Mrmph. I can't say that I've fully digested Harris' message, but I find myself having a knee-jerk reaction against it. His chosen metaphor, racism, I think is somewhat problematic. I'm reminded of the fact that atheists in America are probably the most hated minority according to polls. Like Pastor Niemoller's famous aphorism about the silence of German intellectuals in the face of the rise of Nazism, one might make a similar aphorism here, that "First they came for outspoken atheists, and I didn't speak out". I have to wonder what Harris' advice to blacks in the south during the Jim Crow laws would have been -- try not to let them notice that you are black? In the final analysis, Harris' remarks are about how to avoid the effects of religious stereotyping, bigotry and prejudice. I've got a better idea, how about confronting religious stereotyping, bigotry and prejudice? Harris' advice appears to be to screw trying to be treated equitably and fairly if it gets in the way of winning. Well, I'd say that once we do that, we've already lost, and it's only a matter of time before they come around with the gas trucks to collect the rest of us (regardless of what persecuted religious minority we belong to -- Taoist, Jain, Samaritan, whatever). I suppose Harris would also suggest we ignore the problems of religious persecution of other religious minorities if it furthers our agenda.
As to his spin on meditation and mysticism, as a Taoist mystic myself, I found his remarks both uninformed and prejudicially totalizing. In the seventies, many feminists called for ignoring cultural differences in the interest of sisterhood, to the point that some feminists were criticized for clinging to their cultural heritage. I guess in hindsight, the comments on meditation and mysticism do fit together, in that maybe if we can all be "trimmed to fit" whatever mold Harris thinks is most marketable, what we lose in the process is unimportant. Well I for one don't view my Taoism, and any meditational praxis associated with it, as "just a different form" of what the Buddhists are doing (ignoring the vast plurality that is Buddhism for the moment). It's not. And I resent being stripped of my uniqueness -- atheistic or Taoistic -- as a means to an end. I'd have to go back and review his comments to state the former without reservation, as they seemed bizarrely out of place, so I perhaps didn't understand his intent, but as a Taoist of 30 years and an amateur student of religion, I found his comments both simplistic and insulting. I'd like to see him convince any serious student of Christian or Muslim mysticism that these were just "experiments" in naturalistic moral philosophy. (I'm reminded of George Smith's "Atheism: The Case Against God" in which, after some fairly strong arguments, he goes off on a bender about the nature of morality, or what it should be, largely based on objectivist pablum; it had no place there, and it has no place here. I recognize the strong urge to find an answer to the question of "Goodness without God", but I would hope anyone attempting to answer this question would do so in a manner more respective of the facts, instead of trying to force fit some bizarre theory on to the world's religions -- a cookie cutter approach to moral philosophy. Oddly enough, it is likely the type of desperation and fear that the atheist who has stared down the barrel of this theist argument one too many times is possessed by that inspired his rather ill-fitting philosophizing. His rather bizarre tangent seemed, if anything, to be an attempt to say, "I don't like living in my tent -- let's see if I can find room in someone else's tent." He can try all he wants, but he's not going to squeeze all the non-theistic religious into one tent, and they're certainly not going to support his attempt to do so. And what does he say to the theistic mystic? "Abandon your God -- there's happiness for all in meditation!" ?)
I'm on your side, about being outspoken and saying to hell with the consequences, except for actually during work, when it's unprofessional to bring up religion. Your one statement is a little off, though.
I have to wonder what Harris' advice to blacks in the south during the Jim Crow laws would have been -- try not to let them notice that you are black?
Obviously, that's a different situation. You can hide some things and can't hide others. Harris's use of racism as a metaphor works, but it breaks when you stretch it a little too far.
I think comparing us to homosexuals works much better, as a metaphor (never mind the fact that many of us are gay). Dunno why he went with racism.
You're conflating a few things that don't go together, in your rant.
By all means, put a picture of your lover (of whichever sex) on your desktop. Totally work appropriate. If your lover, of whichever sex, happens to drop by work, don't make out with him/her. That's not work appropriate.
Same thing with religion. If someone asks me what religion I am, I'll tell them I'm an atheist. Hell, over half of my I.T. department is atheistic. But if people start preaching or endlessly bashing religion, it's not cool in the workplace. I'll ask them to stop and will report them if they don't.
To use my department as an example, we discuss religion and politics all the time, because we're a bunch of easy-going, reasonable people, even the theists ... except for one guy. He's a Fox-News-watching-fundamentalist-Christian-Obama's-a-Communist-and-the-country-is-fucked-if-he's-reelected nutjob.
The moment he comes in the room, everyone stops talking about politics and religion, because he's not rational enough to have a work-appropriate discussion on either subject. Once I first heard him say that Obama's a Communist and a Socialist, and there's no difference between the two ... okay, yeah dude, you're too ignorant to have a discussion with. Discussion over.
Making out with someone and having a picture of the person on your desktop. You spoke of both activities as if they were equal, in terms of workplace appropriateness.
Also, random addition: when you start throwing out words like 'breeder' it makes me immediately want to ignore you. Using slurs for others who aren't like you makes you no better than the homophobes. It demonstrates a childish, playground sort of mentality.
I've been an atheist for 40 years, but only recently adopted the term to describe myself. I am making up for lost time by wearing T-shirts like these:
(with back: http://ncse.com/index.php?q=img_assist/popup/5086 )
They start up conversations that allow me to say something like "I'm an atheist, which, to me, simply means that I think that when we die, we die ... just like all other living things on the planet."