Thursday, March 31, 2005

David Morris: The End of Reason

The End of Reason
David Morris

An Excerpt:

Organized superstitions might be more socially supportable if their creed included a provision accepting the organized superstitions of others. Unfortunately, modern religions do not practice tolerance. For example Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore gained widespread fame and even adulation when he refused to obey court orders to remove from the Alabama Courthouse a huge stone tablet on which was inscribed the Ten Commandments. When he was asked how he would react to the suggestion that a monument to the Koran or the Torah also be placed in the Courthouse he brusquely declared he would prohibit such an installation.

A few months later, Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence explained why he knew he would win his battle against Muslims in Somalia. "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

The creationism vs. evolution debate also illuminates this intolerance. Christians insist that their creation myth represent the creationist side. But there are many creationist myths, many of which predated both Christianity and Judaism. If evidence is not needed, why exclude any superstitions? As Sam Harris notes in The End of Faith, "there is no more evidence to justify a belief in the literal existence of Yahweh and Satan than there was to keep Zeus perched upon his mountain throne or Poseidon churning the seas."

The impact of moving towards "superstition-based institutions" would be highly controversial, quite educational, and on the whole exceedingly salutary. Consider the impact on the audience if we switched the interchangeable terms in President George W. Bush's following statement, posted on a federal web site:

I believe in the power of superstition in people's lives. Our government should not fear programs that exist because a church or a synagogue or a mosque has decided to start one. We should not discriminate against programs based upon superstition in America. We should enable them to access federal money, because superstition-based programs can change people's lives, and America will be better off for it.

Entire Essay

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