Why Sam Harris is WRONG WRONG WRONG, Part 1

I'm splitting this blog into several parts in the interest in my getting *some* sleep at night. I think I should be able to maintain my logical flow from day to day, but I make no guarantees whatsoever.

First off, I would like to make it clear that my main objection with Sam Harris is not the intent of his book but the content, and the methodology. Speaking about how faith ends is not what atheists and the burgeoning athiestic community needs to be hearing right now. We've already come to the place where we know that we disagree with the religious community at large. (The Big Question remains, Where Do We Go From Here? Where is the beginning of our community? A community founded with an assumption of things as provable?)

(sorry, I digress a lot, just get used to it, it's how I write)(in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I've been re-reading early American political documents the style is rubbing off for the moment, and it makes me Capitalize Things I Think Are Important, bear with me, I'm sure it will pass) (just be glad I'm not in the middle of a Jane Austen marathon right now)

Speaking plainly, I don't think that what the non-theist community needs to hear right now is a bunch of additional blather about how bad and obnoxious religion is. I'm not sure why so many atheists want to discuss the book - honestly, I can't see how we be construed to be the audience, except in a HA! I KNEW I WAS RIGHT kind of way.

I also disagree with the method. I think Harris falls to a common atheist flaw in arguing with believers within the framework of their own religion. I don't think it is appropriate to be wasting our collective time and energy studying at or looking at belief systems that we know to be anachronistic and only barely functional in the modern world. Everytime I hear an atheist speak to a believer and quote the Bible or Koran, or another holy text, I wince. Two anachronistic quotesd o not make philosophical truth. That, and it's what they want you to do. They want you to be thinking about and finding value in their texts. When we base our arguments within their framework, we are acknowledging their boudaries to the conversation, to the argument.

I don't talk to my relatives, my friends, or others about my non-belief in anything but an empirical or philosophical framework. I spent enough time reading the Bible and other holy texts in my youth. I'm open to reading other things, but not for the intents or purposes of looking for fuel to convince them of the wrong headedness of their belief.

So why is it that I think that we engage our religious friends and neighbors in dialogue using their terms instead of our own? I think that we, as a community, are not sufficiently knowledgable about where empricism comes from, and of our own historical and philsophical giants.

More on this later. Next time: how religious moderation allowed for the flowering of atheism and non-belief. Harris blames the moderates for allowing extremists to flourish. He forgets that they also allowed heretics and atheists to flourish at the same time. Bad Philosopher!

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Tags: Harris, Sam, arguments, fighting, fire, philosophy, with

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Comment by Your girl Friday on July 22, 2008 at 11:39am
Thanks everyone for the comments, and for the compliments. :)
Comment by Kate Holden on July 20, 2008 at 12:53pm
The problem is that so many Christians pick and choose which verses to announce as being 'Christian Virtues' while ignoring the great majority of violence and immorality found in the 'good book'. Many times they haven't even read or paid attention to the most shocking passages so it can help to gently point them out. Of course, if they continue the argument in the 'Jesus undid all that' vein (of course, Jesus seemed to have some sort of personality disorder if you examine the texts but don't tell them that or you'll be run out of town with torches and pitchforks) then you do, in fact, need to step off 'their' turf and argue your own POV without bringing the bible back into it.
Comment by Your girl Friday on July 20, 2008 at 12:52pm
Josh, I'd like to quickly comment that I agree with you entirely about lessons to be learned from the religious community. I have a comment at the end of my first blog entry to that effect. :)
Comment by Josh Gough on July 20, 2008 at 9:52am
This is a good post. Thanks for writing this. I do also agree that areligious people need to move past the debate and into something better. I'm all for conversation and communication, but I think it has to be based on shared interests. Let's forget about the disagreements and focus on what we can agree upon with them.

There are things to learn from them however, regarding community building. I've written about this in my blog too.
Comment by HotMess on July 19, 2008 at 11:46pm
The thing is, if you HAVE to argue with a religious person (maybe if you got trapped next to someone on a looooong plane trip), it helps to show them that you know as much about their doctrines as they do. Then you move on to show them just how much more you know than what is contained in their bible or whatever. Then you have to let them show you just how little they know about your realm of intellect.
Personally, I just avoid discussions about religion, because it just makes them angry; I'm just hopeful that I'll find a place in that community we're all talking about

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