Questionable Motives

January 6, 2010

Will the real god please stand up?

First there was this dog’s breath¬† article by Karen Armstrong (not that I’m the only biased one when it comes to abhorring Armstrong’s researching abilities… read this review here) where she makes all kinds of incoherent statements, like “when we treat religion as something to be derided, dismissed, or destroyed, we risk amplifying its worst faults.” You see, in Karen’s mind the real god is the god behind the god, and what most religious people believe isn’t about this ‘real’ god at all. I’m sure the billions of people who profess religious faith will be surprised to read of their error in her latest best-selling pablum-spewing book The Case for God. Just to cover her bases, Armstrong conveniently shifts all blame for any negative effect from religiously inspired behaviours and political expressions to people who have either been forced into extremism by how secular values have been implemented or who have misunderstood the ‘real’ religious message. She falls back on the standard apologetic canard that Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus because people have long believed in various superstitions.

Good grief.

Sam Harris, one the authors I most highly admire for clarity and pointed linguistic accuracy about the very real dangers unquestioned religious belief presents to all of us today, has responded to Armstrong’s long-winded and serpentine article here. Once again, he scores a direct hit with his biting satire and we would be wise to listen to what he has to say.

For example, he responds to Armstrong’s depiction of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism (Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett) as people who have made the mistake of¬† categorizing religious “fundamentalism” for the totality of religion:

I can’t quite remember how we got it into our heads that jihad was linked to violence. (Might it have had something to do with the actual history and teachings of Islam?) And how could we have been so foolish as to connect the apparently inexhaustible supply of martyrs in the Muslim world to the Islamic doctrine of martyrdom? In my own defense, let me say that I do get spooked whenever Western Muslims advocate the murder of apostates (as 36 percent of Muslim young adults do in Britain). But I now know that these freedom-loving people just “want to see God reflected more clearly in public life.

Armstrong reveals that she still doesn’t get what Sam is talking about with a response to Harris’ criticism.

No surprise there.

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