Of course I would insist that any course on world religion or religion in general have a section on atheists. It is clear that the atheist community has something to say about a great many number of subjects. Everything from climate change to fair housing, political corruption, good business policies, how the wars are being conducted, public funding of religious based organizations, equal rights for all Americans and so forth.
Keep in mind that while many atheists may actually take interest and have views on these and a great many more subjects the views held can be quite diverse. In Sam Harris' book The End of Faith, he makes great points about good reasons to minimize the influence of religion and why it should be minimized as much as possible. He spends a great deal of time dealing directly with Christianity, Islam and touching on Judaism and other faiths. But near the end of the book where he is trying to make his case for ending faith he slips out of the garden and begins trying really hard to justify a form of mysticism that separates the Conscience and objective awareness and the duality nature of our conscience existence.
I feel that Harris is either trying to hard to tie in a eastern philosophical view or exert his belief in some sort of a mystic world. While Harris went to some great lengths to try to make the connection to human happiness at the end of the book but he fails to make the step by step link cited in his book that, “spiritual experience, ethical behavior and strong communities are essential for human happiness.”
I would say that to a degree I found this distressing as he seemed to be endorsing a version of a spiritual nature possibility a forum of Buddhism. This however seemed to be the point of his book since he ends the main section of the book with his title. I would have to conclude that the end of faith would lead to a spiritual nature.
This is an example for me that atheists can agree with one another most of the time but have serious disagreements about other subjects. I thank Harris greatly for his book as it has done much for promoting a positive and a more concise view to the general public of what many atheist see as what is wrong with religion and why religious adherents can be use to hid more radical beliefs within the same general belief system. While the typical Methodist may disagree with abortion, it was that religious protection afford to the more radical Christian groups such and Operation Rescue and others that led a person like Scott Roeder to shoot and kill Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas while Tiller served as an usher at his Lutheran church. Roeder's radical views found a home in the radicalism of such organizations though I understand that he was almost universally condemned by even the abortion opponents. At least at the time. If some fellow Christian was to come against the views of Roeder, Roeder's defense could be something as simple as, “You don't understand what god wants to happen to Tiller.”
Statements like this in a religious context cannot be disputed. Yet I continue to be amazed by the religious adherents who will over and over again say that “they” are the only ones that has the “truth.” I would not expect to hear this if I was to speak about my objections to Harris' conclusion as I mentioned earlier. I feel as reasonable people Harris would at least attempt to listen to my reasons for disagreeing with him until he either determined I had no knowledge or comprehension of what he was talking about or he was able to see my perspective or some other alternative. Many believers also feel that if they were to loose their faith that they would have been a fool for all their life in which they based their actions upon their religion. I can see this but it brings to mind a story I heard where a researcher into some concept made a discovery breakthrough and when he did the presentation of the concept one professor that had been looking into an alternative view for several decades stood up in the audience and told him that he was thankful to him for reveling the errors of his ways. Then the professor led the applause for the presenter. I use this example to show that having accurate information is the goal of the rational thinker. While to the adherent, faith is the goal. So to destroy the faith is to destroy their world.
That is one great advantage to being a skeptic vis-a-vis an atheist. Disagreeing with each other and vigorous debate is a keystone of education and knowledge. But the acquisition of new reality based knowledge in religions either causes them to split, have war, or modify into a new belief system to accommodate the new reality. Believers that are convinced by themselves or by others that the actions they take in the name of their religion are right in spite of how they cause harm to their fellow man will stop at nothing to reach their goals. The actions that require one to have faith, rule out reason as faith rules out science. After all, “God” cannot have his followers second guess their actions or purposes with reason, logic, facts and science.
According the the book Atheists, Atheists are much more likely to support causes that have nothing to do with their belief system when it indicates an injustice. An atheist is also a more honest person than a person which holds dogmatic beliefs or are of a right wing mentality. There were other somewhat surprising but somewhat confirming results in the book that show atheists not only to be more honest and more self aware of the state of their behavior and mental state but are also more critical of people that both share and do not share their opinions. I would have to contend that this is in of itself a good definition of being a skeptic. If only the adherents in the religions were able to or encouraged to question those that provide the answers openly instead of having the same dogmatic message yelled into their brains or chanted week after week until they are mind numbed, we might have a much more peaceful and advance planet to live on. To wrap up this section I would like to just add;
GO ATHEISTS! YOU'RE NUMBER 1!
Coming Next Time;
Chapter Nine; FUNDAMENTALISTS, THE BIBLE IS NOT INEERENT part thirty-seven