There’s an article up on Salon this evening about the author of a book titled “The End of Faith”:
“Sam Harris, author of ‘The End of Faith,’ on why religious moderates are worse than fundamentalists, 9/11 led us into a deranged holy war, and believers should be treated like alien-abduction kooks.”
The heart of Harris’ book is a frontal assault on Islam and Christianity, carrying both pages and pages of quotations from the Quran imploring the faithful to kill infidels, and a chilling history of how Christian leaders have brutally punished heretics. Harris argues that much of the violence in today’s world stems directly from people willing to live and die by these sacred texts.
In perhaps his most daring rhetorical gambit, Harris seeks to undermine religion by denouncing not just jihadis and fundamentalists, but moderates. “Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world,” he writes, “because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed.” Harris especially chastises moderates for refusing to criticize scripture-quoting extremists; for him, they are basically guilty of legitimizing fundamentalism.
The body of the article is an interview with Harris. In it he says that he wrote his book as a response to the events of 9/11. He takes on Islam, Christianity and Judaism, focusing especially on passages that have been used as proof-texts to justify violence and torture against people with whom the faithful disagree.
Harris goes on to defend his own belief in Buddhism and his fascination with Telepathy. While there are some interesting points here, it seems to me that the whole enterprise is simply a “rant” writ large. I could imagine using his techniques to condemn nation-states and most any “ism” that has gotten any real traction.
I can imagine thoughtful ways to critique the religious impulse and the need to explain our existential reality, and even ultimately attempt to explain away religion entirely as merely a particularly successful evolutionary strategy. This is book is apparently not that – and at least according to the interview doesn’t even really ask the more subtle questions that could be asked.
You can read the rest here: The disbeliever | Salon Books
I do not believe it is a coincidence that Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and all the other scientists attacking religion these days make their living in the life sciences. Their field is being subject to relentless attacks by the right wing, and this is the blowback we should have expected.