Talking Past Each Other
A reader writes:
I read your side of the conversation with Mr. Harris as a step toward dialogue: you were seeking to explain and understand. By seeking to convince you of his own convictions, Sam Harris was engaged in dialectic.
My understanding of my own immune belief in the existence of God despite challenges from 'the world of evidence' is founded on the epistemology described by Martin Buber. Very briefly stated, Buber claimed there are two types of knowledge: I-It and I-Thou. The former is scientific knowledge, objective observation, the world of facts. I-Thou knowledge is a gestalt of the world of facts. It happens when you find yourself confronted by the whole rather than the sum of parts.
I-It is 'knowing about.' I-Thou is 'knowing personally.' I can say, 'I know about Andrew Sullivan.' I cannot say, 'I know Andrew Sullivan,' because we have not met. For me, it is otherwise with God. I know nothing factual about God. But I know God because I am in dialogue with him: when he speaks to me through my experiences and meetings with others, and in the dark of night when I look up at the stars and ask, 'Why?'
I have done Buber an injustice by not citing him or presenting his ideas in more philosophically appropriate terms, but I wanted to couch my understanding in my own words. In any case, I leave you with a quote from him: "The atheist staring from his attic window is often nearer to God than the believer caught up in his own false image of God."