Sam Harris "spiritually" enlightens Frank Bruni, and Bruni comments.
"You can have spiritual experience and understand the most thrilling changes in human consciousness in a context that’s secular and universal and not freighted with dogma," he said when we spoke on the telephone last week. It was a kind of discussion that I wish I heard more of, and that people should be able to have with less fear of being looked upon as heathens.
I suppose I'm one of those heathens--meaning, in its most straightforward connotation, the "unconverted"--although I've never experienced any fear of being seen as such, nor am I sure the believers with whom I have discussed my fallen state have "looked upon" me, as in looked down on me. In general, they instead seem to harbor invincible hopes of my imminent Christian enlightenment, and they're more puzzled than dismayed by my resistance to The Word.
I, in turn, feel the same toward them. Contradictory fidelity to ancient, eternal Scripture and one of its many mutating, centrifugal doctrines to fit the times has always puzzled me. Collectively, believers strike me as a hopelessly confused lot; The Word is at once singular and universal, yet Christianity's internal differences--from dozens of fundamentalisms and evangelicalisms and assorted "higher" churches to disputes, even, about the divinity of the religion's "founder"--reflect, it seems to me, not some celestial Word, but an abyss of human centrality and all too human thought.
Consequently, aside from vaguely adhering to originalist Taoist sentiments--like Harris, I most admire freedom from dogma--I join Montaigne, with no trepidation whatsoever, in his almost religious fidelity to skepticism. That too, of course, implies an internal contradiction, as does my agreement with Hitchens that humankind's religions are "abject nonsense."
Whither my skepticism then? Who knows? The thing is, though, we heathens don't really care, since our other certainty is this: If a God there be, He doesn't either.