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: 373

Replies are closed for this discussion.

Replies to This Discussion

This is a problem with language. 

Sam Harris was using metaphors

and I see your point

Buddism is still religion.

" Buddism is still religion."

 

I don't dispute that - that is completely the case. There are some that say it's a philosophy. There are some that say it's a way of life, a practice. I think it's all those things and even though many deny that it's a religion this has only come about because traditionally in the west a religion requires the worship of a deity and Buddhism doesn't do that. There are, however, many that do pray in Buddhism and as far as I'm concerned, those that do have turned it into a religion.

 

And I don't think that Sam Harris was using metaphors when he describes the mind states that can occur in meditation. When you lose a sense of self, the mental construct of a self is completely gone, you actually mentally comprehend that - something that cannot be scientifically proven as yet as our instrumentation is not capable of monitoring the mind to the level of individual thought processes.

That's a good point.

 

 

But it doesn't make it religious.
"The acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural"

That is the worst definition of atheism I have ever heard. Ever.
First of all, atheism is simply set up as the dichotomy of theism with regards to a God; it is not inherently tied to the supernatural at all, and any attempt to do so is just muddling things up beyond their philosophical usefulness.
Second of all, the definition does not say anything about belief. For instance, I know plenty of religious believers who will grant that there is no credible scientific evidence for a God, but they still believe it nonetheless. By the stupid definition above, these people are therefore atheists.
Thirdly, this "acceptance" has nothing to do with atheism. One need not to be educated in science or even rationality to be an atheist; all it signifies is the group of people who do not believe in a God, for whatever reason.
Once they get their definitions straight, maybe I'll bother with their points.

Nevertheless, even by this definition Sam Harris is quite clearly an atheist, since he has never invoked either a God or supernatural intervention when he talks about the brain.

That is the worst definition of atheism I have ever heard. Ever.

 

Words are but the means to meaning. The AFA can use whatever definition of the word atheism they want, however ill defined and impractical it may be. I'll stick with the definitions that are practical and that actually are descriptive of the content. 

 

It seems to me that the AFA wants to capture their personal meaning and/or rationality behind their atheism into the term "atheism" itself. Guess that they should have stayed with the "rationalist" description which seems more fitting of the content to me. 

Of course everyone is free to use whichever words they want to in whatever context they want to by whatever definition.

 

For instance, by my personal set of definitions and personal words, I am currently smurfing on my piggly-wiggly and will be heading to my ranna soon, also amma teemo wappa varanes jqmefijqif.

 

That doesn't make it any less retarded though. You can't expect to be taken seriously if you're going to start using words completely differently from the way they are commonly used; at that point you're actively starting to misinform people.

The only sensible definition for the word atheism is that it is the opposite of the word theim; and thus it necessarily is tied to belief and to a God.

 

You're correct though: what the AFA has tried to do is they have realised that the word atheist does not have much content and isn't much of a goal in and of itself, so they've solved that by merging similar goals (skeptic, naturalist, atheist) into the word atheist. That's not being serious.

Of course everyone is free to use whichever words they want to in whatever context they want to by whatever definition. ...   That doesn't make it any less retarded though

 

Yep. I'll continue to use the words that are properly defined and coherent. I can only see the AFA definition to cause confusion in stead of clarity which is why I will not adopt it.

"at that point you're actively starting to misinform people"

That is exactly how I feel. I believe that the AFA have hijacked the atheist agenda in Australia and have taken it into dangerous territory. I believe that the definition is open to attack by religious groups for the reason that you raised in your second point in your previous post.

I believe that the AFA have hijacked the atheist agenda in Australia

 

I don't know about that, it seems to me that they are trying to change the definition of the the word atheism. Maybe they wanted to include or appeal to certain people that do not feel that the current definition accurately defines their stances and goals. 

 

They could of course change their name, but instead they've chosen to provide a definition that perhaps provide a better explanation towards explaining in and out group differences. I don't know if they would present their definition as a credible alternative for any other uses then this, I don't want to presume too much. 

 

and have taken it into dangerous territory.

 

Well, it is needlessly confusing to me, I would not agree to that definition in personal life and or debate but don't see any dangerous consequences. In the end actions define people and organisations, words can be used and defined in many different ways, however annoying this may be to some. The common definition is broadly accepted, I don't know if AFA is out to change the dictionary definition of atheism though. 

 

I guess one of the problems with herding us atheists is that it is a negative description, in positive descriptions we seem to differ quite a bit. There are atheists that are humanists, agnostics, liberals, conservatives, fascists, libertarians, socialists, communists, anarchists, naturalists, skeptics etc. or any combination there of. 

 

A person believing in "Zoltar, destroyer of worlds" could potentially derail many a meeting of an atheist organisation without necessarily compromising the necessary qualifications to be "atheist". That's why I prefer descriptive, positive terms that describe goals, or ideals for organisations that try to achieve goals. Atheist as a negative description can lead to many a captain aboard a single ship, great for discussion, yet less suitable for accomplishing goals.

Rob van Senten,

Yes, I suppose I should have mentioned this. You are correct, the AFA is not out to change the definition of Atheism at all. And, change it to which one, I might add. As I have explained in my links to the AFA Forums, this is a definition with a purpose. If you like, a working definition that suits our needs.

Atheism has a variety of definition but I wouldn’t personally bother to admonish any of them even though I might be in disagreement with them.

The AFA does not expect others to embrace its definition anymore than embracing some of the definitions in dictionaries that hang heavily on the belief word or its derivatives.

Dictionaries and indeed the culture, from which they originated, have been heavily influenced by the total religiosity of the times.

The fuss over the AFA definition is really nothing but tilting at windmills.

David
"It seems to me that the AFA wants to capture their personal meaning and/or rationality behind their atheism into the term "atheism" itself."

Yes, exactly Rob. I have come to that conclusion also. By combining these two, the definition and the rationalisation for it, they leave themselves open for all sorts of attack.

In the definition of atheism, it is enough to state that there is no god. All other rationalisations can be had in separate debates. I one-line definition is not sufficient for such debates and indeed does atheism a disservice.

RSS

Support Atheist Nexus

Donate Today

Donate

 

Help Nexus When You Buy From Amazon

Amazon

 

© 2014   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service