Monday, March 7, 2011

Sam Harris debunked, phase II

Brian Green, over at The MoralMindField, continues to dissect Harris' latest attempts to establish some rationale for a post-religious world.  As his previous attempt showed, this is no off-the-cuff dig at Harris.  It is a methodical unpacking of where Harris gets it right, and where he gets it wrong. 

It should be no surprise to anyone of faith that, where Harris gets it most wrong, is understanding religion and religious faith.  This, alas, is a hallmark of the 'New Atheist' movement.  Unlike their forebears, folks like Voltaire or Hume, they just don't get it.  In the infancy years of modern Western secular thought, many - like those mentioned - went after religion with a vengeance, but with some knowledge of the facts in question.  Whether the institutional church specifically, or religious thought in general, they hacked and slashed without mercy.  Sometimes, they were right.  But in most cases, they at least knew what they were talking about.  They understood the religion and religious life that they were attacking.

Today, when one listens to or reads Harris, or Christopher Hitchens, or P.Z. Myers, or - I know - Bill Maher, it's clear they don't understand religion at all.  They don't get it.  They don't understand it.  They get things wrong.  They miss actual facts about this religious belief or that religious practice.  Brian points to several cases in Church practice (regarding excommunication) and biblical exegesis (regarding Jesus teaching on hypocrisy) to expose Harris's attempted 'square peg in round hole' end run around the facts. 

No doubt such prolamations as the Church could have excommunicated Hitler but didn't, or that Jesus taught about advocating the killing of children for talking back, appeals to the choir to which Harris preaches.  But as Brian points out in his summation of Harris's laughably inept grasp at religious facts:

“And to what end [does Harris use a non-standard biblical interpretation]?” we might ask. We should already know… to make religions (particularly Christianity), which possess competing worldviews and moral systems, look bad, so that Harris can jump in and can replace them. Harris is spouting political rhetoric, “persuasion” in his words (50), not philosophy or science.
To what end indeed.  Again, the great modern guardians of reason and truth essentially reduce themselves to pseudo-pundits, using half truths, non-truths, and emotional appeals to get the knee jerk reactions their dead end theories are incapable of arousing.  That's what comes of trying to build a worldview on obvious falsehoods.  Even the most passionate disciple will start to scratch his head, unless you toss a few scraps of meat to keep him interested.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. The modern athiest. I am not sure what to think. How do you even approach them with reality. They just don't live in reality. They spew things that are so false so much that they believe it is real.


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