Saturday, March 10, 2007

How Religion Acquires Its Pedestal

On my father's recommendation, I've started reading The End of Faith by Sam Harris. So far I'm quite impressed with his critique of faith in general, and with the cultural details of America today, although I must confess to some discomfort with his dismissals of Islam. He would not be surprised, and would most likely accuse me of being a victim of relativism. More on that later, perhaps, but for now a very strong paragraph from the opening chapter.
We have been slow to recognize the degree to which religious faith perpetuates man's inhumanity to man. This is not surprising, since many of us still believe that faith is an essential component of human life. Two myths now keep faith beyond the fray of rational criticism, and they seem to foster religious extremism and religious moderation equally: (1) most of us believe that there are good things that people get from religious faith (e.g., strong communities, ethical behavior, spiritual experience) that cannot be had elsewhere; (2) many of us also believe that the terrible things that are sometimes done in the name of religion are the products not of faith per se but of our baser nature -- forces like greed, hatred, and fear -- for which religious beliefs are themselves the best (or even the only) remedy. Taken together, these myths seem to have granted us perfect immunity to outbreaks of reasonableness in our public discourse.
The snarkiness of the phrase "outbreaks of reasonabless" aside, I do believe that Harris has done a strong job here of unearthing a couple of the reasons why "faith" is granted an undebatable position in our world - which is currently my biggest beef with religion.

And by the way, the fucker who every couple of days keeps writing bible verses and drawing crosses in chalk on the sidewalk on my way to the subway can stop vandalizing the civic and secular concrete I've been buying with 10 years of my NYC taxes.


  1. Hmmm... maybe you could just chalk the sidewalk with that Harris quote. Starting a discourse is a lot better than making a separation of church and state claim.

  2. Is Sam Harris the guy who's not sure whether I'm stupid or not? Sucker. I'll keep you guessin', dawg.