A reader writes:
The readers' responses you posted were extremely interesting in the degree to which they tracked, often nearly verbatim, many of the more "rational", or "intelligent" criticisms of the Big Three "Angry Atheists". You know what I mean - Horgan must not be aware of this or that understanding of this or that doctrine; Horgan obviously doesn't understand what this or that adept was talking about; Horgan ignores the temporal good thoughts/works/results of Buddhism/Buddhists; Horgan (and Florien) are insultingly simplistic, dismissive and glib in the face of a vast and ancient philosophical tradition; Horgan is arrogant and Buddhists are humble; blah blah blah.
There was nothing at all insulting or dismissive in Horgan's six-year-old (!) essay.
Anyone with any exposure to Horgan - from Bloggingheads, let's say - would have to agree that he seems to be a perfectly nice, professorial guy. He didn't say that belief in Buddhism was evil, or that Buddhists were stupid, etc. He didn't even say, really, that Buddhism was wrong - all he said was that it is basically exactly like any other religion: it is supernatural, it posits human existence (or "consciousness" rather than "existence", if you prefer - and what consciousness could we possibly be talking about here other than humans'?) as the purpose of the Universe, it is pre-modern, and, thus and finally, it is irreconcilable with a scientific, modern understanding of things. This is not a very controversial thing to say, but just in your own small corner of the Internet it provokes a blizzard of denunciations against Horgan and defenses against accusations he didn't make (another interesting thing was how each of your respondents managed to get a dig or two in against your own preferred religion as well).
I don't recall a whole lot of pushback from the Eastern belief-o-sphere against Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris' attacks on the Abrahamic religions (note to pedants: I'm sure there was some here and there). It's only now that they perceive (again, in an article from six years ago that you linked) their own ox to be getting gored that they are stirred to respond. When you strip away the "insulting" tone, the sect-specific fisking, and the critiques of religious institutions and their actions of The God Delusion et. al., there is really only one basic argument being made, and it's the same as Horgan's with respect to Buddhism - that all these ways of believing, formulated before we knew anything at all about anything really, and being grounded in supernaturalism, are simply not sufficient or necessary anymore. But I'll bet your respondents didn't quite see it that way until you pointed them to Horgan.
I'm tempted to think that these strenuously- and minutely-argued responses are the product of an understandable, if unfortunate, insecurity about the truth or worth of the foundations of the beliefs people choose to build their lives around, but in the end that's not really for me to say. I just don't see why the whole lot of you can't just say "So what? It works for me" when things like this come up.