Saturday, January 07, 2006

The End of Faith... But Is it Reasonable?

I cannot recommend strongly enough watching CSPAN or it's companion BookTV whenever you get the chance. If you could at least try to click on them every once in a while when flipping through the cable channels you are bound to come across a topic that really, really interests you. Call me weird, but public affairs TV is some of the most compelling programming out there these days. Unlike commercial TV the topics on CSPAN/BookTV are not smashed into tiny segments sandwiched between endless advertisements. And to CPSAN's credit you as likely to find something aired from the halls of the Heritage Foundation as you are from the hyper-liberal group like the People For the American Way. If you are at all honest with yourself you suffer through those authors or lecturers who fundamentally oppose your world view. You may wonder why it is necessary to sully yourself so... Simple. It's how we learn.

Take for example, Sam Harris and his book "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason". Here we have a bright, engaging man detailing the irrationality of faith and religion in the face of science and reason. Yet, he can't really snuff the flame a faith solely with science and irrefutable facts as he sees them. I would be first to admit that faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ is irrational on the face of it. On the other hand "faith" in the wisdom of the socialist state or "faith" in the infallibility of science is equally irrational.

The main premise of Sam Harris' book is that we are war, but not merely with the evil of islamic terrorism, but the evil of religious faith itself. He rightly chastizes fundamental extremists in the Islamic world and their counterparts in the Christian world - although the two cannot be considered even remotely the equal in the 21st century. He saves his most vitrolic disdain for religious moderates and especially the Catholic Church.

In his speech (and I assume in his book) he tries to show that the faithful do not care about evidence, that religion is actually contrary to the evidence. He says without hestation that religion is more harmful than just about anything devised by man while he practically ignores the most destructive social experiment of modern times -- the rise and fall of Marxism-Leninism. He holds a paticular disdain for moderates stating that moderation in religion is no virtue.

Harris became emotionally animated when charging the Catholic Church criminally responsible for the spread of AIDs in sub-Saharan Africa. The Church's teachings on contraceptives and abortion sticks in the craw of most socialists. Once again another intellectual fails to realize that procreation is the divining force behind the Church's (worldwide) position on condoms and sex outside of marriage, not because the Pope hates Africans.

I would not argue with much of what Harris postulates, for example, how the lack of an Islamic reformation was a major contributor to its current death-worship and confrontation with the West. This is, of course, nothing that hasn't been said before by folk several rungs above him on the academic ladder- both by religious and irreligious experts.

He also likes to point to polls that state that 53% of Americans believe that man was "created" 6,000 years ago in a fantasyland with talking snakes and with a impulsive appetite for apples. Yeah, well, 53% of Americans also think Elvis is still alive! Kidding aside, here I think Sam Harris has a real cause for concern. I for one am not a biblical literalist. Those who cannot see that the Good Book is written in a story/parable/lesson format do deserve some measure of scorn. It is a teachers guide book not a literal history book. This does not mean there is not truth in there, quite the contrary, one way or another all truth is in there. Still when I hear elected southern Senators spew literalist nonsense and knowing they are bent on making policy based on it then I think people with views like Harris' have valid concerns.

Harris is particularly hard on Muslims and Christians throughout his speech. Not being too well versed on Islam and the Koran I cannot sit here and defend what on the surface looks like a train wreck in the making. When it comes to Chritianity and Catholicism I take exception with his negativity. He gives only a passing comment on how Christianity has transformed the idea of charity and selflessness. So many millions of lives have been saved by Jesus Christ the personal savior of souls that simply pointing out the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades is an unfair representation of the width and breadth of Christianity's footprint on this world.

The inspiration the love of Christ has brought to this world is so profound that we cannot let people like Harris and other spiteful atheists diminish the goodness and love of our faith.Anyone can cherry pick destructive elements that dot the history of the Jesus movement and say that death and destruction is what faith and religion brings to world.

Can we take a moment and compare what atheism as opposed to Chritianity has given this world:

Communism, Socialism, Marxism, scientific relativism, moral relativism, uh, I can't think of anything else... This stuff really made the world better, well, maybe not.

Raising the status of women and children, the concept of educating the masses, the concept of nursing and hospitals, the founding of of most Western universities, the advent of charitable organizations, scientific inquiry, religious pluralism and tolerance, some of the greatest works of art, some of the greatest music, some of the greatest literature...

The list goes on but perhaps the greatest thing we can attribute to Jesus, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit is encapsulated in one simple word - love.

God is love.

It's really that simple. Love is irrational is it not? Love is not scientific nor analytical, right?

Love is nebulous, but love is oh so real...

Love is God.



JS_VP said...

You ought to link
to these sites:

These guys are
slugging it out
about the reasonableness
of belief, & disbelief,
and I think
any one of 'em
could hold his own
with your Mr. Harris...