Sunday, March 28, 2010

Philosopher Sam Harris advances the "Heaven is escapist" argument...

No one can accuse philosopher Sam Harris of being original. During a recent interview with CNN, which may be seen here, Mr. Harris asserted that, "Religion causes people to fixate on issues of less moral importance....Religion has convinced us that there's something else entirely other than concerns about suffering. There's concerns about what God wants, there's concerns about what's going to happen in the afterlife..." In other words, concerns about supernatural realities such as God's Holy Will and Heaven are "escapist" because these "distract us" from the concerns of this world.

It was C.S. Lewis who so eloquently answered this charge of "escapism" with the simple question "Who talks the most against 'escapism'? Jailers." No doubt this point would be lost on Mr. Harris.

Heaven is not escapist because it is real. An idea is only "escapist" if it is a lie. By asserting that the afterlife is somehow "escapist," Mr. Harris is presupposing atheism. But if Heaven is real (and it is), it is escapism not to think about it and realistic to do so. One can almost hear Mr. Harris responding, "There is no scientific evidence to show that Heaven (or the "afterlife") exists." But this argument also falls flat. Where is the scientific evidence proving the notion that nothing exists except what may be proved by scientific evidence? There is no scientific evidence for such an assumption. In fact, such an assumption represents merely a desire to narrow the bounds of reality to that which may be demonstrated by the scientific method.

If Heaven is real and it is our ultimate destination, then it is really our primary task. Which is why we are commanded to "strive first for the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6: 33) because "our citizenship is in heaven." (Phil 3: 19-20). And what of Mr. Harris' assertion that "Religion causes people to fixate on issues of less moral importance"? What could be more important than saving one's soul and attaining eternal life in Heaven with God? How is such an issue of "less moral importance"?

Does concern for the afterlife necessarily distract one from "concerns about suffering"? Did it serve to distract Moses, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Augustine, Aquinas and, of course, Jesus the Christ from such concerns?

God preserve us from such nonsense!

1 comment:

Stewart said...

Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom of God and all else would be provided unto us. He also fed thousands, healed the sick, the lame, the deaf and the crippled. Seeking Heaven first does not distract us from the corporal works of mercy.

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