There have been several times in my life when I’ve been inspired to write something, but been beaten to it by somebody else. The best example of this is Kevin Smith, who has done it twice: first with Clerks, and then again with Chasing Amy. I have no way of proving that I thought of writing a screenplay in either case that would address the same subject matter in roughly the same manner. I furthermore make no assertions that what I would have produced, had Kevin not beat me to it on both occasions, would have been anywhere near as inspired and well done as his films were.
I’ve gotten away from my screenwriting aspirations in recent years, while trying to develop something that resembles a professional career. I’ll get back to said aspirations soon enough, I hope; in fact, part of the reason for starting this weblog was to try to return to the habit of writing out my thoughts in a manner that is at least a bit more planned out than daily conversations or message board arguments, in the hopes that I would eventually progress to more serious writing projects.
The most recent example of somebody beating me to the punch by writing something that I not only think I would have written, but could have written, is Sam Harris‘s Letter to a Christian Nation. In it, Harris has concisely and convincingly pointed out the major flaws with our culture’s ridiculous adherence to archaic religious beliefs. What I admire most about Harris’s writing is that he cuts right to the chase, and pulls no punches. I’d like to think that if I were to address the same subject, I’d be able to keep my cool as much as he does, but in reality I have trouble convincing myself of this.
A great example of his ability to maintain not only his rationality but also his temper in the presence of complete blind ignorance is a recent debate between Harris and conservative radio talker Dennis Prager. I think that the debate itself serves as a fairly accurate portrayal and summary of the issues at hand. On one side, you have somebody trying to illustrate his rational point of view using elementary logic and reasoning. On the other, you have somebody who obviously is unwilling to look at things in a logical manner, even while he recognizes the necessity of framing his perspective as if it were based on something resembling logic.
My favorite part, though, is when Prager decides to turn to attacking our system of education:
“We therefore have two choices about how to interpret these data. One is that the more one knows, the less likely one is to believe in God. That is your interpretation. I have another interpretation—that contemporary higher education increases factual knowledge but decreases wisdom. With some exceptions, I believe that the more time one spends at a university the more foolish he or she becomes.”
I would hope that I am not being too presumptuous to suppose that the ridiculousness of this statement is apparent to anybody who would be reading my blog: the distinction (and implied contradiction) between “factual knowledge” and “wisdom”; the implication that “wisdom” equates to “belief in God”; the nonsensical conclusion that attainment of factual knowledge is equivalent to becoming foolish. The funniest part, though, is the sheer hypocrisy of it: Prager makes it a point to emphasize his own university tenure in the About Prager section of his website, referencing his time as a Fellow at Columbia University and his graduate work he did while there. One can only conclude that Prager himself has arrived at his faith by succumbing to the foolishness that was instilled in him while at the university.
This is pretty indicative, I think, of the kind of self-contradicting nonsense that comes out when somebody attempts to expound an inherently illogical position by farcically pretending to use logic and reason in support of his stance. Personally, I would have infinitely more respect for his position if he just said, “Look, I believe in God despite the fact that there is no logical reason to do so, and that’s that.” Of course, that’s not saying much, mathematically speaking.