Monday, September 24, 2007

The Need for Civil Society

Charles loaned me his copy of The End of Faith by Sam Harris, which I had read partially and then forgot; I finished it last night when I ran across it once again, and I strongly recommend the book to those who enjoy provocative writing, whether you agree with his point of view or not. One of the most insightful chapters deals with, as Harris calls it, "The Problem With Islam." Here are a few cogent passages that underscore the difficult relationship between Islam and the rest of the civilized world, while raising the unspoken question, "How does a tolerant society deal with intransigent intolerance?"

"While it would be comforting to believe that our dialogue with the Muslim world has, as one of its possible outcomes, a future of mutual tolerance, nothing guarantees this result--least of all the tenets of Islam... I think it is clear that Islam must find some way to revise itself, peacefully or otherwise. What this will mean is not at all obvious. What is obvious, however, is that the West must either win the argument or win the war. All else will be bondage." (p.131)

"It is time for us to admit that not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development... not all societies have the same degree of moral wealth..." (p.143)

"Is Islam compatible with a civil society? Is it possible to believe what you must believe to be a good Muslim, to have military and economic power, and not to pose an unconscionable threat to the civil societies of others? I believe the answer to this question is no. If a stable pleace is ever to be achieved between Islam and the West, Islam must undergo a radical transformation. This transformation, to be palatable to Muslims, must also appear to come from Muslims themselves." (p. 152-153)

It's powerful, provocative reading that underscores many of the reasons why the West has been largely unable to reason with the Muslim world, and I strongly recommend that you read the book to see how Harris comes to these conclusions. You'll also see that he perceives the current Muslim world as being comparable to Christian society at one point in the past--but you'll need to read the book to learn all about that!...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Biggers,

I am very pleased to see you pick up one of my favorite books. I remember in school you turning me onto wonderful literature.

I also really enjoyed The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins. Also Harris' follow up Letter to a Christian Nation is a good read.