This isn't fundamentally science related, but I respect the individuals here and would like their insights. Feel free to delete this, mods, if you feel it is inappropriate.
I stumbled across this while doing homework. Apparently this Sam Harris fellow was a devout Atheist and came to embrace Buddhist philosophy. This disappointed the author and a discussion insues.
As a semi-Buddhist myself, I've always sort of enjoyed the unspoken luxury of the atheist communities unspoken creed of "All religions are "wrong"...except for Buddhism". If I say I'm religious, I get a rant, if I say I'm Buddhist, I get an uninformed whine at best. This is the first Atheistic thought I've seen (perhaps I'm just sheltered) that seems critical of Buddhism.
There was one recurring theme that sort of threw me off....which was Christianity. It really seemed like the foundation for all of the Raving Atheist's responses and it sort of blew me away how stupid it was. Yes, obviously the promises of grandeur presented by Christianity are founded in vague explanations, shady logic, and relative results, but meditation is fundamentally simple and not really caught up in dogma. Overall, I got the impression that The Raving Atheist's questions, responses, and objections were more rooted in Christian concepts than Buddhist ones and furthermore TRA wasn't really THINKING about what was saying. From my perspective, its blatantly evident to any contemplative individual that Mr. Harris was not reject the scientific, the rational, and the material when he suggested that there are limitations to the scientific method.
What I'm getting at here is.....polarization. I've got the impression that many Atheists are not intellectuals who have substantially contemplated existence and concluded there is no God, but instead are reactionaries. They don't like Christian methodology, religious cosmology, or the idea of anything being fundamentally beyond them. "I hate conservative Christians, so I'm an Atheist" seems to be the name of the game. I find this troubling, for many Atheists tout the qualities of independent thought and open-mindedness (qualities which I feel brought me to Buddhism in the first place) as the highlights of being Atheists, and yet from what I've gathered from this interview, the related comments, and Atheists as a whole, is more of a mob-mentality. Everyone sort of sits around....mocking the people they deem to be their inferiors. When faced with concepts that are different than theirs, they refuse to explore them on the basis that they are vaguely similar to something else they don't like. While this nature itself isn't too troubling (it is all to human) what I do find.....disheartening, is its seemingly robust presence in the Atheist community. Atheism, to me, was a sign of progress; a rejection of Dogmas, close-mindedness, and a celebration of intellectual investigation. Instead I get the sense that it is just....a new kind of faith. Where people tout out studies and concepts, which they fail to understand, on the sole basis that the "scientific majority" proclaims them to be the truth. While I think we can get away with this to some extent, I still feel as though the NATURE on the action is more significant of a problem then anything else. Religion's biggest folly is based in its adherents absolute belief in the righteousness and correctitude (is that even a word) of their belief system. You can believe the world is flat, that the Earth is 4000 years old, and an invisible man is watching you, and still not do significant damage to humanity as a whole.
My reply is below. (Obviously, in a reply like this, I can't possibly say everything there is to say, and I really need to be WORKING now!!!)
I love the way you spell atheist with a capital A. Are you implying something? I think so, and I can't say I appreciate it. Atheism is not a faith, it's not organized, and it's not named after someone, so cut it out.
Secondly, some atheists are just as capable of believing in metaphysics as the next guy, and yes, they, too, are ridiculed by the rationalist members of the atheist 'pseudo-community'. And it's those irrational elements that make people leery of Sam Harris. I think they overreact, and I think Sam Harris needs to talk more about his interest in Buddhism from a mechanist and scientific perspective so as to stop alienating so many other atheists. The raving atheist is having a visceral reaction to what they perceive as pseudo-scientific nonsense... things like the mind is some non-corporeal spirit that acts on matter but is separate from it... how do you go about proving that exactly? How is that any different from belief in heaven or god or anything else for which there is no evidence? How exactly does a true Buddhist believer separate meditation from this belief? Sam Harris would like to do it, but that's not to say that what he's trying to do is easy. I think the raving atheist overreacts because I've studied some neuroscience and I've listened to what Sam says... he doesn't talk about Buddhism but meditation, but he does so by referring to Buddhist philosophers, and some of them ARE nutty. Sam needs to do a better job of approaching his audience.
Yes, of course, many atheists in America and in Europe are reacting to Christianity... that is the religion that is stuffed in their face everyday from birth until death. And their reactions are likely to be coloured by the thinking necessary to escape from it. But just because you left Christianity for something else, doesn't mean that leaving it for nothing makes them something other than independent thinkers... it certainly doesn't make you one for being more of a joiner. This is not a criticism of your choice (I personally don't care), but the complaint sounds a bit disingenuous.
Making generalizations about groups of people because of one example of them is a mistake any scientist should know better than to make. You've missed the point entirely of the concerns of this particular atheist and dismissed them without really listening to them, because they offend you. Even if you've been able to reconcile the nonsense part of Buddhism with the useful bits, not everyone can or wants to.
And seriously, if you want a good critical rant about the evils of Buddhism, just take any part of the world or history where they are/were in power and ran their own armies. The spread of Buddhism in Japan for instance, was at the expense of the native Shinto religion, and it wasn't exactly, how shall we say, merely on the basis of gentle persuasion. There are Buddhist armies fighting today in SE Asia and they don't look a lot like the meek and mild Dalai Lama. Being on the run from people trying to kill you has a tendency to make people appear a little less threatening.
I'd love to pick the original post apart word by word. I mean seriously. What does it mean to be a 'devout atheist'? But I don't have the time. I'd be writing all afternoon, so this will have to do. Poor little Buddhist had his feelings hurt! Aw!