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Notes on Sam Harris' Book "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason"


I was fascinated by "End of Faith" and wish I had Sam Harris' extensive academic background.  The author is the darling of the atheist community, and I worried that the well reasoned book would contradict principles proposed in Open Mystic.  Luckily the book does not specifically address the presence of a "God".  But rather it cogently proposes and works to validate the point that religions as we know them serve only to ascribe traits, intentions, characteristics and labels to a “God” totally on faith without reasonable proof.  It is those ascriptions along with associated common every day power and wealth that has a corrosive, corrupted, and destructive effect on an attempt at collective spiritual pursuit. Maybe the expression "collective spiritual pursuit" is even oxymoronic, but that's another topic. There is doubtless a “God”, but the legitimate response is only awe and wonder.

Open Mystic with its proposal of an "infinite meta-form" described elsewhere in these essays is certainly not an atheistic tract.  That "infinite meta-form" has been repeatedly proposed throughout all known history and by all cultural groups and has been given a wild variety of labels, including "God".  And the labeling process is where the trouble begins.  The "God" notion in its purist sense is a fascinating and even beautiful idea - and it should be left at that.  Any further ascriptions lead into delusions which at all times in history have frequently been severely destructive.  "God" and religion have too frequently been used as a rubric to justify violence of all types - subtle to grossly extreme - as a full alignment with ambient power and wealth takes form.

Below are blatant, not all that distant examples of religious hazard to make the point that cautious vigilance is continuously required with religious labels.  Arguably, we've had the issue in today's world with the Bush administration where the same labeling pattern evidenced below has justified blind, reckless policy decisions. To borrow a Catholic teaching, Bush's "sins" are likely those of omission or simple ignore-ance while Hitler's were vicious sins of commission.  But both leadership scenarios  invoke religious underpinnings:

"I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work."
(Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936)

"Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . we need believing people."
(Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933, from a speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican
Concordant of 1933)

 "I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator."
(Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp. 46)

"I believe that God wants me to be president."
(George W. Bush, according to Richard Land, as quoted in ""Understanding the President and his God")

"We need common-sense judges who understand our rights were derived from God."
(George W. Bush, quoted in ""Understanding the President and his God")

Everyone - including myself - knows local religious people who are simply wonderful,  but religion - like democracy - demands constant vigilance to prevent self-delusion and worse.  "The price of religious belief is eternal vigilance." to borrow a phrase.  That vigilance is proposed to be best practiced from the broadest possible perspective that is humanly possible.

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
(Bible, 1 Peter 5:8)

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