Quick Roundup 164

Monday, March 19, 2007

God's Dupes

Via HBL, I learned of the latest Sam Harris polemic against religion, "God's Dupes" in the Los Angeles Times. The following point was excellent.

The problem is that wherever one stands on this continuum [between faith and rationality], one inadvertently shelters those who are more fanatical than oneself from criticism. Ordinary fundamentalist Christians, by maintaining that the Bible is the perfect word of God, inadvertently support the Dominionists -- men and women who, by the millions, are quietly working to turn our country into a totalitarian theocracy reminiscent of John Calvin's Geneva. Christian moderates, by their lingering attachment to the unique divinity of Jesus, protect the faith of fundamentalists from public scorn. Christian liberals -- who aren't sure what they believe but just love the experience of going to church occasionally -- deny the moderates a proper collision with scientific rationality. And in this way centuries have come and gone without an honest word being spoken about God in our society.
Having said this, I have to add that I look at Sam Harris much as I do many other cultural critics: His polemics are good, but when he has to make recommendations for positive alternatives, he falls way short.

Ann Coulter, for example, is good at cataloging the foolishness of the left, but is quite willing to throw away rule of law to further a theocratic agenda when the opportunity arises, as I recently noted. Likewise, Harris does a very good job of discussing aspects of religion that too many are willing to sweep under the rug, and yet he advocates his own brand of mysticism (a new-age, somewhat Buddhist concoction he calls "Universism") in the name of rationality.

First Note to Self

I became curious about the lyrics of the reggae song "Mr. Brown" this weekend and in the process found a rather promising-looking blog about Jamaican music and culture. I haven't had much time to peruse it, but I plan to, so I'm effectively bookmarking it by listing it here. Besides, I know that some of my readers share my love of Jamaican music, so why not pass it on?

Second Note to Self

Martin Lindeskog links to "FBI documents that link Robert F. Kennedy to Marilyn Monroe's death".

How We Used to Fight Wars

A commenter at Rule of Reason links to a page (Scroll down or search "Overlord".) that contains the profanity-laden text of General Patton's address to his troops before Operation Overlord and asks, "Can you imagine any general in Iraq today giving that speech like this ... ?"

Nope, and that's part of our problem.

Work Requirements

I agree with much of this list of "8 Things Intelligent People ... Need to Work Happily", especially items 4, 7, and 8.

God, #7 really struck a chord, and I'm very fortunate on that score, compared to most. I think I hate unnecessary meetings even more than unnecessary phone calls.
Do not hold a lot of arbitrary meetings that could have otherwise been handled through email or IM

This one is important. Like I said, geeks need to [be able to] focus to be happy.... Nothing is more of an interruption than someone walking into their space unexpectedly and saying “hey do you have a minute?” The answer is usually going to be a disgruntled “Sure.” The truth is geeks are fine with attending planned meetings (and will happily be there if the meeting is really a necessary one for them to attend in person), but are usually most happy communicating through email and IM. These forms of communication are most appealing to geeks because they do not interrupt you, and polite geeks will even respond with a quick “hold on a sec, I’m in the middle of something.” Email and IM are recorded, searchable records of conversations. They are efficient and to the point. This also makes geeks happy. Geeks can discuss anything through email and IM and will usually be more willing and thorough with their response. Face to face meetings are important, geeks know that, but I would guess that 90% of conversations and meetings held face to face, would be more efficient and end with happier people, if they were held in a recordable, written, virtual space. [bold in second paragraph added]
I'd summarize 4, 7, and 8 as follows: "If you want me to do mental work, don't distract me from it while I am trying to do it."

That is one of the dominant themes of the list. Another big one could be put something like, "If you're paying me to use my brain independently, then allow me to be independent." (HT: Paul Hsieh)

-- CAV


Inspector said...

Love the Patton quote, and its use to illustrate how we should be fighting. I thought, "Dang, why didn't I think of that?"

...Until I looked it up and was surprised to see that I did.

I'm not being facetious; I had really forgotten.

Of course, Edward Cline made the original reference. But I'm just happy to see it again, regardless.

Tom Rowland said...

"universism" seems to have gone the way of god. The link now goes to a page called "faithless.com" which has a very explicit polemic against certainty of any kind for any reason. He doesn't claim to be certain that certainty is uncertain, however.

It is increasingly clear that the real enemy is certainty, not religion. Religion is just the place where certainty dwells at the moment.

This is a very dangerous mix of cultural influences, I believe.

Gus Van Horn said...

If I remember correctly, and It's been over a year since I looked into this to any great extent, "faithless.org" and Universism are basically the same thing, and not just in terms of being an intersection of bad cultural influences.

The worst thing about Harris is that he puts a rational face on yet another variant of irrationality, functioning in much the same way as the liberal Christian in his continuum. Actually, it's worse: He helps certain kinds of mystics look rational by helping them pretend not to be on the very same continuum. In this respect, he's worse than Coulter. At least she doesn't pretend not to be religious.