Letter to a Popular Atheist
"Mythology is where all gods go to die, and it seems that Stark has secured a place in American history simply by admitting that a fresh grave should be dug for the God of Abraham - the jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran. Stark is the first of our leaders to display a level of intellectual honesty befitting a consul of ancient Rome. Bravo."
Let's assume for a moment that Harris is correct, that is, believers are delusional and misguided, faith is false, God does not exist, and the greatest threat to human survival is the irreconcilable conflict between the major world religions and their inflexible and delusional beliefs. What then is the basis for his desire to save humanity from itself? At the end of his screed, Harris says:
"There is no question that many people do good things in the name of their faith - but there are better reasons to help the poor, feed the hungry and defend the weak than the belief that an Imaginary Friend wants you to do it. Compassion is deeper than religion. As is ecstasy. It is time that we acknowledge that human beings can be profoundly ethical - and even spiritual - without pretending to know things they do not know."
Nietzsche had a more rational answer for a God-less world, and his atheism was at least intellectually honest. The superman does not need an objective moral standard -- he makes his own and imposes it on the weaker. So it is that Harris falls by his own words; he pretends to know things he does not know. He does not know what is good or what is evil; he only knows what is socially normative. He does not know anything spiritual, because the spirit is imaginary, or at best a mental construct.
Francis Schaeffer said that secular man can only live in the lower storey (secular world) by borrowing from the upper storey (spiritual world). In other words, atheists can only talk about ethics because they are immersed in a social structure sustained by the "mythology" they reject. They borrow ethics from God and then claim that these ethics exist without a transcendent law-giving God to uphold them. What the atheists cannot explain is how they justify their ethical standards.
What does it mean to say that compassion is deeper than religion? Perhaps we should adopt the behavioral model and realize that in a world without God, compassion does not really mean anything, just like freedom and dignity. Maybe compassion is behavioral conditioning and has evolutionary value, but if so, we can hardly call this deep. It is worse than shallow, because it is something we pretend to know which we do not really know. We only respond to stimuli.
I agree with Dr. Harris that compassion is deeper than religion. Compassion is as deep as God, and begins and ends with God. It cannot be any deeper or higher than that. Perhaps Dr. Harris should talk to Jesus; if I am not mistaken, I think He had a distaste for religion as well.