Tonight, we look at the last official chapter of Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith.” This is a chapter that got him into a lot of trouble with his own atheistic crowd as they thought he had sold himself out to new age spirituality, and in a sense, he seems to have done so. He wants the spiritual bonuses of eastern thought without the eastern thought to go with it.
Harris has instead pointed to a problem with his worldview. There is a vacuum and this is a gaping hole in his theory. If there is no spiritual out there, why does a man have spiritual needs? If all that there is is the physical, then let us leave it at that. Man only has physical needs. He needs to eat, he needs to drink, he needs to sleep, and he needs shelter.
Harris recognizes this vacuum though and I’m pleased he’s recognized it. He speaks about our search for happiness which makes it clear this physical world is not enough to satisfy us. I believe he also recognizes that it is more than just pleasure and that there are times some pleasures are wrong and they should not be had by us.
Harris also raises the question of what we mean by “I.” The only cells that don’t change in our body from what I understand are our brain stem cells. If someone wants to prove the root of our identity is in our brain stem, good luck. Aside from those, I am not the same person that I was seven years ago. Indeed, some cells have been changed so that I don’t have the same cellular make-up I did when I started writing this post! Does this mean I have changed?
That isn’t the purpose of tonight’s blog and indeed, I don’t have a clear answer for this at this point. This is the question of identity that has been around for a long time. I do believe this is one of the areas where the doctrine of man having a soul is important. If anyone wants a humorous look at the question of identity with an interesting answer to the question, one can try “Superheroes and Philosophy” with a look at the question of if Bruce Banner is the same person as the Hulk. I note that for many, this is probably not seen as brilliantly scholarly, but I believe this is also where philosophy can most take place. We can relate our everyday interests to philosophy and get much more out of both then.
However, he has meditation being the route he chooses. Now in Christianity, there is a benefit to meditation. This is meditation though on God and going outside of yourself. The meditation he has though cannot be focusing on God. It will instead have to be man that is the object of the meditation. There is nothing wrong with learning about yourself, though I think it can be done obsessively to a dangerous extent.
It just keeps striking at me as the problem. Naturalism is incapable of filling this void. I think Harris recognizes that void and what he gives won’t fill it. Augustine is right with his famous quote of “You have made us for yourselves and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee.”
I really don’t have much more to say on this but simply to point out what I have already. Harris’s view is inadequate to explain reality and this last chapter says it. Tomorrow, we shall take a short look at the epilogue to the book.