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Harris v. Sullivan

This one's almost too easy. If you've ever run the sink over a Quaker rice cake, you'll get an idea of the kind of mulchification that happens to Andrew Sullivan's intellectual integrity when he starts writing like this: My sense … Read More

By / January 22, 2007

This one's almost too easy. If you've ever run the sink over a Quaker rice cake, you'll get an idea of the kind of mulchification that happens to Andrew Sullivan's intellectual integrity when he starts writing like this:

My sense of the fallibility of human reason and the ineffability of God's will leads me not to dismiss these "extremists" as fools or idiots, but to wonder what they have known that I may not know, even as I worry about their potential for evil as well as good (a potential we all have, including you and me).

And does he likewise wonder with such equanimity what elusive truth is known by those water-boarders at Guantanamo Bay? Surely they must believe their wager with the possibility of another attack on American soil is at least as urgent as the more famous one advanced by Blaise Pascal? Or can Andrew summon a stronger term than "fool" or "idiot" to describe the "extremist" state torturers he nobly denounces in between those fatuous photographs of leaves turning and beach-scapes awaiting Jesus' footprints?

Taste the full flavor of warmed-over Catholic belief. God's will has, for some undisclosed reason, addled so many of his "flock" that they can advocate the preaching of fairy tales in science class, picket the funerals of homosexuals, sign off on genocide (when it's of the right people), talk as if those who aren't their co-religionists are morally inferior and damned to hell — and the worst this gets out of Sullivan is a head-scratching bewilderment. The Lord sure does work in mysterious ways. Don't judge: Leibniz thought so, and he invented the calculus!

Thanks, but I prefer Spinoza. And the grand achievements of true believers had everything to do with human ingenuity and the triumph of reason and nothing at all to do with the ontology of God. (Does any of us think, say, Martin Luther King would have been more comfortable with segregation and bigotry had the Rev. honorific not shared equal place with the Dr.?)

You may say that faith helps motivate people to do extraordinary things, but the divine spark is fungible with, and quite indistinguishable from, the neurological kind. It could be the love of a good woman, an early role model whose influence becomes a lifelong inner daimon, or anything else that forces us to struggle for the improvement of the species (and there's a word you won't find in either Testament). To exalt religion as prime mover of anything but convenient self-deception is to be remarkably… parochial.

The deep and many failures of George Bush's certainty have truly humbled the primus inter pares of journo-bloggers. Sullivan's more in touch in with his relativist side now. He's found "doubt" and made peace with the huggable Joseph Ratzinger. He's died for conservatism's sins, with Michael Oakeshott wielding the funeral censer. In his book, see…

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