Spiritual Atheists

I feel a bit silly now. I didn’t realize that Chris Hedges’s argument (that I just posted about) ran to three pages. I only read the first page.

Now I realize that Chris Hedges is really me. I must have gone to that debate and said all those things under my Chris Hedges pseudonym and had forgotten all about it until now.

The only difference between me and Chris, as far as I can tell from his opening argument in his debate against Sam Harris is the word we use to label our sense of wonder at the universe, our obligation to make our world a better place and our love and respect for our neighbours. He calls that God.

One minor quibble…

Sam’s argument that atheists have a higher moral code is as specious as his attacks on Islam. Does he forget Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot? These three alone filled the earth with more corpses in the last century than all of the world’s clerics combined.

I haven’t read Harris’s bit yet (since it is not online yet) but if he really claimed that atheists have a higher moral code then shame on him. There is no atheist moral code. Moral codes are formed by people regardless of a belief (or absence of a belief in God) . And shame on Hedges. Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot were tribalists far more than they where atheists.

And, while I thought his case for the monotheistic religions being the driving force behind individualism was a bit stretched, I liked this bit.

The danger is not Islam or Christianity or any other religion. It is the human heart—the capacity we all have for evil. All human institutions with a lust for power give their utopian visions divine sanction, whether this comes through the worship of God, destiny, historical inevitability, the master race, a worker’s paradise, fraternite-egalite-liberte or the second coming of Jesus Christ.

There is so much good stuff in his argument though that I read it three times.

The moment the writers of the Gospels set down the words of Jesus they began to kill the message.

You should read it at least once.

Faith does not conflict with scientific truth, unless faith claims to express a scientific truth. Faith can neither be affirmed nor denied by scientific, historical or philosophical truth. Sam confuses the irrational—which he sees as part of faith—with the non-rational. There is a reality that is not a product of rational deduction.

It is an expression of loyalty to a community, to our tribe. Faith is what we do. This is real faith.

Hey – I am a man of faith. Who knew?

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Atheists”

  1. I do not always agree with Harris either, and I do agree that Hedges is closer to an atheist than theist, but I was not as moved by his remarks as you were. I though they were silly. I suspect that Harris will point this out. Why the need to stick the word God into the whole thing? He is not just presenting a nicer form of atheism anyway. He is supporting the major monotheistic faiths, while holding views that are completely counter to their dogmas. Maybe Harris goes too far, but to look at all of the suicide bombings, beheadings, killing of and threats to apostates, that goes on in the middle east and suppose that it is primarily due to economic anger and frustration, is a stretch.

  2. I read the main thrust of his argument to be ‘those bad things that you attribute to religion should more accurately be attributed to tribalism’. The religion angle in the middle east is just a convenient banner under which the tribes can march. Unfortunately, ‘religion’ is a *very* powerful banner.

    I agree with you that there was no need to stick the word ‘God’ in there. His argument holds up very well without it. I thought he was just playing tricks with words – but at least he did it knowingly.

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