The Corner

Voodoo Atheism

So I read the first paragraph of the story linked to below by Pod. It begins:

Sam Harris is not your grandfather’s atheist. The award-winning writer practices Zen meditation and believes in the value of mystical experiences.

This alone is pretty much all I need to read to not care about what this guy has to say. Let me explain. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on the subject of leftwing anti-religious bias. There are many, many different kinds of such bias and I don’t want to address them all here. But one of them is the sort neatly encapsulated in this Sam Harris guy’s belief in “the value of mystical experiences.”

There are vast numbers of people on the left who hold two positions simultaneously: 1) that organized religion is a sham and a source of evil in the universe and 2) that there are rich mystical, spiritual and supernatural forces at work in the universe working apart from traditional religions. A great many feminist theorists endorse a hodge-podge of faiths from Wicca to Gaia theory. Make-believe Budhists and Kabbalists snort and guffaw at traditional religion while at the same time they worship crystal rocks and blather on about how they were a scullery maid in the 14th century.

Now, there is nothing inherently contradictory between belief in some alternative spiritual or supernatural system and radical animosity to traditional religion. But, that’s not the pose so many of these people take. They see nothing wrong with “proving” that God doesn’t exist or with mocking people who believe in the Bible, but they also see nohing wrong with claiming that other, often more bizarre, supernatural theories are plainly true.

In other words, they use the language of reason to belittle and mock traditional religion and morality, but they are not in fact champions of reason themselves. They are moral irrationalists, by their own definitions, who want to replace one moral system with another more to their liking — one which usually champions their pet political and cultural priorities.

Theologically, they are closer to pagans denouncing the “false” God of the Bible than they are principled atheists or secularists. On what grounds do they claim that, say, the story of Jesus’ Resurrection is an obviously absurd fairy tale, but the mystical healing power of crystals or the “obviousness” of reincarnation are plain for all to see? I am not saying that people who offer the cliché “I don’t believe in religion, I believe in spirituality” are necessarily hypocrites. But I am saying that quite a few of them are. If you’re going to be an atheist when it comes to traditional religion, fine. But don’t let me catch you playing with voodoo on the side if you want to be taken seriously.

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