Sam Harris interviews Dan Harris, a journalist who is into meditation. Well, it’s not so much of an interview as it is a chance for Harris to preach about his meditation. The blog entry clearly shows this is Harris’s true passion in life. It’s also quite the little gold mine, so I will be extracting some nuggets from this one.
Let’s begin with this interesting quote from Harris:
It’s interesting that you mention Tolle, because when someone asks me for the two-second summary of my new book, I’m often tempted to say, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people”
Since I am not into the guru/New Age scene, I had to google Eckhart Tolle. Here is his home page:
“The realm of consciousness is much vaster than thought can grasp. When you no longer believe everything you think, you step out of thought and see clearly that the thinker is not who you are.”
Isn’t this a “deepity?” (as the New Atheists call it)
And here is a YouTube of Eckhart Tolle. As you are watching, remember the Harris quote – when someone asks me for the two-second summary of my new book, I’m often tempted to say, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people”
Are you an atheist who feels stressed, anxious, or even depressed by your insignificance in the godless universe? Does reading Peter Boghossian’s manual for creating atheists make you feel as if you need to improve your cognitive function? Are you having a hard time remembering who you are supposed to hate more – Christians or Muslims? Are you uncomfortable with all the fits of red-faced rage you experience when you think of religion?
If you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you are in luck. Sam Harris, the Master of Meditation, will guide you to mindfulness. As Harris himself says:
Mindfulness is simply a state of clear, nonjudgmental, and nondiscursive attention to the contents of consciousness, whether pleasant or unpleasant. Developing this quality of mind has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression; improve cognitive function; and even produce changes in gray matter density in regions of the brain related to learning and memory, emotional regulation, and self-awareness.
If you click on that link, Harris will guide you through two forms of meditation. I kid you not.
As for me, I’d like to know when Dawkins, Coyne, and Myers are going to start meditating.
Jerry Coyne was recently bragging:
Exhibit 1 is what used to be called Dawkins’s “Converts Corner,” now called simply “Letters, Converts“. There are 120 pages of these, each page containing 12 letters. If you do the math, that’s 1440 people who wrote in, most testifying that Richard’s writings, especially The God Delusion, helped wean them from their childish superstitions.
Let’s do the math. I went to the Dawkin’s Promotion site and read the first 12 letters on the front page. I’ll assume that’s a fairly representative sample, which is probably a safe assumption. I’ll also assume that all letters are legitimate and not atheist trolls acting like they have been converted (this is NOT as safe assumption).
When I read the 12 letters on the front page, I found only 2 clear examples of conversion-because-of-Dawkins: a 13 year old who switched to atheism after reading ‘The Magic of Reality’ and someone, with previous issues with his religion, who switched after reading ‘The Blind Watchmaker.’ There were a few that were so poorly worded and ambiguous that you can’t tell when/how the conversion happened. There were a couple of agnostic-to-atheist conversions and finally, almost half had no conversion story to tell- they were just praise for Dawkins.
So, about 17% (2/12) were conversions from religious to atheist and another 17% were conversions from agnosticism to atheism. 0% mentioned The God Delusion as a book that helped wean them from their childish superstitions. There was one person who treats The God Delusion as if it was a Holy Book. Another person treated The God Delusion as if it was a devotional, clinging to it while others around her were criticizing her.
Anyway, it’s clear to me that even by unjustifiably assuming no atheist trolls at work, there simply are not 1440 letters from people claiming The God Delusion led them out of religion and into atheism. That’s just an over-inflated claim that is part of a sales pitch.
Of course, I could be wrong. I skimmed the letters and am writing this early in the morn. So feel free to check out those letters for yourself and tell us what you think of them.
April 13th was the birthday of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She was probably the first true, New Atheist and paved the way for people like Sam Harris, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. In fact, the only truly sigificant difference between O’Hair and Harris/Myers/Dawkins/Coyne is that O’Hair didn’t have the internet. So she had to resort to writing books, making TV and radio appearances, and setting up American Atheists (with all its publications). Other than that, the arguments, the hateful attitude, the goals, were pretty much the same. In many ways, Dawkins et al. really are Madalyn Murray O’Hair in a cheap tuxedo.
Which raises an interesting question. Why do the modern day atheist leaders ignore their founder? On April 13, did Jerry Coyne blog about her? Nope. He was posting about squirrels. Did Sam Harris tweet about her? Nope. He was tweeting about meditation. Did Richard Dawkins tweet about her? Nope. He was tweeting about Mein Kampf. Surely PZ Myers wrote about her? Nope. He was blogging that most Men’s Rights Advocates are atheists.
Squirrels, meditation, whether one should read Mein Kampf, and MRAs, all deemed more important than paying respect to the first New Atheist. How symbolic.
But you know, the atheist movement does have a serious woman problem. Not only are its leaders all rich, white men, but many female atheists have complained vigorously of sexual harassment in the atheist community. So you would think, for PR purposes alone, the Gnu leaders would at least pay lip service to the pioneering O’Hair. In fact, one has to wonder if O’Hair would still have been so thoroughly ignored if she…..had been a man.
Jerry Coyne is upset again:
This is reprehensible, unconscionable, and ridiculous. Yesterday’s New York Times reports that Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, which was planning to award an honorary degree to author and anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali—one of the bravest women on the planet—has cancelled those plans.
The best part is when he concludes, “I am ashamed that my fellow liberals, who prize freedom of speech and the right to dissent, nevertheless suppress that freedom by bowing to Muslim pressure.”
For now, let’s ignore how Coyne is treating his “fellow liberals” is if they have free will and whether something called “free speech” can exist among entities with no free will. Instead, notice how Coyne abandons scientific thinking. He has a belief – “my fellow liberals prize freedom of speech.” They do? Seriously? If they do, how does Coyne explain his “fellow liberals” cancelling those plans? People who truly do PRIZE freedom of speech don’t behave that way.
Adam Weinstein wrote a post entitled, “Arrest Climate-Change Deniers.” He asserts:
Man-made climate change happens. Man-made climate change kills a lot of people. It’s going to kill a lot more. We have laws on the books to punish anyone whose lies contribute to people’s deaths. It’s time to punish the climate-change liars.
Attempts to deceive the public on climate change, and to consequently block any public policy to tackle it, contribute to roughly 150,000 deaths a year already…..Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics.
Given his fascist-like desire to put people in jail for holding a contrary viewpoint, I came up with a hypothesis – I’ll bet this guy is an atheist. The rationale behind the hypothesis came from a growing awareness that modern atheism seems to be blending with authoritarianism, given the rhetoric of many leaders in the New Atheist movement. So I tested my hypothesis with google (which means, according to people like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, I’m doing science here).
New Atheist AC Grayling doesn’t have much tolerance:
“On my travels around the states last year I visited the Creation Museum in Oklahoma,” Professor A.C. Grayling, the master of the New College of Humanities, said last month at a humanist convention. “I kid you not. My gast was flabbered the minute I set my foot across the threshold of that place. They have these sort of electronic vegetarian Tyrannosaurus rex playing with the children of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.”
“The really dismaying thing about it was the troops and troops and troops of small schoolchildren being taken through and presented with all this as fact. That seems to me to be a human rights crime,” he added.
My oh my. A human rights crime? Why is it that these New Atheists leaders always seem to tap into some incredibly extreme rhetoric? So tell us, Proferssor Grayling, just what is society supposed to do about this human rights crime?
And why stop there? Does the Professor also think that teaching children God-guided evolution instead of creationism is a “human rights crime?” In fact, what about simply teaching children God exists? Is that a “human rights crime?” I think Grayling would stutter and stammer if he tried to answer such questions.
According to these New Atheist leaders, religious parents are infected with a dangerous brain virus and are guilty of child abuse and human rights crimes. So what do you think these militant atheist leaders would do if they had one thing – power?
Hemant Mehta, the Gnu Atheist activist who misleading sells himself as the “Friendly Atheist,” recently posted a blog entry entitled, Another Dramatization of a Message Written on a Christian Forum. He writes:
Brilliant: An actor dramatically reads a comment from a Christian forum:
Here is what he posted.
Oh, my. Since Gnu atheists suck at critical thinking, this is going to be too easy.
Two simple questions for Hemant:
1. Is there any evidence that the person who wrote that is a Christian?
2. What Christian forum was this comment originally posted on?
Hemant, the man who claims to be guided by reason and evidence, never pauses for the briefest of moments to consider those two basic questions. Yet anyone who values critical thinking would have immediately asked them. Add it up, people.
Since I value critical thinking, I will try to answer them. I’ll start with #2.
After writing about Sam Harris’s blog entry where he promotes himself and his new book, I decided to check out Amazon to see if it was selling. It turns out the book does not come out until September, but I did find the book description to be very interesting.
First, it looks like I was spot on when I noted, “Harris is trying to set himself as the First Man in History who can bridge the gap between science and woo. “ Here is how his book is described on Amazon:
Waking Up is part seeker’s memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris—a scientist, philosopher, and famous skeptic—could write it.
But then the really interesting part preceded this:
From multiple New York Times bestselling author, neuroscientist, and “new atheist” Sam Harris, Waking Up is for the 30 percent of Americans who follow no religion, but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history could not have all been epileptics, schizophrenics, or frauds. Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives—and, therefore, that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow.
Sam Harris has begun to peddle his new book on atheist spirituality. He begins by complaining that scientists and “New Age thinkers” don’t get it right:
Scientists generally start with an impoverished view of spiritual experience, assuming that it must be a grandiose way of describing ordinary states of mind
New Age thinkers usually enter the ditch on the other side of the road: They idealize altered states of consciousness and draw specious connections between subjective experience and the spookier theories at the frontiers of physics.
Now I am not sure why New Age thinkers can’t be called Iron Age thinkers, but I suppose it has something to do with Harris’s fondness for gurus and other forms of woo.
Few scientists and philosophers have developed strong skills of introspection—in fact, many doubt that such abilities even exist. Conversely, many of the greatest contemplatives know nothing about science.
Harris is trying to set himself as the First Man in History who can bridge the gap between science and woo. On one hand, he has been meditating and experimenting with alternative states of consciousness for decades. On the other hand, he got a PhD in neuroscience. So Harris begins to promote just how special and unique he is:
I know brilliant scientists and philosophers who seem unable to make the most basic discriminations about their own moment to moment experience; and I have known contemplatives who spent decades meditating in silence who probably thought the earth was flat. And yet there is a connection between scientific fact and spiritual wisdom, and it is more direct than most people suppose.
And then we get to the really interesting part: