Sam Harris on the term “atheism”, and on spirituality and mysticism
via reddit, I find this video of Sam Harris, introduced by Julia Sweeney.
He argues that the term “atheist” is ill advised, and is akin to calling oneself a non-astrologer, or a non-racist. I can see the point, however, the battle on that one seems to have already been fought, and here we find ourselves living with the outcome of that battle. Good luck changing that.
On spirituality, mysticism, and meditation, Sam seems to think there is (or may be) something of value in meditative states brought about by sensory deprivation, at least in terms of understanding the religious mindset, if not more. I don’t know. I look at it a bit like throwing a monkey wrench into the works of a complicated machine. The brain evolved to work in a certain environment, and that environment was not one of sensory deprivation. So, depriving the brain of its inputs is akin to throwing a wrench into the works of a complex machine. Sure, there might be lots of unusual sparks, noises, lights and other things out of the ordinary, and sure, seeing as the machine in question is ones own brain, these unusual experiences may seem profound, life changing, etc. Since, by these methods, you’re deliberately making your brain not work right, shouldn’t we question this not-working-right brain’s conclusion that these experiences actually are profound? Just because they may seem profound doesn’t mean that they are profound. So, I’m unconvinced on that front, and it seems like Sam is giving undue attention to this little backwater of meditation and mysticism. I think he’s overestimated the importance of that stuff. But, that’s just how it seems to me.