OK, admittedly this is a rather ambitious thread topic, and one that may very well go down in flames - but I thought it so interesting that I would give it a shot. I apologize in advance... I have recently begun reading a book entitled "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris. It is concerned with an analysis of the clash between Reason and Religion in the world - and the inherent danger in Faith - belief untempered by reason, or that is to say, evidence. It is these beliefs that seem to, however, lead us inexorably to kill each other. Let me preface by saying that I am a spiritually moderate and tolerant individual - I have my spiritual beliefs and tend to respect those of others, even when I am in disagreement/disbelief. I also tend to find there to be some great wisdom in Religion and don't discount the fact that Religion has aided a great many people. I do not suscribe to a particular religious faith, however. That said, I am having a hard time discounting the premises implied or explicitly stated in reading this book. A sampling will be below, although I may (imperfectly) paraphrase some for sake of brevity. I hope that this will spark both interest and respectful debate. Here we go: - Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other humans. - A large segment of the population believes that there is a Creator and that he/she has written a book. - There is actually no evidence of said Creator and/or the fact that they authored a book. - Because there is no evidence on the validity of a particular God or their authorship of a book, except the book itself - there can be no discourse on it's validity or any of the implied beliefs therein. Without discourse, there cannot be progress - without progress, we cannot come closer to the Truth. In this way, Religion seems antithetical to the pursuit of Truth. - To believe that God exists is to believe that I stand in some relation to his existence such that his existence is the reason for my belief. There must be some causal connection between the fact in question and my acceptance of it - so in this way, religious beliefs, to be beliefs about how the world is, must be as evidentiary in spirit as any other belief. - As long as a person believes his beliefs represent an actual state of the world, he must believe that his beliefs are a consequence of the of the way the world is. This leaves him vunerable to new evidence. - If there were no conceivable change in the world that could get a person to question his religious beliefs, this would prove that his beliefs were not predicated by thaking the state of the world into account. He could not claim, therefore, to be representing the world at all. - Although Religious faith has had great power and effect on the lives of many millions of people - this says nothing about it's validity (eg the paranoid-delusional may be greatly influenced by the terror of the CIA - but it does not follow that his phones are tapped) - How have we as a culture, elevated belief, without evidence, to the highest heiarchy of human virtues? Why are we convinced in this one area of our lives that our beliefs about the world can float entirely free of reason and evidence? - Why is Faith a taboo subject for criticism? Why must this important driving force in millions of people's lives be politely ignored or discounted? - There can be no such thing as a religious moderate, such as one who respects all faiths, or those of unbelievers - as this is explicitly denied in their particular texts. While there may be ecumenical passages within those texts, the central tenet of each religious creed is that all other creeds are wrong, or dangerously incomplete - and therefore intrinsically intolerant. - In order to be a religious moderate, to be tolerant, or to react to the modernization of humanity (like the fact that we no longer stone Adulterors to death) - requires a purposeful omission of canonized texts of said religion. Thus religious moderation has nothing underwriting it except the neglect of the letter of Divine Law. I would think most Religious people would find this troubling. That people of faith are also eminently reasonable people - albeit compartmentalized. Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt turns you invisible, and he is likely to ask for as much evidence as anyone else and be persuaded only to the extent that it is given. - Tell that same man that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for all eternity if he fails to accept it's every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever. - That subsequently, religious fanatics, are actually quite sane people - working logically and reasonably from a set of beliefs - that happen to be essentially unproveable, and therefore irrefutable. - That beliefs can therefore be quite dangerous, though somewhat mind-boggling (eg. transubstantiation - The Catholic mass rite of changing bread into the body of Christ and wine into his Blood - this has the peculiar consequence of allowing Jesus Christ, son of the Creator, one who cheated death and rose bodily unto the heavens - to be eaten in cracker form.) - This same dogma - that the communion host is actually transformed into the living body of Jesus Christ - began to worry Christians that these living wafers might be subject to mistreatment - even torture - at the hands or heretics. Otherwise rational people murdered thousands of Jews and "heretics" to ensure that no-one would harm the Son-of-God, now readily available in the form of defenseless crackers. - Is there really just sanity in numbers? Millions believe it is normal to believe that the Creator of the Universe can hear your thoughts, while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he communicates with you by tapping morse-code with raindrops on your bedroom window. - If a terrorist is acting rationally on the basis of his religious beliefs, he can both be considered sane and unstoppable - as religious beliefs, absent of evidence for validity, are impervious to evidence to the opposite. This should prove troubling (more on this later). That is enough for now, but I will post later on some curious and dangerous results of this lapse of logic - especially as related to terrorism. For now, though, let us discuss the validity of the above.