Saturday, August 21, 2004

A great op/ed by Sam Harris. He urges us to strongly reconsider the direction in which Bush is going with regards to fusing religion with government.

Some segments:

"...ancient religious texts shouldn't form the basis of social policy in the 21st century. The Bible was written at a time when people thought the Earth was flat, when the wheelbarrow was high tech. Are its teachings applicable to the challenges we now face as a global civilization?

Consider the subject of stem-cell research. Many religious people, drawing from what they've heard from the pulpit, believe that 3-day-old embryos — which are microscopic collections of 150 cells the size of a pinhead — are fully endowed with human souls and, therefore, must be protected as people. But if we know anything at all about the neurology of sensory perception, we know that there is no reason to believe that embryos at this stage of development have the capacity to sense pain, to suffer or to experience death in any way at all. (There are, for comparison's sake, 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly.)"

People can debate religion; what can't be debated is that people die. Stem cell research could save lives in the future. Therefore, to be against it, one is choosing something debatable over that which cannot be debated.


Of course, the Bible is not the only ancient text that casts a shadow over the present. A social policy based on the Koran poses even greater dangers. Koran 9:123 tells us it is the duty of every Muslim man to "make war on the infidels who dwell around you." Osama bin Laden may be despicable, but it is hard to argue that he isn't acting in accord with at least some of the teachings of the Koran. It is true that most Muslims seem inclined to ignore the Koran's solicitations to martyrdom and jihad, but we cannot overlook the fact that some are not so inclined and that some of them murder innocent people for religious reasons.
Why did 19 well-educated, middle-class men trade their lives for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors? Because they believed, on the authority of the Koran, that they would go straight to paradise for doing so. It is rare to find the behavior of human beings so easily explained. And yet, many of us are reluctant to accept this explanation.

So, will the future simply be "our" religion against "theirs"....? Shouldn't we at least attempt to stop the madness now?

And this:

There are now more people in our country who believe that the universe was created in six solar days than there were in Europe in the 14th century. In the eyes of most of the civilized world, the United States is now a rogue power — imperialist, inarticulate and retrograde in its religiosity. Our erstwhile allies are right not to trust our judgment. We elect leaders who squander time and money on issues like gay marriage, Janet Jackson's anatomy, Howard Stern's obscenities, marijuana use and a dozen other trifles lying at the heart of the Christian social agenda, while potentially catastrophic problems like nuclear proliferation and climate change go unresolved.

Bravo! (though I would've added "presidential intern BJs" to the list).

No comments: