CREDOS : Tolerance — IV

Sam Harris


Imagine that we could revive a well-educated Christian of the fourteenth century. The man would prove to be a total ignoramus, except on matters of faith. His beliefs about geography, astronomy, and medicine would embarrass even a child, but he would know more or less everything there is to know about God.

Though he would be considered a fool to think that the earth is flat, or that trepanning constitutes a wise medical intervention, his religious ideas would still be beyond reproach. There are two explanations for this: either we perfected our religious understanding of the world a millennium ago-while our knowledge on all other fronts was still hopelessly inchoate-or religion, being the mere maintenance of dogma, is one area of discourse that does not admit of progress.

If religion addresses a genuine sphere of understanding and human necessity, then it should be susceptible to progress; its doctrines should become more useful, rather than less. Progress in religion would have to be a matter of present inquiry, not the mere reiteration of past doctrine.

Whatever is true now should be discoverable now, and describable in terms that are not an outright affront to the rest of what we know about the world. The entire project of religion seems perfectly backward. It cannot survive the changes that have come over us-culturally, technologically,

and even ethically. Otherwise, there are few reasons to believe that we will survive it. —, concluded