Leading atheist writer and speaker Sam Harris tells a gathering of atheists that the cause of ridding the world of religion will be better served if they understand the importance of spirituality and mysticism, separating it from supernatural mythology.
In these two clips I think he makes a very good case for the contemplative tradition. He seems quite concerned that his fellow atheists will appear dull-headed and superficial if they poo-poo mystical traditions and spiritual techniques that actually work. People won’t accept atheism if they do that, and the spread of atheism will be unecessarily obstructed. He does spend considerable time on the subject, and in this regard seems to be slightly at odds with Dawkins.
He makes a well-reasoned argument for removing oneself – if only temporarily – from the absorption in repetitive neurotic thoughts and sensual and emotional gratifications. And he all but advocates his listeners to at least try some form of meditative technique. And he says that what contemplatives experience may be very real.
However, like a runner who falls before the finishing line he stumbles when it comes to some essential links of logic. In Sanskrit parlance he reveals himself as a mayayapahrita-jnana, an intelligent person who does not carry the chain of logical thought far enough, and whose intellect is then ‘stolen by illusion.’
All he really needed to do was to ask himself why, in the history of the entire world, have the most adept mystics and contemplatives also been largely theistic? If he regards it as an act of superior personal discpline – and perhaps exercise of the intellect – to adopt some form of meditation, then why would so many of those who have perfected the art of meditation claimed to have experienced a personal deity?
It seems that the so called atheists really owe it to themselves to read Bhagavad-gita for a while, and leave off denying the three Abrahamic religions so that they can meditate for a while. The God they don’t believe in will come to them in no time.
These two clips are around 7 mins each