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Monday, June 3, 2013

A Fallacy in Sam Harris Argument

Nobody wrote to me "Enough with talking about atheism!", so I'll go on.
An atheist wouldn't believe what is obvious to me, namely that Christ has changed me deeply. He would think that I was changed by a delusion. But how could a delusion bring me so much wisdom? 
At best, he would think that I was changed by Jesus’ “philosophy”, but he would be wrong.                                                                                                                             
I’ve tried to describe my conversion in the first pages of this book. Initially, the gospels did not impress me at all, at least on a conscious level. My personality was too tainted for me to be receptive to Jesus’ message. I had to read the Sermon on the Mount many, many times before starting to absorb its meaning. The question is, why did I keep reading it? Because what emerged from the gospels was not a philosophy, but rather a person, and his presence turned my life upside down. Had I heard his voice, I would say that he talked me into reading the gospels a second time, then a third. Of course I didn’t hear it, but I felt it in my soul. 
Atheist can dismiss my spiritual experience as much as they want, yet this is the best way to describe it. 

My son thinks that, if I were intellectually honest, I would question my perception of Jesus Presence and I would find a more rational explanation for my shift in consciousness. Maybe, he says, I had simply reached the bottom and I had no choice but to take a different path. But I know that, had I questioned my feelings, I would have never, never changed.

This makes me think of another fallacy in Sam Harris’ thesis. In The Moral Landscape he argues that free will is an illusion and that, and I quote, we are no more responsible for the things we think (and therefore do) than we are for the fact that we were born into this world. I believe that this assumption clashes with his crusade against religion. If our thoughts emerge from the void, as he maintains, there must be a psychological substrate that generates them. In most cases, religion helps us grounding our inner life in goodness. Of course there are exceptions, as he tirelessly points out referring to suicide bombers, but I’m convinced that religion is a source of love a lot more than it is of hate.
Harris thinks that we can be talked into good behavior by scientific discoveries concerning our well being. But if free will is an illusion, it follows that we are unable to make moral choices that go against our impulses, even if the latter are self-destructive. We need something that touches us at the core of our being, and that is the belief in a higher power. It seems to me that Harris’ argument, paradoxically, leads to this conclusion.


Manny said...

Here's another conversion story, and the crux was meeting Jesus. It's a long read, but I was fascinated. The man started life by going to jail, then when out getting a PhD, and then having his conversion experience. I hope you like it.

Antonella said...

Thank you Manny, that was a great conversion story, to which I could relate for several reasons.
Have you seen the French movie "Of Men and God"? I think it's a piece of art!