Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sweeney's's satire bests Sam's"scholarship"

Just by sheer luck, I got to read Sam Harris' End of Faith the same week I listened to Julio Sweeney's "Letting Go of God". My oldest friend lent me both of them.

In about the same way honey catches more flies than vinegar, Sweeney is so much more effective than Harris. It isn't just that she's funny, she really does a brilliant job of covering all kinds of reasons a person would decide to let go of religion. People can identify with everything from her reaction to actually reading the Bible, to how she deals with her family's shock. It's amazing how much she gets across with just a simple change in her tone of voice.

What a contrast to the overhyped End of Faith. I don't get what people see in it -- a lot of it is arguments for atheism I've seen a zillion times, only with more footnotes. What does it tell you that one of the places where Harris does seem to spend more of an effort on being original is when he presents an argument in favor of torture?

Besides, when somebody gets wrong the details I do know or notice, I have to wonder what else thet're getting wrong. I actually read footnotes (if you want to pause and shed a tear for me, all sympathy is welcome), and in one place, Harris says that in ethics intentions are everything, then in a footnote says they're only part of the story. And, when he's giving examples of religiously inspired suicides other than the terrorist bombings that we're all so familiar with, he blames World War II kamikaze attacks on Buddhism. Wrong! That was Shintoism, and a perversion of Shintoism at that. [UPDATE: a friend of mine has sent me a source that may show that official Buddhism allowed itself to be preempted by Japanese militarism; if I'm wrong I'll post an update]

There! I'm done ranting and I feel so much better now. I'll end by doing you a favor and urging you to run out and get Sweeney's CD, or even go to a live performance. I'll bet she even gives some of the money to a good cause


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