Book Review: Have It Your Way ‘Free Will,’ by Sam Harris Reviewed By Daniel Menaker
Daniel Menaker compiled an extensive review of Harris’ most recent book. It is a worthwhile read to get a handle on Harris’ work. One of the most notable suggestions by Menaker,
Of course, questions persist. What, after the dismantling of free will, is consciousness? Just some kind of afflatus given off by three pounds of wetware? If so — if our conscious lives are nothing but the meniscus covering what our brains and bodies are up to, well then, isn’t that some glorious meniscus? It may not tell us what to do, but it does tell us what what we do means — oh, and what beauty is.
“Genocide survivor has faith in Rwanda’s future”
When I asked her how she endured such tragedy and is able to cope today, she says, “I think it’s an obligation. I have to do something good for my country. … I ask myself why did I stay, why not my younger sister, why not my brother, and I say maybe God has something that he wants me to do.”
Dida (the young lady interviewed) does not appear to equate the evil perpetrated on Rwanda to God (or the disbelief in God). It gives pause to wonder why some, when faced with such evil, attribute it to God while others are inspired to press on motivated by God’s plan. The classic problem of evil argument (i.e. If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he prohibit evil on the innocent?) seems to sting some while healing others.
TED Talks: “Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0”
“Now religions have a much saner attitude to art. They have no trouble telling us what art is about. Art is about two things in all the major faiths. Firstly, it’s trying to remind you of what there is to love. And secondly, it’s trying to remind you of what there is to fear and to hate. And that’s what art is. Art is a visceral encounter with the most important ideas of your faith. So as you walk around a church, or a mosque or a cathedral, what you’re trying to imbibe, what you’re imbibing is, through your eyes, through your senses, truths that have otherwise come to you through your mind.”
I really enjoyed this talk as de Botton is an easy listen. He is very conversational and humorous. He’s not the angry atheist of a past generation. However, could have de Botton has missed the point? All the things that he values about religion are expressions of dogma. Dogma was a necessary ingredient in their formation. If one removes dogma, the motivation to express the ideas one values is also removed. The area of art might be the easiest area to evaluate. Artists are motivated (inspired) by many things, however what happens to an artist’s work when the inspiration is removed? The artist can still perform the technical movements: brush strokes, writing melodies, etc., but there is something different about their work. Inspiration is the intangible that makes great art great. It seems that once one removes the “inspiration” for liturgy then it becomes a mechanical process that no longer emits the energy that made it attractive. The real question seems to be why are people attracted to the practices of religion is the first place? Could this point to a deficiency in their world, a yearning for an authentic encounter with the divine?