The Problem with Religious Moderates

We can no longer afford the luxury of political correctness. When religion causes violence, its root claims must be challenged.


09/02/2010 11:21:04 AM

When you claim that religion has no value I think you are failing to take into account the personal solace that people find in it. Sometimes there are not scientific solutions to a problem. For example we cannot bring people back from the dead yet. But believing that a person's death is part of higher plan controlled by a rational power can prevent individuals from sinking into depression. Rather than preventing progress, I think moderates promote it by trying to cool the tensions between themselves and fanatics. I recently talked to a pastor who founded a evangelical church six years ago and while we certainly don't agree on everything if we had screamed at each other we would have never come to a more full understanding of each other. Opening dialog between people of opposed believes also helps prevent violence between those groups. One can no longer view someone from a different religion with an over arching stereotype, which could be extended to a justification to bomb that particular group. Such violence is costly, wasteful and even more counterproductive than accepting some of their views.

Kira Nirvanna

04/08/2008 08:13:26 PM

I was just thinking about that study. If religious people tend to live longer, Is that based on an average? If it is, I wonder if it takes into account the fact that with so many more religious folks out there and so few Athiests comparably, that if two athiests are killed prematurely over their lack of religion that would drop the average age of death for athiests a lot faster than even a dozen religious people were killed prematurely for the same reason. In other words a smaller group is more likely to show as having a higher mortality rate than a larger group because even something small can make a big impact in a small group, whereas even a large thing might not make much impact in a larger group.


02/28/2007 10:24:06 AM

scrip, "Christianity cannot be proven to be "reasonable" to those who deny their own sinfulness befor God." One would have to believe there IS a God in order to accept one's "sinfulness before God", no? "God is not "reasonable" in the usual sense of the word since He gave His beloved Son to die for the worst of us." Gee, and here all along I thought Jesus died for ALL of us. "Come, let us reason together, though your sin be as scarlet" This has nothing to do with "reason". (Didn't know "sins" came in colours!) But again, one would first have to believe in God before acknowledging one's "sins" before such a God. "God is in charge and exhibits His resonablness by offering to meet our greatest need first, forgiveness and restoration." How come we humans seem to keep getting in the way of God doing God's job, eh? "That is reasonable in Heavenly thinking" Ah, but we are earthly creatures.


02/12/2007 12:18:06 PM

About the research, it was not limited to Christians. Also, I didn't say that it was evidence of God, only of the effects of their belief in God on their health. I even suggest in my post that maybe it was a stress reliever.


02/12/2007 12:15:03 PM

part 1 cont. from below. That's a good question, chrisrkline, and apparently well thought out. Thank you. Christians ask their God "why?" all the time. While I have a hope that makes unbearable suffering tolerable, I do understand that the problem of pain turns away many would-be theists. While I believe that most theists were raised that way, I also believe that most atheists were also raised to believe in the way that they do. Life is complex and frought with suffering and disapointment. Life experiences can change the heart of a child, and they tend to change it more towards non-belief rather than conversion experiences of atheists.


02/12/2007 12:08:57 PM

part 2. Children naturally believe all sorts of things (the Tooth Fairy, Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc.) My 9-year-old came to the conclusion that these things did not exist, on her own. She has not (yet) made that conclusion about God. While many children "lose" their religion in adulthood, by some scientific instruction that leads them to doubt Genesis, or from witnessing pain (often up close and personally in a friend or loved one), those same painful experiences go to strengthen their faith in other believers. I don't know why some believe and others do not; especially since my faith teaches me that God is not willing that any should perish(II Pet.3.9) and that faith is a "gift," given out in "measure." (Rom.12.3). Apparently some have a little and mor is given to them, enough to become theists; and others, do not have, so what little they have is subverted to non-faith. (Matt.25.14-30;Mark 4.13-20).


02/11/2007 10:08:50 PM

Sherri, I was a theist for a while, and I am familiar with the classic arguments. I have read the Problem with Pain, and others by Lewis. All of these arguments go with a huge "If". If there is a god that has omnipotent powers, then what you suggest would provide some logical justification for why there is evil. The trouble is that with this type of argument, there is, in theory, no natural tragedy, or evil, that would shake your faith. If one billion people die of drought in the next 50 years, would that have any affect on your beliefs? If nothing in the world can shake your faith, then how can anything in the world lead you to faith.


02/11/2007 10:03:29 PM

Sherri The fact that religious people live longer is not a sign of an existence of God. Is this research true only of Christians, or is it true of any religious people. Would it be true of spiritual people, who meditate, but do not believe in a theistic god. How well did the study control for extraneous variables. In other words, did they compare people who did the same things in their life, but differed in whether they were "religious" or not. One trouble is that the main social groups, which are beneficial tend to be religious. There are few purely secular societies to compete. Even if there was something to the research, it would tell us nothing of what was beyond the beliefs.


02/11/2007 08:52:10 PM

Oh, and chrisrkline, supposedly, medical research shows that theists, as a whole, generally do live longer, are healthier (freer of chronic illness), and recover faster from illness. I don't know about the power of those praying for them, but that does seem to suggest some health benefit (maybe less stress) conferred upon them by their belief systems.


02/11/2007 08:44:16 PM

cont. The problem isn't with the "cherry picking" which he accuses the theist of (which he does himself with Buddhism), but with theism period. The violence coming from certain sects in theism (as atheists want you to focus more on theistic violence than non-heistic/secular violence)only fuels the fire he already has burning against theism, i.e. God.


02/11/2007 08:41:05 PM

joyfulle 1981, it seems that Harris embraces Buddhism, as religion of choice, for the very reasons that you stated. Yet, there are some strains in Buddhism that accept some supernatural tenets (although not deities). Harris doesn't allow for moderate theists to distance themselves from fundamentalist strains in theism to which they disagree, as he allows himself to pick and choose among tenets held in Buddhism. It seems it isn't the analogous core belief set that ties the various strains together under one religious setting that perturbs him (at least not in non-theistic Buddhism, where he accepts part and rejects other Buddhist schools of thought), but only the theistic part of theistic religions (montheisms in particular) where he feels that the practicer/adherent/believer cannot practice one school of thought and separate oneself from another within the same religion (due to the analogous core belief set).


02/11/2007 08:24:42 PM

Lolobug, Harris is for being intolerant of the beliefs at the heart of those actions, supposedly the EXACT same beliefs at the heart of those NOT taking such violent actions. Obviously, to you and me, there must be a divergence in belief somewhere in their minds from us, to draw the conclusions that they do and act on them; but, there is no divergence/distinction for Harris. Both moderate and fundamentalist religious belief must end, as far as Harris is concerned.


02/11/2007 08:17:21 PM

I understand your misgivings at the inadequacy of my response to the problem of pain/suffering/evil, chrisrkline 1960. I was only trying to point out that the existence of suffering does not necessarily negate the existence of a god. Free will means the ability to bring about suffering; and, I would humbly submit that, in order for God to receive free will-motivated love, worship and obedience from His creation (rather than robotic obedience), evil (choosing the alternative to God's will/way) must exist; and, its effects are far-reaching, even to those who seem that they should be immune from them:innocents, opening doors for us to show compassion on the needy and hurting (our love towards each other, rather than living in a self-sufficient vacuum). God limits His omnipotence by our free will, but continues to be omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipresent. I would offer reading "the Problem of Pain," by C.S.Lewis, an atheist turned Christian apologetist.


02/11/2007 04:25:04 PM

Sherri1555stl, Saying that man caused evil by his disobediance and that Jesus came to fix it, really has little resonance with non-theists. An omnipotent god did not have to do it this way. He did not have to give us the "power" to damage creation like you claim. While I understand why theists persist in explaining away evil in this way despite a supposed loving and caring God, don't expect us, secularists, to be overwhelmed and moved by this image of the creator. The problem of evil is real.


02/11/2007 04:07:32 PM

When a scientist tries to disprove a theory, it is not personal. It is the way new theories are developed, tested, and how old theories are modified or replaced. Scientists are always looking for holes in theories, even their own. Let’s look at the example of prayer. A world where god answers prayers has to be measurably different than a world where god does not answer prayers. A scientist therefore might make a hypothesis. Sick people who have prayers said for them would, on average, do better than those who do not have prayers said for them. Every experiment to test this hypothesis could potentially derail it. A good scientist knows this. Even if the first experiment is successful, science does not stop there. Scientists will continue to test the hypothesis, looking for problems; in a sense, they try to disprove it. Even a theist, who wants to prove that prayer works, should do this.


02/07/2007 02:02:15 PM

You are not the first to attempt to disprove the existence of God any more than theists will try to continue to prove Him; but, I disagree that 'science' only seeks 'not to prove, but to disprove' things. how about the Theories of gravity and relativity. What is science seeking to disprove with those?


02/07/2007 01:58:40 PM

mediagiant, God does NOT "cause" innocents to suffer. Suffering is in the world, the animal kingdom (ferocity), nature (natural disasters), and among people because of the sin of man. The Son of Man came conquering death (the wages of sin), healing sickness and disease (also the results of the Fall of man), controlling nature and bringing peace to the animal kingdom temporarily in His earthly life, only to come back and restore permanently what man contaminated with his/her disobedience, including, most importantly, right relationship with God. The Son of God had to SUFFER to do this, OUR sin necessitating that suffering. Adam and Eve started it; we continually add to it. God didn't created suffering; we did. Suffering is the direct result of disobedience. We can even see that when I child disobeys his/her parents. Even without corporal punishment, the child suffers until lessons are learned and heeded.


02/07/2007 12:19:51 AM

The Problem of Evil is still a dagger for theism.


02/07/2007 12:18:55 AM

Whether one can prove God's existence is irrelevant. After all, the scientific method seeks not to prove but to disprove. I can disprove the existence of God once and for all. (I am not the first to attempt this.) A God who is omnipotent and morally perfect would not cause innocent animals to suffer from pain, disease and predation. Even if there were some reason behind it, there is no reason for its severity. I could envision a world in which animals didn't have it quite so bad. If God is our watchmaker, then He is incompetent. Even people who live healthy lifestyles suffer from autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer's Disease and appendicitis because our bodies are just so flawed.


02/06/2007 04:02:35 PM

Nice, joninokc007.


02/06/2007 03:55:53 PM

Well since hard-core atheists will not allow that anything ever COULD "prove" God, steppen0410e, not being mainly scientific (even miracles are not taken as empirical proof, but as projections of the visionary), no theist could ever bare his/her burden of proof. The assertion that God is not is already assumed true by hard-core atheists, where agnosticism would be more reasonable (allowing that nothing HAS established that existence thus far, but maybe something in the future could). You may not consider it a 'religion,' but the dogmatic philosophy of hard-core atheists is similar to that of fundamentalist theists, granting them a "faith" community with protected message/discussion boards at Beliefnet.


08/22/2006 06:25:17 PM

Aside from identifying that you haven't read Harris' book, joyfulle1981, (where Harris has some rather positive things to say about Buddhism, and identifies the psychological depth of Buddhist writings when compared to the Bible), I would very much like to discuss with you the supposedly 'atheist' regimes of both Russia and China. Firstly, these regimes were only nominally atheistic. Secondly, these regimes, as another poster, steppen, has ably pointed out, all share something in common with Christianity. They are all to varying degrees dogmatic, and it is that dogmatism, as Harris emphasizes, that is the cause and source of evil.


08/22/2006 01:33:06 PM

I wonder how the atheist Sam Harris would argue with Buddha since his religious teachings are non-theistic.


08/22/2006 01:26:39 PM

The concept that "religion must go" would be interesting except that atheism is no innocent peace-loving dogma. It too has adherents that are violent and abusive. Shall we discuss some of the actions of Russia and China to promote their state belief in athiesm?


08/18/2006 01:31:47 AM

Sam Harris is a genious. "The End Of Faith" is excellent reading, and is very accurate IMO. Religion must's long over due. It's primative traditions are 1,000's of years out of date, and it's time the truth about it's roots were known. Peace Raven


08/17/2006 02:55:15 AM

(continued) In any argument, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim. If someone claims to have invented an antigravity device or a perpetual motion machine, it is not encumbent on others to prove that no such things exists. The claimant must make the case. Everyone else is justified in refusing it until evidence is produced and substantiated. And calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color. But, it has to be said, that there are people for whom knowledge - even if it as yet does not incorporate a 'grasp of the infinite reality of endless time - is more compelling than mere belief. However, not all people are so constituted. Some people are driven by a simple will to believe. For such people, religion fulfils a basic desire to be religious. Their faith is impregnable to fact, their belief impervious to mere truth.


08/17/2006 02:39:54 AM

Yes, Matt2h, I was impressed with Harris' book, too. He makes all his points well. I'm sorry, joninokc007, but your argument is weak, and with the usual bevy of strawmen. For instance, I don't know any atheist who would claim that they have a 'grasp of (the) infinite reality of endless time'. That being so, is one obliged to swallow every egregious concept dreampt up by religion simply because one hasn't such a grasp? Would I be correct in assuming that you do not have a grasp of the infinite reality of endless time? If your answer is no, does that oblige you to accept the theologies of all religions, including their irreconcilable differences? All the atheist is saying is that, theism does not provide an adequate proof of the existence of God. Atheism is not saying that God is disproved, only unproved.


08/15/2006 02:30:19 PM

What an interesting article, especially for me because I am a minister. What I like about his article in particular is that Harris points out I think that there are some BEHAVIORS coming out of religion that we wouldnt tolorate if it werent couched in religion. So, maybe we can tolerate beliefs but speak out against actions. There is definately something important here.


08/15/2006 06:50:50 AM

If one reads through the history of thought and scientific inquiry since the Greeks it becomes obvious quite quickly that the main obsticle to the progress of human knowledge has been superstition - namely in the form of religion. Whether it is crowds of the superstitious or religious leaders who refuse anything which challenges their worldview, religion has been the biggest obsticle to scientific knowledge.


06/21/2006 12:11:02 AM

Sam Harris' book is my manifesto. I could not even begin to extol Sam Harris enough for having the courage to combat powerful enemies on multiple fronts. Harris' novel text bursts through the liberal/postmodern veil of tolerance like a flash of lightning, brilliantly illuminating the root cause of so much irrationality, suffering, and unnecessary obstructionism. Sam Harris is my god. I would take a bullet for Sam Harris.


05/17/2006 07:21:23 PM

The Problem with Atheist Radicals- The effort by Atheists to spread their anti-faith, by converting the people of faith is no different than the efforts by those of faith to convert those without faith. Rationalism in the hands of the advocate atheist becomes a religion itself, with mankind corporately becoming the Supreme Being of this religion, Science as the Dogma, and the debunker as the Grand Inquisitor. Putting intellectual and social pressure on those you do not agree with is supposed to be a horrible thing in the hands of people of faith, but totally acceptable in the hands of the faithless. The atheist, who assumes he has complete grasp of an infinite reality of endless time, even though he is a finite person of limited senses and limited lifespan just becomes a person of faith himself, who believes there are far fewer things in heaven or earth than is compassed with his arrogant philosophy.


05/13/2006 09:13:35 PM

"...he cannot possibly "respect" the beliefs of others, for he knows that the flames of hell have been stoked by these very ideas and await their adherents even now. Muslims and Jews generally take the same arrogant view of their own enterprises and have spent millennia passionately reiterating the errors of other faiths." I would like to point out that in Judaism, the righteous(read: ethical) of all peoples and faiths have a place in the world to come. We don't kill people or go on crusades to wipe out the 'infidel' for believing differently than we do. Where did Harris get the idea that Judaism teaches this?


05/12/2006 09:00:06 PM

"But we can no longer afford the luxury of such political correctness. We must finally recognize the price we are paying to maintain the iconography of our ignorance. " I agree : ) Literalist groups are dangerous to society. We do not need to "get rid of" literalists but we do need to sideline them like other cult groups. As Sam said "Yet if the president of the U.S. started talking about how Saturn was coming into the wrong quadrant and is therefore not a good time to launch a war, one would hope that the whole White House press corps would descend on him with a straitjacket."


05/12/2006 05:49:47 PM

Christianity is for seeing people, not the blind. Christianity calls for a conversion experience that enables the reception of truth. Sam Harris is merely rambling in the dark. Christianity cannot be proven to be "reasonable" to those who deny their own sinfulness befor God. God is not "reasonable" in the usual sense of the word since He gave His beloved Son to die for the worst of us. He is reasonable as the God above all others as He can see our destiny if we remain in sin. Come, let us reason together, though your sin be as scarlet, it shall be as white as snow. God is in charge and exhibits His resonablness by offering to meet our greatest need first, forgiveness and restoration. That is reasonable in Heavenly thinking; it's called love. Scrip


05/11/2006 12:07:45 PM

Imagine that we could revive a well-educated Christian of the fourteenth century. The man would prove to be a total ignoramus, except on matters of faith. His beliefs about geography, astronomy, and medicine would embarrass even a child, but he would know more or less everything there is to know about God This is one of the most ignorant statements I've ever heard, and it makes my blood boil. Harris ignores the work of Teilhard de Chardin, Matthew Fox, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Pope John XXIII, Dorothy Day, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joseph Campbell and many, many others, who have progressed religious belief beyond the simplistic views on previous times. He forgets (or ignores) that fundamentalism is a modern movement in response to the enlightenment. I suggest Harris read Douglas Rushkoff's mind-expanding Nothing Sacred. Rushkoff is Jewish, but everything he says can apply to any religion; he sees religion as an "open source" text that we have the power to rewrite.


05/11/2006 10:31:36 AM

Lostsocks, the problem is that the Soviet Union had the same problem as fundamentalists of any stripe, whether religious or nonreligious: a belief that theirs was The Only Way, and that differing opinions were not simply mistaken, but actually evil, dangerous threats that had to be stamped out. That's the mindset threatening us all today: anyone who claims to have The Truth for everyone, insisting on forcing it upon the rest of us whether we want it or not. It's an emotionally stunted, immature mindset, driven by fear & insecurity. It can be religious, it can be ideological -- and it's always destructive, devouring its own when it can't find any further victims elsewhere.


04/03/2006 03:12:41 PM

AT LAST! A writer who understands that once we abandon religion and all become Atheists the world will become a loving and peaceful place full of happy fuzzy bunnykins and soda pop rivers... just like the Soviet Union... Now I can already hear the tap tap of angry replies heading this way... Of course - the misdeeds of the communists were not the direct result of their secularism..... And of course the same is true of the religious. It was not ultimately the fact that they were religious that made them do bad things. You can't have it both ways. -- Rather than bring the full force of our creativity and rationality to bear on the problems of ethics *creative* ethics... nope. That is just terrifying.


07/08/2005 02:10:01 AM

This essay began promisingly, with the hint that it would skewer a political correctness run amok, where every idea is "equally okay" because such a stance is just so democratic. But it didn't go there. Instead, it simply bashed religion as the tenacious acceptance of dogma, a dogma that doesn't admit of progress. How disappointing. There is no belief system in this world that can prove its values straight to the core, but there is obviously a sliding scale between what is easy to nail and what remains elusive. The more elusive a value, the more we have to agree to disagree. But violence and exploitation are closer to the "full consensus" side of the pool than, say, how many angels you can dance on the head of a pin. So why not pick our battles? Let's deal with violence and terror, regardless of what some group thinks of their latest religious tribute. But doing so does not require us to criticize the basic tenets of any faith.


07/05/2005 10:03:29 AM

Well, the previous post is rather incoherent, but I can tell that I disagree. Religion will always exist only insofar as we label how we deal with spiritual issues "religion." If we use this label to include those who say "not applicable" then yes, religion will always be. I am not saying that the other kind of religion (i.e organized religions) will necessarily disappear, but they could. The lack of a moral self may lead to decline, but it is unclear whether this necessitates a spiritual self--again, unless we are using labels in a very general sense. I do agree that wars will always exist, however, they could be fewer and fought less fervently and more rationally. This is particularly true if we take religion out of it. More people have died in Jesus' name than in Stalin's name. (I use Stalin rather than a certain German dictator for two reasons: one is Godwin's law and the other is that Stalin killed more people.)


04/03/2005 07:53:16 AM

Time after time religoin will always be.Even if it didnt exist they would still be war cause of man"s nature.The idealism of ending religoin is doomed to failure.The lack of spritual self leads us nothing more than clinical and arogant