Sunday, January 28, 2007
Sam Harris is OK
Google the name Sam Harris (http://www.samharris.org/), the author of several books about religion. He is an athiest calling for the end of religion. I picked up a little book of his, Letter to a Christian Nation, and I liked it. Though he comes across at times as abrasive, he is engaging. His arguments seem compelling. But it strikes me that he has to gloss certain major pieces of the Bible, and then overly focus on other minor parts in order to sustain his startling call for the end of religion.
What I think is okay about what he is doing is this: a result of his challenge is that Chrisitans, and religious people of faith are presented with an opportunity to think hard about what they believe and what they do. How blindly will you subscribe to a religion? What compels you to become/stay a Christian? What should you do with spiritual experiences? I can't speak for Harris, and I've only read one of his books once through, but it strikes me that his disgust with all that is worst with religion is what drives part of his rant. It seems that for him all that is worst with religion is part of the core of religion. Even though much good has resulted from religion, it's not like it undoes or balances out the bad. Religion must go, and reason must be what guides our lives.
I am against all evil that is done in the name of religion. But I'm not prepared to disavow Jesus because Harris has such a huge problem with imperfect (some wickedly so) believers across the board. Many are echoing Harris' comments, for he has articulated what so many have felt within, but been able to express like him. Unfortunately it is often laced with disdain for religionists. That is unfortuante - it doesn't seem like that will woo religionists to secularism and reason. Not that I'm for a conversion to secularism, it's just that disdain for another human ought not be accepted. But Harris must be very, very, very much against religion to disdain it so much - I can't believe he would disdain lightly.
I just read most of a "blogologue" between Harris and Andrew Sullivan on Beliefnet. Very thoughtful. You can check it out at http://www.beliefnet.com/story/209/story_20904_1.html
One interesting argument by Harris: faith and reason are incompatible, thus science and reason are incompatible. Anybody trying to integrate the two are compromising the essence of each, and thus articluate bosh. In our postmodern age, it seems that the argument all hinges on how those two words are defined. At this point, I'm not convinced that science and religion are polar opposites, that faith and reason are enemies. I subscribe to National Geographic and Christianity Today. Does that mean I'm a sell-out on both ends of the spectrum? I don't think so. Harris seems to think so. Do you think so?