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Thursday, January 25, 2007
Atheism v. Faith continued
I wanted to respond to Chris's post about exchanges over faith and atheism, some of which were sparked by recent books deliberately attacking religion, like Richard Dawkins's book "The God Delusion." Chris says reviews by big-time book critic James Wood and by the eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel were "brilliant and literate" but didn't really get to the heart of things because they "seemed detached from the debate the atheist authors were trying to start about the actual beliefs held by actual religious Americans."
I suppose that is true, but of course those reviews (and I think Nagel's was particularly fascinating) meant to achieve that detachment -- to take a wider view and challenge the assumptions of a Dawkins or a true believer. I agree with them that if we want to have an intellectual debate about "the actual beliefs held by actual religious Americans," that's something of a non-starter. Of course they're crazy from any purely rational perspective, as Sam Harris says, because religion rests on faith in something that can never be proved. If it could, we'd call it knowledge.