The Sciences

Atheists Attack Atheist Article

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJan 6, 2011 12:54 PM


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As noted earlier, I've recently done a Playboy article that advances the case for an atheistic, scientific spirituality devoid of supernatural belief but not devoid of feeling. To my surprise, the piece is now being attackedfor being pro-religion. But if you read it, it's clearly about liberating us from religion, and says many of the same things that leading atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris say about non-religious spirituality! On Al Jazeera, you may recall, Dawkins discussed the "frisson in the breast" that he feels when contemplating "the beauty of the universe, the complexity of life, the magnitude of space, the magnitude of geological time." He says this feeling could be called "spirituality"--but "I would be very concerned that it shouldn't be confused with supernaturalism." My article perpetrates no such confusion. It is clear throughout that we're talking about spirituality without religion, e.g., "a growing number of nonreligious researchers," "a prevalence of spirituality detached from traditional religion," "Einstein saw no reason to believe in a personal God or the supernatural," "[Darwin] ultimately concluded he would have to remain an agnostic with respect to God," etc. And most of all, this passage:

Therefore, rather than vanquishing religion, modern science might have helped to unleash the human spirit and free it from traditional religious constraints. The result? At least for some, the need for spiritual fulfillment can now be satisfied outside the context of supernatural creeds. And the sacred, which is the object of the spiritual quest, can now be found in nature and in a search for an understanding of it.

Thankfully there are some atheists who do see what I was saying--and its resonance: See here. Reading my article correctly, Camels with Hammers notes that it "effectively shows that atheistic spirituality and religiosity are possible without any need for the baggage of ungrounded belief." But as one e-correspondent pointed out, the coolest thing of all is...I've apparently gotten some people to read Playboy for the articles!!!

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