Pretty Much Sums It Up

October 3, 2007

Newsweek’s ‘On Faith’ site has up a transcript of a talk given by Sam Harris, author of the book Letter to a Christian Nation. The talk, given at the Atheist Alliance conference last month, touches on some really meaningful things, and covers a lot of ground I agree with. Here’s a cut:

Attaching a label to something carries real liabilities, especially if the thing you are naming isn’t really a thing at all. And atheism, I would argue, is not a thing. It is not a philosophy, just as “non-racism” is not one. Atheism is not a worldview—and yet most people imagine it to be one and attack it as such. We who do not believe in God are collaborating in this misunderstanding by consenting to be named and by even naming ourselves.

Another problem is that in accepting a label, particularly the label of “atheist,” it seems to me that we are consenting to be viewed as a cranky sub-culture. We are consenting to be viewed as a marginal interest group that meets in hotel ballrooms. I’m not saying that meetings like this aren’t important. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was important. But I am saying that as a matter of philosophy we are guilty of confusion, and as a matter of strategy, we have walked into a trap. It is a trap that has been, in many cases, deliberately set for us. And we have jumped into it with both feet.

It’s important to realize as a person, deep in your heart, that your convictions can be worthwhile even if the culture in which you are raised says otherwise. Still something I’m wrestling with.

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