Here’s an observable phenomenon in human society. Essentialist descriptions of “the other” allow us to denigrate them and boost ourselves up. Essentialist conceptions of human populations make it easy for us to claim that we have the market cornered on how to live and how the world should be. Essentialist conceptions of the world lead to fundamentalist beliefs about us versus them. Fundamentalism invariably leads to fascism. And fascism leads to the suppression of ideas, violence, and death. Regardless of the essentialism or fundamentalism being argued for. Even if Sam Harris is right that there is no god and people like me with our naive superstitions are pre-literate buffoons that won’t change the fact that his fundamentalism can only lead to one place. Fascism. Maybe it’ll be a better fascism than the one we got, but it’ll still be fascism.
Therefore, one of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the twenty-first century is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest personal concernsâ€”about ethics, experience, and the inevitability of human sufferingâ€”in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. Nothing stands in the way of this project more than the respect we accord national/ethnic identity. While there is no guarantee that rational people will always agree, the irrational are certain to be divided by their politics.
So there’s this book review in the current New Yorker about a guy named Hitchens, the latest in a line of virulent atheists who seem bent on doing away with religion. All religion. Even innocuous ones like Buddhism. I saw Hitchens the other week on the Daly Show. He’s a riot. And what he has […]