It's not like atheism isn't preached to us here in America and across the entire Western world daily -- and often. Most of our News Media preach and practice it. Popular TV shows praise it. Pundits proclaim it. If not in direct language, then certainly by their lifestyles, their actions, and the social and political causes they support.
Sam Harris has become the premiere voice in the massive choir calling for a divorce of culture from religion. His first book, The End of Faith, was an award winning, bestselling promotional piece for the supremacy of the atheistic ideal. His thesis is neither novel nor complex: "Religion is the root of all evil." The Washington Post documented this thesis quite well (and somewhat happily) in an article on Thursday, October 26, 2006.
In the interest of full disclosure, I can't say I disagree with the entire case Harris puts forth. If you read my previous posts, you'll know that I have found just plenty of "evil" in the guise of "spirituality," hiding hypocrisy in the robes of religion. Harris points out in his second very popular book Letter to a Christian Nation, that he received tons of letters in reaction to his first book. Most were from self described "Christians," many professed hatred for Harris, and some even threatened his life.
Seriously, that's helpful. I'm sure Jesus is pleased with that. No, really -- "kill all the infidels." For this, Christians -- BIBLICAL Christians -- should be profoundly saddened. That kind of hatefulness does nothing to answer the arguments of Harris, and on the contrary affirms his claims. I can understand why ANYONE would reject the idea of religion -- especially Christianity -- who its principles are so often clearly contradicted by the lives of its supposed adherents. I always think of the words of Gandhi when he was asked, "why are you not a Christian?" Gandhi answered, "I would be a Christian, but for the Christians."
That said, I certainly do not endorse nor agree with the conclusions of Sam Harris. Harris not only believes that religious people are wrong, but that they are crazy, and their beliefs and practices are THE reason for dysfunctioning cultures and societies. By the way, he doesn't discriminate -- this applies to ALL religions. Well, he has a mild affinity for Jainism, but....
Once you've read Harris' books or heard him speak, however, you get the distinct impression that he's spent many of his 39 years buried in the works of Bertrand Russell. Many of his arguments are, well, OLD. The language has been updated. The specific targets of his writing are new. But, the attack on "religion" goes on. It was once Voltaire, then Bertrand Russell, now Sam Harris.
May I gently point out that Voltaire is dead? Russell -- dead. Harris -- not yet, but one day. After all, it is the way of all flesh, as the book of Ecclesiastes says -- and THAT is one truth Harris can't deny.
To answer Harris, let me mention several simple facts that must be considered. First, religion is the attempt of mankind to answer questions he cannot understand, to explain events and ideas that finite humans cannot grasp. Religion, then, of its very nature, is fallible -- because HUMANS are fallible. But that in itself does NOT make ALL religion evil.
Second, religion, as a human endeavor, can be co-opted and corrupted by those with personal and evil agendas who abuse and misuse their professed beliefs for their own ends. Case in point -- Islamofascism.
Third, Harris contends that it is "absolutely" TRUE that religion is "absolutely" evil. How so? If atheism is indeed "true," then there is NO "absolute truth," nor is there any God, entity or "Ultimate Reality" by which one can measure truth or error, right or wrong, value or worthlessness. His vehement argument for atheism, then, is self contradictory on its face.
Harris is right to this extent -- religion does not hold the answer. Though it may not be evil in itself, and though their are billions of adherents to multitudes of faiths and philosophies, no attempt of man will EVER bring him to full knowledge of the universe, or "Ultimate Reality," of Truth, or of God. Because man IS limited and finite in nature, he could never discover "Truth," whatever that might be. It would take this "Truth" revealing itself to humans to make it real, to answer our questions, to calm our angst.
In my view, from my own experience, I have found that Revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. I am hoping Sam Harris will consider his own "finiteness," and realize their are questions he cannot answer, mysteries his reason can't master. If he does -- if YOU do -- Truth can reveal Himself to you too.