The Atheist Foundation of Australia defines Atheism as:

 

"the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural"

 

Sam Harris is known to "experiment" with personal meditation experiences. Here is what wikipedia has to say about Sam Harris and "spirituality":

 

"Harris wishes to incorporate spirituality in the domain of human reason. He draws inspiration from the practices of Eastern religion, in particular that of meditation, as described principally by Hindu and Buddhist practitioners. By paying close attention to moment-to-moment conscious experience, Harris suggests, it is possible to make our sense of "self" vanish and thereby uncover a new state of personal well-being."

 

He talks of mind states, of "not-self" and other terms which the AFA call on their forums "woo-woo".

 

The reason that the AFA would reject Sam Harris as an atheist is the last 3 words in their definition: "or the supernatural". They see atheism as rejecting not only god/gods (theo) but also the "supernatural", thereby turning atheism into atheiwoowoosm! They staunchly defend their definition beyond and rational logic. Only recently I have understood why that term is in there in the first place. The AFA are in fact, not an atheist organisation but a skeptics organisation. From their website:

 

" The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc began in South Australia in 1970 when the members of the Rationalist Association of SA decided that a name change would proclaim their basic philosophy"

 

So it appears that all they did was change their name but not their "clothes". This deceptive behaviour has caused some confusion on their forums but they still staunchly maintain their stance.

 

And the great irony in this whole issue? Sam Harris' books are on their recommended reading list!!!

Tags: atheist, australia, foundation, harris, meditation

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Replies to This Discussion

" If you want to question my mental state or motives, do so up front and don't play disingenuous games."

 

Yes, let's do that shall we? And when you respond to my OP in a serious and professional manner rather than trying to attack me then I will answer you seriously as I have done with all the other posters in this thread. If you have an inexplicable disliking of me then I suggest you keep that to yourself as this does not constitute a rational argument against my post - it's just wasted energy. And for your information, there is meditation specifically designed to reduce your disliking of people - it's called metta. I strongly suggest you look it up and start meditating.

But if someone is a whining entitlement junkie with the bit between their teeth against an organisation I value, why would meditating to like them more hold any appeal?  My dislike of you is entirely explicable.

Your position on the supernatural excludes you from the AFA forum.  I am happy about that, as any supernatural beliefs blur the line about what can and cannot be accepted as justification for legislation or tax breaks.  If you perceive that happiness as anger, that's your problem and you can meditate to ameliorate it.  Or stop pushing your woo-barrow, thus negating the need to exclude you from the forum and my happiness over your exclusion.  I can guarantee the efficacy of the second option. 

" with the bit between their teeth against an organisation I value"

 

Aha! And now we get to the crux of your anger!

 

" why would meditating to like them more hold any appeal?"

 

Because both anger and dislike don't hurt me. They hurt you. Meditation that you do is not for my benefit, it is for yours. It is to remove the hurt and anger that you feel resulting in a more pleasant, happy existence.

 

" Your position on the supernatural excludes you from the AFA forum."

 

No, because I reject the supernatural, however, that has nothing to do with atheism nor has it anything to do with my being excluded from the AFA forums. I was excluded from them for having the temerity to suggest that mind could exist separately from bodily physiological functions. Keeping in mind that science has yet to be able to define the nature of consciousness, the AFA took a stance against me that was way beyond the current scope of science.

 

As of course it would do with some of Sam Harris' comments. Sam recognises the benefits of meditation and mind training as developed by the Buddha and practiced and taught by Buddhist monks for 2,500 years since. According to the AFA's flawed definition of atheism, Sam would not be allowed into their very exlusionist group.

 

AtheistNexus, however, is far more inclusive. It doesn't seek to redefine commonly accepted English words and is very accommodating of its members. It has a wide range of groups catering for many varied atheist individuals. Some of the different groups that I'm a member of here are: Atheist Buddhists, Atheists with Ink, Godless Gamers, PS3 Atheists and Left Wing Atheists, a great collection of varied groups that I can associate with and enjoy.

 

Vive la difference!

If you keep saying I'm angry when I'm not, I will get angry.  It will be your fault and I'll whine bitterly about you at an online forum.  Oh, the irony.

 

A mind independent of biological processes might as well be labelled a soul.  No evidence of a consciousness surviving the death of its body exists.  Don't play the absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence game.  Absence of evidence isn't evidence of presence and a failure to fully comprehend consciousness doesn't automatically invoke a supernatural explanation.  It's the same false dichotomy the theists play with anything we don't fully understand.  "You can't explain x, therefore God."

I am glad you have found a group with whom you are accepted and feel comfortable.  And yet you still find time and energy to whine about the AFA.  In my time as a member of the AFA forum, theists, racist atheists, homophobic atheists and an atheist hawker of a dangerous herbal remedy have been kicked out for pushing their unsubstantiated claims.  If Sam Harris turned up at the forum making the same superstitious claims as you I'd be quick to nominate him for similar treatment. 

If, as another poster has suggested, you are quote mining Sam Harris' Wikipedia page to push your agenda, he could have reason to be annoyed, perhaps even angry at you, for calling on people like myself to question his credentials and potentially bumping his work down the list of books I intend reading.

 

"If you keep saying I'm angry when I'm not, I will get angry.  It will be your fault and I'll whine bitterly about you at an online forum.  Oh, the irony."

 

Yes, I do see the irony of your blaming me for the anger in your mind! Seriously, this is what meditation is all about, not blaming others but taking responsibility for your own flaws and resolving them.

 

"A mind independent of biological processes might as well be labelled a soul."

 

There is no soul but if you want to believe in one, who am I to stand in your way?

 

"No evidence of a consciousness surviving the death of its body exists.  Don't play the absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence game."

 

No instrumentation exists for measuring individual thoughts. Do thoughts exist? I hope so! Well, are you going to state that thoughts don't exist because scientific instruments can't measure them?

 

Take atheism back 2,000 years. At that time, there was "no credible scientific evidence" for gravity, electromagnetic radiation, DNA, evolution and so many other scientific facts. Now, I want to pick on one of them and propose a hypothetical:

 

The year is 100 BCE. I claim to be an atheist but there is an organisation that calls itself the Atheist Foundation of Athens - the AFA who have decided to change the commonly accepted definition of atheism to "the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural". Now, as and atheist, I also assert that beings evolved via a process of natural selection but I have no evidence for this (and won't be available for another 2,000 odd years). Because of my assertion of evolution, I am excluded from the AFA as there is no "credible scientific evidence" for evolution. Damn! That sucks!

 

Turn the clock forward now to 2011 CE and if I make claims about the mind or Sam Harris makes claims about the mind that can't yet be verified by science, we are excluded from being called atheists according to the AFA! A totally bizarre situation which you would have to agree is not at all similar to stating that I have pink fairies living at the bottom of my garden or that god exists. I am well aware of the arguments that theists use to justify the existence of their mythical beings, however, I think I have shown by my very Jeffrey Roibertsonesque hypothetical that this is not the same argument that theists use.

 

Oh, and just to parry that almost-accusation that I am quote mining, here is the link to an article of his from his own website:  http://www.samharris.org/media/killing-the-buddha.pdf

 

And if you choose to "bump" his work down your list of books that you intend reading, that is your responsibility, not mine. Please take responsibility for your own thought, words and actions rather than blaming them on others. Blaming me or christians or others for your own anger is not going to help you resolve it. Once again, I highly recommend metta meditation for your hatred of me and others and samatha meditation for your anger.

 

And now I have more important things to do... like going to the beach :D <- that's a big smile!!!

I don't accept the argument from ignorance from theists, so why should I make an exception for you?

 

"Seriously, this is what meditation is all about, not blaming others but taking responsibility for your own flaws and resolving them."

 

Could you apply this approach to your disappointment at being excluded from the AFA forum?

" I don't accept the argument from ignorance from theists, so why should I make an exception for you?"

 

It's interesting that your continued ad-hominem attacks do not serve your point well as I'm sure you would agree. I have yet to mention them, but because in this instance you make the attack with no follow-up, I can do nothing more. I have given a very pertinent example that places the current scientific progress in historical perspective but rather than address that you see fit to attack. So be it. That is a reflection on yourself, not me.

 

"Could you apply this approach to your disappointment at being excluded from the AFA forum?"

 

Yes, I meditate every day, both metta and samatha. Metta is particularly beautiful and powerful. I am disappointed that the AFA has chosen an exclusionary path which leaves me outside of being able to discuss atheism with fellow atheists. I am thankful, however, for AtheistNexus for its acceptance of the differences in us atheists.

"Yes, I meditate every day, both metta and samatha. Metta is particularly beautiful and powerful."

 

But both forms are apparently ineffectual with regard to easing your bitterness about your exclusion.

 

"I am disappointed that the AFA has chosen an exclusionary path which leaves me outside of being able to discuss atheism with fellow atheists."

 

I'm not.  I'm glad a clear line has been drawn to exclude those who push unsupported claims and am disappointed that Atheist Nexus fails to address this problem.

 

"I am thankful, however, for AtheistNexus for its acceptance of the differences in us atheists."

 

Hooray, you've found a home.  So why the sustained bitterness at the AFA?  How long ago was it that your eigthfold path mongering self was shown the ornage there?


Some people, when their ideas are questioned, point out that conceptual mavericks such as Galileo were laughed at in their time.  In most cases, though, people being laughed at warrant the laughter.  Ridicule is not always deserved, but it is also not an automatic badge of merit.  I laugh at your sustained bitterness about being excluded from a group you feel entitled to belong to. 

I am very fond of the AFA forum, but if they ever start admitting godless yet karma promoting spiritualists, I will leave in short order. That Atheist Nexus does is one of the reasons I don't show up hereabouts much.  It's nice to have some international contact, but the AFA forum offers me a mainline to local issues and keeps the woo to a minimum.

 

Almost forgot: when someone openly admits to their agenda, writing "Aha!" isn't appropriate.  It's not something you've uncovered through careful detective work or deduced through the application of logic.

Well Matt,

 

I'm very happy for you that you prefer the exclusionist policies at the AFA forums. I prefer a more relaxed online atmosphere and that's why I spend a fair bit of time at AtheistNexus. Despite your protestations that you don't spend time here, I have notice you around quite a bit of late ;).

 

The fact that you laugh at me doesn't bother me because once again, it says more about you than me.

 

I can see that you are very fond of the AFA forums and you defend them with great vigour, almost religiously one could say. But, it is exactly this reason that you come to suffering. The more tightly you hold onto anything, the more suffering you will experience as suffering arises from craving. Oops, is that atheism or Buddhism? Or I could claim that it's Schopenhauer instead. Either way, it's not scientifically provable so you will call me a non-atheist for making the statement, even though neither Sam Harris nor I are theists.

 

And yes, I admit that being an Australian atheist, I would like to discuss issues with Australians in a friendly and open environment. If you know of any such forums do be sure to let me know.

 

With Metta,

 

Vangelis

 

PS Sorry about the Aha! I just had an "aha" moment when I realised why you were so vehemently posting. It was a personal "aha" moment. But being personal, it's not scientifically verifiable so I can't prove that it actually happened. Does that make me a non-atheist again? Oh, well, Sam Harris and I seem to keep putting our feet in it!

"I can see that you are very fond of the AFA forums and you defend them with great vigour, almost religiously one could say."

 

No you could not say.  I have already outlined one set of conditions under which I would leave the AFA in the dust, and there are others - if they start trying to tell me how to live my life, if they start promoting ethical positions I can't get behind etc.  This conditional loyalty is a far cry from faith and I'll thank you to take your comment back.

You, on the other hand, have faith (belief in the absence of evidence or in the face of evidence against) that there is more to our consciousness than chemical interactions within a biological structure and nothing seems to be able to shift you on the matter.  

If your personal experiences led you to that conclusion, fine.  You believe what you like.  If you want to use your personal experience to maintain an argument that you expect other people to accept, it won't wash. 

What do you say to people who knock on your door and tell you to accept their deity?  If it's anything akin to "where's your evidence?" then you'll understand why I find your assertion that consciousness and body are separate so uncompelling.  Where's your evidence?

If you discard the arguments theists put forward for their deities as weak, anecdote based waffle, you'll understand why I'm happy you have been excluded from the AFA forum. 

 

 

I would stand shoulder to shoulder with you in a secular humanist critique of the Catholic Church, I would fight any law that attempted to prevent you from believing what you like, I would be grateful for your support if you turned up at the debate I am organising against a would-be theocrat, but I cannot call you an atheist because you believe in unsupported, unfalsifiable ideas.

What will you tick in the coming census: Buddhist or No Religion?

Keep in mind that if you tick Buddhist, Cardinal Pell and his ilk will seize upon your headcount in the total religious percentage and attempt to represent you as being in opposition to secular agendas.

I'm curious to know your answer, but won't be coming back to find out.  I get enough exposure to your style of thinking on Christian forums and in the Fantasy Island area of the AFA forum. 

" If your personal experiences led you to that conclusion, fine.  You believe what you like.  If you want to use your personal experience to maintain an argument that you expect other people to accept, it won't wash."

 

No, I don't expect anyone to accept what my views on the experience of existence are. I haven't ever told anyone that they should believe any of my views. I don't go knocking on peoples' doors asking them to "believe". I can make a statement of what I believe. People can even laugh at those statements. But as long as those statements aren't that a god exists, I'm still atheist.

 

I'm sure that before 1543, if I had stated that the earth rotates around the sun and not otherwise you and others would have laughed at me. Your laughter doesn't necessarily make you right though. And my belief in a heliocentric system doesn't necessarily make me wrong.

 

Nor would I want to force my beliefs on others. I don't think I have ever done that. I am, however, entitled to express my views.

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