The following is a response to Sam Harris and Muslim Fundamentalism, Noelle's recent post.
Noelle's points about oversimplification caught my eye as I was reading today. This is one of the biggest problems that I personally have with a lot of the discussion that occurs around religion, and in fact any debate that involves "othering". There is a lot of danger in making generalizations about a group, since in most cases membership in a specific group is not the individual's only trait descriptor.
I think what I'm basically saying is that we, in class and as human beings, need to think more about other people as individuals who have desires and needs similar to our own, and not as some mass of bodies who are out to get us, etc. This is a vital part of context that we often forget about, and as we talked about in class today, context is what guides our search for meaning in things that are as full of symbolism and allegory as religion.
When we ignore or forget that other people are, in fact, also people, we run into things like Sam Harris (see Noelle's) -- I, too, can hardly believe he's taken seriously, if he says things like that. But I suppose it happens because his readers get sucked into the ease of generalizing and begin to not want to question if it's actually accurate.
Finally, I want to say that we need to remember that traditional belief is not, by itself, a valid reason to take something as truth! For gajillions of years, people thought the Earth was flat, and the sun, stars, and everything moved around in a hemisphere of sky. Obviously false, we know now, thanks in part to Galileo, and no thanks to the Church of his time -- their fear of going away from the safety of tradition caused enormous problems for the Enlightenment. So my point is think for yourself, everyone, and remember that other people are people, too.
Another interesting religion-related blog entry I came across today can be found here. Not strictly related, but I enjoyed reading it.