Note: I disagree strongly with Sam Harris' critique of faith and his advocacy for shedding religious wisdom and building a moral code based on reason alone. (Frankly, the "New Atheists" are lightening bugs compared to the lightning delivered by the Great Atheists; Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, and Thomas Payne.) Warning: Only those strong in their faith should tackle the Great Atheists, those giants of the mind, but I submit that intellectual integrity demands meeting Goliath head-on in the open instead of ignoring wisdom delivered by the disciplines of the modern age most "good Christian" sneer are unworthy or poisonous. Personally, I cannot read Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra without concluding his eloquence and intelligence to be gift's from God--Nietzsche's mind was a miracle! If only the scope of his gaze included the miraculous nature of his gifts! Who could declare "God is dead" but an unparalleled genius sent as His messenger but the man whose writings are claimed by Hitler's henchmen as marching orders? Doesn't this sound like the work of Satan, whose greatest trick is masking His gifts with lies? (Nietzsche railed endlessly against the evil he predicted would befall man for permitting faith to perish in idol-minds weakened by fear and ignorance--the Nazis' cauldron. I think and faithfully believe that men like Nietzsche were sent to challenge, and therefore strengthen, our faith. God is good and loves us, but His mystery confounds us. We want but a cottage, but He plans for us a palace. Our intellect must be worthy of Him. In short: His almighty love inspired the great atheists to suffer darkness in their own minds so that the the faithful would would flourish--dismissal of His challenge is our will, not His. Temptation beckons us toward an "orderly mind" and away from the "chaos" accompanying any great construction. As Lewis put it:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
As such, I find Sam Harris' thoughts on God worth reading but only for novices--for snarks at the "kid's table." However, Sam's meditations on mindfulness are unmatched and worthy of numerous readings. I'm grateful for Sam's insights presented as "Death and the Present Moment." As someone who's witnessed at least a dozen undergraduates break down in tears during office hours so far this semester, I'm particularly keen on helping students focus on taking joy in the long college slog. Mindfulness is very fruitful.
Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.
Links to interesting articles on cheating, and below find the abstract and link to Levitt's fascinating paper on teacher cheating:
Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating
Levitt, Steven D.,
University of Chicago Department of Economics Publication
We develop an algorithm for detecting teacher cheating that combines information on unexpected test score fluctuations and suspicious patterns of answers for students in a classroom. Using data from the Chicago Public Schools, we estimate that serious cases of teacher or administrator cheating on standardized tests occur in a minimum of 4-5 percent of elementary school classrooms annually. Moreover, the observed frequency of cheating appears to respond strongly to relatively minor changes in incentives. Our results highlight the fact that incentive systems, especially those with bright line rules, often induce behavioral distortions such as cheating. Statistical analysis, however, may provide a means of detecting illicit acts, despite the best attempts of perpetrators to keep them clandestine.
UC Berkeley Permalink: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/2wj7v1j4
“Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”
― David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life
Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is a "how-to guide" for those interested in becoming a good person. My father paid me to read it when I was a teenager, and I've promised to re-read it every few years, but I've never studied Carnegie's wisdom as an adult. I was inspired to study Carnegie seriously by a recent blog post by the FEE's Jeffrey Tucker, who noted his reluctance to reading How to Win Friends and Influence People:
"Everything I thought the book (How to Win Friends..) about turned out to be wrong. This is not about manipulating others. It is about training yourself to be a good person toward others and thereby feel a greater degree of happiness in your own life. What makes the book different is that it starts with a premise: a happy life is about living in harmony and mutual benefit with others.
This book is a logic manual for social engagement, the success or failure of which turns out to profoundly affect your personal happiness."
As a teenager I judged How to Win Friends and Influence People to be the shallow talk of of a "salesman" who was self-centered, vain, and greedy. I realize now that Dale Carnegie's advice is none of these things--I was shallow, not Carnegie.
Carnegie states in simple terms the principles and practices of being a good person. As a precocious, young 43-year old I'm compelled to admit there's nothing in this book I didn't already know, but I also have to admit that there's a great chasm between what I know about good behavior and how I actually behave.
Dale Carnegie's guide is helping close that divide.