MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Interviewing Sam Harris

Sam Harris

I ran into this old interview I did years ago with the brilliant and hugely controversial neuroscientist, philosopher, and gadfly thinker Sam Harris.

It’s actually a decade old, from when I was still an editor at Amazon (and when Amazon was, let’s just say, a very different place). The subject was the first book by the prolific Mr. Harris, The End of Faith, which went on to win the 2005 PENN Award for Nonfiction.

Interview with Sam Harris: The Mortal Dangers of Religious Faith
Not long before the birth of Christ, in an age of violence and turmoil, the Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher Lucretius wrote an epic masterpiece titled De Rerum Natura (“On the Nature of Things”). His goal, in part, was to liberate humankind from the religious superstitions that he believed stood in the way of true peace of mind and happiness.

Author Sam Harris plays the role of a contemporary Lucretius in his book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. Harris received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and is a doctoral candidate in the field of neuroscience.

Well aware that a book about the inherent dangers of institutional, dogmatic religion would court controversy, Harris wrote The End of Faith out of a sense of urgency regarding what he argues constitutes perhaps the greatest threat we face today. He shared his thoughts about the character of dogmatic faith versus mysticism, the role of reason in civil discourse, and the hope that humans can overcome the propensity toward religious violence before it’s too late.

continue reading

Filed under: book recs, interview, philosophy, religion

Recovering Genius: Pope Francis and Wagner

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013

(Pope Francis in March 2013)

By now, the extraordinary interview Pope Francis gave to fellow Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, which was recently published in America Magazine, has generated incredible interest on many fronts, from the Pope’s comments on moral priorities and his memorable metaphor of the Church as a “field hospital” to his discussion of art and creativity.

When discussing human understanding, Pope Francis revealed a fascinating perception of Wagner:

When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. The deceived thought can be depicted as Ulysses encountering the song of the Siren, or as Tannhäuser in an orgy surrounded by satyrs and bacchantes, or as Parsifal, in the second act of Wagner’s opera, in the palace of Klingsor. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching.

Maybe I’m on the totally wrong track here, but I almost notice an echo here of Wagner’s own formulation of the relation between art and religion from the time of Parsifal:

When religion becomes artificial, art has a duty to rescue it. Art can show that the symbols which religions would have us believe literally true are actually figurative. Art can idealize those symbols, and so reveal the profound truths they contain.

The entire interview with Pope Francis, “A Big Heart Open to God,” is in English translation here.

Filed under: aesthetics, religion, spirituality, Wagner

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR

  • Not My Job: Katy Tur Of NBC News Gets Quizzed On Turducken
    The correspondent and anchor, known for her reporting from Donald Trump's presidential campaign, fields questions about the multi-poultry Thanksgiving delicacy.
  • Reading The Game: This War Of Mine
    Our occasional series on storytelling in video games returns with This War of Mine — a game about surviving during wartime that proved so wrenching, our critic couldn't bring himself to finish it.
  • How The TV And Movies Are Using Gen X Nostalgia
    NPR's Kelly McEvers and Pop Culture Happy Hour's Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon sit down to talk about this era of TV and movies, many of which are catering to Gen X nostalgia — from Stranger Things to the latest Star Wars film.
  • In A Crisis Of Sexual Harassment, Whither The Office Romance?
    Efforts to eliminate harassment in the workplace target a site where couples tend to meet and fall in love — but also a place where power can be abused.
  • 'Last Jedi' Puts The Smarts — And The Heart — Back Into The 'Star Wars' Franchise
    The late Carrie Fisher makes her final appearance — now as General Leia — in Star Wars Episode VIII. Critic David Edelstein says The Last Jedi is nothing short of terrific.
  • F-L-A To Win
    Finally, an Ask Me Another quiz made for Flava Flav fans: We crowned our big Orlando winner with a final round in which every answer contains the consecutive letters F-L-A.
  • Hard Times
    Did you know that Neil Diamond is a ten on the Mohs Scale of Hardness? In honor of our venue, Orlando's Hard Rock Live, we rewrote famous rock 'n roll songs to be about things that are hard.
  • This, That, Or The Other
    Our contestants give it their all—blood, sweat and tears, win, lose or draw. Can you guess whether each phrase is a Pitbull lyric, a nursery rhyme or a Mark Twain quote?
  • What's So Funny?
    Can you tell a Fran Drescher from a Seth Rogen? In this quiz, contestants have to identify famous people from their distinctive laughs.
  • Rhymes With Orange
    Contestants are challenged to a quiz about obscure words that rhyme with famously unrhymable words.