The Spiritual Side Of Atheism

By The Daily Dish

Hyacinths

I finally read Hitch's book on God a little while before my breather. I'm relieved to say I liked it much more than I was expecting to. A huge amount of his criticism of organized religion over the centuries is surely valid. I feel no hesitation in agreeing. And for all the amusing contempt Hitch pours on people of faith, there is in the book a truth-seeking gene that all genuinely religious people should welcome. Sam Harris is even more compelling an atheist to me, because of his obvious fascination with meditation, consciousness and truth. I'm not the only one to notice Sam's spiritual side - he is, in fact, one of the more self-evidently spiritual people I've ever met. Here's Stafford Betty in the Jesuit magazine, America:

Harris has kept company with contemplatives, men and women who know how to stop the whir of their own thoughts and tiptoe into an awareness that completely transcends their own puny egos. Paul Tillich called this the ground of being, and contemporary Buddhist writers, with whom Harris is in particular sympathy, use that phrase too. What does this ground of being feel like? Catholic mystics like Father Keating and Bede Griffiths, O.S.B., conceive of it as a joyous, compassionate, loving, powerful, boundless, light-filled reality that can be known intimately in the private sanctuary of their own mind. Leading American Buddhist teachers like Surya Das and Thubten Chodron would not disagree. Would Harris object to such a conception?

Given his openness to the life of the deep mind (shall we call it the spirit?), I do not see why he should. It avoids the following pitfalls. It does not define God in a way that invites logical problems when we try to square God’s existence with evil, and it does not place God on the outskirts of Uranus far removed from the human heart. It does not insist on God’s being a person like us, a kind of overgrown superego, but it does not make God into some sort of impersonal energy either. However one defines God in the last analysis, the God we are looking at grows directly out of deep meditative experience. It reserves the first chair for the experiencer, not the system-builder. Harris, I believe, would approve.

More than he might readily admit.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2008/04/the-spiritual-side-of-atheism/218290/