds would not need the aid of an analogy in comprehending a technical paper, or in reviewing technical data. Oh sure, in attempting to describe a natural phenomena to a scientific illiterate (such as myself), one might have recourse to analogy in attempting to bridge the gap between what the illiterate knows and what he actually needs to know in grasping the significance of what is being related to him. But even that attempt should be approached with caution lest the entirely wrong impression be left on the novice mind.

Introducing the idea of the selective breeding of livestock as an analogy explaining the phenomena of natural selection, immediately leaves the impression that a design guided by intelligence is involved in all natural phenomena. Something, it must be thought, Darwin did not intend. So why, Mr. Harris, did Darwin introduce an analogy undercutting his whole point? Equally, one might ask you, Mr. Harris, why you place so much emphasis on evolution in your discussion of the contest between Theism and Atheism. Is it possible that you believe the details of evolution offers you the best avenue to pursue in demonstrating that life sprang from . . . uhhh, something . . . but definitely not from a Creator. Over the years, this forum has been repeatedly bombarded by vehement protests from dozens of Scientists (or scientist advocates) protesting that Science has nothing to say respecting religion or the existence of a god. Were they all wrong, Mr. Harris? According to you, they must have been.

. . . there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith.

Really, Mr. Harris? But, doesn’t Science perform a fact-finding function in the service of our Civilization? Isn’t it true that values decisions about philosophy and religion are a function well above the paygrade of Science? Indeed, I think such decisions are. Arrogance doesn’t seem to be the province purely of religionists.

One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows.

Claiming to know something as a matter of faith is quite a different matter than claiming knowledge as a matter of fact. And while you admit that there is much about ‘cosmology, chemistry, and biology’ that scientists do not know, according to you these same scientists (including yourself) do not hesitate to declare that God does not exist . . . as a matter of fact. Look to the beam in your own eye, Mr. Harris.

You deny that Atheists are closed to spiritual experience, and cite such examples as love, ecstasy, rapture and awe. Yet, in a different context Scientists deny that these feelings are nothing but physical responses to experiences setting off weak electrical firings in the wiring of the human brain. (Spiritual, adjective - of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things) According to Science, all experience is material. To maintain your stance, Mr. Harris, you will have to alter the meaning of ‘spiritual.’ And, you do . . . regularly . . . as your objectives shift.

You wrap it up, Mr. Harris, by a series of assertions extolling the moral and esthetic virtue of Atheism over religion, ending with the declaration:

. . . every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination.

Really? I guess if you refine down your definition enough that would be true. There’s a great portion of humanity that pays little but lip service to the ideal of civil liberty. Chaos in great parts of the basketcase that is Africa. But, that’s hardly a civilized part of the world (besides the murderous tribal pogroms, may we bring to mind the phenomenon of ‘blood diamonds’ and other tales of horror). Can we say that the Islamic world has let go of its affection for servitude? Some little collection of the smaller nations, perhaps (plus Turkey and Indonesia . . .maybe). How can we be sure . . . given that the Islamic culture holds no scruples in lying to foreign cultures (infidels). And, God knows, Islamics abuse their women without mercy. Asian cultures are notorious for poorer families selling their daughters into servitude, and even the most advanced Asian countries seem to display an amazing tolerance for women held in bondage for the purposes of prostitution. We see the same attitude rampant in Eastern Europe.

It’s problematic how much “civilization” holds slavery an abomination when so many societies around the world routinely indulge in speculations about how much of their members’ energies, wealth, and labor should be harnessed for the benefit of other members of those societies. In our own experience this past year, we have been witness to a government and a bureaucracy engaging in every scheme it can devise to control as much of our lives as they can muster.

But, to the extent ‘Civilization’ really does think slavery an abomination, whence came its inspiration? Was William Wilberforce an Atheist, Mr. Harris? Were Atheists the inspiration for "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..."? Yet, you have the nerve to presume to hint that the credit goes to Atheism.

49 posted on 02/15/2010 9:11:34 PM PST by YHAOS (you betcha!)
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To: MarkBsnr

You’re nicer than I.


50 posted on 02/16/2010 2:58:19 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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