I Got Nuthin’

So, I finished The End of Faith and remain in love with Sam Harris, but I cannot for the life of me collect my thoughts about all of it. I wouldn’t say I agree with every word, but I very much admire his thinking. And the older I get the more I realize that’s what really matters to me. Spent half the day poking through Salon’s archives and reading interviews with the likes of Karen Armstrong, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, none of whom really agree with each other or Harris or me, but all of whom take questions that fascinate me very, very seriously. And so I love them all.

And instead of trying to force my own thoughts to cohere, I’ll just share a few quotes of the day:

Compassion is not a popular virtue. Very often when I talk to religious people, and mention how important it is that compassion is the key, that it’s the sine-qua-non of religion, people look kind of balked, and stubborn sometimes, as much to say, what’s the point of having religion if you can’t disapprove of other people? And sometimes we use religion just to back up these unworthy hatreds, because we’re frightened too. —Karen Armstrong

We cannot let any group, however devout, blackmail us into silence by their expressions of hurt feelings whenever they feel that we are getting close to the truth. That is what con artists do when their marks begin to get suspicious, and that is what children do when they can’t have their way, and it should be beneath the dignity of any religious group to play that card. —Daniel Dennett

Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that they are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is going to heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to paradise in the next world would be even swifter. The delusional “next world” is welcome to both of them. This world would be a much better place without either of them. —Richard Dawkins

While religious tolerance is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its liabilities. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us incapable of criticizing ideas that are now patently absurd and increasingly maladaptive. It has also obliged us to lie to ourselves — repeatedly and at the highest levels — about the compatibility between religious faith and scientific rationality. —Sam Harris

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