Friday, April 28, 2006

Void / Faith

Heading into the weekend, I’ve still no clearer a picture of my whereabouts during the pervious weekend. Because it doesn’t seem I’ll ever get the full story, it’s become a matter of faith. I suppose I’ll have to take hearsay and rumor as fact. No matter how crazy or stupid or dangerous it sounds.

And with both faith and fact in mind, a quick word about the book I finished a few days ago, The End of Faith by Sam Harris. While there’s no doubt the need is great for the propagation of anti-religious viewpoints these days, Harris’ scattershot screed isn’t exactly a primer for the movement. It’s a fun, feel-good read for those of us in the club already, but I can’t see it changing any minds. Based around opinion pieces and thought experiments before devolving into meditations on peripheral topics, his thesis seems to be that rational thought needs to actively trump religious dogmas on a global scale. And do it soon at the peril of nothing less than the future of mankind. Fairly intuitive stuff as far as I’m concerned. But what I do find compelling is Harris’ ability to inject The Argument (to believe or not to believe) with a much-needed level-headedness and analytic panache. Nevermind that his suppositions regularly leave out various x-factors, points of view and half the world's religions, or that his stone-cold rationality leads to some uncomfortable conclusions regarding the actions of the State in the “war on terror.” It's his rhetoric which resonates, if occasionally to the detriment of his rationale. Ultimately, I finish the book feeling pulled in neither direction; not particularly enlightened, but armed with little more ammunition should I need to press my own particular POV.

And now, some quotes:

" I have examined all the known superstitions of the Word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world ..."---Thomas Jefferson

" Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind."--Thomas Paine

"...the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. "--George Washington, 1789, responding to clergy complaints that the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ, from The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness, Isacc Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore W.W. Norton and Company 101-102.

*See Also: The God Who Wasn't There DVD. Haven't seen it yet, but it's next up in my Netflix cue.

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