Sunday, April 22, 2007

The DNA of Religious Faith

I just read a very interesting long and detailed article in the Cronicle of Higher Education, titled The DNA of Religious Faith By DAVID P. BARASH. It opens with this:

In his 2004 book, The End of Faith, Sam Harris pointed out that alone of all human assertions, those qualifying as "religious," almost by definition, automatically demand and typically receive immense respect, even veneration. Claim that the earth is flat, or that the tooth fairy exists, and you will be deservedly laughed at. But maintain that according to your religion, a seventh-century desert tribal leader ascended to heaven on a winged horse, or that a predecessor had done so, without such a conveyance, roughly 600 years earlier, and you are immediately entitled to deference. It has long been, let us say, an article of faith that at least in polite company, religious faith — belief without evidence — should go unchallenged.

No longer. If recent books — many of them by prominent biologists — are any indication, the era of deference to religious belief is ending as faith is subjected to gimlet-eyed scrutiny.
Well worth reading, and it has a comprehensive reference reading list at the end.


Nerdiah said...

Maybe the reason that we display such deference to matters of faith is not really because we respect the ideas, but because their believers get mighty defensive about them. Or should I say "offensive". Through trial and error one learns that it's not wise to rile up a memebot, especially if he's holding something sharp.

Anonymous said...

Now meanwhile I can understand where the arrogance of atheism comes from. I believe its largely due to abstract thinking which focuses on large scale questions like where did we come from? why am i this religion rather than the that one? why has God not saved group x or group y? why is human history full of such random improvements and declines ex cetera ex cetera. The only thing is that the answers to all of these questions vary from person to person and across a lifetime. I think its obvious that atheism no less than any sort of theism is rooted in experience, in personality rather than in fact. Meanwhile much of science and common sense lends itself to atheism, in depth analysis and philosophy often leaves the question open ended and permits theisms and spirituality a certain degree of leverage and breathing room. I doubt its possible to ever get rid of that and perhaps its a good thing whether one believes in a Diety or if one supposes that its serves some form of adaptive evolutioanry purpose.