Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Letter to a Christian Nation"


I'm currently reading this book by Sam Harris. Honestly, as great as "The End of Faith," was -this book is short, sweet and to the point. Today I found a short piece of writing by Vonnegut, in which he writes,

Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.
This holds true, especially for touchy, deep and complex issues; an equally complex style of writing can make the points elusive. From what I've watched of the debates between Harris and others, they only prove this point. Often times debaters will make points that were already addressed in Harris' book. At any rate, this writing style is simple and straight-forward for the most part. It contains statistics, opinions and basic reasoning for the attitudes in "The End of Faith." It's also much easier on the eyes. However, I wonder sometimes about the particular point in his thesis. I'll do my best to accurately portray it:

Religion is an enabler for human irrationality, tribalism and violence, more so than anything else. Therefore, faith, or blind faith in mythical deities is something that has been used as an excuse for hatred, bigotry and ignorance throughout history. By changing the dialogue from defending faith to questioning it's place in our society, we are moving to a better, more rational dialogue.

I sympathize with this view, except that I believe it has more to do with the human tendency to identify with particular ideologies that has created religion, and blind faith, in the first place. It is a form of security that has been built slowly over the eons. Our fear of what we think the unknown allows us to build up walls in defense, and to fight those who would dare to, or appear to, question the stability of those walls of security. Religion and faith, like any institution, is a result of human fear and psychological preservation, rather than a cause of it. It is used as an excuse, but who do we think created faith? This "it" out there must first be owned as a creation, and identified as a projection of our own desire for safety. To me, religion is a reaction, not an action in itself. 

Having said this, I do not believe that spirituality and religion are entirely separate entities. We do have spiritual experiences; they exist as a phenomenon that empirical science still grips to understand. Sam Harris seems to agree on this point, receiving much objection from his readers, one of whom believed he was, "Getting soft," on religion.

At any rate, the reading continues! 


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