Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and one of the most outspoken critics of organized religion, is also a regular meditator.
His advocacy of consciousness-expanding practices stripped of their religious trappings makes him an ideal representative of the demographic cohort called the "nones" — a diverse group of "spiritual but not religious" Americans 30 million strong and growing, who describe their religious affiliation as "none of the above."
In his interview with USC's News21 fellows, Harris highlights his arguments against organized religion:
• What does it mean to be a spiritual nonbeliever
• The public-relations problems that accompany the word "atheist"
• The connection between violence and politicized religion
• His hopes that scientific truth may some day replace supernaturalism as the foundation of human culture.
Controversy has often accompanied Harris as his commentary on organized religion identifies the negative potential in blind faith and the danger of joining what he calls "Iron Age" ideas with nuclear technologies.
The most dangerous thing about religious beliefs, he says, is that they are not open to discussion or challenge — they are the views that remain "off the table in the conversation."
Harris explains that atheism is not a good term because it requires defining oneself in opposition to an arbitrary group. He also touches on the potential to improve human happiness through training, without relying in any way on religious beliefs.