Here’s a video of Sam Harris that I love. If a deity exists it surely is him.
I’m still not convinced. He seems like a nice fellow though.
You’ve spent more time than I have with the new Atheist philosophers.
Is it correct that, today, the three most important are:
– Hitchens and
Is it possible to describe very, very briefly the differences in their line of attack?
We can quibble over what constitutes importance but those 3 are certainly the names most associated with the movement (if one were to call it that). It doesn’t seem like they disagree on much (on the topic of religion specifically) other than maybe precise style of approach or specific emphasis. But ok, off the top of my head:
Harris started everything with his book, “The End of Faith.” Interestingly, he never even uses the term atheist in the book. He was attacking the whole concept of faith – motivated by the danger and harm he saw it inflicting on civilization. Religion is just a particularly large and sheltered source of faith-based beliefs. His newest book, “The Moral Landscape,” tries to show that morality can be determined purely by objective rational inquiry. It’s basically consequentialism without a lot of the philosophical baggage.
Hitchens basically views the argument over God as grand rhetorical battle over totalitarianism. It’s a very Leftist critique of authority in nature. The “Parties of God” as he calls them worship an unelected dictator that prevents true human solidarity. You watch enough of him and you get a sense that deep down he despises the idea that there is something/someone out there that shouldn’t be subject to criticism.
Dawkins as a scientist is concerned chiefly with truth about how the world is. Religion pretends to know things about the universe that it couldn’t possibly know – that bothers him. It directly conflicts with the scientific project.
All three overlap a lot as well. You frequently hear about how they take the fundamentalist version and use that to attack all of religion. I think that’s unfair for a number of reasons, but it also ignores their specific attacks on “moderates.” As Harris writes (might not be exact), moderates “betray faith and reason equally.” Moderates provide cover for the fundamentalists – if you don’t attack all faith, on what basis do you attack fundamentalist types? Clinging to religion arrests any possibly universal conversation about ethics, truth, happiness, and the good life. Harris also stands out by stressing the importance of “spirituality” for the human condition. He thinks religion stands in the way of humans truly (rationally) exploring the full range of conscious experience.
Very helpful. And impressive. You have really engaged with the subject.
Dan has a pretty good handle on the subject.
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