Terrorists in the Homeland
Crazy evangelist and all around man-of-god Pat Robertson advocates assassinating Hugo Chavez. Once again, the almighty gives me a perfect segue to blog about Sam Harris' book, _The End of Faith_.
The book is a serious and thorough indictment of religion in most of its guises. Harris deftly employs reason alongside with the numerous internal contradictions in Christianity, Judiasm and Islam to indict religion not only as the illogical and constricting social institution that it is, but also makes a strong case for religion being directly responsible for a good portion of deadly conflicts in both history and contemporary times. More frightening, he persuasively argues that without humanity moving beyond the primitive spirituality practiced in the big three religions based on texts and evidence from 2 millennia passed, we are doomed to nuclear annihilation.
I don't agree with some of his points, especially the argument for legitimizing torture, but I liked a lot of it. As a person increasingly frustrated by the stupidity foisted upon the world by people who willfully disengage their capacity for reason in order to propagate mythic stories about eternal paradise and hierarchies in which, not coincidently, they end up on top, this book articulated the case against religion far better than I can.
Below are some of the quotes I underlined. I actually had more, but Ciela pulled out a number of my post-it notes:
Harris, Sam The End of Faith: Religion, terror and the Future of Reason. New York: WW Norton, 2004.
17 “Some 46 percent of Americans take a literalist view of creation...This means that 120 million of us place the big bang 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Sumerians learned to brew beer.”
26 “give people divergent, irreconcilable, and untestable notions about what happens after death, and the oblige them to live together with limited resources. The result is just what we see: an unending cycle of murder and cease-fire.”
78 Quoting Bertrand Russell:
The Spaniards in Mexico and Peru used to baptize Indian infants and then immediately dash their brains out: by this means they secured these infants went to Heaven. No orthodox Christian can find any logical reason for condemning their action, although all nowadays do so. In countless ways the doctrine of personal immortality in its Christian form has had disastrous effects upon morals.
99 On the doctrine of transubstantiation and the Fourth Lateran Council:
Henceforth, it was an indisputable fact of this world that the communion host is actually transformed at the Mass into the living body of Jesus Christ. After this incredible dogma had been established, by mere reiteration, to the satisfaction of everyone, Christians began to worry that these living wafers might be subjected to all manner of mistreatment, and even physical torture, at the hands of heretics and Jews. (One might wonder why eating the body of Jesus would be any less of a torment to him.)
173 Surely there must come a time when we will acknowledge the obvious: theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings.
204 at the core of every religion lies an undeniable claim about the human condition: it is possible to have one’s experience of the world radically transformed....The problem with religion is that it blends this truth so thoroughly with the venom of unreason.
225 Nothing is more sacred than the facts. No one, therefore, should win any points in our discourse for deluding himself. The litmus test for reasonableness should be obvious: anyone who wants to know how the world is, whether in physical or spiritual terms, will be open to new evidence.
285n The New Age has offered little progress in this regard, because it has made spiritual life seem generally synonymous with the forfeiture of brain cells.