What Could Have Been
Rabbi Gil Student sent me a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal, which discusses the provocative advertising by Sam Harris to sell his book.
Gil caught the offensive content before his ad went live, with the result that he’s mentioned in the article:
Also turning down an ad was religious blog TorahMusings.com, which deemed the book inappropriate for its readers, according to Gil Student, an Orthodox rabbi who oversees the blog.
Congrats, Gil. But bereft of certain content in the ad, I don’t think it’s a bad idea for readers to be aware of the book. A review copy is on the way, and I look forward to commenting upon it here.
There was an ad for this book right here on cross-currents earlier this week; I clicked on it and was very surprised that cross-currents would run an advert for a book that argues that to be a religious Christian is about the same as being a nut; I coulnd’t tell for sure if he puts Orthodox Judaism in the same boat, but I guess he does.
Look at it this way-just ask yourself what the author would say about Malchuyos, Zicronos and Shofaros-HaShem’s being the King, that He rememebers every event and reveals Himself in the world. One can certainly imply from that the author would have a similar opinion-despite the fact that the secular Nazis and athesist Communists have more blood on their hands for the events of the 20th Century than a believer in any religion.
I’ve heard Sam Harris discussing his book on the radio. I find him intelligent, but strongly unconvincing and slightly pompous. He raises intelligent and rigorous questions–questions that any thinking person should raise on issues of religion–but ruins it by coming to answers that are far less rigorous and far less intelligent. (In fact many of the issues he raises are frequently addressed in shiurim today, and drawing all the way back from Chazal and meforshim.)
I don’t plan on reading his book, but if Harris is attacking false elements of religion I’m not sure that is something to fear. (The midda of rejecting popular beliefs seems well-established in our religion…) The contemporary American alliance between religious Jews and religious Christians does not change the fact that there remain some strong conceptual and philosophical differences between the two communities. (Some of those differences recently emerged in the stem cell debate). If we object to Harris’s conclusions, it seems to me that there is no reason to reject his questions. In fact Harris’s constant engagement with religious Americans (accomplished through sniping at them!) suggests to me that he wants a dialogue.