Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hillary and Hardball on SNL

Saturday Night Live spoofs Hillary Clinton and Hardball's Chris Matthews. It's a funny and revealing bit since it captures so well the idiosyncracies and personalities of both of them. It's a bit surprising, though, that SNL would poke fun at Hillary, who is something of a liberal icon, but maybe the parody is indicative of the displeasure of the left-wing base with Hillary's persistant refusal to disavow her vote for the Iraq war.

At any rate, be advised that the SNL skit does not elide or ignore Hillary's (alleged) legendary temper or uninhibited use of vulgarity.


Ten Myths About Atheism (Pt. VII)

Sam Harris' seventh of what he considers to be myths about atheism is the belief that:

Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.

Harris explains, sort of, that:

There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don't tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences. There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely - because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences.

There is, in fact, not a Christian on this Earth who can be certain that Jesus even wore a beard, much less that he was born of a virgin or rose from the dead. These are just not the sort of claims that spiritual experience can authenticate.

Of all of Harris' alleged myths this is perhaps the strangest.

First, he apparently confuses emotional experience with spiritual experience. Spiritual experience is based upon an encounter with the transcendent, not upon our biochemistry. Atheists deny any transcendent reality beyond nature and therefore ab defino deny the possibility of spiritual experience.

Second, I don't know anyone who has given the matter any thought who believes that a transformed life proves that Jesus is the "sole savior of humanity." There are many who believe that their experience confirms Jesus' reality and his love for them as individuals. There are many for whom their encounter with Christ has been convincing evidence that they are saved from spiritual death, but His status as the unique savior of humanity is information most Christians glean only from Biblical revelation, not from spiritual experience.

Third, of course no one can be logically certain that Jesus rose from the dead. Indeed, no one can be certain of much of anything other than the Cartesian certainty of their own existence. Spiritual experience, however, may give the individual a kind of psychological assurance that Jesus still, in some sense, lives and that assurance exists in a state of mutual reinforcement with the historical testimony concerning the events surrounding Jesus' death and subsequent resurrection.

But, more to the point, what does any of what Harris writes have to do with refuting the claim that atheists are closed to spiritual experience? Harris seems to simply deny the myth and then spend his time criticizing unrelated Christian beliefs.

For our previous posts on Harris' "myths" see part I, II, III, IV, and V and VI.