Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sam Harris vs. Obama & Harriet Beecher Stowe on slavery

Sam Harris, an atheist who has written several excellent books on atheism and destructive power of religion, has written one of the few legitimate criticisms of Obama's historic race speech, saying Obama could NOT walk away from his church because it would call his Christianity into question, a guaranteed lethal political wound that would make the effects of Wright's comments look like a stubbed toe. The sad part was Harris' accurate closing statement:
But Obama’s candidacy is also depressing, for it demonstrates that even a person of the greatest candor and eloquence must still claim to believe the unbelievable in order to have a political career in this country. We may be ready for the audacity of hope. Will we ever be ready for the audacity of reason?

Sam Harris is dead on as usual with one exception: he treats religion as a cause rather than effect or tool of an even deeper cause, greed.
He mentioned Southerners giving their lives for slavery because their churches told them to:
The Confederate soldiers who eagerly laid down their lives at three times the rate of Union men, for the pleasure of keeping blacks in bondage and using them as farm equipment, did so with the conscious understanding that they were doing the Lord’s work.

But he has it backwards. The churches were telling them what they wanted to hear, that their sociopathic behavior that made them a lot of money was morally acceptable.
Harriet Beecher Stowe put these words in the mouth of a guilt-ridden slave owner in chapter 16 of Uncle Tom's Cabin:
"suppose that something should bring down the price of cotton once and forever, and make the whole slave property a drug in the market, don't you think we should soon have another version of the Scripture doctrine? What a flood of light would pour into the church, all at once, and how immediately it would be discovered that everything in the Bible and reason went the other way!"
I sometimes wonder if this isn't exactly what happened. Slaves were replaced by sharecroppers who instead of getting a subsistence living from their masters ended up owing them money, and today, we have illegal immigrants who rather than being fed and clothed year round as slaves were can be dismissed to starve on their own dime after the harvest or even removed by a call to la migra (now ICE).

No comments: