Well readers, I hope everything works well tonight. We’re experiencing technical difficulties at what I suppose you could call the home base of Deeper Waters. However, it is still our commitment to do the regular blog and that commitment is going to stay. We’re doing a review of Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith.” Last night, we looked at the straw man he has built up of no evidence for Christianity and his re-defining faith.
A reader made an astute observation also in stating that could it be Sam Harris’s re-definition could be in part the fault of the church and our continuing anti-intellectualism and emotional mindset that has made us ripe for postmodern thought. I thoroughly agree and this is something I plan to write on later. Church. The new atheists are out there and are a threat, but we can’t say that we haven’t left the doors of attack wide open in fleeing our intellectual ground.
Harris starts describing an Islamic suicide bomber taking out a bus in a city. Now I agree with Harris. This kind of faith is dangerous. I say this especially because I don’t see Islam having the same historical, philosophical, and theological backing that Christianity has. If someone wishes to challenge me on that point though, they are welcome to it.
Harris goes on to speak of how our beliefs do affect our behavior. I see no reason why anyone would disagree with him on this nor do I know how they can. His argument though will be that faith results in negative behavior in the long run and that it is such that it has no evidence. Friends, for the no evidence charge, you know that much has been written here at Deeper Waters about such a charge and I choose to leave it at that unless necessary and remind the reader that there are several helpful books on Christian apologetics and numerous websites which can be found by checking the links on the side. In fact, for help on the books, I recommend going to Tektonics and looking through their book section.
He speaks of how the great slaughters and massacres in history have started because of religion. It would have been nice to have some named. One can see that conveniently, events like the Gulag and the reign of leaders like Pol-Pot are being overlooked. To his credit, Harris does address those later on and when we get there, we will see what he says.
Harris also notes a problem of intolerance. It would have been preferable though for him to have defined tolerance. Does he mean that there is no idea of we respect your right to hold your belief even if we disagree? If that is the case, I believe most Christians would hold to that, and in fact, I think it’s quite biblical that they hold to it. If he means acceptance, then no. We do not accept them as equally true worldviews. Neither does Harris, and he shouldn’t.
Harris also presents an idea that religion is beyond rational discourse and cannot be criticized. One wonders that if this is the case, then how did Harris get his book published? Does he not watch the news either? You can say whatever you want to say about Christianity and it’s okay. Does Mr. Harris condemn the idea that you can’t say anything negative about homosexuality in some countries? What does he think about people having to go to sensitivity training classes because of their moral stance?
He also speaks of those who believe in the literal truth of Revelation, and in this case referring to the book. Mr. Harris is unaware that many orthodox Christians do not hold to a literal interpretation and indeed, in some areas, even the most dispensational believe out there will recognize that there is great symbolism in the book of Revelation. If one wants a fair representation of the Christian worldview though, he won’t get it from Harris.
Harris also speaks of alchemy in the Middle Ages. Yes. That has been discreditted. However, it should be noted that it found its roots in the doctrine of primary matter. That isn’t found in a statement of faith somewhere. Instead, it’s found in Aristotle. It is amusing that for the concept of bad ideas that have been discarded, Harris doesn’t bring up a religious one. (Maybe he’s just unfamiliar with religious history. One can certainly get that impression from his work.)
Harris does admit though that there are emotional and spiritual needs that faith does seem to fulfill. I find it interesting that a being could be entirely physical and have spiritual needs. Not just that, but the cosmos could consist of physical substances only and still there are spiritual needs. Is there any way Harris can fit this into his atheism? This is one reason even some atheists, I suspect, believe Harris to be more New Age than atheistic.
Harris decides to bring out then a passage from Deuteronomy. He has quoted 13:7-11, or at least what he calls 7-11. Instead, it’s actually 6-10a. One thinks if Harris was going to publish his thoughts in a book, he’d at least proofread and make sure he got the Scriptural references correct. If he will not do such, can we trust on other issues?
Harris speaks of how Christians ignore this passage. We don’t. What he forgets is that this was addressed to Israel as a theocracy and a nation that was ruled by him. There are no theocracies today in this sense. Israel was to be the kingdom of priests to the world until the coming of the great high priest, our Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Messiah.
Harris instead speaks of the greater ideas of the last two thousand years like Democratic politics, scientific advancement, human rights, and an end to cultural and geographical isolation. Is he not aware though of how many of these, particularly scientific advancement and human rights came about largely as an influence of Christian thought?
On page 41, Harris gives a most interesting argument in saying that the world you hear and see is nothing more than a modification of your consciousness, the physical status of which remains a mystery. Harris realizes there are philosophical problems, of which namely is “How does he know this?” He seems to think he’s getting accurate information about the external world all throughout this book. One is even more astounded that before this he says that no human being has ever experienced an objective world, or a world at all. If that is the case though, then why ask for evidence that is supposedly objective? Why isn’t that a construct of the mind as well?
Please note readers that many areas are being skipped. This is simply because they were discussed last time and the same straw men keep coming forth. I choose to focus on highlights. Tomorrow, we shall look at chapter 2 of Harris’s book.