Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Are there better religions out there, or should we treat them all as equals and respect them?

As much as I applaud Dalyrmple's eloquent critique of the New Atheists (e.g. for bringing up intentionality, purpose and meaning), he didn't really advance the discussion one bit in his original essay. To me, all he basically said was something like, Oh, there's nothing new to your arguments. And you forgot to highlight the goodness of religion too. Huh?
  • I wonder what Dalyrmple's argument about the state of the politics in the U.S. right now which is deeply influenced by Christian religious right?
  • What are his views on the theocracy of Islam?
  • What is his ranking when it comes to religion?
  • Are there better religions out there, or should we treat them all as equals and respect them?
These are just some of the questions that Harris attempted to address in his book, The End of Faith. These are questions that were not addressed by the Anglican theologians in the old days. The stakes are different now because of our interconnectedness, global awareness and technological prowess. The religious beliefs that divide us, more than ever, need to get criticized based on our current moral Zeitgeist (morality in the spirit of our times).
And this is what the New Atheists are taking head on. Once again, they are reviving the old arguments on religion and the existence of God by the great philosophers and theologians, re-mixing it with the most current scientific theories, research and studies, and bringing it to mainstream attention -- a feat that was not accomplished by those bold Anglican theologians and philosophers due to the limits of science and the moral zeitgeist during their times.
It's a pity that Dalyrmple focused on a single quote from Sam Harris book and use this quote to dismiss the book altogether. Good thing that he acknowledged his intemperance, apologized to Sam Harris and then advanced his three main points for discussion.
“I understand why Mr. Harris feels strongly about the way in which I expressed myself, and perhaps I was a little intemperate, in which case I apologize.
“There seem to me three main points to discuss. First, the existence of God; second, the actual historical record of organized religion; third, the metaphysical difficulties of human existence without God.
"The arguments for and against the existence of God are by now pretty well rehearsed, and I do not think that any of the new atheists (I call them that because their books came out at about the same time) add anything much to them. They are not entirely to blame for this: it would take a very great philosopher to do so. I certainly have nothing new to say on the matter.”
That's good. Because Dalyrmple's original essay made me feel stupid, callous, and deluded for recommending The End of Faith. Thanks to Sam Harris for his rebuttal.

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