A Vivid Imagination

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“The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.” – Sir R. F. Burton

Burton is an interesting guy. He traveled the world and did a translation of the Arabian Nights.  He is, however, not much of a theologian.  His genes must have cascaded down to Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.  They, too, seem to believe that if you betray your ignorance loudly, then others will agree.   All faith traditions are far more subtle, more nuanced that mere projection.  Do they each have their problematics? Absolutely.  Do the problems justify the kind of reductionist argument deployed by religions cultured despisers (to borrow the phrase from Frederick Schleiermacher)? Not at all.

The simplest argument against them is this.  Have you ever seen a love?  Have you ever smelled justice?  Yes, you have seen or smelled their physical manifestations, but have you seen the complex of emotions and judgment that produce them?  No.  Why not?  Because they are constructs of the mental world.  What constitutes the mental world?  Is it just the firing and stimulation of neurons?  Oh, how do you know?  Because the fMRI tells you so?  How does the fMRI tell you its information?  That’s right, through sight. 

I’m with Kant here.  The ding an siche, the thing in itself, is unknown and unknowable due to the mediation of the senses.   Therefore how Dawkins and Harris can claim to reach beyond their sensorium and know a negative is beyond me.  Does the trashing of their fundamental argument make them wrong?  Unfortunately, no.

By the by, if you’ve never read the Arabian Nights, The Thousand and One Nights, then you’ve missed something.  Find a complete edition because the Muslims who wrote it had a vivid imagination.  I mean, really vivid.


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