Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Problem With Atheism

Sam has edited and published his speech from the AAI convention. This, I believe is one of Harris' most profound pieces of writing (speaking) to date. I agree with him wholeheartedly, that using the term "atheist" sets us up for endless insurmountable straw man arguments, and is a trap we are falling right into.
Though I don't think people will stop using the term, I hope they choose to use it sparingly and focus more on the argument at hand. One of the great strategems of religious people in these debates is to avoid the meat of the discussion by picking on the connotations of the word "atheism" and not addressing the actual criticisms of their beliefs.

It's much like talk radio where the host can choose to side-track a meaningful confrontation of his baseless argument from emotion by resulting to name calling or some form of spurious and weasely rope-a-dope technique that has nothing to do with the point. He comes out the winner at the end not because he refuted the challenge, but because he defamed the opponent or undercut their credibility with some false association with Mr. Straw man. Example: "But Stalin, Hitler, and Mao were atheists". To many people this is just the be all and end all of the argument. They can stop right there and wallow in their victory over the "atheist". Nevermind the rest of the discussion. Case closed. They never allow themselves to admit that these people were not rationalists by any means under the sun, had no interest at all in open debate, and carried their regimes out as if they themselves were THE LORD just like in a religion.

North Korea's system is not a religion for instance, but in every noticeable way but a God, it is JUST like one, centered around a leadership figure. In fact, the leadership figure is Kim's dead father, if that's not spooky enough. Where is the infallible leadership figure of atheism who singlehandedly calls all the shots? But this point takes more than 3 seconds to explain, therefore it is immediately cut off on talk radio.

It would not hurt to point out that Einstein and Bill Gates are/were also complete atheists. It would really piss Bill Oreilly off to mention that genius Alan Turing- considered by many to be the single most important person involved with defeating the Germans because he was the one who cracked their naval code... was an atheist. He was gay to boot.

Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, did not believe in Christianity. Yet they were key in setting up this nation.

The concensus at the convention was that it is too soon to be throwing out the term "atheist". Of course, Sam is always on the cutting edge and thinking forward.

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