Thursday, November 02, 2006
The End of Faith:
Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
By Sam Harris
Few can ignore that for almost three millennia the Abrahamic religions have provided recurring excuses for tribal violence, and still do. And I appreciate Harris for bringing this point to his book and media appearances.
The only thing that turns me off is this. I don't buy into his rigid position that you can't cherry pick the "good stuff" from the Bible without endorsing its prescriptions for tribal violence. Sure, there are tons of destructive and misogynistic passages mixed in with the Bible's inspiring wisdom bits. Kind of like most any human I know - an admixture of love and hostility.
Harris' all or nothing position seems just as fundamentalist as anything he opposes. What's wrong with extracting best practices from the Bible in the process of learning what works ethically? It's about as harmful a procedure as finding grown-up jokes in Sesame Street. Finding a basic humane principle (meme) in the Bible isn't automatically put up a poster for internecine warfare.
It's likely Harris is adamantly all or nothing because his debate opponents - the true believers and jihadists - are just as polarized. He's debating people who believe their scriptures are divinely revealed. But that doesn't change things. His rigid stand rejects and invalidates everything good one of the world's oldest books might pass to us from generations past.
In the comment below, Alex Saxton offers a longer, more critical review.
Posted by Carl Davidson at 11:54 PM