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The End of Faith, for readers late to the party 
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
johnson1010 wrote:
Sam Harris is good peeps.


Very glad to hear that. Here is the text of an email I just sent to SH through his website contact form.

Quote:
The Cleveland Children's home is requesting individuals make contributions so that they can provide Christmas presents to its residents. CCH is a residence for severely abused and neglected children. I was told that Sam Harris is 'Good Peeps' so I thought you might be interested in making a contribution to the CCH. Thank you for your consideration.


I didn't reference Johnson1010, or Booktalk.org or Chris, just an invitation for SH to share some of the money he has made off criticizing Christianity with some deserving kids.


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“You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”
- G.K. Chesterton


Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:50 am
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
DWill wrote:
Whoa! Back to Sam Harris' book. I think he gets many things right in that first chapter. I like the way he doesn't just come down upon "religion," but on the fact that so many of the world's people believe that God wrote a book, and unfortunately for us there is more than one book. His argument about the value of religious moderates I'd like to discuss, but I'll first ask if anyone thinks he's ratcheting up the fear a bit. This may sound like a strange question in view of 9/11 and other attacks, and the technological opportunities for greater mayhem. It's not so much that the fears are unjustified, as it is where this kind of rhetoric may take us. Does it lead to preemptive war, major erosion of civil liberties, waterboarding and other torture, all in the name of keeping us safe? Are all the conceivable measures we might put in place to keep us safe worth the price?


I had stated previously that I had read Ch. 1, but that was an exaggeration. I'm still reading it.

Sam Harris is very persuasive and his writing in this first chapter is excellent. He points to how we look through rose-colored glasses with regard to our various holy texts. Or, more likely, most folks are simply not aware of the fragmented, disjointed sources that comprise the Christian Bible.

Sam Harris wrote:
The idea that any one of our religions represents the infallible word of the One True God requires an encyclopedic ignorance of history, mythology, and art even to be entertained—as the beliefs, rituals, and iconography of each of our religions attest to centuries of cross-pollination among them.


That is well stated, isn't it? It is amazing how religious beliefs have fallen so far off the map of critical thinking. Harris sets up a couple of thought experiments to illustrate this point. For example, imagine that a well-educated Christian of the fourteenth century was revived.

Sam Harris wrote:
The man would prove to be a total ignoramus, except on matters of faith. His beliefs about geography, astronomy, and medicine would embarrass even a child, but he would know more or less everything there is to know about God. Though he would be considered a fool to think that the earth is flat, or that trepanning (drilling holes into the skull) constitutes a wise medical intervention, his religious ideas would still be beyond reproach. There are two explanations for this: either we perfected our religious understanding of the world a millennium ago—while our knowledge on all other fronts was still hopelessly inchoate—or religion, being the mere maintenance of dogma, is one area of discourse that does not admit of progress. We will see that there is much to recommend the latter view.


This kind of goes back to what I was trying to say on another thread. What has theology given the human race except imaginary details about an imaginary God? While science has forged ahead and given us actual knowledge about the world we live in, theology and religion have given us nothing at all, at least in terms of real world data. The man from the fourteenth century would know much of the same religious dogma that we have today which somehow gets passed down from generation to generation without anyone questioning it. That people to this day continue to accept this stuff on faith, I think, is scary for the human race. This is one gaping large blind spot.

So Harris is very convincing, but like Dawkins his criticisms of Christianity and Islam focus on only their most rigid, Fundamentalist forms. I would suggest that in America at least that most people who consider themselves Christians are much more moderate in their beliefs. To maintain extreme Fundamentalist views requires, as Harris says, "an encyclopedic ignorance of history, mythology, and art even to be entertained." I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the religious landscape in America is already changing very rapidly. The new crop of atheist books are a testament to this.

One of Harris' main arguments in this chapter is that moderates, by their very staunch defense of freedom of belief, are allowing the religious craziness to continue. I'm not sure about this. I still think a positive, pro-science approach will always work better than mocking or condemning people's beliefs. Considering our religious heritage which still very much permeates through our culture, and to accept that our sense in something mystical might be genetically based, what more can we do? Yes, we absolutely must draw the line at preventing religious dogma from entering our educational and political systems, but a certain degree of patience is called for as well. There are many foundational aspects of Christianity that we rely on without really thinking about.

Something Harris said once I think does a very good job at getting people to stop for a minute and actually think about their beliefs. He said that everyone is an atheist with regards to other people's gods. For example, Christians are atheists with regards to the Greek deities or to Yahweh of the Hebrew Bible. And Harris says he is just an atheist to one more degree. This really illustrates what "atheist" means in a way that really defuses the word's negative connotations.

More later. This is a long chapter.


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Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:20 am
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
geo wrote:
DWill wrote:
Whoa! Back to Sam Harris' book. I think he gets many things right in that first chapter. I like the way he doesn't just come down upon "religion," but on the fact that so many of the world's people believe that God wrote a book, and unfortunately for us there is more than one book. His argument about the value of religious moderates I'd like to discuss, but I'll first ask if anyone thinks he's ratcheting up the fear a bit. This may sound like a strange question in view of 9/11 and other attacks, and the technological opportunities for greater mayhem. It's not so much that the fears are unjustified, as it is where this kind of rhetoric may take us. Does it lead to preemptive war, major erosion of civil liberties, waterboarding and other torture, all in the name of keeping us safe? Are all the conceivable measures we might put in place to keep us safe worth the price?


I had stated previously that I had read Ch. 1, but that was an exaggeration. I'm still reading it.

Instead of re-reading SH, why don't you take a trip off the reservation and read: What if Jesus had Never Been Born, by James Kennedy.

As for your last paragraph, you really lost it there.

Sam Harris is very persuasive and his writing in this first chapter is excellent. He points to how we look through rose-colored glasses with regard to our various holy texts. Or, more likely, most folks are simply not aware of the fragmented, disjointed sources that comprise the Christian Bible.

Sam Harris wrote:
The idea that any one of our religions represents the infallible word of the One True God requires an encyclopedic ignorance of history, mythology, and art even to be entertained—as the beliefs, rituals, and iconography of each of our religions attest to centuries of cross-pollination among them.


That is well stated, isn't it? It is amazing how religious beliefs have fallen so far off the map of critical thinking. Harris sets up a couple of thought experiments to illustrate this point. For example, imagine that a well-educated Christian of the fourteenth century was revived.

Sam Harris wrote:
The man would prove to be a total ignoramus, except on matters of faith. His beliefs about geography, astronomy, and medicine would embarrass even a child, but he would know more or less everything there is to know about God. Though he would be considered a fool to think that the earth is flat, or that trepanning (drilling holes into the skull) constitutes a wise medical intervention, his religious ideas would still be beyond reproach. There are two explanations for this: either we perfected our religious understanding of the world a millennium ago—while our knowledge on all other fronts was still hopelessly inchoate—or religion, being the mere maintenance of dogma, is one area of discourse that does not admit of progress. We will see that there is much to recommend the latter view.


This kind of goes back to what I was trying to say on another thread. What has theology given the human race except imaginary details about an imaginary God? While science has forged ahead and given us actual knowledge about the world we live in, theology and religion have given us nothing at all, at least in terms of real world data. The man from the fourteenth century would know much of the same religious dogma that we have today which somehow gets passed down from generation to generation without anyone questioning it. That people to this day continue to accept this stuff on faith, I think, is scary for the human race. This is one gaping large blind spot.

So Harris is very convincing, but like Dawkins his criticisms of Christianity and Islam focus on only their most rigid, Fundamentalist forms. I would suggest that in America at least that most people who consider themselves Christians are much more moderate in their beliefs. To maintain extreme Fundamentalist views requires, as Harris says, "an encyclopedic ignorance of history, mythology, and art even to be entertained." I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the religious landscape in America is already changing very rapidly. The new crop of atheist books are a testament to this.

One of Harris' main arguments in this chapter is that moderates, by their very staunch defense of freedom of belief, are allowing the religious craziness to continue. I'm not sure about this. I still think a positive, pro-science approach will always work better than mocking or condemning people's beliefs. Considering our religious heritage which still very much permeates through our culture, and to accept that our sense in something mystical might be genetically based, what more can we do? Yes, we absolutely must draw the line at preventing religious dogma from entering our educational and political systems, but a certain degree of patience is called for as well.

Something Harris said once I think does a very good job at getting people to stop for a minute and actually think about their beliefs. He said that everyone is an atheist with regards to other people's gods. For example, Christians are atheists with regards to the Greek deities or to Yahweh of the Hebrew Bible. And Harris says he is just an atheist to one more degree. This really illustrates what "atheist" means in a way that really defuses the word's negative connotations.

More later. This is a long chapter.


The reason you think SH is so wonderful is that he feeds your prejudice. The statements your report about religous people appearing backward is unsupported. Your response to it is like being at a pep rally. As for what theology has given the world, if we are talking about Christianity, I have listed many of the benefits before:

All of the sciences benefitted from church sponsored individuals.
Many of the early scientists made their discoveries in a desire to obtain a greater appreciation for the creation of God.
Music
Art
Architecture
Hospitals
Care for widows, orphans and the handicapped
Education, in the United States alone, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, among others were founded to foster the education of preachers.

You can continue to tow the Atheist Myth line that religion is bad, but I will continue to challenge it and point out that it is wrong.


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- G.K. Chesterton


Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:26 am
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
I do agree with Harris in his critique of moderate religion. They are the enablers who let the crazy get away with being crazy.

At the same time, moderates, by virtue of not really thinking about their religion are the best candidates to shrug off this superstition through actually studying what their religion says with a critical eye.

Just like alcoholics, though, the religious need to want to change themselves. You can't make anyone change their mind about it. You have to provide information, some interesting questions, and show the flaws of magical thinking, but that won't chnage their minds. That is the beauty of faith. It makes people impervious to rational discourse about those things they have faith in.

I know of three people who were fence sitters. They finally jumped ship and decided to look at religion critically. It seemed like right before they made those decisions is when they wanted to hear what i have to say about religion the least. Perhaps fearing that final push over the edge, hoping to delay what must have become the inevitable at that point.

I know of two other people who are acting like that now. They don't want to hear about religion, because if they thought about it, they know that they would be unable to hold that belief, and they don't want to deal with that change right now.


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Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.

Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?


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Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:33 am
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
stahrwe wrote:
You can continue to tow the Atheist Myth line that religion is bad, but I will continue to challenge it and point out that it is wrong.


Stahrwe, you really are a one-trick pony. I have never said that Christianity is all bad. I have noted many times on these forums that good things have come from religion. But since we are talking about Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith, the negative aspects of religion naturally come up. For those who have an open mind, it is readily apparent that that what is bad about religion is pretty bad. You are a good example of this, a man in the year 2010 who thinks the earth is 6,000 years old. As Sam Harris points out, people are dying all around the world due to this very kind of mindless devotion to ancient ideology. It is dangerous and cannot go unchallenged.

These "Christian" traditions of helping others can continue without anyone having to buy into the magical thinking that goes with it. In fact, arguably this is already happening in America on a grand scale. People are helping others with barely a nod to the religious myths that helped start them.

Your vitriol of Sam Harris is obviously not based on honest or thoughtful reflection of his arguments, but merely mindless rationalization of your religious beliefs. You aren't even reading his book, so why are you here?


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Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:34 pm
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
By the way, for those who are thinking about reading The End of Faith, here are the first ten pages.

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/chapter-one/


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Last edited by geo on Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:40 pm
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
geo wrote:
By the way, for those who haven't committed yet to read The End of Faith, here are the first ten pages.

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/chapter-one/


Is the entire book available online at no cost?


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“You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”
- G.K. Chesterton


Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:43 pm
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
stahrwe wrote:
geo wrote:
By the way, for those who haven't committed yet to read The End of Faith, here are the first ten pages.

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/chapter-one/


Is the entire book available online at no cost?


By God, no. What a charlatan. He's actually charging money for the book he wrote.

How about your What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? Available online at no cost?


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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
geo wrote:
stahrwe wrote:
geo wrote:
By the way, for those who haven't committed yet to read The End of Faith, here are the first ten pages.

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/chapter-one/


Is the entire book available online at no cost?


By God, no. What a charlatan. He's actually charging money for the book he wrote.

How about your What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? Available online at no cost?


I have no desire to add to SH's income by purchasing his book new. Nor do I want to increase his book rating by purchasing a used copy. And I really am not interested in even incrementally increasing his circulation figures by borrowing a copy from the library.


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“You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”
- G.K. Chesterton


Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:38 pm
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
Harris' attack (too strong a word?) on moderates is a point that seems to distinguish him from other critics of religion, who mainly target the most devout. Being of a moderate temperament myself, I resist his thinking here, but concede that his argument can't just be dismissed. It does seem to be true that moderates will have a hard time condemning crazies because the crazies are still, for all their misguidedness, part of the flock. And to condemn them might bring moderates a little too close for their own comfort to an examination of the core beliefs of the faith. Unlike johnson, I don't think that moderates generally do examine their religion much; they don't want to look at the wider picture of the effects faith can have.

Harris doesn't respect moderates because they've become moderates only by ignoring parts of their own scriptures. He views this as a dishonesty, I believe. But I think that Harris shows himself to be what Robert Wright called a scriptural determinist. That is, whatever is written in the holy books determines belief. Sounds logical, but Wright points out that it doesn't work that way "on the ground," which is actually always shifting in terms of what scriptures will be highlighted and which will be left to molder. A lack of consistency with scripture is precisely what we want to see.

So I think moderates overall have a good effect, just for being moderates. It may be true that they don't do much in terms of influencing the bad elements, but then again they probably have more of a chance to do this than do people who can't stomach religion. The change that will come will be incremental and it will be helped along if we engage religious people across the spectrum, not just castigate them, as geo said.

Harris says that it will take more than building schools and hospitals to defeat radicalism, but he doesn't say explicitly what that 'more' is. Does he really believe in measures such as these, or does he feel that the only viable road is confrontation? Sure, religion often compels behavior, but Harris may see that influence as more intransigent that it actually is. Reportedly, the Saudis have have success in deprogramming their radical terrorists.

I agree that the writing is near-brilliant, a rhetorical tour de force. I also see Harris as offering a strong positive vision, not just tearing something down. This is good, but the drawback is a certain utopian quality I see in him, which for me, as a moderate, is a red flag. We'll have arrived in a new promised land when everyone takes a rational view of the big questions, I see him as implying. But this reign of rationality will never happen, and instead we're going to have to settle for co-existence with religion.


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Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:28 pm
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
Let's look at what Publisher's Weekly (hardly a bastion of Christian fundamentalism) said about The End of Faith.

Quote:
From Publishers Weekly
In this sometimes simplistic and misguided book, Harris calls for the end of religious faith in the modern world. Not only does such faith lack a rational base, he argues, but even the urge for religious toleration allows a too-easy acceptance of the motives of religious fundamentalists. Religious faith, according to Harris, requires its adherents to cling irrationally to mythic stories of ideal paradisiacal worlds (heaven and hell) that provide alternatives to their own everyday worlds. Moreover, innumerable acts of violence, he argues, can be attributed to a religious faith that clings uncritically to one set of dogmas or another. Very simply, religion is a form of terrorism for Harris. Predictably, he argues that a rational and scientific view—one that relies on the power of empirical evidence to support knowledge and understanding—should replace religious faith. We no longer need gods to make laws for us when we can sensibly make them for ourselves. But Harris overstates his case by misunderstanding religious faith, as when he makes the audaciously naïve statement that "mysticism is a rational enterprise; religion is not." As William James ably demonstrated, mysticism is far from a rational enterprise, while religion might often require rationality in order to function properly. On balance, Harris's book generalizes so much about both religion and reason that it is ineffectual.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. As posted on Amazon.com


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“You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”
- G.K. Chesterton


Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:03 am
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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
Instead of relying on my memories of a book I read over four years ago, I'll copy what I said in this forum's discussion of Chapter 1.
Quote:
I agree with some of the author's broader concepts, but those are generally ideas that I've encountered previously. Religion has been, and continues to be, a net negative in the world, because religious persecution and warfare outweigh its benefits. With so many mutually inconsistent religions out there, it's difficult to comprehend why so many people believe that theirs is the one that's correct.

However, Harris often goes too far, oversimplifies things, and makes inaccurate statements. Many of you, especially mal4mac (welcome to the group!), have mentioned my strongest objections. I'll bring up some other points.

Harris's attack on religious moderates was rather dubious. People's religious beliefs, and other beliefs for that matter, are generally an incoherent mixture of traditional structures, modern concepts, personal experiences, and gut reactions. It's totally reasonable for someone to accept certain religious dogmas while dismissing others, picking and choosing the portions of the holy books and traditions to accept.

Since Harris is such a vigilant atheist, it's surprising when he claims that "there also seems to be a data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena...". Unlike Harris, I'm as skeptical of the paranormal as I am of religion.

And the book got worse in later chapters.



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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
I want to suggest through quotations from the first chapter that Harris doesn’t view religion in such black-and-white terms. Most significantly, he takes a more positive view of spirituality than do the other well known atheist writers. He even uses the term “spiritual truths.” Indeed, for those others the word “spirituality” seems to be something of an embarrassment. Harris, of course, has delved deeply into the religion of the mind coming out of the East. That dovetails with his advanced study of neuroscience.

First, note that it is “faith-based religion” that he believes needs to “slide into obsolescence” (14). This statement doesn’t rule out continuance of important aspects of religion.

“Of course, people of faith fall on a continuum: some draw solace and inspiration from a specific spiritual tradition, and yet remain fully committed to tolerance and diversity, while others would burn the earth to cinders if it would put an end to heresy. There are, in other words, religious moderates and religious extremists, and their various passions and projects should not be confused" (14). As we've noted, however, the moderates themselves are no reason for Harris to rejoice.

“This is not to say that the deepest concerns of the faithful, whether moderate or extreme, are trivial or even misguided. There is no denying that most of us have emotional and spiritual needs that are now addressed—however obliquely and at a terrible price—by mainstream religion. And these are needs that a mere understanding of our world, scientific or otherwise, will never fulfill. There is clearly a sacred dimension to our existence, and coming to terms with it could well be the highest purpose of human life. But we will find that it requires no faith in untestable propositions—Jesus was born of a virgin; the Koran is the word of God—for us to do this” (16).

“Needless to say, many Muslims are basically rational and tolerant of others” (28).

“There is, of course, much that is wise and consoling and beautiful in our religious books. But words of consolation and beauty abound in the pages of Shakespeare, Virgil, and Homer as well” (35).

“Our religious traditions attest to a range of spiritual experiences that are real and significant and entirely worthy of our investigation, both personally and scientifically” (43)

“It is time we realized that we need not be unreasonable to suffuse our lives with love, compassion, ecstasy, and awe; nor must we renounce all forms of spirituality or mysticism to be on good terms with reason” (43).

I think a weakness of the thinking of atheists is that they often appear to assume that to remove religion will free up humans to become the self-fulfilling, happy, and moral animals they were meant to be before religion got a hold of them. But that result won't happen naturally; it takes a deliberate approach to achieve it, and Harris appreciates that.


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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
DWill wrote:
First, note that it is “faith-based religion” that he believes needs to “slide into obsolescence” (14). This statement doesn’t rule out continuance of important aspects of religion.


I finished Ch. 1 and I agree that Harris makes a good case but doesn't quite convince that religious moderates are the problem. He argues that moderates provide the very infrastructure for extremism to exist. However, I would argue that moderates are the first step away from extremism. The move away from religious extremism is likely a gradual process and it may be that moderates are leading the way. I wonder if the evidence backs this up.

I was flipping through a book at the UNC Chapel Hill bookstore the other day. The book was Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment by Phil Zuckerman. Here's a description of the book:

Quote:
Sociologist Zuckerman spent a year in Scandinavia seeking to understand how Denmark and Sweden became probably the least religious countries in the world, and possibly in the history of the world. While many people, especially Christian conservatives, argue that godless societies devolve into lawlessness and immorality, Denmark and Sweden enjoy strong economies, low crime rates, high standards of living and social equality. Zuckerman interviewed 150 Danes and Swedes, and extended transcripts from some of those interviews provide the book's most interesting and revealing moments. What emerges is a portrait of a people unconcerned and even incurious about questions of faith, God and life's meaning.


In the few pages I skimmed through, I was struck by how indifferent and nonjudgmental the Danes and Swedes were towards religion. Religion simply doesn't play a significant role in their lives. I can imagine this as a gradual progression away from the kind of religious fervor we see in the United States, more and more people falling away from religion. And this appears to be exactly what is happening now.

Actually, Harris' book reminds me a lot of Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason in that he makes an open-and-shut case against the revealed religions. In particular, Harris argues against the absurd notion that various "holy" texts were authored by the Creator of the universe. And again, Harris makes a very strong case, but with respect to the role of moderates, I think he's missing at least part of the bigger picture.

Sam Harris wrote:
It is time we admitted, from kings and presidents on down, that there is no evidence that any of our books was authored by the Creator of the universe. The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology. To rely on such a document as the basis for our worldview-however heroic the efforts of redactors- is to repudiate two thousand years of civilizing insights that the human mind has only just begun to inscribe upon itself through secular politics and scientific culture. We will see that the greatest problem confronting civilization is not merely religious extremism: rather, it is the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself.


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Post Re: The End of Faith, for readers late to the party
Quote:
It is clear that a strong rift existed between the Pharisees and Alexander Jannaeus. The rival Sadducees were avid supporters of Jannaeus. The Pharisaic opposition to Jannaeus continued with his marriage to his brother’s widow, which was forbidden by Torah law. Furthermore, Jannaeus established himself as a ruler concerned mainly with conquests rather than his religious obligations.

One year during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Alexander Jannaeus, while officiating as the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) at the Temple in Jerusalem, demonstrated his support of the Sadducees by denying the law of the water libation. The crowd responded with shock at his mockery and showed their displeasure by pelting Alexander with the etrogim (citrons/like a lemon) that they were holding in their hands. Unwittingly, the crowd had played right into Alexander's hands. He had intended to incite the people to riot and his soldiers fell upon the crowd at his command. The soldiers slew more than 6,000 people in the Temple courtyard.

This incident during Tabernacles was a major factor leading up to the Judean Civil War by igniting popular opponents of Jannaeus. A Qumran document sheds further light on another opponent of Jannaeus. The scroll 4Q390 was written by an adversary of Jannaeus seeking popular support to overthrow the Hasmonean King. The author called for an end to the dispute between Jannaeus and the Pharisees. According to the author, the only acceptable solution was an end to the Hasmonean Priesthood and secular control. This opposition culminated in the Judean Civil War which resulted in more than 50,000 dead. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Jannaeus


What are we to make of the Jew on Jew violence? Was it religious or political?
I suppose Sam Harris would point to it as another example of religion's danger. He would be wrong as usual.


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