Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sam Harris: Faith vs. Reason in the Modern World

"... Most controversially, he argues that "moderation" in religion poses considerable dangers of its own, as the accommodation we have made to religious faith in our society now blinds us to the role that faith plays in perpetuating human conflict ... Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism to deliver a call for a truly modern foundation for ethics and spirituality that is both secular and humanistic."
W.W. Norton & Company, Publisher

Excerpt from The End of Faith:
"Thousands of years have passed since any Western philosopher imagined that a person should be made happy, peaceful, or even wise, in the ordinary sense, by his search for truth. Personal transformation, or indeed liberation from the illusion of the self, seems to have been thought too much to ask: or rather, not thought at all ... I suspect the culprit has been the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim emphasis on faith itself. Faith is rather like a rhinoceros, in fact: it won't do much in the way of real work for you, and yet at close quarters it will make spectacular claims upon your attention.
"This is not to say that spiritual realization has been a common attainment east of the Bosporus. Clearly, it has not. It must also be conceded that Asia has always had its fair share of false prophets and charlatan saints, while the West has not been entirely bereft of wisdom. Nevertheless, when the great philosopher mystics of the East are weighed against the patriarchs of the Western philosophical and theological traditions, the difference is unmistakable: Buddha, Shankara, Padmasambhava, Nagarjuna, Longchenpa, and countless others down to the present have no equivalents in the West. In spiritual terms, we appear to have been standing on the shoulders of dwarfs."

Sam Harris, the author of the bestsellers The End of Faith and
Letter to A Christian Nation speaks at the Aspen Ideas Festival:

"I submit to you that there really is no society in human history that has ever suffered because its population became too reasonable, too reluctant to embrace dogma or too demanding of evidence."

" ... there is no question in my mind that it provides a kind of friction in our discourse where we really can't call a spade a spade ... much of the Bible and the Koran is just life-destroying gibberish and we just have to acknowledge this and cease to take these books seriously."

"... there's an all-purpose corrective here which is just intellectual honesty -
if you cease to pretend to be certain about things which you are not certain about, see where that gets you, see where that gets you in conversations with other human beings. I think it will get you a profoundly ethical life, it certainly will get you a profoundly non-deceptive life."

watch this video on (full screen capability)

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