Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Armstrong vs. Harris

Karen Armstrong, a self-described freelance theist, and Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and ardent atheist disagree with each other quite sharply.

Armstrong contends (here) that human beings are meaning-seeking creatures and instinctively religious. She denounces the notion that religion is aback of all human woes, and encourages a sympathetic rendering of religion as essentially a message of compassion.

Harris, unconvinced (here) that human beings are instinctively religious, glides on updrafts of sarcasm, cynicism, and sharp observations that Armstrong may be glossing over the lived-out realities of religious fervour.

'Compassion', it seems, is a term used too freely if it means one religion can compassionately obliterate the lives of others, all the while claiming it was necessary to shine forth the kindly character of whatever god happens to be attending the blood-bath that day. Yahweh was keen on this tactic, as the Old Testament stories depict. He was wont to scourge the dirty unbelievers (i.e., those that don't fancy Yahweh) from the earth by means of fire, famine, war, rape, natural disasters, etc. At the same time, Yahweh desired mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6); and commissioned the doing of justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8). How splendid to act in contradiction to the expectations held out for your followers! Compassion cannot be granted in the face of such brazen contradiction, can it?

In any case, read the debate yourself. I'm interested in knowing where you stand when you come to the end of the feud.

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