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What Fuels Atheism in America?

My problem with Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris is that they conflate atheism with scientism, which is the view that all of our values can be derived from science. In service of this view, they rely heavily on evolutionary psychology, which I consider a pseudoscience (see In general, they seem to think that science is so far along that we already know essentially everything we need to know about the human condition. My opinion is that we know perhaps 1% of what we would like to know about the human condition. They base their lack of belief on the idea that science has already illuminated all the dark corners of the universe and so there is no place left for a God. I have come to the same conclusion about the existence of God, but for a different reason. My lack of belief in God is based on the fact that I find it more credible that God was made up by human beings than that the stories are true. So my atheism is not predicated on the existence of nearly-complete scientific knowledge. My atheism is rooted in simple skepticism. Therefore, I see no contradiction in believing that the human mind is far more complicated than current theories account for, and indeed it may be beyond human understanding, while also discounting the idea that it must be divinely created.

So, I don't appreciate people like Harris and Dawkins associating atheism with their opinions on ethics or politics. They are really two separate things.

April 13, 2011 at 9:36 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

What Fuels Atheism in America?

I wish I had heard this live and gotten the chance to call in. I am an atheist; raised Roman Catholic.

I want to make clear that atheism has no inherent philosophy or political point of view. Sam Harris and others are promoting the idea that, if your mind is untroubled by religious belief, that naturally leads you to certain foreign policy goals. His opinions on foreign policy are similar to neocons, that the US should actively spread democracy and free markets throughout the world. The fallacy of this argument is the subject of Chris Hedges' book "I Don't Believe in Atheists." Even though Hedges doesn't profess atheism, his thinking on this subject is much more clear-headed than Harris and friends.

Atheism itself is neutral on all questions except the existence of God. Atheism doesn't even have a vested interest in spreading atheism, in contrast to evangelical religions. Furthermore, no one speaks for atheism the way the Pope speaks for Catholics. It should be obvious, but it bears repeating. Knowing that a person is an atheist tells you nothing about his or her opinion on anything, save the existence or non-existence of God.

April 12, 2011 at 3:15 p.m. ( | suggest removal )