I just checked out a few books at the library and one of those is by Sam Harris, a neuroscientist who holds a Ph.D. and is famous for authoring the books The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. This book is entitled The Moral Landscape: How science can determine human values. I have only read the 25 page introduction at this point but I do plan on finishing the book. Expect to see at least one more post about the book, but it may need more than that.
In his introduction Dr. Harris comes across very adamantly that religion and science are opposed to each other on the issue of morality and that they cannot coexist. This perplexes me a bit since his aim is to argue that mankind is reasonable enough to be argued out of our religious beliefs regarding morality and into scientific morality. What I do like about his argument is that he claims that science will yield an absolute morality, or at least that moral relativism is detrimental to the well-being of societies. That premise I completely agree with.
I do not know if my readers have experienced this, but I do believe most of us have. From a Christian background and viewpoint we are not very open to discussing things that run contrary to our doctrinal dogmas, at least within the confines of our churches and especially hearing anything from the pulpit. While I do believe that most of us have questions about our faith traditions, I also believe that most of us would never raise those questions arbitrarily within our communities of faith. We wait until we are around someone we can trust to divulge our latest question or problem. Why is that?
Theory 1: Some people within our churches will not understand why any question even needs to be asked. They will see the question as challenging the very basis for their existence and how they go about living their life from day-to-day. We do not want to disrupt these people are have them petition to kick us out of their church.
Theory 2: We assume that nobody else has questions that are similar to ours. (This is a lie. I can tell you from years of questioning that most people have questions, they just don’t talk about it unless prompted.)
Theory 3: We are afraid of what the answers or lack thereof might do to our faith, our way of life, our families, our communities.
Theory 4: When those who hold positions of leadership start having questions about their faith, who will they turn to? Leaders will not talk about it due to the inherent pressure of their position and the false reality that they have to be confident and 100% certain.
There might be other theories, but I am tired and need to go to bed. The big issue I want to discuss here is that we cannot be afraid to engage in dialogue with those who disagree with us on major moral issues. Not shouting matches. Not violent opposition. Not spitting in someone’s face or yelling at them that they are going to hell. We cannot be afraid to voice our questions within our communities either so that those who are afraid of talking to us can see that it is okay to disagree and to have questions of their own.
Regarding Dr. Harris’ reasoning, if he wants to change society then it will not be with the swift blow of reason. Change is best done when people are seeking it for themselves. That can only start when we solidify ourselves by getting answers to our questions. Because we all know that most of the time once we have the answers, we just end up with more questions. And that is what is needed to move forward as a nation, and as conscientious people throughout the world.