Wednesday, September 20, 2006

God, Elvis, Sam Harris, and George Bush.

The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.

Sam Harris, Ph.D., Letter to a Christian Nation, Random House, 2006

A person who believes that Elvis is still alive is very unlikely to get promoted to a position of great power and responsibility in our society. Neither will a person who believes that the holocaust was a hoax. But people who believe equally irrational things about God and the bible are now running our country. This is genuinely terrifying.

Sam Harris, Ph.D., Letter to a Christian Nation, Random House, 2006

I listened to Sam Harris talk about religion recently and couldn't help but worry for his safety. He's a 21st Century heretic. But he's basing his thesis on facts. He's saying that we are almost beyond rectifying our present confrontational situation and that conversation is the only way we're going to break the deadlock. Faith trumps rational argument. Common-sense ethical intuition is blinded by religious metaphysics. That's got to stop. And soon!
We have no reason to expect to survive our religious differences indefinitely. Faith is intrinsically divisive. We have a choice between conversation and war. It was conversation that ended slavery, not faith. Faith is a declaration of immunity to conversation. To make religious war unthinkable, we have to undermine the dogma of faith. The continuance of civilization requires not moderation, but reason.
Strong but timely stuff. Harris, Richard Dawkins, Madeleine Albright, psychologist Robert Firestone and others are discussing the topic. But who out there amongst our political candidates is willing to stand up and confront this issue intelligently? Perhaps Russ Feingold. Jimmy Carter [but he can't run again]? Madeleine Albright? Can you name somebody - anybody - who is willing to take the yoke and run with it? Who has the strength of character and intelligence to open and sustain the dialogue? The integrity to keep it up until something positive happens? And the charisma and ability to debate with humor and compassion?