Friday, 27 April 2007
Sam Harris’ “Conversation”
with a Christian Nation:
The Next Step.
I must say I’ve watched tons of Sam Harris on Google Video. I love his talking points. I’ve heard them a zillion times…and such is a double edged sword. Nobody is talking back…no one is rising to meet him in conversation where he is…therefore all we are ever going to hear of Sam’s brilliance is the same impeccable conversation starter…that can’t go anywhere because of the it appears as though people just aren't ready and willing for there to even be a next step. It's a movie with only a first act.
The following observations of the reaction to Harris were found here at the Washingtonpost.com. It’s pretty clear to see why the conversation isn’t getting off the ground. And much like my DVD player that tells me every DVD has a “disk error” and promptly spits it out…I don’t think the problem is with any of Sam’s arguments.
In His Bully Pulpit, Sam Harris Devoutly Believes That Religion Is the Root of All Evil
Is this what Sam Harris really believes? Is this what he says? If someone misquoted Jesus…would you look the other way? Is being honest only about defending Jesus’ words…or everyone’s in their own light? To its credit…the article goes back and forth making points for and against…putting both parties in good and bad light… But Sam Harris doesn’t ever say religion is the root of all evil…any more than Paul says that money is the root of all evil. Sam says dogmatism…even secular dogmatism…the kind that stops asking for evidence…that’s the problem and that religion merely has its fair share…and he points out the obvious consequences…which no one bothers to refute. It is the widely accepted immorality of the moral man. Secularism seems to be the only “religion” that strongly encourages the virtue of epistemic accountability.
When Harris says: “Religion has an overabundance of dogmatism that is the direct cause of various evils in the world.” Should the mature moderate response be: “Atheistic dogmatism justifies evils, too! Look at Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot!” as so often seems to be the case? To use Sam Harris’ kind of argument, “When we take this kind of argument away from talking about God and put it in a different context…” it becomes perfectly clear how irrational this is. Instead of reacting like a guilty party…why not admit to due error, and continue the conversation and start talking about ALL forms of dogmatism…and then GIVE THEM ALL UP ACROSS THE BOARD. What didn’t the so called moderates say? “You are right. We shouldn't make our faith in our dogma your problem. Now...let’s talk about secular dogmatism.” That would make sense. That would continue intelligent conversation. That would be acting like the mature and enlightened demographic of humanity you say you are. But that isn’t really what’s happening is it?
his arguments are far more likely to offend the faithful than they are to coax them out of their faith.
It is a bit like asking someone to divorce their spouse when they are still entirely in love. Who wouldn't demand an absolute negative case?
"There is this multicultural, apologetic machinery that keeps telling us that we can't attack people's religious sensibility," Harris says in an interview. "That is so wrong and so suicidal."
This is Harris at full throttle, the Evel Knievel of ideas, a daredevil of the mind.
It’s so sad when having good reasons to believe what you do is so "extreme.”
Harris has grossly oversimplified scripture, they say. He has drawn far-reaching conclusions based on the beliefs of radicals. As bad, his stand against organized religion is so unconditional that it's akin to the intolerance he claims he is fighting. If there is such a thing as a secular fundamentalist, they contend, Harris is it. Even some who agree with his conclusions about the dangers of fanaticism find his argument ham-handed.
Is slavery right? Is homosexuality wrong? What does God say about these things? When does God condone glossing over the clear implications of his divine word? Who is technically in the right when they take these things seriously as is? Even if you don't live like the Scripture dictates, you are still carting around a book that unfortunately speaks for itself in ways that too quickly become a civilized society's problem. Generation after generation is potentially re-infected with questionable morality moderates themselves may not embrace.
"I think this country needs a sophisticated attack on religion," says Van Harvey, a retired professor of religious studies at Stanford University. "But pushing moderates into the same camp as fanatics, that seems like a very crude mistake."
That’s just it…this is the mistake. He’s not pushing fanatics into the exact same camp. He’s addressing their one commonality that is important…the immutability of faith when we do in fact have better reasons and better morality available to use instead.
According to Harvey, not only has Harris picked a fight with those who could be on his side, but his solution -- let's all ditch God -- is laughable given the role that religion plays in so many lives.
There should be no problem asking adults to be cognizant of the effects of their beliefs and actions on society at large.
I can live with the fact that people just aren't ready to give it up, but that doesn't mean everything is okay in the meantime. Secularism has to put up with religion and religion has to put up with the fact it can't justify itself in adult land.