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Two of My Favorite Authors

Yesterday, two of my favorite authors verbally attacked each other on the interweb pages of foreignpolicy.com. Sam Harris and Karen Armstrong have both written outstanding books. As an atheist, I frequently recommend Armstrong’s The History of God and The Bible: A Biography to Christians. I also recommend Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation.

Armstrong asserts that Harris and others blame all religion for all the world’s problems. I think there are two too many uses if the word “all” here. Armstrong is an intellectual and her view on God is more of a vague higher power wishy washy thing than that of the Abrahamic character we have all come to know and… you get the idea. The fact is that she can debate mythos vs. logos all day, but most religious believers really don’t ponder such things. On a practical level, religion in general has been and continues to be a destructive force in human society. Not all religion, but certainly, an extremely large majority of religion has been and continues to be a threat to human progress, human liberty, and even human survival on this planet.

There are good things about religion as Armstrong has mentioned (the quest for transcendence, the discipline of compassion, and the endless search for meaning). However, as Harris has mentioned in The End of Faith, we can do all of those things without believing in superstitions and mythologies especially without sufficient evidence.

Why should religion have the monopoly on these things? Atheists can and do quest for transcendence, tend to embrace the discipline of compassion usually more so than the average god-believer, and search for meaning in a more existential way rather then just forfeiting that meaning blindly to a bullshit deity.

I think Harris and Armstrong can agree that we need to educate religious believers about science and history. Once they learn and understand these things they will either end their faith or transcend their mythos in favor of their logos. But the important part here is not the ends, but the means. If the argument is that Harris is an atheist extremist and if education is the weapon of atheist extremism, then sign me up.

Both Harris and Armstrong are great educators and I strongly support them both.

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