Friday, April 22, 2011

Saved! ... or not

I just finished Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape (a great book BTW) and I will review it later, probably doing several posts on different topics, but, in honor of Good Friday, I thought I'd tease with the following bon mot. Harris was speaking of Francis Collins, the head of the NIH and a scientist that Christians like to parade out when trying to say that religion and science are compatible, because Collins professes to be a Christian.

Thus, Collins’s faith is predicated on the claim that miracle stories of the sort that today surround a person like Sathya Sai Baba and do not even merit an hour on cable television somehow become especially credible when set in the prescientific religious context of the first-century Roman Empire, decades after their supposed occurrence, as evidenced by discrepant and fragmentary copies of copies of copies of ancient Greek manuscripts. It is on this basis that the current head of the NIH recommends that we believe the following propositions:

  1. Jesus Christ, a carpenter by trade, was born of a virgin, ritually murdered as a scapegoat for the collective sins of his species, and then resurrected from death after an interval of three days. 
  2. He promptly ascended, bodily, to “heaven” -- where, for two millennia, he has eavesdropped upon (and, on occasion, even answered) the simultaneous prayers of billions of beleaguered human beings. 
  3. Not content to maintain this numinous arrangement indefinitely, this invisible carpenter will one day return to earth to judge humanity for its sexual indiscretions and skeptical doubts, at which time he will grant immortality to anyone who has had the good fortune to be convinced, on Mother’s knee, that this baffling litany of miracles is the most important series of truths ever revealed about the cosmos. 
  4. Every other member of our species, past and present, from Cleopatra to Einstein, no matter what his or her terrestrial accomplishments, will be consigned to a far less desirable fate, best left unspecified. 
  5. In the meantime, God/Jesus may or may not intervene in our world, as He pleases, curing the occasional end-stage cancer (or not), answering an especially earnest prayer for guidance (or not), consoling the bereaved (or not), through His perfectly wise and loving agency.

Just how many scientific laws would be violated by this scheme? One is tempted to say “all of them.”

"... And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
Like you've been carrying a load
And you swear to me
You don't want to be my slave
But you're staring at me again
Like I need to be saved, saved ..."

Jesus Christ Pose by Soundgarden

1 comment:

wunelle said...

Collins is indeed a puzzlement. One senses he does his science by fidelity to a process and without thought for the implications of that process. The ultimate comparmentalization of the mind, I think.

Hard to summarize better than Harris. So many things like the Gospels having been written as "eye-witness" accounts some four centuries after the man in question was in the ground. How many errors of transmission does it take before the original message is not even fractionally in evidence?

It's all so obviously fantastic and fraudulent.

I'll look forward to your larger review(s) of Harris's book. It's on my list, but not quite on deck yet.