By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
—– Original Message —–
Sent: Sunday, December 18, 2005 10:47 AM
Subject: The End Of Faith, by Sam Harris http://www.samharris.org/
Thomas, What do you think of the arguments made in Sam Harris’ book, “The End of Faith”?
I heard Sam Harris speak on his book, “The End of Faith” on Book TV a few months ago. I have not read the book, and I do not clearly remember the points he made, but my impression listening to him was that many of his points were good, but his conclusion was false.
We can accept it as an axiomatic principle that a man’s faith guides many of his actions, especially in the realm of public policy. And, casual observation will confirm that men will attempt to enforce the manifestation of their beliefs about right and wrong on their individual and group lives. Thus, as long as men hold onto precepts of faith, and those precepts require them to impose their beliefs on others, the result will be conflict.
There will be no end to conflict as long as one religion or idea system attempts to impose its belief systems upon another by force. I wish to note that Christianity does not advocate the forceful imposition of faith upon anyone. Christianity does require spreading the gospel, but not by force. Those who have engaged in forceful overthrow of nations for the purpose of proselytizing are incorrect in their interpretation of Scripture.
The Old Testament tells stories about how God commanded Israel to take over land and kill all the pagan inhabitants. Such a command was righteous, as during that era, the land was ruled by a true Theocracy; God was actually the leader and ruler of the nation. That time was the only period in history when we had a true Theocracy. But, that era ended, and we are now in a different regime. Those who wish to say they are doing God’s work by converting people by force are acting as though they operate under the authority of God. Such a notion is at the very least a mistaken interpretation of Scripture.
The problem with religion with regard to the current world conditions is that Militant Islam believes it has a Koranic mandate to place the world under the rule of Allah. As a result, the rest of the world must reply with force to prevent the domination being thrust upon them.
Sam Harris acknowledges that Militant Islam promotes the spreading of their doctrines and increasing their devotees by force. But, he does not note that Christianity (and most other religions) does not have this same ethic. Thus, his solution becomes a simplistic “remove all faiths”, rather than the more pointed and appropriate, “convert and correct those who profess wrong religion.”
Again, as long as religions embrace the notions of enforced conversion and armed conquest of lands to spread their religion, there will be no end to religion-generated conflict.
But, eliminating conflict by submitting to the oppressor will not solve the fundamental problems of mankind, since the human heart hates slavery more than it loves peace.
Faith will never end as an operative force in life because the gap between observation and explanation will never narrow to zero. People will always attribute the unknown to their particular myth. The only possible end to faith is to ignore the unknown, and assume that there is nothing beyond this current life, no forces, no intelligence, no plans, and no governing principles which are operating in the background of life. Only atheism resolves this struggle with the unknown, but only partially since its replaces faith in God with faith in materialism on all levels of the creation. Atheism removes the drive of humans to govern man’s behavior based on a supernatural and higher code of conduct, and replaces the need for a standard of social etiquette with a human vision of fairness and moral conduct. Atheism is merely a faith in a different god, one which is just as unprovable as being the foundational rock of reality as a faith in God.
Humans will distribute their allegiance of faith throughout the spectrum of available choices. And, given the extreme poles available to the spectrum of religious choices; one may be totally right, and many will be partially right and wrong, and one may be absolutely antithetical to truth. Still, each religion serves a purpose to the devotee; each faith offers some explanation to fill up the gap between the known and the unknown. Thus, the practitioner leaves with a greater sense of predictability about how life operates and the rules governing it.
Thus, faith will remain a fact, an operative principle in the human heart for as long as humanity lives in a state of incomplete revelation about life. And, as long as there are alternative paths, people will continue to seek deeper revelations by exploring different expressions of faith. And, as long as people embrace different religions with opposing moral implications, the variety of faiths will continue to be the source of conflict. The Judeo Christian version of faith in its holistic mainstream form is not a strong threat to anyone militarily unless a neighbor threatens force. But, the doctrine of the Militant Islamic faith advocates such unilateral violation of boundaries that its mere existence presents a threat to the entire world.
Until we overtly acknowledge, that Militant Islam cannot coexist peacefully with the rest of the faith communities, we are living in a fairy tale world. As a Judeo-Christian culture we tend to project our own moral structure upon other people. But, in fact, the Militant Islamist does not follow the Lord’s command to “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” Instead, the Militant Islamist follows a theological declaration that requires him to overtake all who oppose Allah, and do so by force. Both groups wish to proselytize, but the method of the Militant Islamist takes away the freedom of choice from the convert.
If Sam Harris wishes to put an end to those faiths which hold the tenets of forceful conversion, I am in total agreement with his position. If Mr. Harris wishes to remove all faiths from the hearts of men so that peace can reign on earth, then he is living in a world of imagination which will never manifest in reality.