Grey Thoughts
16.8.05
 
Philosophy - Is Religion the problem
Right Reason has a useful article on the ideas of Sam Harris, who believes that belief in religion is the main problem in the world. Sam, like others such as Dennis Altman in Australia, seeks to enforce his own beliefs about the nature of the world upon the rest of us. You can read an excerpt from Sam's book, The End of Faith, here. From right reason
One often hears it said that militant Muslims do not represent Islam, but have 'hijacked' it for their evil purposes. On this way of thinking, the problem is not Islam as such, but its misuse by small bands of fanatics, a misuse that is in no way dictated by the nature of Islam. Others think the problem lies deeper, in the nature of Islam itself. A truly radical thesis, however, is maintained by Sam Harris in The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (Norton, 2004). Harris argues that the problems we face are rooted in religion as such, specifically, in its core doctrines. As he puts it,

. . . while religious people are not generally mad, their core beliefs absolutely are. This is not surprising, since most religions have merely canonized a few products of ancient ignorance and derangement and passed them down to us as though they were primordial truths."

Right Reason does a good job of unpacking Sam's confused thinking. But I also wanted to comment that Sam's belief that
Like Clifford, Harris stresses the belief-action link and the fact that beliefs, though seemingly private, often have all-too-public consequences. And like Clifford, his view seems to be that ". . . it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence." This is known as evidentialism. Note that it is a normative claim belonging to what is sometimes called the ‘ethics of belief’: it is wrong to believe on insufficient evidence. As Harris puts it,

Our "freedom of belief," if it exists at all, is minimal. Is a person really free to believe a proposition for which he has no evidence? No. Evidence (whether sensory or logical) is the only thing that suggests that a given belief is really about the world in the first place.

Essentially, the belief that it is 'wrong to belief in anything on insufficient evidence' is not supported by evidence, and thus refers to itself and essentially refutes itself.

On a side note, it is only due to 'religious' beliefs that people like Sam have the opportunity to belief as he chooses. If every Christian or even remotely Christian person in the US or OZ immediately changed their religious belief to Sam's line of thinking about forcing/punishing bad beliefs, then it is quite clear than the minority of Atheists in the western world would be in for a nasty time. I.e. If Sam thinks it is okay to force his beliefs on us, even by pain of death, then if we play be his rules, he loses. Thankfully for Sam though, us 'religious' people value freedom more than those secular humanists who seek to oppress.

Other recent news also highlights this push by Secular Humanists to force their opinions on 'religious' people. Life Site news highlights the case of Planned Parenthood starting to label those Pharmacists who don't provide the abortion causing drug Ru-486 as 'Criminal'. People being fired for failing to celebrate gay pride month at the red cross, And Canadian academics calling for the government 'control' of religions, especially catholocism.

Joseph Sobran called this push by Secular Humanists to outlaw religion, 'Cultural Socialism' and makes some very worthwile comments.
Comments:
It's always interesting that the ones calling for the removal of religion have a blind spot to those times when totally secularist societies have been formed. Start with the French Revolution and move on to communism, facism, etc. The result of the absence of religion is unbridled gov't power, rampant corruption, superstition, and moral decay. Those same things can happen in a religious society, but I've never seen a secular society that hasn't been that way.

They miss the point that man is the problem. Most religions are an attempt to reign in the sinful impulses of man. (I exclude Islam from this.)
 
My problem with Harris' line of thinking is that his deifinition of religion is too small. Secular beliefs are religious, and rely on unproven assumptions (with little evidence) regarding ultimate questions.

As terrahawk points out, the consequences of their beliefs have been disastrous.
 
resot4m:

That's a good point. If you ever talk to a secularist, they have this innate faith on everything from the origins of life, to the perfectability of man.
 
Indeed. If you look at the first 2 humanist manifestoes, they actually refer to their beliefs as 'religious'. It is only the last manifesto, where they are all to aware of the problems of seperation of church and state, that they try to pretend they are not religious.
 
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