On Ditching Religion: Sam Harris Speaks About Morality
There was an interesting article & video posted on CNN.com recently featuring Sam Harris (author of the extremely popular atheist book 'The End of Faith'). The video basically shows Harris defending the secular worldview and stating that man no longer needs God or religion to explain morality, and that in fact we would be better off to "ditch" religion altogether. Harris states some examples of how Islam and Christianity differ about how to think regarding Christ, and that these 2 religions have radically different views when it comes to the big questions.
Harris then discusses his feeling that we need to stop spending time worrying about things like the after-life and a Moral Universe, and start spending more time thinking about how to solve nuclear proliferation and poverty. Now these are interesting points raised by an intelligent skeptic. They share a common theme I think - that of fear and skepticism. Fear in the face of the possibility of terrorist attack and nuclear destruction. Skepticism that God, the Bible, or Christianity could possibly help anyone in the face of these threats. On one point he is correct: religions like Islam and Christianity ARE very different. You cannot claim that Jesus is God come in the flesh in one breath, and then state that Christ was just another prophet in the next. The exclusivity of truth does not allow for this; at least Harris is paying attention.
I have a feeling where he gets off the path a bit is when he upholds secularism (the 'science-only' world view) as the One Right Way. He advocates ditching religion in favour of secularism. This of course - in and of itself - is a moral statement, no better and no worse than upholding Christianity or Islam. The real question is "which one is the truth?" The question always comes down to Jesus. Was he God, just a good teacher, or a fictional character? Mature Christians know the answer to this. They have experienced the reality of Christ. We know He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). That Sam Harris does not know this, we cannot necessarily be angry with him -- many people don't have a personal relationship with God. That he proposes that 'religion' in the strict sense can be harmful and damaging, I will give no argument. Christ knew this as well; He admonished the Pharisees and the spiritually proud quite often in the New Testament. As to whether we can divorce God from morality, now that is something quite different. You can (for a while) pretend that human beings don't need oxygen, but after a few minutes of holding our breath we see how silly this is. Take the ultimate Good out of goodness itself, and we will be in trouble in a matter of decades.
It is no small thing that Hitler and Stalin fell into this trap. If there is no one minding the spiritual store, eventually the employees will do whatever they want. I have attached the link to the CNN video below. Feel free to watch and make your own decision: