Has anyone read "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris? It seems to be reviewed, seriously, everywhere.
His tired thesis is that religion is the root of much evil (and especially of 'cruelty,'), should be eliminated, and that reason is the solution. Can you get any more simplistic -- any more high-schoolish?
The thesis, of-course, is easily disproved. Just as many people have been killed in wars which have no religious cause as in wars which do; any biblical passages leading to violence can be countered by another biblical passage forbidding violence; Harris seems to completely disregard the process of Biblical interpretation, and oral traditions which mitigate many violent passages and which are essential to any discussion of religion etc. etc. etc. While he wasn't specifically answering Harris, British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks also wrote a piece in last week's London Times (can't find the link) explaining that the phrase 'religious fundamentalist,' as it is used today, is misleading, because true religious fundamentals are good, not bad.
Another approach comes from Dennis Prager -- who argues that secularism hasn't necessarily led to morals. Answering Harris's point that the push for religious tolerance has 'blinded' us to the real perils of Islamic terror, Prager points out that some of the most vigorous -- and vocal -- critics of the crimes committed by Islamists today are other religious people, who have the moral confidence to stand up to them, and not secularists / 'rational' academics, who are paralysed by political correctness.
The interesting point, however, is not the pros or cons of this argument, but the fact that such a simplistic and old argument seems to be taken seriously and has generated so much debate in the mainstream media. It seems that since 9/11, people are (again) seeing the world in very black-and-white terms; there is no middle ground, people are either good or evil. Clearly, this book and the debate it has generated are a sad symptom of wartime thinking.