PROMINENT atheist Sam Harris says atheists should not ignore spirituality
In his new book, “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion,” the usually outspoken critic of religion describes how spirituality can be divorced from religion if the human mind is to reach its full potential.
“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn,” he writes in the book, but adds: “There is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”
Harris’ description of his own spiritual experiences achieved through meditation shares common ground with those of religious people. In the most eyebrow-raising scene in the book, he describes standing on the edge of the Sea of Galilee — Jesus’ old stomping grounds — losing his sense of self and finding “a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts.”
Harris writes: “As I stood gazing at the surrounding hills, a feeling of peace came over me..In an instant the sense of being a separate self – an “I” or a “me” – vanished.”
Has Harris found God? No. The prescription, Harris holds, is Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. A Stanford-trained neuroscientist, Harris is a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He said everyone can, through meditation, achieve a “shift in perspective” by moving beyond a sense of self to reach an enlightening sense of connectedness — a spirituality.
“Self-transcendence is the foundation of what I am calling spirituality.”
Harris is not the first atheist to suggest nonbelievers should mine the world’s religious traditions for wisdom or beneficial practices. Philosopher Alain de Botton and humanist Chris Stedman have written books that explore the possibilities, and nonbelievers have been flocking to so-called “atheist churches” such as the Sunday Assembly.