The Atheist Foundation of Australia defines Atheism as:


"the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural"


Sam Harris is known to "experiment" with personal meditation experiences. Here is what wikipedia has to say about Sam Harris and "spirituality":


"Harris wishes to incorporate spirituality in the domain of human reason. He draws inspiration from the practices of Eastern religion, in particular that of meditation, as described principally by Hindu and Buddhist practitioners. By paying close attention to moment-to-moment conscious experience, Harris suggests, it is possible to make our sense of "self" vanish and thereby uncover a new state of personal well-being."


He talks of mind states, of "not-self" and other terms which the AFA call on their forums "woo-woo".


The reason that the AFA would reject Sam Harris as an atheist is the last 3 words in their definition: "or the supernatural". They see atheism as rejecting not only god/gods (theo) but also the "supernatural", thereby turning atheism into atheiwoowoosm! They staunchly defend their definition beyond and rational logic. Only recently I have understood why that term is in there in the first place. The AFA are in fact, not an atheist organisation but a skeptics organisation. From their website:


" The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc began in South Australia in 1970 when the members of the Rationalist Association of SA decided that a name change would proclaim their basic philosophy"


So it appears that all they did was change their name but not their "clothes". This deceptive behaviour has caused some confusion on their forums but they still staunchly maintain their stance.


And the great irony in this whole issue? Sam Harris' books are on their recommended reading list!!!

Tags: atheist, australia, foundation, harris, meditation

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Replies to This Discussion

No more ridiculous than saying Atheists reject only god and not anything else. That would imply that atheists are but godless Christians or godless Jews or godless Muslims. Being an atheist in reality implies much more than simply the rejecting of god. Why even bother having discussions then?

"No more ridiculous than saying Atheists reject only god and not anything else."


Well then I guess you won't  be reading  "The Cambridge Companion to Atheism" in which there are 18 

of the world's leading scholars who don't think it's so ridiculous. I think I'll go with the scholars rather than you. Unless you have a degree in philosophy of course.

Sheer weight of numbers, in matters opinion, means very little (as opposed to in matters of science). So I feel no force compelling me to limit myself to what a couple of scholars think of this. Are people not allowed to have informed opinions that vary from the status quo, especially in non-scientific matters? It is all but opinion. In this case, atheism has been for a long time a derogatory term applied to us by theists. IMO it is high time we took control of the word and gave it some purpose. But I read in your profile that you're a Buddhist-atheist, which makes as little sense to me as a Christian-atheist. But it does fit some people's opinion that Buddhism buddhism is not a religion.

The more I read you, the more I align with the AFA's usage of the term. You know, it kinda reminds me of certain forestry engineers who state: it's not clear-cuts that are bad for forest ecology, it's the roads leading to them. There are concepts that are deeply entwined with each other, and to segregate them in order to save face is not appealing to me in the least. No matter the "Companion"'s opinion, I'd be willing to bet that a majority of atheists are also a-religious and a-spiritual. But that will not fit with the "companion" definition. Well I guess we'll need to be inventing new words if we're not allowed to use atheist to include the other 'a's.

I hold neither of the horsemen as interesting icons of atheism. To me they are all weak atheists, humanists, who question only god, not religion's present day value systems, not in words mind you, but in their practical outlook. They proselytise for the same status quo world, minus god, and then not even with certainty. No matter how many modern-day-Western-Buddhists say they're atheist, Eastern religions are religions, as Easterners themselves portray them, and as their governments portray them.
Don't you hate it when someone says I'm an atheist, but I'm spiritual. They either don't understand the word meaning, are lying to themselves, or are being disingenuous.
yep, to me anyone stating that atheism means nothing more than than strict disbelief in gods but not the consequences of that god is screwing with the original intent of the word; gods are indiscernible from their consequences, they are one and the same. Getting over god is the easy part, getting over god legacies is the harder part.

Meditation and other routes to shifts in consciousness have nothing to do with woo woo. Meditation is simply a skill that can result in physio/emotional states attainable by the human animal. It is a conscious technique for altering perception. Our perceptions are unconsciously altered constantly by changing stimuli in the environment. Meditation is a tool for exercising some control over an undisciplined mind. There is nothing magic or supernatural about it.

Exactly right. We all suspend belief and enjoy fantasies such as irrationally high hopes. Some of us know what we're doing and others confuse it with reality. They can often be identified by the lower case "t" on a chain around the neck.

Just as trial and error led to many plant-derived pharmaceuticals, therapeutic techniques, developed without science, were found - and they work.

I agree with you Edward. However, these mental states are not currently scientifically verifiable so they fall into the "no credible scientific evidence" category and under the AFA's definition, they would be the "beliefs" of a theist, not an atheist.

"no credible scientific evidence"


Sure there is... PET Scans, MRIs, EEGs can categorize mental states for depression, anger, elation and meditative states. An individuals interpretation of the experience is purely subjective, but there are certainly crude measures of brain activity that correlate to specific mental states.

"but there are certainly crude measures"


Yes, there are certainly crude measures, however, they are not sophisticated enough to determine if there are thoughts "arising and passing away in consciousness" or mental states such as "the thinker of these thoughts can disappear".


Current technology can only determine where in the brain activity occurs. It is as you say, crude.

Here's information about The God Spot in the brain.


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