I just finished reading Chris Lehmann' review of "The End of Faith" on the Reason Online website. It's entitled, "Among the Non-Believers: The Tedium of Dogmatic Atheism". Has anyone else read it? If so, what do you think?
It can be found here:
From the first paragraph alone:
“For nearly as long as there have been villages, there have been village atheists,...”
I’m sure there were. Most were probably burned at a handy stake before they could cause much trouble, though.
“Never mind, as well, that militantly atheist movements like Soviet and Khmer Rouge communism—as well as volkish pagan ones like Nazism and Tutsi supremacy—stand behind some of the worst mass violence of the past century. Harris believes religious belief is the single greatest threat to the survival of the human species.”
Any belief based upon unfounded principles is the same as a religious belief. None of it is rational. How is the belief in communism any different from christianity? One is a political belief based upon unreachable utopian ideals, the other is a belief that you will reach utopia after death. And while it may be nice to have these fantasies, both have about the same chance of occuring in the real world.
“Never mind that, among the world’s one billion Islamic believers, the vast majority of clerics and lay Muslims renounce the politicized brand of Islamist dogma that extremists seek to inflict on Muslim and non-Muslim populations alike”
The argument is that the moderates allow the fundamentalists to exist. You can’t stand up in front of a crowd and say that Odin talks to you without people thinking you are squirrely.
“How can it be that the 9/11 suicide bomber, whose spiritual principles and hateful political practices are denounced in the highest reaches of mainstream Islamic observance, is “a man of perfect faith,” and that the innocent victims of those attacks, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Jain, or Hindu, are automatically symbols of defiled secularism? “
The difference being that the people being killed, even if they were religious in their own right, are being killed because of another’s belief in something completely unprovable. There is no proof that god exists as indicated in the Koran and yet that it is the reason you kill someone. See the issue? Does it matter that you kill someone equally as religious as yourself?
It’s obvious, of course, that a certain derangement of Muslim dogma prompted these men into terrible action, but there are also, again, more complicated forces in play,...
Sure and not everyone who grew up in a ghetto becomes a crack dealer. People make choices all the time. Today I choose not to be a nut and blow up the World Trade buildings. Easy. Their choice of religion was what caused them to do this. Sam made some good points about other religions that this could never have occured if these people were members of them.
Here again, Harris glides right by historical precedent—a well-advised move for his argument, since the only power that has used nuclear weapons on civilian populations (up to and including the zealots in Pakistan and India who now belong to the nuclear club) is our own secular, Enlightenment-bred American republic, steeped in pragmatic self-regard far afield from faith-induced deliriums of jihad and martyrdom
The author here seems to have forgotten his own quote of:
Polls regularly show that at least 90 percent of Americans believe in God; more than 80 percent agree that the deity is regularly performing miracles in today’s world; more than 80 percent also believe in an afterlife and Heaven as an actual physical site for same
Maybe a truly secular society may not have used the bomb on Japan. But, then again, a truly rational and secular society would value its members more than the enemies who are trying to destroy it and use it as needed. Dunno, but I think Patton said it best,
“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
- Attributed to General George Patton Jr
The intellectual corruption of faith can twist and wind its way throughout an otherwise healthy mind and produce this “ability” to isolate comments and ideas that are presented as dependent upon each other clearly enough that your average 10-year-old can easily understand the link. The critical faculties of the faithful tend to be very ad hoc in nature, at least where they intersect with articles of faith.
In my experience it’s not all that uncommon to find vacuous or impotent commentaries that stand out in stark contrast to the norm from generally sound writers and thinkers when they’re compelled to take on matters of personal faith. Even an otherwise formidable mind can easily falter and flounder about in selective perception and strategic ignorance when facing a genuine challenge to an article of faith.
Got to protect that investment—a worldview is at stake!
I would like to start with some bumper stickers, something like
BLIND FAITH IS A HANDICAP
CAN WE HAVE A WORLDWIDE VOTE ON WHICH GOD IS REAL
It is especially pointless to try to counter this guy’s tirade with rational argument.
He is adopting the usual religious-zealot line - my god is better than you god (or lack thereof). Because Stalin was an athiest and Stalin was a bad man, therefore god exists.
The debate should not be about who else believes what and what they do in defence of thier beliefs. I don’t particularly like Osama bin Laden (or George BUsh for that matter), but this is not the reason I don’t believe in god.
I don’t believe in god because god is a preposterous, irrational, unproven, childist belief. Let’s debate that with the New Yorker journalist.
I usually like Reason but I think they should be ashamed they published this drivel.
From beginning to end, Lehmann ignores the fact that his objections and rejoinders are actually discussed in The End of Faith. He is, in other words, beating the hell out of a straw man. (And as another poster noted, he’s doing so in a style so pompous it sometimes seems to be a satirical take on the New York Review of Books.)
Now, whether Sam Harris’ take on those particular arguments wins the debate is another matter. But no serious reviewer can trot out old warhorses like “atheistic regimes like the Soviet Union committed some of the worst crimes in history” without noting that Harris has counter-arguments. But time and again, Lehmann ignores what Harris actually wrote and instead directs his (sophomoric) arguments at what he takes to be the standard “dogmatic atheist” position.
Which makes me wonder: Did Lehmann even read the book?
As a long time reader of Reason I was hugeky disappointed by the review. Unfortunately, this is not the only libertarian leaning publication that is umwilling to take a critical stance on religion. I realize many readers of Reason tend to associate with the republican ideas on taxes, etc., and I am beginning to think that these publications may be afraid to offend some of their readers by being critical of religion.
Clearly, Mr. Lehmann likes to sneer. While I’ve heard the term “village idiot”, I’m not familiar with the usage “village atheist”, and I have to wonder if he is not attempting some sly conflation of the terms. Does anyone else recognize the usage? Calling Mr. Harris a “grad student” is also merely patronizing. He makes the usual arguments about the good points of the so-called religious moderates without making any real distinction between their fundamentalbeliefs and the beliefs of the Islamist extremists. Unhappily, moderates of various stripes are very flexible in what they remember about their fundamental beliefs. Finally, Mr. Lehmann’s comments about the violence in works by authors like Shakespeare, Virgil and Homer ignore the fact that they were writers of fiction, “holding the mirror up to nature”. That is not the same as the exhortations to faith-based murder found in the so-called holy books he is defending. I was a little surprised to find writing like this on this particular website.
Only the rational effort of secularists has kept us from extinguishing ourselves as a species. I don’t understand why this isn’t painfully obvious to believers, unless they’re just plain retarded.
The preservation of humankind is not a priority among believers. If you read scripture, you quickly understand that the temporal, conscious world is just a waste of time.
Given this premise, regardless of which afterlife-obsessed denomination of faith you choose, it is only logical to espouse not only the extinction of those who somehow threaten your beliefs, but risk your own life in the process.
Within Islam, there may indeed be a silent majority of the tolerant. However, they don’t have much credibility, apparently, in the Muslim world. It is hard to argue, as a believer, that the clear message of scripture is wrong. It is hard to posit your religion as one of peace when it clearly states in your holy handbook that God commands you to kill nonbelievers.
Mr. Harris argued this rather forcefully, in my opinion, and I haven’t read a decent rebuttal anywhere.
I read the text at Reason On Line about The End Of Faith, The reality that was over looked, or ignored, is that for every religious terrorist that kills the innocent there are millions of others who are dedicated to inflicting their values, their prejudices and their superstition on the rest of us. The fact is that because the events of 9/11 were so dramatic, bloody and brutal that the steady erosion of our freedom by the Christian right, our home grown religious fanatics, is being ignored. Reason On Line’s dismissal of Harris as a village atheist fails to address this fact and it also ignores another reality. As science advances our knowledge of reality it stresses those who kling to superstition. The greater the advance of knowledge the greater the stress on the superstitous. This stress may be manifest in the form of political action, as it is here, or by violence as in the Middle East. While there is a huge difference between the horror of suicide bombers and the political action of American Christians in the end the rational suffer at the hands of the irrational. The Reason On Line article forgot to mention that too.
I did not agree with everything espoused by Sam Harris in his book, but he at least had something to say. The condescension in the reviewer’s bleatings fairly dripped down my computer screen. The “Village Atheist”?—hmm, a put-down for not playing the game of “let’s pretend” and forgetting that it’s just a game. What a clotpole!
I myself believe that god should be in our schools—how is next Monday, say 9:30 a.m.? Listeners?