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

Views: 358

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Replies to This Discussion

I do not consider meditation to be woowoo simply because there are a lot of studies that show how beneficial it is to people. That's why people feel better after prayer, it's a mini-meditation. >.X Now, if he was using meditation to become one with spirits or something, it would be.
Yes, but the "spiritual" experiences he has such as the disappearance of a self cannot be verified by scientific instrumentation. That is why they fall into the category of woowoo as there can never be "credible scientific or factually reliable evidence" for such experiences. Would you agree?
There is not credible or reliable evidence for the experiences of most mental processes, yet unless you are a strict behaviorist, you assume that they occur. For example, what would a purely objective measure of excited anticipation look like? We have evidence from fMRI scans that meditation changes the brain's activity. We also have many self-reports of those reporting this "one with the world" feeling. What else should there be?

The difference here is that Harris is not claiming the experiences he has when meditating are anything but natural processes. These emotions are not given to him by a higher being, nor is he communing with spirits.

True but Sam Harris claims the effects of meditation on the mind are not scientifically verifiable. Since there is no "credible scientific evidence" that means the AFA's definition of atheism is not satisfied and Sam Harris is not an atheist.

 

Clearly this definition is flawed. Atheism is the denial of god(s) and that's it - there is no need to include anything else.

Sam Harris really says that? I guess I'll have to ask him what he would consider scientific evidence on the subject. (FWIW, I'm not doubting you, I am unfamiliar with Harris's work. I have only read Dawkins and Hitchins.)

Ah sorry, I think there are some missing words in my sentence that have altered the meaning. So let me clarify.

 

Sam Harris makes some statements about meditation such as when he talks about the self vanishing which science can't verify. This is the problem with verifying the meditative experiences, science doesn't have instrumentation capable of measuring the mind's specific thoughts and/or perceptions.

We all use fantasy, whether in romance, therapy, hope, et al. We can suspend belief or actually have faith in the fantasy but the results are often the same. We can have joyful experiences while keeping the biological realities in the back of our minds. Some folks can't, of course, and they embrace the supernatural as reality. I may feel like she's the most beautiful woman in the world but, at another level, I know it's a dream of sorts. 
Nor do I. When you meditate you are producing more alpha waves in your brain,which leads to a relaxing calm.
I agree, that's why I always enclose that word in talk marks. As far as I'm concerned, it's meaningless.
Perhaps Atheist Nexus should examine the AFA definition of atheism.  If it keeps you and your anecdote based naturopathic meditation diatribes off the AFA forum, it could do the same thing here.

I'm going to do my clairvoyance thing now... wait for it... wait for it...

 

I sense a great deal of anger in you... possibly some meditation is in order? :D

Seems your clairvoyance is bunk too.  I am not angrier than the next atheist.  I do find you annoying, but that's a long way from being angry.  The anger ploy is a common thread in my dealings with theists, though. "Why are you so angry at God?" they bleat, as though I was the one with a problem (the conversation often implies that it is a mental one) and that I have to justify myself.  Is this a similar attempt to divert attention from the worth of your own claims?

Is that a smiley at the end of your message?  If you want to be funny, try doing so without relying on ineffectual visual aids.  Smilies are about as sincere as writing "With all due respect..." before writing something disrespectful.

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

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