Yesterday, I spent a mostly enjoyable two hours watching a video called The Four Horsemen–a conversation between Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens (I could have done without Hitchens’ closing statement as it tripped off one of my phobias.). I was very surprised by some of what I heard. For four guys infamous as flaming, militant, intolerant atheists, they said a lot of things I’ve also heard from my more spiritual friends. Here’s a bit from Dan Dennett:
Yes, it’s a sad fact that people, in a sense, won’t trust their own valuing of their numinous experiences. They think it isn’t really as good as it seems, unless it’s from God, and some kind of a proof of religion. No, it’s just as wonderful as it seems. It’s just as important. It is the best moment in your life. And it’s the moment when you forget yourself and become better than you ever thought you could be in some way. And see, in all humbleness, the wonderfulness of nature. That’s it! And that’s wonderful. But, it doesn’t add anything to say, golly, that has to have been given to me by somebody even more wonderful.
He describes the same feeling of oneness, of communion with a greater whole, of transcendence that I’ve seen advanced as a benefit of believing in God. But he takes God out of the equation without devaluing the experience. A beautiful observation and point.
Of course, there were also the expected statements about the harm done be religion and belief in the paranormal. You know, the sort of stuff you expect from the Four Horsemen of Atheism. Only, they’re generally more polite than you would think. I recommended watching it.