Book Club: Waking Up, Ctd

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Our latest Book Club selection is already shaping up to be our most popular, based on the reader response we’ve been getting so far:

I am an atheist, and until I read about Waking Up on the Dish, I had never heard of Sam Harris. I bought the book, read it, and because of it not only will I die happily, I will be happier for the rest of my life. I am 69, a retired engineer. For a long time I have wondered about, and struggled with questions such as, Where was I before I was born? What happens to me after I die? Sam Harris has convinced me that consciousness is self (I.) My perception of I is just my consciousness. Bingo! Now I am not worried about “I.” Thanks, Andrew, for paving my way to enlightenment.

Another atheist:

Count me as one excited for this pick! I had already requested it at the library in fact, before 51dolkylyou chose it. The timing of its release happened just as I have been reading more books on Buddhism and attempting to practice meditation myself. Despite being a long-time atheist, I have lately felt the need to find a different framework, a spiritual one, and Harris’s book offers me reassurance that I don’t need to feel I am betraying my convictions, or giving in to some soft-heartedness, by heeding the pull toward spirituality. At first I felt almost ashamed to be exploring meditation and Buddhism, as if I am failing to be rational or abandoning my intelligence. But in fact I think that my world when I only considered myself as an atheist and did not leave room for exploring other paths was too narrow and lacked room for any nurturing growth or exploration. I think it will be a great conversation.

The book has had a powerful impact on me, since I have long been drawn to many elements of Buddhism (Thomas Merton guided me there), but always stumbled at the problem of the self. The book helped me think about that problem more powerfully than anything I have ever read – including many Buddhist scriptures.

We’ll be starting the discussion next week, so there is still plenty of time to read the book – buy it here. And send your thoughts to bookclub@andrewsullivan.com. Sam has agreed to join the conversation in its final stages, so he might even respond to your writing. Another reader sends the black-and-white photo seen above:

Recently my wife and I went to hear Sam talk about his new book here in DC. Neither of us believe in the supernatural or an afterlife, etc, but we do believe there are numinous experiences to be had in life, and that those can be – and I’d argue can better be – had outside of religion.  So, we’re really stoked that you’re placing this topic on the table for discussion.

One more:

I’ve only been able to read the first half of the first chapter. I keep having to stop and process. bookclub-beagle-tr-2Is it true that all religions are similar but for the crazy fictions we place on them, or that you have to believe ridiculous, magical things before you can be a follower of all major religions (except Buddhism)? And that, honestly, all day long we’re just lurching between states of wanting and not wanting?

Many thanks for choosing this book. I am humbled, even after 21 pages, and grateful for the future time lost to the interesting conversations this reading provokes.