Thursday, October 27, 2005


As indicated in the previous post, Harris does not like the term radical or even fundamentalist. He makes the point (and I agree) that those that we call radical are actually those that have not betrayed their faith for the comfort of our more liberal society. (Yes, Christian and Moslem alike).

Those that embrace their faith totally are considered extreme...but failure to adhere to ALL the tenets of the religion is a betrayal. First a person betrays reason to hold beliefs that are fundamentally irrational, and then s/he betrays the faith by not embracing all of it. The irrational becomes devoid of the capacity for any reason. Why do we even consider LISTENING to people such as these?

People have been very concerned with Bush and his reliance on faith to guide him in his executive duties. But if you were to suggest any of those people were antagonist towards religion in general, many (if not most) of those people would quickly proclaim their own faith and religious credentials.

Radicals are the true believers, the strict adherents to their faith. They are marginalized by those outside of the religion but those inside the religion, much to their own dismay, defend them! What choice do they have? (Before anyone gets on their high horse, if the Inquisition had the tools of today, the slaughter would be as great if not greater than we are facing now. Christians had their own bloody period when 'infidels' were killed with almost giddy abandon.) The radical must be defended. The defender must either accept that the radical has a clear and correct position, or must acknowledge the shortcomings of their own faithfulness.

Even the faithless have their own radicals...

Traitor? Betrayer? Enabler?

Victoria bought Sam Harris' The End of Faith for me....she's like that. Well, it took me almost 2 weeks to read. Very dense. But the biggest reason it took so long was that almost every paragraph I would stop and go "YEA!".

Harris just rips into those with faith, savaging Moslems, Jews and Christians alike. But after 1/2 the book, I realized that the people he was most upset with, were people like me.

We who have tossed off the shackles of faith but allow others to wallow in the mire. In my previous post I used the situation of a plane crashing. We can not throw the passengers out of the crashing plane, they will not go. They will fight tooth and nail to stay in the plane because there is a slight chance, maybe no more than .0001% that they will survive, but if they jump without a parachute, they will die. People can not give up on faith because to do so means they will die and very few people like that idea, even fewer look forward to it.

Of course one of the problems with our general society is that people are willing to tolerate a certain level of bad things happening to themselves and others because the afterlife will be better. If there were no afterlife, well then, people would have to make things better here because here is all we have.

How many suicide bombers would there be if they didn't believe they were going somewhere better upon their death?

The primary issue in The End of Faith is that those with dangerous beliefs about dying and faith (those that think killing is not only sanctioned but encouraged) once could be allowed to go to their bitter end in relative isolation, but no more. Radical (and he does not like that word because it suggests that it lets others with similar beliefs but less enthusiasm off the hook) Moslems can now jump a plane and within hours be anywhere on the planet with weapons much worse than a knife or gun.

The problem with ME is that I do not call those with faith on their irrationality when it pops up. Victoria is the exception but even there I don't dare go 'overboard' in the interest of familia harmony.

Many friends and family will recall a time when I proclaimed their faith was insufficient, that God was calling to them to quit being lukewarm. An attempt to now proclaim that even their lukewarmness is now affront to all that is rational would be met with a similar shaking of the head and overt dismissal as Tracy goes off the deep end again.

The plane is crashing but the passengers feel safe and secure. That the passengers would allow a 'lunatic' to shout and demand everyone jump off is highly unlikely. So what is the choice? Continue to allow friends and family, our entire society, to continue in their comfortable disdain of rationality? Continue to betray our own sense of reason and quietly accept everyone else's incoherence? Or turn our back on reason altogether and just accept that for 95% of the people, faith is more important that reason, that beliefs in the impossible are more important than facts, that religion is more sustaining than civilization?

I don't want people to fear death...that is like fearing breathing. Unfortunately, those that have NO fear of death are exactly the people that right now threaten so many of us. But people need the parachute, they will not jump without it. And given the overwhelming appearance that those that actually do an indepth study of religion STILL adhere to their beliefs, even rational discourse is not possible. Harris believes that no amount of facts, logic or reason will change a single mind devoted to faith. From the moment you claim not to believe, people of faith are on the defensive. The only people that reach the point of abandoning faith are those that do so themselves and not because someone convinced them.

There are not even 3 people that I think could read Harris' book and get any value out of it. What does that say about the range of friends I have?

What do I do with my new found ammunition? Well, it appears my only choice for now, is you!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Why do we have faith? Religion?

If God didn't exist, we would have to invent him/her. Why? Why do people need faith/belief?

If there were no God, no afterlife, then everything we do here is a waste...
If there is no God, no judgment, then those that live against the rules will not get their just desserts in the end...
If there is no God, no heaven, then all those that have died, are gone forever...
If there is no God, no afterlife, then when I die.....

People face these situations and the alternative to God and an afterlife is intolerable.

A friend suggested to me yesterday that we could have a conversation about God and the afterlife when I was on my deathbed. She has a point. Many people that profess no belief in God or the afterlife have "deathbed conversions". It is obvious that the fear of death can only be diminished by the hope that death is not final.

I am going to start a series of posts but I am going start with some guidelines.

You can scream and point to all kinds of evidence that the plane is going to crash, but NO ONE is going to jump out of the plane without a parachute. Unfortunately, people will prefer to die safe in their beliefs than to abandon them.

This is the failure of atheists. They stand on the crashing plane with their self righteous position that at least they will die knowing the truth. Of course, everyone else thinks they're nuts because THEY know the REAL truth. In the end, they all die and those of us left to clean up the mess are no better off.

In Carl Sagan's Contact, Dr Arroway is asked if she believes 95% of the worlds population is delusional. She can't answer yes. Because the 95% believe that because 95% believe, they are correct. To those 95%, the belief in a higher power is so self evident that to dispute it is to be a nut case not worthy of further conversation.

My position is the result of DECADES of effort to set aside 27 years of indoctrination. I can never be completely free of the years of education and years of immersion in religion. I am who I am BECAUSE of that immersion. If we had an island and put children there who have never been given knowledge of God, would they form a belief in "God"? Even my decision to abandon God is tainted by the knowledge that religion and this society drilled into me.