December 15, 2010

Is God Dead?

…or Are We Looking In The Wrong Place?

Do you believe that spirituality and atheism can co-exist?

Awhile back I went through this phase.

Everyday I would watch Atheists debate believers on Youtube. I wasn’t shopping or curious—I just found it entertaining. Over the course of a few debates, I noticed that I more often than not agreed with the atheist.

This surprised me! I may not have believed in a “created the world in 144 hours” kind of God, but I did fancy myself a religious/spiritual person. Naturally, I began to wonder why I related more with the atheists than the representatives of the religious community.

It didn’t take long to answer that question.

Photo of Dan Dennett by Dan Lurie

The arguments made by the religious people in these debates seldom, if ever, reflected what I thought of when I thought of religion. The religious person and I simply defined religion differently. They seemed to define religion as a system of beliefs, or a collection of tenets that they held to be true. On the other hand, I look at religion as a process of experimentation that leads me to a direct experience of truth. Therefore, the atheist was not, in my mind, arguing against religion; rather they were in opposition to an inherited set of preconceived beliefs or an ideology that was not supported by evidence.

They tend to cite the beliefs of fundamentalist across the board as a way of suggesting that religion is an evil, ignorant, and corrosive thread that humanity could do with out. Of course, I agree that any belief system that forces you to fly a plane into a building, or have 30 underage wives is ridiculous. However, I am a religious person, and am in no danger of participating in either of the before mentioned activities! It is easy to refute religion when you make a straw-man of the subject, but I question whether or not any good can come out of such a shallow and meaningless discussion…

The atheist in these debates included some big names. Many of them had an air of condescension that I did not appreciate. However, there were two that I came to enjoy watching. Both Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris had depth and weight to their arguments, and articulated their position in a respectful manner.

So here is the discussion I would like to have…

Is spirituality a fairy tale, or an expression of the most fundamental truth in your life?

Do you consider yourself a religious or spiritual person? Or would you consider yourself an atheist? Do you find the arguments against religion in these videos even apply to you? Do you find yourself agreeing with many of the points made in the talk below? Do you think that religion has a deeper meaning, which is simply being ignored in these discussions? Or do you believe that religion is merely an outdated way of understanding the world we live in? What place do you think religion has in the 21st century? If any? Do you believe that spirituality and atheism can co-exist? Perhaps compliment each other? Maybe even join forces and address fundamentalism?

Or add anything else you would like to share along these lines…

I have chosen to embed a 10 minute video of Sam Harris providing an argument against religion in general. The video runs out in the middle of his spill, but if you wish to watch the rest I am sure Youtube will make that easy enough. But I think the 10 minute snippet provides ample information for our discussion. I have also provided links to several other videos, including a debate between world renown intellectual Christopher Hitchens and Al Sharpton, that you may find surprising and hilarious! The Dan Dennett link is extremely intelligent.

I look forward to reading your comments below.

Rick Warren at T.E.D. speaking on the Purpose Driven Life

And click here to watch Dan Dennett respond to Rick Warren at T.E.D.

Click here to watch Al Sharpton vs. Christopher Hitchens

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