Let’s do a column review eh?
From the Washington Post today is a Sam Harris column.
The Sacrifice of Reason
Humanity has had a long fascination with blood sacrifice. In fact, it has been by no means uncommon for a child to be born into this world only to be patiently and lovingly reared by religious maniacs who believe that the best way to keep the sun on its course or to ensure a rich harvest is to lead him by tender hand into a field or to a mountaintop and bury, butcher, or burn him alive as offering to an invisible (and almost certainly fictional) God.
I would venture to note here that because we are human we look for the answers to the questions. We don’t just let it be. And we don’t look for excuses for the blood sacrifice. Why does the sun move across the sky? Well last week – so and so lost their baby, maybe it has to do with that?
In many ancient cultures whenever a nobleman died, other men and women allowed themselves to be buried alive so as to serve as his retainers in the next world.
Let’s just say here that the rich are different. eh? I’ll skip the next part about other ritual killings that go on just so I don’t copy the entire article.
It is essential to realize that such impossibly stupid misuses of human life have always been explicitly religious.
I would note that the impossibly stupid misuses of human life that Mr. Harris mentions are explicitly religious.
They are the product of what certain human beings think they know about invisible gods and goddesses, and of what they manifestly do not know about biology, meteorology, medicine, physics, and a dozen other specific sciences that have more than a little to say about the events in the world that concern them.
Again – an attempt (yes, feeble attempt) to know.
And it is astride this contemptible history of religious atrocity and scientific ignorance that Christianity now stands as an absurdly unselfconscious apotheosis. As John the Baptist is rumored to have said upon seeing Jesus for the first time, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). For most Christians, this bizarre opinion still stands, and it remains the core of their faith. Christianity amounts to the claim that we must love and be loved by a God who approves of the scapegoating, torture, and murder of one man—his son, incidentally—in compensation for the misbehavior and thought-crimes of all others.
Actually – Christianity suggests that we love the God who so loved us that He understood who we were/are and where we come from and what we’re like. There wasn’t “approval” in the scapegoating/torture and murder.
Let the good news go forth: we live in a cosmos, the vastness of which we can scarcely even indicate in our thoughts, on a planet teeming with creatures we have only begun to understand, but the whole project was actually brought to a glorious fulfillment over twenty centuries ago, after one species of primate (our own) climbed down out of the trees, invented agriculture and iron tools, glimpsed (as through a glass, darkly) the possibility of keeping its excrement out of its food, and then singled out one among its number to be viciously flogged and nailed to a cross.
Huh? The whole project was brought to glorious fulfillment? I’m unsure why he thinks the project was done with then and he doesn’t explain it. Yes there are plenty of religious people that think we are the apex of glory – but probably not most. Time changes. People grow/change/mature. God knows that – why doesn’t Mr. Harris.
The notion that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that his death constitutes a successful propitiation of a “loving” God is a direct and undisguised inheritance of the scapegoating barbarism that has plagued bewildered people throughout history. Viewed in a modern context, it is an idea at once so depraved and fantastical that it is hard to know where to begin to criticize it.
I’d venture to suggest he thinks it’s depraved because he doesn’t understand that God wasn’t the depraved one. Humans were.
(skipping the part about mass)
And now we learn that even Mother Teresa, the most celebrated exponent of this dogmatism in a century, had her doubts about the whole story—the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the existence of heaven, and even the existence of God:
Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone … Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.
So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
— addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated
Teresa’s recently published letters reveal a mind riven by doubt (as it should have been). They also reveal a woman who was surely suffering from run-of-the-mill depression, though even secular commentators have begun to politely dress this fact in the colors of the saints and martyrs. Teresa’s response to her own bewilderment and hypocrisy (her term) reveals just how like quicksand religious faith can be.
Yes – faith can come and go but that doesn’t equate to God not existing.
Her doubts about God’s existence were interpreted by her confessor as a sign that she was sharing Christ’s torment upon the cross; this exaltation of her wavering faith allowed Teresa “to love the darkness” she experienced in God’s apparent absence. Such is the genius of the unfalsifiable.
Teresa asked specifically to feel what Jesus felt on the cross. Kind of a “be careful what you wish for scenario.
We can see the same principle at work among her fellow Catholics: Teresa’s doubts have only enhanced her stature in the eyes of the Church, having been interpreted as a further evidence of God’s grace.
We all have doubts. Jesus knew/knows and accepts that. Teresa sharing those doubts would of course enhance her stature because she becomes more human in the process. When Jesus felt forsaken on the cross it allowed humans to realize that God really did come to earth as human – with all the human frailties accepted.
Ask yourself, when even the doubts of experts are thought to confirm a doctrine, what could possibly disconfirm it?
Mr. Harris seems to think we know everything. Now. In full. Better than God. Kind of like those sacrificers at the beginning of his column. “If we just kill this baby, then the sun will rise” “Because Teresa had doubts and I don’t feel Him, He doesn’t exist”
I don’t believe that. But I have the grace of faith. I realize I’m lucky for that. I don’t deserve it, I just have it. Why doesn’t Sam? I don’t know. But I can’t know what’s going to happen on Tuesday. God I expect can handle it.
It is curious though why atheists are driven so nuts by people of faith that they write columns/books about it. Conveniently there is a lot of faith out there in many different forms so there’s always something interesting about it. Conveniently a lot of people claim to do things in God’s name when really they are doing it in their own name.