I just watched a new TED talk given by author Sam Harris, titled, “Science Can Answer Moral Questions." I recommend watching it and considering his (to my mind reasonable, to others quite provocative) perspective.
When I was a freshman in college, a friend of a friend had gone off to travel the world. He wound up at the Western Wall in Jerusalem where he was befriended by an Orthodox Jew who invited him to a Yeshiva to study Judaism. Having grown up as a secular Jew, he was compelled to learn about the religion of his ancestors. And he became an Orthodox Jew himself. He returned to our college for a visit, and I had the opportunity to meet him. Because I was Jewish (and secular) he was eager to proselytize, so he spent many hours with me talking about Judaism in particular and religion in general.
One of his arguments for religion was this: if there is no God, there is no reason why he shouldn’t rape or murder. I found this reasoning utterly preposterous. Moral behavior need have nothing at all to do with religion, as evidenced by all the atheists and agnostics in the world (me among them) who strive with great effort and commitment to lead lives that do the most good and the least harm. And science can lead us toward moral behavior even as religion sometimes leads us away from it.
What I appreciated about Sam Harris’ TED talk was how eloquently and unapologetically he reinforces this point. I welcome your thoughts after viewing Harris’ presentation.
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
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