The Raving Theist

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Voodoo Anti-Atheism

May 19, 2006 | 8 Comments

Sam Harris practices an irrational form of “voodoo atheism,” says Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online. The basis for this assessment? The intro to an interview with Harris reveals that the End of Faith author engages in Zen meditation and values mystical experiences. “This alone is pretty much all I need to read to not care about what this guy has to say,” Goldberg concludes. Goldberg then condemns those who purport to use reason to dismiss traditional religions, while simultaneously claiming that “other, often more bizarre, supernatural theories are plainly true.” In particular, he notes that “[a] great many feminist theorists endorse a hodge-podge of faiths from Wicca to Gaia theory and that “[m]ake-believe Buddhists and Kabbalists snort and guffaw at traditional religion while at the same time they worship crystal rocks and blather on about how they were a scullery maid in the 14th century.” Driving home the point, Goldberg asks, “[o]n what grounds do they claim that, say, the story of Jesus’ Resurrection is an obviously absurd fairy tale, but the mystical healing power of crystals or the ‘obviousness’ of reincarnation are plain for all to see?” He ends by cautioning that “[i]f you’re going to be an atheist when it comes to traditional religion, fine . . . [b]ut don’tlet me catch you playing with voodoo on the side if you want to be taken seriously.”

Words from such a seemingly hardcore, uncompromising atheist haven’t graced NRO since Ben Domenech plagiarized the work of the godless Maryann Johanson its webpages. It’s encouraging to see someone at the publication founded by devout Catholic William F. Buckley, Jr. finally concede that Jesus and witches and Gaia and crystals belong on the exact same intellectual shelf. Someone who understands why the joke about rejecting Santa on the Easter Bunny’s advice is funny. But Goldberg’s actual intention, it appears, is to defend traditional, conservative faiths from “left-wing anti-religious bias” by demonstrating hypocrisy. He hammers home his points well — so well, though, that he smashes the thumbs of everyone he’s defending and, I suspect, himself.

Let’s consider the implications of what he’s saying. First and foremost, he’s proclaiming that atheism alone is true and rational. It’s completely incompatible with the slightest departure from reason — to the extent that he won’t even read anything written by an atheist whose beliefs are tainted by the slightest form of supernaturalism.

Second, he’s declaring that no religion has the right to criticize any other religion on the ground of rationality. After all, every religion is founded on a mountain of idiocy, not just grain of spirituality. So any religion (right-wing or left-wing) which makes a claim of exclusivity engages in “anti-religious bias” — it’s asserting that the tenets of the rest are false.

Third, he’s suggesting that no one should read anything written by a religious person. If a little bit of spirituality bars Harris from further consideration, we should likewise ignore attempts by people of greater faith to construct arguments based on reason. They can’t possibly demand that we adhere to rules of rational discourse when so much of their worldview is infected by the most outlandish of fairytales.

Ultimately, this all leads to the question of whether we should listen to Mr. Goldberg. He’s either as complete an atheist as I am, or he subscribes to some form of supernaturalism, Harris-like or worse. If it’s the latter, he’s in no position to criticize Harris for his deviation from the truth. If Goldberg believes in Christ or Allah or Vishnu or the Goddess, he’s “playing with voodoo on the side” and isn’t entitled to be taken seriously.

Finally, Goldberg would do well recognize that Harris’ response to criticism of his “rational mysticism” has been to address it head on. Among other things, he volunteered himself for a grilling at this blog on his alleged heresy by two lawyers, a biomedical grad student and a Brian Flemming. But I’ve yet to see demands for debate about the Resurrection at NRO, or about the existence Gaia by left-wing religionists at whatever sites they inhabit.


8 Responses to “Voodoo Anti-Atheism”

  1. Mookie
    May 19th, 2006 @ 7:50 pm

    Don’t be a cynic:

    “After the intervention, the meditators had more electrical activity in the relevant areas of the brain and higher levels of antibodies than the employees who received no meditation training. The increased brain activity was also significantly related to the antibody increase among meditators.”

    Some more info:

    As to Gaia:

    “After much initial criticism, a modified Gaia hypothesis is now considered within ecological science basically consistent with the planet earth being the ultimate object of ecological study. Ecologists generally consider the biosphere as an ecosystem and the Gaia hypothesis, though a simplification of that original proposed, to be consistent with a modern vision of global ecology, relaying the concepts of biosphere and biodiversity. The Gaia hypothesis has been called geophysiology or Earth system science, which takes into account the interactions between biota, the oceans, the geosphere, and the atmosphere.”

    Sometimes these things have seeds of truth in them. Extricating fact/reality from myth isn’t too difficult.

  2. ocmpoma
    May 19th, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

    Ah – a post like from the good ol’ days. Spot-on, RA.

  3. bernarda
    May 20th, 2006 @ 4:46 am

    What astonishes me is to see the name Jonah Goldberg here. Who pays any attention to him? He is undoubtedly the dumbest , the most ignorant, the most uneducated, and most idiotic commentator on the right–and that is saying something.

    Who cares what dribble comes from his ass?

    The National Review is indigestible and only worth glancing at to keep up with what the religious fascist enemy is doing.

  4. Jason Malloy
    May 20th, 2006 @ 6:21 am

    Hah, this is hilarious, you should send it to Goldberg, he’d probably respond (poorly) on NRO.

    The truth is that many conservative intellectuals are actually atheist in reality, or something close it, but try to keep it hidden because they believe religion keeps the slack-jawed masses of sheople in line. Ronald Bailey once explained it as the reason conservative elites scandalously support Creationism even though they don’t really buy into it.

    Of course it wasn’t always like that, this is more of a Neocon innovation. As John Derbyshire once pointed out, a number of the original contributors to National Review were actually unreligious or open atheists.

  5. "Q" the Enchanter
    May 20th, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

    “This alone is pretty much all I need to read to not care about what this guy has to say.”

    As the church lady would say, how *convenient*. (Poor reading comprehension: the gift credulity bequeaths to piety.)

  6. "Q" the Enchanter
    May 20th, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

    “This alone is pretty much all I need to read to not care about what this guy has to say.”

    As the church lady would say, how *convenient*. (Poor reading comprehension: the gift credulity bequeaths to piety.)

  7. "Q" the Enchanter
    May 20th, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

    “This alone is pretty much all I need to read to not care about what this guy has to say.”

    As the church lady would say, how *convenient*. (Poor reading comprehension: the gift credulity bequeaths to piety.)

  8. bernarda
    May 20th, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

    The judeo-nazi neo-cons like I. Kristol and E. Abrams were so right about the useless war in Iraq, weren’t they?

    E. Abrams is a convict and one of the republican terrorists who organized death squads in Central America. This guy is a war criminal. He is also a typical chickenhawk. Ask this warmonger what he did during Vietnam.

    I. Kristol is a rightwing nutcase who has an equally neo-con son who is also a chickenhawk, William Kristol. Ask warmonger Bill what he did during Vietnam.

    All three work for Israel. They don’t give a damn about America.

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