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End of Faith

2005-12-08 16:34:00.263944+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

I mentioned reading The End of Faith[Wiki] by Sam Harris[Wiki], and then said I was going to take it apart. I don't think it was a powerful enough book to bother really tearing apart. Sure, the first few chapters felt good in a "booya, go us atheists" sort of way, but then some of his contradictions started showing up, like when he proclaims that the intent (not even the ends) justify the means, or when he spends time showing the idiocy of torture in the history of Christianity in rooting out things like witchcraft and heresy, and then writes an impassioned defense of its use in "the war on terror".

So in the end (which comes about half-way through the book, the rest is notes on stuff referenced in the text) I felt very much like he'd trivialized a discussion that I'd very much like to be having. It ends up being yet another "let's pile on Islam and the fundie Christians in the wake of September 11th" rather than a "how is faith negatively impacting our culture and our public policy" discussion.

I think the second one is interesting, but I think it needs to be had while keeping in mind that faith may be an evolutionary mechanism. Think about it: If you're not willing to accept the notion of an afterlife or a divine reward, then you probably aren't willing to die for your culture. Bing, that culture has just lost its ability to make war. Similarly, I'll bet the feelings of faith and the desire to procreate are more than slightly correlated.

I'd also offer up to those who claim that faith and organized religion are to blame for the evils, rather than a deeper human need to belong to something greater, that Kamikaze pilots more often referenced their "beautiful hometowns" and their families than their country and their emperor...

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2005-12-08 17:51:18.80674+00 by: Shawn

We were at Barnes & Noble last night, where I came across Jimmy Carter's Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis. The inner jacket was just vague enough to not give away the book, but it looks like he may be engaging in that discussion you're looking for. Apparently, he's written other books about his deeply held faith, but this one appears to focus (possibly among other things) on the increasing role and influence of religion in our government.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-12-09 14:26:25.472939+00 by: ebradway

Think about it: If you're not willing to accept the notion of an afterlife or a divine reward, then you probably aren't willing to die for your culture. Bing, that culture has just lost its ability to make war.

You don't actually spend much time around members of the military, do you? Just harboring a guess because these things normally go unsaid in such company, but the reasons my father was willing to go to war for his country were:

  1. He believes in his country and the mechanisms that have kept it together to 200+ years
  2. He wants his children to enjoy the same freedoms he had (if not, more)
  3. He grew up in a time when all men either went to college or entered the military and alot of repect was bestowed upon men entering the military.

But nowhere in this equation does believe in an afterlife come into play. And, although I've never asked, I believe my father is an atheist. I say I've never asked, because religion in a non-issue with him. My mother always said that my father is only interested in things "that help him rebuild his carbeurator" and belief in an afterlife doesn't make the cut.

I heard part of an interview with Jimmy Carter on NPR recently. He spoke at length on how his personal beliefs directly contradicted Roe vs. Wade, but as President, his duty was to uphold the Supreme Court decision. He did everything he could to prevent his personal beliefs from coloring his actions. Carter also appears to be as far from Xtian-Fundie as you can get, while still claiming adamant faith in Jesus (and I think I'm seeing a trend between Carter and the Catholic Church)...

P.S. There is a great article on Buddhism in the Dec 2005 issue of National Geographic.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-12-09 14:40:10.921934+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think that perhaps "the notion of an afterlife" is a little strong and a little over-specific, and whatever word I used should have included "legacy" in it.