Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I have read Sam Harris's brilliant "Letter to a Christian Nation" but I haven't gotten a chance to read his bestselling "The End of Faith" yet. But I became aware of an interesting critique of Noam Chomsky that he pens in the book. Apparently, Harris praises Chomsky's exhaustive exegeses on US hypocrisy and his anti-war writings. At the same time, he also says that by saying that 9/11 was probably not that surprising given the US historical connection with the Middle East, Chomsky is missing the real point, which is the problem with religious faith itself. Thus, 9/11 was the result not of US foreign policy, as Chomsky (almost always) points out, but faith itself.

I think the middle ground is the correct one here. I think both explanations are correct. Harris' faith problem is the deeper reason, but Chomsky is also right in saying that a lot of Islamic faith (whether misguided or not) was challenged by the American presence in the Middle East, preceded by the British presence there. While the primary reason for both American and British hegemony in the Middle East was and is oil, Osama Bin Laden and others also saw this presence as a Christian coalition intruding in a holy Islamic land.

Faith is definitely the root cause of the problem, but once you acknowledge and assume its existence in the Islamic world, it's also true that Western influence inflamed it and exacerbated the problem. Both Harris and Chomsky are right in my opinion.

I have ordered the book and will see what exactly Harris is saying.

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Blogger Krishna said...

I am not really sure if "religious fanaticism is the root cause of the problem". Of course the character of the problem is religious and most (probably all?) of Islamic terrorists are religious fanatics. But I think that their religion is only incidental.

None of their methods or nature of their grievances are novel. Secular Tamil Tigers mastered suicide bombings long ago. Surely, religion adds to their appeal and enhances their destructive power, but I don't think religion is the only or even the central feature of the problem.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Krishna, as you said, religion provides a label for fanatics to carry out their deeds. Evil would still exist without religion, but in the last few years, religion seems to have become an increasingly convenient way for these fundamentalists to carry out their deeds. Without such blind belief, it would certainly be much harder for them to gain utterly loyal followers and friends, and be relatively tolerated by the rest of the community. I think religion is something like guns in the US. Simply put, without both of these, people would still commit misdeeds, but easy access to and general prevelance of both of them make it much more easy for people to do it.

5:45 PM  

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