Why Religion Must End: Interview with Sam Harris

A leading atheist says people must embrace rationalism, not faith--or they will never overcome their differences.

asdfg

11/19/2011 08:18:53 PM

What I don't understand is why he go back to christianity. He starts by saying all religion is just wrong, yet as he goes on, he focuses on christianity and keeps taking it back to Jesus. it seems as if he can easily find fault in other religions, yet when it comes to Jesus, he keeps having to attempt to prove it wrong.

jwdixon66

06/07/2011 05:36:21 PM

I hear Christians say this all the time. "God in Jesus Christ is the only reason for living." However our spouses, children, families and friends make life worth living by themselves. There is nothing added to the enjoyment of these relationships by a myth.

pripoll

10/14/2010 12:45:16 PM

I am an Atheist but don't think that you can successfully argue about beliefs, disbelief, you simply have it or don't , I agree that religions are a written stories about a "moral code" that it's only designed to control an specific society in any given lapse in history and it's based on manipulation and lies (mainly). But if you do not belief in god ergo in religions, live your live accordingly and decently but let others belief in whatever they want, you will not make them change and probably they will not make you change neither

pripoll

10/14/2010 12:44:54 PM

I am an Atheist but don't think that you can successfully argue about beliefs, disbelief, you simply have it or don't , I agree that religions are a written stories about a "moral code" that it's only designed to control an specific society in any given lapse in history and it's based on manipulation and lies (mainly). But if you do not belief in god ergo in religions, live your live accordingly and decently but let others belief in whatever they want, you will not make them change and probably they will not make you change neither

mlgillaugh

10/30/2007 08:59:42 AM

Who is this man to tell ANYBODY what they should/shouldn't believe? THAT is a form of control...it's no different than the "religious" point of view that he's condemning. If he (or anybody else) doesn't want to believe in God, that's a personal choice. I do not belong to any cults, I have not been brain-washed, but I HAVE been filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of God. His Word is true - those who do not have the Holy Spirit cannot POSSIBLY understand His ways, because they are opposite of the ways of the world. The world says "Get revenge"...Jesus says "turn the other cheek". The world says "It's all about ME"... Jesus tells us to do what we can to bless others. The world says "if you don't do it THIS way, you're doing it WRONG"...Jesus said "judge not, lest ye be judged". Only GOD knows a person's heart - and Sam Harris is NOT God. Nobody knows when Jesus will return - only God knows that. If Sam knew anything about the Christian beleifs he condemns, he'd KNOW that.

kevist

04/09/2007 03:53:54 PM

Sam didn't completely answer the final question. Religion is part of the problem when its tied to poverty (overpopulation), womens rights (Mano-theism) and the environment ("ruling over the earth" instead of living with it). It no longer gets a pass with feeding the poor when it is responsible for creating the poor.

kevist

04/09/2007 03:43:09 PM

Religion has been both an instructive and destructive guide that has outlived its "moral" usefulness. I find useful metaphors and stories that I can play with to fit my experience. Religion retreats when natural forces of destruction and disease indiscriminately chooses its victims, but advances when economic and some social disadvantages are burdensome. I'll think Globalization and Corporate entities have produced far more damage and they are concerned with Survival of the Fitest.

bacillusx

04/01/2007 07:30:16 PM

Religion was okay until it got a hold of nuclear weapons. It's too dangerous to be naive about its destructive potential anymore.

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 07:11:10 PM

coefficient, the capitalizations are for emphasis, as I have not yet learned how to italicize on my computer, no hostility intended just because one disagrees with another. I reiterate that you have nothing on which to base the assumption that all of my actions/decisions are faith-based, me being religious or not; so you don't know the danger in my mode of thought. How do you know that I do not operate out of a Kantian ethics when I refrain from stealing, and not only because my God told me that it was wrong? That is a very strawman portrait of me you are conceptualizing. Furthermore, the Stalinist, Nazi and Maoist societies, while all fine examples of negative dogmatism, still fail to show me the negative effects of dogmatism that is self-imposed and restricted to one's private community (not imposed on the state as a whole), negative effects that are relevant to the state/society as a whole.

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 06:53:12 PM

"Also, regarding your comment about my conflating maxims and dogmas, I am doing so in an attempt to demonstrate that a command that absolutely no one would have a problem with - a "maxim" by your definition - can rest on dangerous thought patterns..." Apparently not according to MY definition because according to my definition, nothing "no one would have a problem with" would ever "rest on dangerous thought patterns." That is not my definition of any maxim, but of some dogmas.

coefficient

02/14/2007 06:24:33 PM

Also I added that preamble against hostility because all the capitalizations and seemingly aggressive tone hinted at the dialogue going south, and I wanted to guard against that as best I could.

coefficient

02/14/2007 06:21:41 PM

That, then, is the danger of "your" (I assume you do not bind yourself by dogma) mode of thought, then. In effect, the two injunctions against stealing produce the same result. But change the situation a bit - throw in a charismatic preacher or orator with a cause that is a tad morally suspect and who creates a broad follwing among many people - and you will see a different pattern emerge. One mode of thought is not all that susceptible to the leader, though I won't pretend it's invulnerable. But the other mode of thought is.

coefficient

02/14/2007 06:19:11 PM

Also, regarding your comment about my conflating maxims and dogmas, I am doing so in an attempt to demonstrate that a command that absolutely no one would have a problem with - a "maxim", by your definition - can rest on dangerous thought patterns which are the same as the Inquisitors and the Nazis; "I am not going to steal because the Pope/Fuhrer/Head of my Order said so" is a very different statement than "I am not going to steal because it is not in my rational self-interest, and besides I'd feel like a total dick afterwards." Both produce the exact same effect - not stealing. But one mode of thought is much more susceptible to blind zealotry and dogmatism than the other, which is why we [that is, people who share my opinions] ought to try and discourage it wherever we can, through, of course, peaceful means.

coefficient

02/14/2007 06:14:39 PM

For example, I assume you're religious (and if you're not I apologise). As such, you must believe in some sort of deity or supernatural entity in the absence of any sort of evidence - if you care to contest this there are many threads in the Atheism discussion forums which discuss exactly this point. You may have doubts - in fact, as someone who's seemingly a rational person, you probably definitely have doubts. But if you still believe, you have ignored or justified them away by arguing that God is "beyond natural law" or some other such thing. The adherent of Communism or Nazism or ethnic nationalism is similar; either they adhere to the principles of the ideology with the zeal of an inquisitor or they quash and ignore their doubts, submitting to the greater whole.

coefficient

02/14/2007 06:13:40 PM

Yes, of course we have shown that non-religious thought can produce immoral behaviour. What I'm trying to say is that both of these immoral behaviours stem from the same source, and that is what I, at least, am advocating an active campaign against on the part of concerned citizens like myself. Both Stalinism/Maoism/Nazism and religious belief rest on the willingness of people to submit to an ideology without question - or at least, undue question.

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 03:28:18 PM

"In short: Nonrational modes of thought, while not necessarily conducive to terrible behavior in and of themselves, certainly enable it when the right conditions are present." You've gotten no disagreement on that, which is why dogma should be restrained to the community over which its adherents FREELY choose to belong, and over no other community. This is why this nation's founders, theists, chose a government for themselves that was secular and separated from church, any church. And I don't know what your take is on Harris but I read "intolerant of religious thought" a little differently than civil dialogue, which is exactly what Sullivan is trying to have with him as he distances himself from fundamentalists; and Harris continues to make no distinction between him and those who would commit heinousness the likes of 9/11. I don't think your position of free speech is Harris'. I agree with condemning and punishing the behavior but not with censoring the speech of moderates (or fundamentalists even).

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 03:09:44 PM

And four, how do you presume to know what my rationale is when I opt not to steal, or that it differs in any way from your Kantian ethics? Having faith tdoes not mean that everything I do is simply faith-based, not based on reason or rationality whatsoever, and in that you do err, if you fallaciously assume that that is the case.How do you know that my faith is not sometimes (or all the time) a second rationale and enforcer to what I rationally hold to be true? And five, being raised in a country where the religious ideology is also the political ideology and that's all one knows hardly qualifies as having choice. And lastly, six, I seem to recall asking why ou cared if my BEHAVIOR DIFFERED IN NO WAY FROM YOURS. To criticize religious thought that rpoduces the same behavior as your morally upright behavior, on the grounds that it COULD produce different behavior, when we've already shown ad infinitum that non-religious thought can also produce immoral behavior, is the epitome of a non-free speech stance IMHO.

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 02:58:40 PM

For one, coefficient, no one has called you any names; I don't see that degeneration here or that I am being "unduly aggressive" any more than the atheist who agrees with Sam Harris, that I am dangerous for having a religious belief, whether moderate or fundamentalist. That is being aggressive. For two, calling faith and dogma an "ineffective mode of thought" in no way guarantees the danger in such modes of thought (Sam Harris' claim and, I presume, yours), as long as my actions in society differ in no way from yours. And three, you still keep referring to societal maxims as dogmas, which they are not, which is why they are always beneficial. dogma: a doctrine or system relating to matters of morality and faith set forth authoritatively, assumed arrogantly as absolutely true, based on unproved or unprovable assertions or principles. Who's the authority with our societal maxims? WE ARE, as a whole society. And what are they based on? Rationality, not unproved, arrogantly held assertions.

maristella

02/14/2007 02:44:28 PM

Coefficient: You think that reason is absolute, but that’s not true. Nobody can think outside his or her brain, and we all can make errors and still think that we are reasonable. It can happen to entire societies. In the Thirties of Forties thousands of women were compulsorily sterilized in Great Britain and in the United States. Why? Judges and politicians thought that it was completely reasonable to bar the “feeble-minded” from getting children, because Eugenics was the accepted scientific doctrine. Even the great Oliver Wendell Holmes accepted it without question, because scientists told him so. However, it was morally wrong and not reasonable. We are children of our time and its prejudices, so why are you so certain that you are reasonable and morally right?

coefficient

02/14/2007 12:14:29 PM

Moreover, I find it somewhat insulting that you would suggest that because I don't believe that faith and dogmatism is an effective mode of thought that I don't support freedom of thought or of speech. Neither I nor Harris (so far as I can tell) has ever suggested censoring religious expression or thought. Ours is the tactic of debate and persuasion, not of censorship. To paraphrase Voltaire, we may hate what you have to say, but that does not mean we don't support your right to say it. To put it another way, you have the right to say whatever you want, and we conversely have the right to say that you're incorrect on all counts. Neither can or should be construed as an anti-free speech position.

coefficient

02/14/2007 12:02:34 PM

and regarding that last post you posted right before I started writing my most recent response, as to why I care, I care because the freedoms of any minority in a democracy rests upon the attitude of the electorate. In my country particularly this is dangerous, as the government is able to suspend civil rights on a whim, and it is only the degree to which this would piss off Canadians which practically prevents them from doing this. A population which is accustomed to taking things on faith and not questioning dogmas is very, very susceptible to ideologies, religious or otherwise, and for someone who's a member of a group that's not terribly well-liked that's worrying. Thankfully, reason seems to be on the rise, and hopefully the good guys will win in the end :) In short: Nonrational modes of thought, while not necessarily conducive to terrible behaviour in and of themselves, certainly enable it when the right conditions are present. See: Lord's Resistance Army, Al-Quaeda, Tamil Tigers, etc.

coefficient

02/14/2007 11:59:12 AM

Regarding the comprability of the mental state of the dogmatic Christian vs. the dogmatic follower of Pol Pot, do you really believe that the corps entrusted to carry out these admittedly amoral orders were unbelievers in Pol Pot's ideology? Recall that while your average Fritz V. Germany in WWII was just a regular guy who got drafted into the Wehrmacht, the Waffen SS and all the -really- bad dudes were those who, like someone who chose their religion, chose the ideology and adhere to it with irrational zeal. Neither questions it.

coefficient

02/14/2007 11:59:06 AM

2. I'm not going to get into the legislation of popular morality into secular law. That's a whole other issue altogether, and while it's one I enjoy discussing, it's hardly the topic of discussion. 3. I am well aware that the Pope's bulls do not apply to non-Catholics. I was simply using the Catholic example because, having been raised Catholic myself, I consider myself to have a decent grasp of Catholic theology (at least, for a layman), but I only have the barest knowledge of Lutheran and Calvinist theology, let alone Eastern Orthodox and all the other variants of Christianity.

coefficient

02/14/2007 11:58:46 AM

Please don't be unduly aggressive. I'm trying to keep it civil here; most of the time, discussions of this sort are worse than useless as they tend to degenerate quickly into name-calling. 1. Regarding "Don't Steal": I was never, ever referring to the effects of the dogma insofar as it governs behaviour with regard to its subject, ie theft. I was referring to the thought process behind it. It is usually good to not steal, above and below the surface; however, there is a difference when you think "I'm not going to steal because I am adhering to X dogma" and "I'm not going to steal because by stealing I am violating the maxim of universalisability, promoting a situation in which property, including my property, is worthless as ownership has no meaning, and am therefore acting against my own interests", or any other sort of rational justification you care to use. I use Kant because it's the ethical maxim I adhere to most. One relies upon logical justification, the other upon blind belief.

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 11:56:33 AM

part 2. Why do you CARE, with regards to the latter, whether they have submitted their statements to your rational inquiry and scientific method or not, as long as their BEHAVIOR does not conflict with agreed upon societal maxims for the larger community in which they reside, i.e. the secular macrocosm, of which they are only a religious microcosm? It sounds to me like Harris supporters do not support freedom of thought and speech in this pluralistic democracy, unless it confroms to their own definition of "rational."

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 11:49:44 AM

And it's obvious that you did not read my posts about the distinction between the Pope's community upon whom his "statements on matters of faith and morals are not to be questioned," and the rest of the non-Catholic community, upon which his statements take no effect, ex cathedra or not. CATHOLICS are not to question him because Catholics have ALREADY ACCEPTED HIM, as impositional upon themselves within their own community. The followers of Pol Pot made no such acceptance and were given no such opportunity to dissent, so the situations are not at all analogous, dogmatism notwithstanding. Therein lies the difference between a totalitarian POLITICAL regime (whether secular or theocracy) and a CHOSEN religious community (chosen by its adherents for themselves, who have the option to leave said community, as many raised therein in childhood, do, upon reaching adulthood).

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 11:36:27 AM

"I'm well aware that "Don't kill people" and "don't steal" are social maxims; I was just using them as examples of modes of thought and behavior that, on the surface, are harmless." coefficient, Robin Hood antics aside, do you know of a situation where "don't steal" is harmful BELOW the surface? It's not just harmless "on the surface," but period, and, even further, considered universally right and true, which is why we agree upon it enough to make it into law as a society. The same with "don't kill people." War and self-defense and capital punishment are considered to be EXCEPTIONS to that rule because it IS viewed as a societal rule, and, therefore, NOT qualifying as a sectarian dogma.

coefficient

02/14/2007 11:06:19 AM

Let's examine some other dogmas - for example, Papal statements ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, which are to be believed as revealed dogma and not questioned. While these statements may or may not promote good behaviour, the mode of thought behind them - that one should accept these statements absolutely without question, as they are revealed by God - is exactly the same as the mode of thought behind the followers of Pol Pot. It is this that Harris seeks to minimalise and religious moderates only enable it, as to some degree all religious faith requires this "suspension of disbelief".

coefficient

02/14/2007 11:06:11 AM

The problem with the Pol Pot example is that he was not being reasonable, and had he subjected his beliefs that "all intellectuals should be killed" to the rigorous standards of public debate and presented his evidence for this conclusion, it would have fallen apart and, if he was truly being reasonable, he would have abandoned the policy. However, he - and the people who carried out his plan - accepted this without question. This has much in common with religious dogma, which I suppose I wasn't quite clear on earlier. I'm well aware that "Don't kill people" and "don't steal" are social maxims; I was just using them as examples of modes of thought and behaviour that, on the surface, are harmless.

maristella

02/13/2007 04:22:36 PM

cont. The human mind isn’t infallible. You are capable of mistakes, therefore reason isn’t always the best compass for human behavior. Pol Pot thought that intellectuals were ruining the country, therefore he killed everybody who wore spectacles. He thought that it was completely reasonable. It can happen to all of us – not in such a large scale, of course, but in small things. We think that something we do is absolutely logical, and afterwards we wonder what has come over us. Therefore it is better to have a set of rules that has proven itself in the most difficult situations. But if this set of rules is a signpost or dogmatism and intolerance, is up to each one of us. I must say that Sam Harris is a bit eerie, because he sees only black and white and nothing between. I’m not sure if he thought his ideas really to their logical end.

maristella

02/13/2007 04:21:00 PM

sheri1555stl: You’ve summarized my thoughts much better than I could have done it. Coefficient: Imagine you’re driving home from a party, it’s three o’clock in the morning, you’re alone on the streets, you come to a red light and you stop. Why? There is no logical reason to do so. First, you do it because it’s the law. Second, you do it because the police might wait around the corner. Third, if you’re clever you take into account that you might have overlooked something – a pedestrian, a biker, even another car, and that it’s better to wait. That doesn’t mean that you’re the brainwashed victim of some dogma.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 12:46:12 PM

"Unchecked" dogma is dangerous. that is not to say that "restrained" dogma is, or that theism, in general, is.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 12:44:53 PM

The establishment of so many churches, mosques, synagoges, etc. in America attests to this fact. Even if a particular dogma were agreed upon at all times by every single member of a society at large to be embraced by all members of that society (where is such a place?), that still says nothing about other societies across the globe (e.g. the 9/11 attacks on America when America the nation is not an Islamic state, the Crusades, the inquisitions, etc.). The foundation for the dogma (theism) is not the problem; the spreading of it unilaterally across societies of those who are not members of that dogmatic community (by prosyletization, control/ dominance/totalitarianism, terrorism, etc.) is - especially when its effects contradict the maxims of that oppressed society agreed upon by that society.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 12:37:37 PM

The foundations the atheists want to keep trying to crumble under the theists is irrelevant. It is the EFFECTS of any particular dogma in a pluralism for or against the agreed upon maxims of that democracy that determines the tolerance for the dogma. The only place I would agree with you on/about the negative effects of any dogma in general is in a totalitarian regime, where there is no option for acceptance or denial from it by those who would wish to except themselves from that particular community. Dogma should not be forced on those who are not electing to be members of that community, especially religious dogma (not because I agree that there is no God), but because such dogmas are based on faith; and faith by its very nature cannot be forced.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 12:26:42 PM

The maxims we all agree upon and make into law we don't question, all agreeing upon their good effects. The dogmas some of us adopt for ourselves within pluralistic, secular societies ARE questioned in that they are tested by those very societal maxims that we all accept. In sofar as they contradict those maxims, they are not tolerated by society as a whole (whether still implicitly held by the believer or not); those that complement societal maxims are tolerated (whether the foundation for the dogma is accepted outside of the believers community or not).

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 12:18:52 PM

coefficient, I don't think people consider things to be dogma that are maxims agreed upon by the general secular populace, such as "don't kill" and "don't steal," as they traverse societies and are made into secular law. "Give to the poor," 'violating' the proprietary underpinnings that undergird the two previous maxims (i.e. rights to life and property), appeal more to humaitarianism (whether religiously motivated or not), and are, therefore, not made into secular law. The suppression of questioning that you refer to depends on the politics of the society. In Islamic Middle East, where there is a totalitarian theocracy, dogma is forced upon the citizens by non-electd rulers. In our pluralistic democracy, dogma is not enforced by our elected leaders; and, is only imposed on the individual by the religious community of that individual's own choosing (i.e., in essence, the individual imposes it on him/herself, as s/he has the freedom to leave that community).

coefficient

02/12/2007 11:57:04 PM

The position Harris and people who think similarly take is that dogmas are inherently bad because people follow them... well, dogmatically; that is to say, without question. While a dogma such as "don't kill people" or "give to the poor" might have a good effect on the surface, the thought processes behind them - to accept something, whatever it is, completely and without question - are completely dangerous. That way lies the lair of Stalin, Torquemada and bin Laden. Harris and his posse look at religious moderation in much the same way that I looked at the theoretical "don't kill people" dogma. On the surface, and indeed for a ways below it, it promotes good behaviour. But religious moderation still promotes belief in the absence of evidence, which naturally suppresses questioning, and that is very dangerous indeed.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 11:48:40 AM

No, maristella, they'll never concede that religious dogma can lead to anything else but violence and evil. Those of us who are religious and not openly violent are either suppressing it, or don't have enough faith in our dogma, or aren't taking our religion/religious tenets seriously enough. Atheits, by nature, could never be dogmatic, unless they're only nominally atheist, and operating out of a religious, dogmatic upbringing. They're too rational and intellectual for that, and are, therefore, immune to dogma.

maristella

02/12/2007 04:49:54 AM

Namchuk: Sorry for my sarcasm, it was an attempt to point to the contradictions in your argument. Albert Schweitzer didn’t commit any crimes, he was a thoroughly decent man, and he had a church education. The same with Mother Teresa. Yes, you are right, Mao’s and Pol Pot’s regimes were tyrannical dogmatisms, but without religion. What are you making of this contradiction? Does it mean that religions aren’t dogmatic, or is it possible that there are good dogmas and bad dogmas? Or could it be that a dogma isn’t good or bad as such, but that it is what individuals make of it?

steppen0410e

02/11/2007 10:58:29 PM

Yes, quite right, sheri1555stl, there is, aside from science, music, art, math, and philosophy. Wonderful! But unlike all of those, theology and nonsensical and insupportable religious beliefs don't even register except in the minds of those who demand comfort and consolation from the universe.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 10:54:58 PM

That statement, "seeing your are seem to credit theology so.." is supposed to make some sense somehow that I "know exactly"? Mistake-proof steppen0410e, who's "rabbiting on"? theists HAVE put up their continued hope for a dying world and their adherence to agape love. I don't care if you don't find the embodiment of that tenuous or logical and repeat, that I don't have to shut up.

steppen0410e

02/11/2007 10:54:36 PM

Yes, Catholics revere the Pope as an authority, but an authority on what? A bladeless knife that has no handle? Being an authority on theology is like being an authority on the flora and fauna of Procyon 9, or an expert on Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. And, no, you are the one tripping out all the diversionary tactics, sheri1555stl. Just where is your evidence for the existence of God?

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 10:48:58 PM

I don't care about you dismissing my claims, steppen, just as long as you and Harris realize that there will never be an end to religion/faith, called for on your terms. P.S. philosophy also has authorities, some deal with some unsubstantiated claims, and not all philosophy deals with scientific (simply empirical/ reducible to matter "facts," as you call them). Everything isn't science, physics, biology, chemistry, etc. There's poetry, art, music, math, and philosophy.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 10:41:30 PM

"And by the way, seeing your are seem to credit theology so,..." What is this?

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 10:39:13 PM

"If they cannot do so, maybe they should just SHUT UP about it." (capitalization mine). "Nobody wants to restrict your freedom, sheri1555stl, and the problem is not getting theists to SHUT UP, the difficulty is in getting them to advance anything of substance in respect to their beliefs and assertions." (capitalization mine again). Did you or did you not make both of these claims, steppen, that maybe I should just shut up, but the problem was not with getting me to shut up? when I hear atheists stating that my freedom-in-this-country-allowable-to-hold-faith should end unless I can explain to you why I hold it, I DO see that as a threat to my freedom that you claim you are not trying to restrict, even if that threat is currently only hypothetical and mental, not legal and real. Good thing folks like you, Namchuck, Harris and Dawkins don't get to establish legislation or influence those who do, with regard to freedom of religion in this country!

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 10:23:41 PM

Catholics consider the pope an authority. There are many revered authors, considered 'authoritative' on certain biblical subjects. Since we've already agreed that the disciplines don't have the same methodology in truth-establishment (in Christianity, that being how closely it adheres to scripture contextually), we could argue around joe's barn until the roosters start crowing or the cows come in as to whether there are authorities in theology on theological subjects. saying the discipline is bogus is not equivalent to saying there aren't those who can speak on subjects in it well, after much study on the subjects(authorities). This is all a moot point anyway and typical of the diversionary tactics that some will use to get off the subject as to whether Harris is justified in his position to want to control the thought processes of theists.

steppen0410e

02/11/2007 10:08:50 PM

Nobody wants to restrict your freedom, sheri1555stl, and the problem is not getting theists to shut up, the difficulty is getting them to advance anything of substance in respect to their beliefs and assertions. And while theology is a 'discipline' that doesn't have to concern itself with those problematic little nuisances called facts, there are no authorities in theology. By the way, seeing your are seem to credit theology so, why don't you answer Namchuck's question about just how theologians differentiate between true and false theological theories?

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 09:07:57 PM

Good luck, gentlemen, in thinking that you will "shut up' theists. I'm sure you'd like nothing more. Too bad for free speech, hunh, that it's not just reserved for atheists? You may be able to (and rightfully should, in some cases) control my behaviors, but not silence my thoughts, beliefs, confidence, etc. or restrict my freedom in this country to express them, as much as you two and Harris would like.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 09:00:06 PM

The business with pi is that it is knowledge that takes exception to material reductionism. I didn't say that it gave credence to theistic assertions, only that such assertions cannot be dismissed as non-knowledge simply on the basis of being non-material/unable to be established by that which is materially reducible.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 08:56:48 PM

I didn't point out that there were no authorities in science, Namchuck. you mut have misread my post. i said that there were auhtorites ALSO in theology, which you discredited as being authorities because you discredit the discipline itself.

steppen0410e

02/11/2007 08:44:46 PM

Totally, Namchuck! As sheriq555stl - unwittingly I would guess - bundled "theology scholars" in with physics, biology, and chemical scientists, and we know the methods that science uses to differentiate true theories from false ones, I'm dying to hear sheri1555stl explain just how theologians manage it.

namchuck

02/11/2007 08:34:07 PM

Fair points, steppen. There is no virtue in anyone believing in a random set of unsubstantiated claims. And you are right, if the claims of the theists have any substance, then it should be an easy thing for them to advance such evidence. That they refuse to, or cannot, perhaps speaks loudly enough for itself.

steppen0410e

02/11/2007 08:21:34 PM

You know, in all these discussions, you will get theists venting their spleens against what they see as the misreading of their beliefs by Harris, Dawkins, or whoever, yet not a single one of them has put forward the least evidence that their beliefs are anything but wishful thinking on the part of a pathologically insecure humanity. They simply do not understand the concept of the onus of proof. It is the theist that is making the extraordinary claims, and we atheists are simply listening to those claims. It is the theist who has the responsibility to provide the extraordinary evidence to back up their extraordinary claims. If they cannot do so, maybe that should just shut up about it.

steppen0410e

02/11/2007 08:06:54 PM

You quoted me pretty accurately, Namchuck! You cannot get it into the heads of believers that, unless it is public evidence, it is just not evidence at all. As the late Carl Sagan wrote, 'You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it is based on a deep-seated need to believe.' Is the existence of what we observe made easier or harder to explain by suggesting the existence of things we cannot observe? Religious belief is merely the exercises of the imagination without any correspondence in reality.

namchuck

02/11/2007 07:53:07 PM

I believe steppen summed it up in a post registered some time ago when he said something along the lines of; "if you believe, you do so for personal and emotional reasons, and not because there is any evidence for your beliefs" (excuse me, steppen if I have misquoted you, but I'm confident I've conveyed the gist of what you wrote anyway).

namchuck

02/11/2007 07:48:56 PM

And "decisive evidence" is certainly not just "in the eye of the beholder". What it ultimately means is basing your operative principles on carefully accumulated evidence premised on the most broadly and critically vetted sources available. Theism has nothing at all like this, In fact, theism is peculiar in that it can advance no evidence whatsoever.

namchuck

02/11/2007 07:43:42 PM

(continued) And what is all this business with pi? Do you think that if pi cannot be reduced to some material quality then that, somehow, legitimizes and gives substance to the elaborate assumptions of theism? I believe you are simply confusing the evidentiary sense with modal logic or mathematics.

namchuck

02/11/2007 07:38:02 PM

Hello steppen! sheri1555stl: No, I don't need to be reminded that there are authorities in respective disciplines, but I would certainly not categorize theologians as being 'authorities' in much at all. For instance, how do theologians differentiate between true theological theories and false ones? And you are incorrect. There are, as Richard Feynman rightly pointed out, no authorities in science. At best, there are only experts, and it doesn't matter who you are or what your name is, if your theory is not supported by the observation, it is wrong.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 07:22:14 PM

And while I must respect your "extrapolation," Namchuck, "decisive evidence," unless it's material, is really in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore, your position is not really what the discussion thread is focusing on, but Harris', who takes a position greater than "God is very likely non-existent," and would very likely qualify as a "stubborn unbeliever," not likely to "readily convert," if given ANY evidence, IMHO. Where one postulates that religion offers nothing that can't be found elsewhere, and seeks spirituality divorced from God, there is no desire to legitimize the quest or authenticate any evidence that supports it.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 07:15:01 PM

And what is a "fair degree of certainty"? Can you right now establish, with material evidence, the truth value of the assertion of his existence, psychological investment withheld notwithstanding? To what matter is the value of pi reducible? Does that not qualify as things reasonably held that can't be reduced to matter? You have yet to answer that question.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 07:09:29 PM

Balderdash? who uses such terms anymore? There are authorities in respective disciplines, Namchuck. I guess you need to be reminded of that. There are theology scholars just as there authorities in physics, biology, chemistry, etc., each authorities in their respective fields. My rendition of bibilical morality is summary; and you are really beating a dead horse with that literal vs. figurative thing in scripture interpretation. My sypnosis of scripture as a whole being a poetic story of God's relationship to man says nothing about any literal truth value about any or all of its parts. Poetry can speak about things that we can relate to that are true in the literal sense, as well as use allegory.

steppen0410e

02/11/2007 07:08:24 PM

Hey, Namchuck, what a battle, eh!? Among several of your points, I particularly liked the one that identified that "we now possess literally hundreds of historical examples of naturalistic explanations supplanting supernatural ones AND NONE GOING THE OTHER WAY" (capitals mine). This is an undeniable trend and goes along with what I have been saying for quite some time that the hypothesis of God is an epistemologically unnecessary one. Take the origin of the Earth or the evolution of the life that is upon it. Neither require the invoking of any supernatural entities.

namchuck

02/11/2007 06:33:40 PM

But let me repeat myself again: I am not a stubborn unbeliever and would readily convert if given decisive evidence of the existence of supernatural entities. But as no such evidence had ever been advanced, and there is a very clear inverse relationship between the amount of human knowledge and the credit (or blame) we are willing to give God for direct intervention in the universe, and faced with this remarkable trend, I have extrapolated just a bit and view God very likely non-existent.

namchuck

02/11/2007 06:27:39 PM

maristella: What exactly where Albert Schweitzer's "crimes"? You seem to be making a considerable effort to misunderstand what I have been saying. Can you not recall that I wrote, "The issue is not whether atheism in any shape is better than theism. The issue is the effect of dogma on human goodness. And that effect is negative". And you are sadly mistaken if you think that Pol Pot's and Kim Jong-ii's regimes are not tyrannical dogmatisms.

namchuck

02/11/2007 06:19:04 PM

"By the same authority that you accept the writings of the scholars in your revered fields of science..." Balderdash! The 'authority' of science is accumulative evidence beyond reasonable doubt. Where is the evidence that suggests that the Bible is to be seen as a "poetic story of God's relationship to man"? There are millions of Christians as sincere as you who believe that the Bible is to be understood literally. And, of course, your rendition of biblical morality is carefully selected. And, by the way, there is plenty of contemporary writings that would lead one to view the existence of Socrates with a fair degree of certainty. Mind you, as I have no psychological investment in his existence, I wouldn't feel particularly put out if it could be proved that he didn't exist.

maristella

02/11/2007 06:12:17 PM

Yes, Namchuk, now I understand. Stalins Church education was responsible for his crimes. And Mother Teresa’s Church education was responsible for her crimes. Albert Schweitzer studied theology; that must have been responsible for his crimes. Mao didn't have a Church education, Pol Pot didn't have a Church education, Kim Jong-Il didn't have a Church education, so obviously they aren't and weren't dogmatic at all, and their speeches are and were not declamatory and repetitive. Stalin's Church education really explains everything.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 06:06:56 PM

The standard we are to live by is to "love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, bodies and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets." Furthermore, they are not to be honored one in conflict with the other. Killing one's neighbor to do "service" to God (to honor the first) violates the second.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 06:01:54 PM

If you don't think that the Bible is a religious document, you have a truly singular opinion in that regard, indeed; just look at the discipline which it governs. What kind of document do you think it is? It is not taught in history as one of its textbooks or science as one of its textbooks, but in seminaries and churches, and philosophy and religion classes, where taught publicly, and in homes privately.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 05:55:55 PM

I don't consider the moral standards in conflict with one another, and it never ceases to amaze me how you keep being drawn back to discuss the nature of a book that you've already (supposedly) discredited.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 05:54:16 PM

By the same authority that you accept the writings of the scholars in your revered fields of science, and you do know what I'm talking about. When the theist cuts to the atheist, the atheist always feigns ignorance and befuddlement at the theist's "babbling.". And I didn't say "no documentation whatsoever." I said documentation that is reducible to matter. You ARE refusing to give example. Are you suggesting that we have fossil records for Epictetus, for Socrates, whose writings we don't even know if he said, or were actually Plato, since you keep claiming ignorance as to what I'm asking you, for lack of a specific historical figure on my part? Do you believe he existed? On what grounds? On the grounds of his writings? How do you know that the writings attributed to him are his?

namchuck

02/11/2007 05:44:51 PM

Who says that the Bible is a "poetic story of God's relationship to man"? And if it is a "religious document, governing moral behavior and prerequisite belief (faith)...", then tell me what standards from the Bible we are to live by and which are we to disregard, considering how contradictory some of them are?

namchuck

02/11/2007 05:40:57 PM

What on Earth are you talking about, sheri1555stl!? I haven't failed to provide anything. You raised the issue and have failed miserably to back it up with even one example! Come on, provide an example of some historical figure for whom we haven't any documentation whatsoever for his/her or its existence. Clarify what you are talking about? And while you are at it, include by what authority you can categorically state that the creation accounts were "never intended to be used to explain the exact origins..."?

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 05:37:15 PM

My "authority," as you call it, as a Christian, is to know that the point of the Bible, if you've read any good deal of it, is to trace the poetic story of God's relationship to man, to the see the failures over time of people just like ourselves and the remedy in God becoming a person like ourselves. It is a religious document, governing moral behavior and prerequisite belief (faith), categorized as such, not a scientific one.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 05:32:52 PM

Your denial to provide basis for believing in the historical account of any historical figure for whom we have no fossil records, to base such justification for accepting said basis, in no way has anything to do with not giving a particular historical figure, unless you believe that we currently have fossil records forall historical figures. It's an infantile evasion that refuses to admit the exceptions you take for your reductionist materialist philosophical worldview; and, that your anti-theism is not entirely based on the fact that it is not empirically materially reduceable, in that you allow for other knowledge that fits that criteria of not being materially reducable. You still haven't told me what matter the value of pi reduces to.

namchuck

02/11/2007 05:30:42 PM

How do you know that it was "never intended to to be used to explain the exact origins..." etc, sheri1555stl? What is your authority for claiming such?

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 05:26:59 PM

IMHO, the second account is a detailed explanation of the first (albeit not in scientific terminolgy), but establishing God's relation to man, man's (male's) relationship to female, and man's relationship to the earth and the animal kingdom as one of dominion. It was never intended to to be used to explain the exact origins of the precise moment when everything started or exactly how, only that God started it, and with the intent of having a relationship with man, in mind. There is a lot of mythology in Jewish folklore. But, the Bible, not an agreed upon book for us, is not the point of discussion here. Claming absolute knowledge (or probable propensity to knowledge of absolute things) and pretending that one isn't, while leveling that criticism at others who believe things that one doesn't, is the point here.

namchuck

02/11/2007 05:22:49 PM

"Just pick on, for whom there are presently no fossil records." Now, that is remarkably vague, sheri1555stl! You attempt to make some point and then refuse to give an example to clarify it, and then turn around and expect me to provide it?

namchuck

02/11/2007 05:16:20 PM

The verdict will never come in on the question of the "literal vs. the allegorical interpretation of the creation account", sheri1555stl, simply because no one knows, and there is just no way for anyone to find out. Hence, believers will continue to squabble over its meaning and interpretation, as they have been doing for centuries, until they learn just what a completely pointless exercise it is. And why bother at all? The Bible is hopelessly muddled, full of inconsistencies and contradictions. The two accounts of creation itself provide us with our first example of a complete contradiction.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 05:11:00 PM

Just pick one, for whom there are presntly no fossil records. It's all the same. Your knowledge about them is not based on anything that you can currently reduce to matter, as you would in a scientific lab experiment, but is taken on trust of the writers. And what question did you ask me that I did not answer? Did you ask a question of me? I only saw statements made.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 05:07:21 PM

"...the propensity of the theist to compartmentalize..." Touche, my friend. And who says that the biblical view forces one to believe in a young earth? Scripture is telling a story. The impertinent details, such as the age of the earth (not at all relevant to God's relationship to/with man) don't have to be included in the story. The verdict is still out on the literal vs. the allegorical interpretation of the creation account, and "a thousand years are as a day to the Lord when it is passed"(II Pet.3.8), could mean that a day could represent a thousand years; but, timetables are not the point of the Bible and are biblically a matter of speculation, as it is not a scientific document, but a behavioral one.

namchuck

02/11/2007 05:00:27 PM

I promise you, sheri1555stl, that I won't dodge any of your questions as long as they are clearly stated. By the way, you seem to have been dodging a few of mine.

namchuck

02/11/2007 04:58:01 PM

I was giving evolution as an example, sheri1555stl. Did you have any particular historical figure or figures in mind?

namchuck

02/11/2007 04:56:10 PM

I have never said at any time that theists were not capable of reasoning or making scientific discoveries, nor do I accept that atheists have "consistently tried to hijack reason as their own". The one possible difference between a theist and an atheist is the propensity of the theist to compartmentalize. I work along side colleagues whose religious beliefs require them to accept the biblical view of a young Earth while, at the same time, working with processes that establish beyond reasonable doubt that the earth is billions of years old.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:55:43 PM

Where are the sources now who can verify the historical figures we read about, and to what matter is the value of pi reduced? All still reasonably held.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:53:46 PM

I didn't say evolution, Namchuck, I said history. You have quite predictably dodged the question.

namchuck

02/11/2007 04:51:01 PM

I pretty much accept what was written, or said, sheri1555stl, if it can be objectively and empirically verified from a number of sources like, say, evolution. But I would still appreciate an example or two of the "many things" that are "held reasonable that can't be reduced to matter"?

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:50:42 PM

Also, what material thing in nature tells you the mathematical value of pi? Can you produce that in a scientific experiment? Atheists have consistently tried to hijack reason as their own, even when some of these calculations and disoveries have been made by theists.

namchuck

02/11/2007 04:47:19 PM

(continued) The Church had its influence on Hitler too, in the shape of a Catholicism that he never renounced. Hitler had developed a strong admiration for the Church. Rome had 'a religion you can take seriously', 'a great position to defend', one that had endured for centuries. Though he could hardly have been more dismissive of its teaching, he admired its organization and power. He claimed to have learned much from its skillful manipulation of human nature. And I did not say, maristella, that all the scientists working for Hitler were pseudoscientists (some of them were). What I said was that, in the case of Nazism, its dogmatism took the form of doctrines of racial inferiority and superiority in a framework of spurious pseudoscience.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:46:02 PM

Ah ha, all but an admission to reductionist materialism. Do you believe the writings in history about historical figures because you have known those who witnessed their lives or because we still have fossils/bones of all those written about? Or do you pretty much accept what is written as long as it's not religious in nature?

namchuck

02/11/2007 04:40:04 PM

Perhaps you would be so kind, sheri1555stl, and give me an example of the "many things" that are "held reasonable that can't be reduced to matter"? maristella It is generally known of Stalin that he had a religious education. From 1894 until 1899, when he was nearly twenty, Stalin attended the Russian Orthodox seminary at Tiflis, now Tblisi. As Alan Bullock wrote of his education: 'The fact that it was a Church education helped to form the mind of a man who was to become known for his dogmatism and his propensity for seeing issues in absolute terms, in black and white. Anyone reading Stalin's speeches and writings will notice their catechistic structure...The same Church influence has been noted by biographers in his style of speaking or writing Russian: declamatory and repetitive, with liturgical overtones'.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:35:43 PM

Where are the probabilities of the belief, or lack thereof, in an afterlife, unless you are already adopting a materially reductionist worldview? Not everyone is a materialstist, not all scientists even.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:33:00 PM

"The issue is not whether atheism in any shape is better than theism. The issue is the effect of dogma on human goodness. And that effect is negative." That's funny. I don't hear Harris calling for and end to dogma, but an end to religion, even to go so far as to argue against a moderate, non-dogmatic theist that even his societally beneficial, benevolent, benign religion won't cut the mustard. I thinnk harris seems to feel that atheism in any form is better than theism; and, I never mentioned Hitler (who "called" himself a Christian), coefficient mentioned Stalin and Mao first (I onlyresponded to his claim of them being atheist regimes), and I don't agree that communism was only nominally atheistic.

namchuck

02/11/2007 04:31:15 PM

No, sheri1555stl, I am not putting "words into the mouths" of either Harris or Dawkins, but I have read what they have been writing. Have you? For instance, in his book The God Delusion, Dawkins writes, "The fact that we can neither prove or disprove the existence of something does not put existence and non-existence on the same footing." (page 49, see also pages 113-114)) I could also cite many similar passages from both Dawkins and Harris to the same effect. In fact, everything they say in respect to the existence of God, the afterlife, etc, must be seen in light of improbability, especially in the face of the total absence of evidence for the existence of God. Improbability under-girds the whole atheistic argument.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:21:26 PM

And good luck believing that the religious will ever just go away.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:19:13 PM

coefficient, I don't think most people would refer to communism as a "religion," in that it expressly prohibits the worship of any deity. But if abuses are found among dogmatic atheists, I guess that would be the natural atheist response to call it a tactic of his opponent and label it a religion.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:15:58 PM

And if you present some evidence that proves the theist categorically wrong, then I think you'll see who is stubborn in relinquishing beliefs held or not. Most atheists feel that they have already done this in that theistic miracles are always discounted even when science can't always adequately explain all of them, the theist is accused of making it up, projecting it from his/her own mind, etc., with the atheist holding out hope that science will someday be able to explain them. Atheists are not as readily willing to convert if given evidence, as you suggest, and are quite stubborn. Therein truly does lie who is digmatic, just as much as any fundamentalist rejecting anything scientifically established and accepted by most of the population.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 04:08:39 PM

Is that what Harris and Dawkins have asserted, Namchuck, that God is "very probably" non-existent (an agnostic stance), or that there is no God? I think you're putting words into the mouths of both. Both take a strong atheistic stance, one of certainty about things which their methods can neither prove nor disprove. Read Dawkins' interview where he says that there is no afterlife. He doesn't state that in terms of probability. And even if you succumb to the "meritocrtic paradigm of reason," as it were, that still doesn't render the SCIENTIFIC (empirical/material) method as the only or even the best tool for testing ALL kinds of knowledge. Many things are held reasonable that can't be reduced to matter.

maristella

02/11/2007 03:30:48 PM

Namchuk: Yes, please document the assumption that Hitler and Stalin owed much to religion. Pseudoscience? When atheists like Sam Harris like a religion, like Buddhism, it suddenly isn't a religion any more. When they don't like what Hitler's scientists did, it's suddenly pseudoscience. So, while working under Hitler, Wernher von Braun was a pseudoscientist. When working for the United States, he suddenly was a scientist again. Your mind is admirably bendable. Now tell me, please, what do you think about Edward Teller. Was he a scientist or a pseudoscientist? And Fritz Haber, the Nobel Prize winner who invented Zyklon B that killed 6 million Jews. Was he a scientist or a pseudoscientist?

namchuck

02/11/2007 02:36:38 AM

(continued) In the case of Stalinism, they were Marxist ideals of social reform and progress based on a pseudoscientific reading of history. In either case, failure to conform to the dogma led to a fate similar to that which followed failure to conform to religious dogma: a combination of public humiliation, show trials, punishment, being ostracised, exile, and death. The dogma justified persecution within the society and persecution by the society. The issue is not whether atheism in any shape is better than theism. The issue is the effect of dogma on human goodness. And that effect is negative.

namchuck

02/11/2007 02:29:47 AM

When religion is attacked for causing suffering, theists will often point to the regimes of Hitler, Stalin and others to show that atheism is equally evilly adept. And no one will deny the evil of Hitler and Stalin. But this line of argument backfires on the believer. Despite the nominal atheism of these regimes, Hitler and Stalin owed much to religion (documentation in support of this contention will be provided if requested). But the believers argument misses the point, for there is something that Christianity, other religions, Nazism, Stalinism, Communism, and other tyrannical isms all share: they are to varying degrees dogmatic. All present their adherents with a set of doctrines that they must accept. In the case of Nazism, they were doctrines of racial inferiority and superiority in a framework of spurious pseudoscience.

coefficient

02/11/2007 02:08:30 AM

Also on the charges of anti-intellectualism on the level of Mao and Stalin levelled at Dawkins and Harris. Mao, Stalin, Dawkins and Harris all share a common goal in wanting to eliminate religion. The difference lies in their methods. Stalin replaced one religion with another; the cult of Communist Orthodoxy and the Cult of Personality. Ditto with Mao; just look at all the propaganda that involves idealized depictions of their faces or of the head of state as father. Through doing this they sought to eliminate rational thought, not encourage it; Dawkins and Harris wish to encourage rational thought, and as rational thought and naturalism as an outlook slowly displaces faith, or the tendency to believe in the absence of evidence, religion will slowly wither and wane.

coefficient

02/11/2007 02:04:22 AM

as i'm really quite tired, and namchuck addressed some of the points that I wanted to, I'll content myself with responding to this: Is that a proved or unproved principle? Is it provable or unprovable, by any method, not just scientific/ materialistic? Dawkins, at least - I don't know what Harris' position on the matter is - is what you'd call a "weak Atheist". Their contention is that there is no evidence to suggest the existence of a God, just as there is no evidence to suggest that the Earth is orbited by a giant alien cannon shaped like a teapot or that my thermometer only works consistently within the laws of nature because the Flying Spaghetti Monster touches it with His Noodly Appendage as, indeed, he touches all instruments, and thus creates the illusion of an ordered universe. Any of these claims is possible, of course, but given that the universe works perfectly well without them, they get shorn off by Occam's Razor.

namchuck

02/11/2007 12:50:51 AM

(continued) Furthermore, atheists are not stubborn unbelievers, and most of them would readily convert if given decisive evidence of the existence of supernatural entities. I wonder, though, what level of evidence a believer would demand before acknowledging that they might be wrong? Herein lies the answer to just who is dogmatic and who is not.

namchuck

02/11/2007 12:35:53 AM

(continued) Any scientist or thinker faced with such a remarkably consistent trend - we now possess literally hundreds of examples of naturalistic explanations supplanting supernatural ones and none going the other way - would not hesitate much to extrapolate just a bit and declare God very likely non-existent. There is nothing dogmatic in this. One should not confuse rejection from probability with the dogmatic assertion of disproof.

namchuck

02/10/2007 11:59:14 PM

To level the accusation of dogmatism at either Harris or Dawkins simply identifies that the accuser is not familiar with what either of them is saying. Every scientist and thinker, including the two authors above, know that the existence of God can be neither proved nor disproved. The approach is one of probability, and given the complete paucity of evidence for the existence of God, the probability is remote. In fact, there is a clear inverse relationship between the amount of human knowledge and the credit (or blame) we are willing to give God for direct intervention in the universe: the more we know, the less we attribute to supernatural causes.

sheri1555stl

02/10/2007 04:14:21 PM

dogmatic: "characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles." Are only theists guilty? Harris and Dawkins' brand of atheism (not at all agnostic): "the doctrine that there is no God or gods." Is that a proved or unproved principle? Is it provable or unprovable, by any method, not just scientific/ materialistic? if that assertion fits the latter criteria in both cases, I would humbly submit that both Harris and Dawkins are dogmatic, indeed, to imply that their atheist assertions fit the former criteria. And if dogmatic is anti-intellectual, then anti-intellectual as well. But, I'll bet that no atheist will concede that, relinquishing smug suppositions to do so.

sheri1555stl

02/10/2007 04:04:45 PM

coefficient, tell me. How can one be "rational" and yet "anti-intellectual," as you suggested in your post that Stalinism, Naziism and Maoism could be in some cases, being dogamtic secular regimes? Their big thing was to prevent the expression of theism. Yet, modern atheists don't see that as anti-intellectual, but BOTH intellectual and rational, as atheists such as Harris and Dawkins want to put an end to all religious faith. Is there a difference between irrational and anti-intellectual, and if not, how is trying to prevent that very same expression now rational and intellectual, but rational and somehow "anti-intellectual" then? because they were dogmatic? Is that the anti-intellectual part? Since both Harris and Dawkins are both staunchly, vehemently opposed to expression of theism, do they qualify as "ant-intellectual," on the same grounds of being dogmatic?

sheri1555stl

02/10/2007 03:48:55 PM

Furthermore, the reason Buddhists have followed Buddha, is on the basis of his authoritative teaching, which having miracles associated with one's persona, lends credence to the teachings. Because some come to believe differently about applications of those original teachings (as all followers of any religion reach a point of divergence if they last long enough as a school of thought), developing new "offshoot" schools of thought, in no way negates the life of the original teacher/prophet/founder or the mythology surrounding his life. To do so and thereby somewhat undercut the basic source and foundation of the school of thought that one now practices/observes, in many ways weakens the arguments of that school of thought, and "cherry picks" at the teachings, in that it selectively "sanitizes" the life of the founder of the original, unified school of thought.

sheri1555stl

02/10/2007 03:37:56 PM

You are so right, maristella. What empirically reducible to matter evidence does Harris rely upon to establish a belief in reincarnation? Eastern philosophies have always been more aesthetically pleasing to secularists, but that doesn't mean that they don't make some supernatural/non-empirical claims, or that some of the claims of some theists may, in fact, be correct. Arguing that they can't all be correct(some must be incorrect) since some claims are competing, is not to argue that they all can't be correct(all are not/none are correct).

sheri1555stl

02/10/2007 03:29:26 PM

Funny you should mention the different 'Buddhisms' as it were, coefficient. Since all Sullivan has been trying to point out to Harris is that he is failing to address "his" Christianity; and, Harris refuses to make any distinction among faiths. That privilege ir reserved only for atheists, to pick and choose among various tenets of a faith that has different schools of thought, but is considered the same religion under one 'umbrella' name, but not be criticized for the religion as a whole (as Harris does with monotheisms because HE personally doesn't accept a deity), because one practices a DIFFERENT school of thought under said religion that others do in the same religion with a school of thought to which the atheist does not adhere. The distinction between moderate and fundamentalist theists is lost on the atheist who makes that very distinction for himself in Buddhism, a religion, but won't for any monotheism. How hypocritically convenient.

coefficient

02/10/2007 12:26:56 PM

To expound further, I think Harris' problem with moderate theists isn't that they 'cherrypick' their teachings - though that is one of their tendencies, to be sure - but that by identifying themselves with a 'faith' they lend credence, through their rationality, however contaiminated, to the idea of religion and faith (that is, believing without evidence) and dogma as a mode of thought. The cherrypicking is what allows them to do this and maintain the cognitive dissonance. The rest of his writings explain why this is dangerous, but I don't think that's the topic under discussion here.

coefficient

02/10/2007 11:59:17 AM

If the variant of Christianity lacks any sort of supernatural aspect - that is, it focusses completely on the moral teachings of Christ and does not teach that he is the saviour or that he will return in glory at the end of time or any other supernatural thing, then yes, I think it would depend on which variant you practice, though I'm not aware of any Christian denomination which is so completely godless and supernatural-free as Zen Buddhism. I don't know why you would - if you're looking for secular moral codes you can do much better than Christ - but there you are.

maristella

02/10/2007 04:19:04 AM

coefficient: Christianity has over 9000 variants. Is its “religiousity” dependent upon which variant I practice? Sam Harris picks the characteristics of Buddhism that he likes – meditation, reincarnation, certain aspects of its philosophy – and ignores the rest, for example the miracles surrounding the life of Buddha. He “denies the source”, as sheri1555stl correctly says. Many people do it, and as long as they tolerate it in others, it’s no problem. But what Sam Harris does – vehemently, almost fanatically attacking in others what he practices himself, and even making a living of these attacks – takes a special mindset.

coefficient

02/10/2007 01:11:38 AM

Another example of this is the cross-religion appeal of Yoga, originally a Hindu ascetic practice. Through the inducement of certain physical states an experience of inner peace can be attained.

coefficient

02/10/2007 01:09:43 AM

And the "religiosity" of Buddhism is very much dependent upon which variant of Buddhism you practice. Theravada Buddhism is very much a religion, with gods and magical elements. Zen Buddhism is nothing of the sort, focussing instead on meditation and inner peace; it can be conflated with religions, and was often conflatd with the native animist religion of Japan until the great purges, but on its own it is not a religion. There are Christian practitioners of Zen as well as Atheist, Taoist and Shino practitioners. Believe it or not, meditation techniques - which cross religious boundaries, believe it or not, as the Christian and Hindu and Buddhist ascetic sects all attest to - are not religions in and of themselves.

coefficient

02/10/2007 01:09:34 AM

If you've read Sam Harris' work - I'm sure he addresses it as much as Richard Dawkins has, as it is a typical criticism levelled at advocates of secular government - you know that they are critical of dogmatism in general, of which Stalinism, Nazism, Maoism, and all the other "religion-free experiments" are all very rational and dogmatic, in some cases even anti-intellectual. The focus of the books that authors like Harris and Dawkins write is religion because, unlike Nazism or Communism, it is a sort of dogmatism that is very popular in contemporary politics, and therefore discussion on the legitimacy of that dogmatism is more urgently needed. Books on why Stalin and Hitler were bad people and why their belief systems are bad are unnecessary as we all know this in our bones. Religion is another story altogether.

sheri1555stl

02/09/2007 10:17:07 PM

"And Christians certainly haven't shrunk from obeying their 'Father's' command in previous centuries..." Neither have atheists neglected to follow theirs. We've done your religion-free experiments in China and Russia. No compelling proof that religion-free will make the world better, but no matter to you. One can doggedly hold to an idea without evidence. Oh, but that's supposed to be only the THEIST's weakness. Arbitray dogamitism prevails, but only one group is being forced to own up to it. hmmm. "We know from the Bible that the "Father's business" includes the command to..." Since my Father is not your father, and Jesus was referring in that phrase to His earthly life dedication to service to others and sacrifice, please do not presume to know what my Father's (or my) business is.

sheri1555stl

02/09/2007 08:07:57 PM

They'll even make exceptions to what they'll call a religion so they can practice, just as long as they don't have to submit to a deity. They'll just say it isn't there. Buddhism isn't science, math, history, art, etc. and it posits reincarnation in some fields of thought. Oh so handy to consider it an "existential thought" for the atheist, rather than calling it the religion that it is.

sheri1555stl

02/09/2007 08:04:43 PM

It's not your 'baby,' steppen, so you'll never see it. Sorry, but your blindness does not proclude the 'baby's' existence. You're right, maristella, about the meditation. Atheists want to pick the calm and peace from religious observance, but deny the source. Very convenient. "I gave myself that peace." Pulease.

maristella

02/09/2007 05:35:29 PM

steppen0410e: Sorry, but according to the Encyclopedia Britannica 2006 Buddhism is undoubtedly a religion. It has everything a religion needs - a founder and charismatic teacher, an origin myth, disciples, meditation, sacred places and paths to salvation. No mere philosophy has all that. It's quite elastic to say, "I don't like 'religions', but I like Buddhism, so from now on Buddhism isn't a religion."

steppen0410e

02/09/2007 02:48:00 PM

sheri1555stl: What a laugh! Now who is "avoiding debating the issues"? Your problem is that you haven't yet recognized that, once you jettison the bathwater, you'll discover there is no baby in it. maristella: It has long been a subject of debate as to whether or not Buddhism is a religion in the normative sense. It is more akin to an existentialist philosophy than a religion. Certainly Zen Buddhism has little within it that would correspond to what most people associate with religious practice, i.e, worshipping or pretending to be obedient to imaginary supernatural entities, etc.

maristella

02/09/2007 04:40:20 AM

I hope I’m not off topic or disrupting a discussion, but there is something that puzzles me. Sam Harris practices Zen meditation, but “he's adamant in his belief that religion does more harm than good in the world”? I always thought that Zen Buddhism IS a religion.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 10:12:32 PM

Debating or trying to coerce into your point of view? While I see the evils of many misguided religionists, I also see the very good centering that my faith gives me, which is much closer to me than the foolishness of others. I don't think the 'baby' should be thrown out with the 'bathwater,' for the 'bad apples,' even if they are many. For I have found exception to that in my own life, no matter how irrational you may find my beliefs and no matter how much evil you (and I) have seen perpetuated by some theists. I have found so much good and a hope that evil will eventually be conquered, not dependent on man's will power and 'New Year's Resolution' brand quests for world peace. I sure hope that you can respect that and I will try to overlook the blatant lack of humility I have been shown by so many atheists who have sworn greater rationality and sanity than I.

steppen0410e

02/08/2007 02:59:53 PM

Yes, sheri1555stl, Harris has a whole chapter on the nature of consciousness wherein I would beg to differ with him on a number of things. In fact, a lively email discussion has been in progress on these issues for quite some time. And if I am biased toward religion - and I think every thinking person should be - it is because leafing through the history of religion is like scanning a catalogue of human evil. I didn't say that every conflict had religion at its root, but over the history of man it has definitely played a significant role. "Atheists don't want to engage in critical debate." How absurd a statement! I have, along with many other atheists, been debating these critical issues with religionists for months.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 12:52:39 PM

Oh, and BTW, these discussions with, and about, Harris and Dawkins (idols you don't want trashed I'm sure) are NOT part of the atheist protected community; so, I'm free to give my .02 WITHOUT your replies adddressed to me.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 12:50:20 PM

You are extremely biased towards religion and have used that mindset to color the facts of history. Religion was not at the heart of the Civil War, the world wars, the Vietnam War. I could go on. Atheists don't want to engage in critical debate. They want to debunk religion; and, that's not the same thing.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 12:46:32 PM

So there is something that Harris says that you disagree with, steppen? I'd love to hear what that is. If not, I stand by my post.

steppen0410e

02/08/2007 05:09:20 AM

And, no, I wouldn't have you "believe that there were atheists and they were all pacifists or silent, conscientious objectors." While I don't doubt for a moment that there were atheists aplenty in the past, the monopoly of violently disposed religion up until recently - historically speaking - over much of the so-called civilized world meant that any atheist who didn't keep silent about his disbelief assuredly faced the rack followed by the stake. All done, of course, for the glory of God. But then, the godly got the inspiration for such pious actions directly from Jesus' himself (John 15:6).

steppen0410e

02/08/2007 04:46:59 AM

(continued) "BTW, most of the historical violence has been national/political, about class struggles, and involving property disputes..." I'm sure that you would like to believe that, but it is completely wrong. In fact, like almost all of the conflicts upon the planet today, religion is almost invariably at the root of the problems. It is not an exaggeration to say that religion is the most inflammatory enemy-labelling device device in history. But, ironically, religion is unusual among divisive labels in being spectacularly unnecessary. If religious beliefs had any evidence going for them, we might have to accept them in spite of their concomitant unpleasantness. But there is no such evidence.

steppen0410e

02/08/2007 04:37:19 AM

I see no reason to doubt that Harris' identification with the human race is genuine and sincere, and if you had read his book, The End Of Faith, you'd recognize just how much you are mistaken when you suggest "that he REALLY is only holding that true for for religious identifications". Nor can I understand where you get the notion that I am a "Harris worshipper" simply because I agree with many of his positions? I also agree with Charles Darwin's theory that natural selection explains the evolution and diversity of life on this planet. Does this mean that I worship Darwin? That kind of warped reasoning and logic astounds me.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 07:24:05 PM

I know it's a novel concept, but people have been hating, oppressing/discriminating against others and inflicting violence upon others for centuries, with no need for a god to "tell" them to do so. I don't know what "monoploy" you think religion has on that fact. But I'd guess you'd have us all to believe that there were atheists and they were all pacifists or silent, conscientious objectors. lol

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 06:52:40 PM

that should have read "I am not the Harris worshipper that you are..."

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 06:51:22 PM

BTW, most of the historical violence has been national/political, about class struggles, and involving property disputes, even in the ones where you factor in religion, but especially in the ones where no religion is involved.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 06:47:05 PM

"What does it matter if Harris identifies himself as" xyz? Because he insinuates that divisive identifications as religious or national, should render instead unity as identification with the human race. I'm saying that he REALLY is only holding that true for religious identifications because he disagrees with its premise. That 'we're all part of the human race' jive is just a smokescreen to advance his point, and fails to do so IMHO. I am that the Harris worshipper that you are; anything coming out of his mouth would sound like gold to you.

steppen0410e

02/07/2007 03:13:42 PM

Yes, sheri1555stl, and invariably one will find religion with the monopoly influence behind most of the violence, hate, oppression, discrimination, etc. Mind you, one only has to look at the God's of the holy books of the three Abrahamic faiths to realize where their adherents get their dangerous baggage from. And what does it matter if Harris identifies himself as an American? What matters is that theism rests on elaborate assumptions that not one theist can advance any evidence for. 'Faith' is the theists clarion call, and faith is the transparent admission that religious beliefs cannot stand on their own two feet.

sheri1555stl

02/06/2007 04:08:11 PM

I'll bet Harris identifies himself as an American. With wars against other nations, is he identifying HIMSELF with a part of humanity over the whole? His anti-theist bias is ringing of hypocrisy. Tribalism, counterculture and the like are HUMAN, not necessarily religious, as are violence, hate, oppression, discrimination, etc.

free4all

02/06/2007 07:05:40 AM

Jesus and Mohammed and much of the Old Testament are proof that fact is not valued by mankind because it makes us responsible for ourselves. We invented religion and God so we'd have an excuse for our more foul side and also to have a beacon of hope back when we had no moral or legal system that could provide such hope. I believe hope can now be found through the co-operative efforts we call government. Good government offers hope for all, bad government offers hope for subscribers to their goals. But governments operate like religions, too.

free4all

02/06/2007 07:02:47 AM

Regarding the poll: Would the world be better off without religion, in my view the answer is definitely No. But not because I believe religion adds great value to the world. But because religion does not really, in my opinion, have an impact on the events of the world. OBL can site religion as his reasons for his evil deeds but the reason is he is evil, as are all the other murderers hijacking Islam as their excuse. Christians have done the same thing. But pagans and barbarians, without the excuse of religion, have also been terrorists in history. Religion is mostly inconsequential in the evils of the world other than an excuse. I have no problems with people believing whatever they want to believe as long as they don't think their beliefs have enything to do with fact. As Daniel Moynihan oft said "you are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts"

Sobeit9

01/29/2007 10:16:05 AM

So much for rationality. The trouble with rationality is that it loses touch with the reality of the human condition and its motivations. It is only the essence of religion that will ever allow man to collectively get past "go." But this essence is lost in favor of the power drive of secularism which is primarily for example why Christianity on the surface degenerated into its societal image Christendom . The essence of religion is all that will save man from himself and the pressures for his own psychological destruction through "rational" disputes. The "Great Beast" as described by Plato will never allow for the necessary emergence of "common sense." that appears when the essence of religion creates the humility natural for the experience of qualitative emotional perspective.

Sobeit9

01/29/2007 10:15:17 AM

A leading atheist says people must embrace rationalism, not faith--or they will never overcome their differences. Sounds good right. Of course the fly in the ointment is that we do not want to be rational. Our guiding motives are power, force, and prestige. "Shower upon him every blessing, drown him in a sea of happiness, give him economic prosperity, such as that he should have nothing else to do but sleep, eat cakes, and busy himself with the continuation of his species, and even then, out of sheer ingratitude, sheer spite, man would play you some nasty trick. He would even risk his cakes and would deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, the utmost economic absurdity, simply to introduce into all this positive good sense his fatal fantastic element. DOSTOEVSKI continued

katdm7

01/24/2007 03:26:16 PM

I believe religion is something you do. I believe a Christian is what you become, as a result of the power of the Holy Spirit that comes to live inside of you. This is a spirit world. There are two spirits - good and evil. No one is able to be good in and of oneself. We all need a power greater than man to empower us to love and to do good. Thank God for the power of the Holy Spirt given through Jesus Christ. Jesus spent much time fasting and praying because the evil spirit wanted to conquer Him. We all have our problems and shortcomings, but we are called to love one another.

devkhera

01/23/2007 06:20:36 AM

"If ever there were a religion that's not a religion of peace, it is Islam." I have been arguing this with people for years. Sam is the first well-known person, who has acknowledged this. Check out www.faithfreedom.org for more details. But some would argue that other religions also have history of violence. Yes, that is why "Religion is the opiate of the masses."

jacknky

01/19/2007 03:28:27 PM

Pretty, I can't argue with what you say. I'm just curious if you've ever read the Qur'an. According to Mr. Harris there are a lot of admonitions there to the faithful to perpetrate violence on the unfaithful. In his book he quotes about five pasges of such verses.

PrettyPeasant

01/18/2007 11:24:36 AM

All people need to stop focusing on labels so much and start to develop the ability to just be ethical and compassionate to one another. Love God, gods, nature, science, whatever you chose, but don't forget to love the people around you with just as much vigor. that is more important than anything else, because that is what love many, not all, but many problems.

PrettyPeasant

01/18/2007 11:21:28 AM

Muslims are not any more violent than any other religious person. That is false, religious profiling on the part of this author. Shame on him!!! He is not all that much a 'breath of fresh air', in my personal opinion. The real issues in our lives revolve around the economy, how we feed, clothe, shelter, educate and sustain ourselves, our socio-political system and ability to change unethical laws and policies. Religion and science equally mean nothing if you are hungry, homeless, unable to support yourself. God is a personal devotion, regardless of the 'label' or 'group' you associate yourself with.

A_Simple_Wiccan

01/17/2007 06:47:30 PM

Jacknky: Thanks for the pointer. From what I've heard, I'd enjoy Dawkins very much. A further point, many historical figures have been theorized never to have existed as such. Some of these are Confucius, Lao Tse, Buddha, Jesus, Moses, even Socrates. Seems that about every 500 years or so, some purported "great master" shows up on the scene and enlightens a good portion of the world, but the likelihood is that these "people" are just fictional characters that are vehicles for grand sets of philosophy or wisdom. I'm not sure exactly from which book I gleaned this theory, possibly "The Christ Conspiracy" by Acharya S, which delves into the fact that Jesus is the 17th such virgin-born, died-and-resurrected savior figure and is possibly a conglomeration of the previous 16. But don't take my word for it, there's plenty of material on the subject available.

jacknky

01/17/2007 02:38:54 PM

Wiccan, Yes, reading Sam Harris is a breath of fresh air. You also might enjoy reading Richard Dawkins. He has a couple of DVD's that talk about religion too.

A_Simple_Wiccan

01/17/2007 08:05:37 AM

I'm astounded: I've never read or heard Sam Harris speak, but most of what I've read here, I've been telling people for years! Another point of note, much of what is called "prophecy" in religious texts is either self-fulfilling prophecy, or so vague that there is a better-than-average chance that something will come along -- though not even necessarily close to the original prophecy -- to awe and inspire believers, or the prophecy is simply written after the event it prophesies! Thomas Paine soundly debunked the Bible in his "Age of Reason", once from memory with no access to the book, and again later with book in hand. I may go on later, but I have to get ready for work. Cheers! :)

NjoyAADAirbrush

01/17/2007 05:15:37 AM

If one thinks athiestism is not a religion in itself, you need to rethink the issue. Athiestism is a belief "not to believe" , and a religion is a BELIEF ! Christianity on the other hand is a reality...NOT a religion !

Eliava

11/18/2006 09:33:55 PM

North Korea doesn't consider itself a "secularist" state. They have a nationalist religious movement called Cheondogyo that seems to be growing. There are also Buddhists, Confucianists, and some Christians; although, since they are government sponsored, it's probably more of a "show" at religious freedom.

steppen0410e

11/18/2006 04:34:00 PM

Actually, Dawkins doesn't "rant" against all "thought systems" at all, only those that baptise irrationalism as some sort of virtue. And it is nonsense - certainly for those of us that actually read his writings - to assert that Dawkins supposed "militant antitheism" is "faith-based" as he provides mountains of reasons for why any rational person should shun the dogma's of theism. And one could hardly be serious in citing N Korea as being typical or representative of the secular state. But it does illustrate just how sensitive some believers are about their own theistic systems and histories, for instance, Catholicism and its dealings with the Cathars.

frjimod

11/18/2006 02:23:18 PM

As a Catholic Christian who is a convinced evolutionist,I find Dr Dawkins rant against all thought systems not his own less than open-minded. Dawkins has not been labeled a "fundamentalist" for no reason:his miltant antitheism is as doctrinaire and faith-based as that of any other type of irrationality.

frjimod

11/18/2006 02:16:15 PM

Militant Secularist "Fundamentalisms"have been the greatest source of death and oppression in the 20th Century. Militant "Jihadism",which is as much a power grab and resource dominance cynicism as it is socio/religio/cultural/political/nat-ionalist fanaticism in varied cultural clothes,may well be a problematic force in the 21st Century,but militant Secularism is still a very real problem,just look at N Korea. Secularism has not been a font of tolerance.

F1Fan

11/16/2006 11:24:13 AM

Nyah. Sam's too typical. The whole meditation thing and all thrown in as well. -AWN How is this a problem? Meditation is shown to have actual benefits for well-being. I'm sticking with the Messiah who jettisoned His ego when "all" was said and done. The One born of a virgin. Jettisoned his ego? What is odd to me is how the believers of Jesus apply the idea of Jesus-as-savior to their ego, to “become” Christian and born again. I see little spiritual maturity here, and a defense of one’s religious ideology for the sake of identity. The more one holds onto their ideology the more it indicates an emotional dependency. It’s not very impressive to see people feed off of their emotions like this.

namchuck

11/15/2006 09:09:14 PM

And what is all this silly business about Jesus "jettisoning his ego"? The New Testament reveals Jesus as decidedly flawed and certainly not without an inflated ego. When ignored, he became petulant. When mocked, he became vindictive. Both these traits are the mark of an attenuated ego. Undeniably, there is much to be admired in Jesus' aphorisms and actions, but it is a selective reading of scripture to claim that he had "jettisoned his ego". But I have encountered many cafeteria believers who simply pick and choose from the scripture what appeals to them while ignoring the rest.

namchuck

11/15/2006 08:57:56 PM

"Isn't atheism wonderful." Why don't you actually deal with the issues that Dawkins raises, ASKWHYNOW, rather than just speculate inanely about people's motives? Are you in fact not an atheist? Do you believe in Zeus and Apollo, Thor and Woden, Anu and Shamash? Probably not. Dawkins, and I and many other atheists, have simply added another god to the list. But, again, come on, deal with the issues raised in the article to the left and quit all your amateur psychologising.

kannbrown65

11/15/2006 06:21:54 AM

Oh, and if he doesn't believe in God, then Jesus and Moses are no more than any other two people. And its no more arrogant to put your ideas on their level than it is 'Joe and Bob'. And you can't be 'messiah like' when you don't believe IN messiahs. He obviously doesn't think that he's there to lead to your salvation. Not believing in Jesus and, obviously, not those ideas, is not in itself a 'cult of personality'. That'd be 'believe what I say because I have said it'. I read nothing like that there. Oddly enough, Christians can dispute figures that OTHER people consider prophets or Gods and they aren't arrogant. No way. But let someone disput theirs, and they are arrogant, have a messiah complex, and are selling a 'cult of personality', unless every other line includes 'at least, that's just my opinion'. When's the last time you heard 'But I could be wrong' from someone at a pulpit?

kannbrown65

11/15/2006 06:17:20 AM

Yeah, jettisoned his ego. That's why he said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the father except by me" Or, 'Before Abraham, I am.' No self identity there, or bragging, either. If Jesus had no ego, we'd not know what he did, we'd not have to believe in Jesus or worship him, or follow him for it to work. It'd be like me going to the utilities behind your back and paying your bill. You'd not even have to know it was paid until the bill didn't come due.

AskWhyNow

11/14/2006 12:50:16 PM

It's interesting, when you read the entire article, this guy is putting his opnions and his cult of personality on the par with Moses, and Jesus. It is that evident. Just another (self-inspired) messianic figure selling us "his" ideas. Nyah. Sam's too typical. The whole meditation thing and all thrown in as well. I'm sticking with the Messiah who jettisoned His ego when "all" was said and done. The One born of a virgin. See ya Sam.

AskWhyNow

11/14/2006 12:34:29 PM

We must not lose sight of the fact that Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are nothing special on the world's stage. Historically speaking they are just a couple of guys in a sea of typical people. Just new versions of old enlightenment rhetoric. But good for them that they are getting some press coverage. I'm sure it makes them feel like their lives have meaning. Which of course as just blobs of molecules shaped like a human beings they are nothing more special than talking parrots. Isn't atheism wonderful?

finelinebob

11/13/2006 10:41:09 PM

Embrace rationalism? Rationalism as a way of knowing the world is only one means of doing so. It has its own set of rules to determine what is "good" or "true" and even definitions of what those conditions are. Abstract art is another means of viewing the world. Music is a way. And religion is yet another way. Harris is making the same mistake that the Intelligent Design people make - to jump into the arena of a different means of knowing the world and trying to impose your values on it. It's like trying to convince people they should adopt democracy when staring down the barrel of a gun. Perhaps Harris' biggest mistake, however, is his dogmatic devotion to rationality. Empirical psychological research has demonstrated across a broad spectrum that “rational” people do not act rationally all the time. Rationality is an invention of the human mind, not some innate state of nature, and must always be considered within that context with all the strengths and weaknesses that come with it.

shartheheretic

11/13/2006 07:27:27 PM

Just my 2 cents...I would never use Wikipedia as a source, considering anyone can add or edit it at anytime with any information. I know it is really in vogue, etc., but really - it is not a reliable source for real information.

steppen0410e

08/22/2006 10:58:21 PM

Perhaps the limitation, joyfulle1981, lies in the dictionary you are using. Or, maybe, you are simply using the definition(s) of the word 'religion' selectively? The Oxford Dictionary gives five definitions in order of more accurate, or more recognized, application, and the definition you use comes in last at number five! All the first four definitions encompass exactly what we have been discussing here on this message board. And while it is good to hear that you are encouraged to study and question your beliefs, I wonder if that questioning is permitted only within a certain framework? For instance, does your study and questioning simply assume the existence of God, and other potent manifestations of the Christian worldview, such as heaven, angels, hell, purgatory, etc?

joyfulle1981

08/22/2006 10:39:12 AM

On a seperate note Steppen, you asked what would compel me to change my mind about my beliefs. Luckily, I am a Priest in a denomination that actually encourages us to question and study out our own beliefs. Which I do daily. Because of this, my beliefs are not static, but change as I gain new knowledge and understanding. So, what would compel me to change my mind? Very simple...new insight.

joyfulle1981

08/22/2006 10:31:39 AM

Actually Steppen, if you are an educator, you know that being religious does not necessarily imply a relationship with a god or gods. It can also mean "a cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion". And yes, I suggest that Sam Harris is very much like other religious spokesman because he, like many of them, is promoting his personal beliefs. They ARE his beliefs, even if they do not include a god. If you believe the only thoughts that are truly "beliefs" are those that include a specific god...well then, your definition of "belief" is MUCH more limited than the dictionary I use.

steppen0410e

08/21/2006 05:42:44 PM

While it is absolute nonsense to refer to Harris as some kind of 'religious spokesman' (being religious requires that one believe in God, doesn't it?), there is one huge difference between what Harris believes and what religious people believe. Harris freely admits that, he will change his view if sufficient and compelling evidence is presented by theists. Now, you tell us, joyfulle1981, what compelling evidence would change your mind about your beliefs? It seems to me you have, as your posty would indicate, both a woeful understanding of both religion and atheism to make the comparisons you have made. Suggesting that Harris is not different from any other religious spokesman is like suggesting that bald is a hair color.

joyfulle1981

08/21/2006 10:16:49 AM

I think Sam Harris is not different than any other zealous religious spokesman. He believes his type of doctrine is better than anyone elses and is tying to convert others to his walk. Just because his doctrine has no specific diety does not make it any less a doctrine. Other enlightened doctrines also seem to express their ideas without a focus on a god. After reading his interview, he is no more tolerant than any other religious individual, being quick to hurl insults at the beliefs of others. Yes, I agree athiests have their points just like any other faith. And also agree that they too have the freedom to share their doctrine and proselytize along with other missionaries. And from what I see, he falls right into line with them.

steppen0410e

08/20/2006 03:11:49 AM

(continued) All this aside, though, religious belief has no firmer basis than emotional commitment, for it lacks anything that would count as sound or compelling evidence. And its history alone would be sufficient to identify that, more often then not, it has been a parlous preoccupation of mankind. Any good that can be found in religion can be had elsewhere, and that without the need to believe in preposterous things.

steppen0410e

08/20/2006 03:08:01 AM

You've proved nothing at all, tdwan, and my quotes were from Hitler's own writings, and from Rauschning's Hitler Speaks, and I never said that Hitler had 'strong Christian beliefs'. I said that he admired the CHurch's organization and power and emulated what he'd learned from it while dismissing most of its teachings. You really ought to both pay more attention to what you are reading and be careful who you are calling a liar. And it does seem like you have been watching some questionable doco's on TV (not the best source of information). Any amount of documentation has established that, if anything, the Inquisitions, witch hunts, pogroms against Jews, perpetrated by the Church were worse than you or I could imagine. And it is an absolute fob to suggest that 'true Christians would not murder'! I wonder who gets to define what a 'true Christian' is?

tdwan

08/20/2006 12:40:49 AM

and steppen, i just disproved your little "truth" about Hitler’s strong Christian beliefs with wikepedia, make sure you read it so you don’t make false statements again. im sure if you are a truth seeker, you will not.

tdwan

08/20/2006 12:35:52 AM

I just watched a program on the discovery/tlc? Channel that had interviewed noble historians and found that most of what we have been taught about the inquisitions is false. i dont believe they are funded by catholics either. One historian stated that most of Europe would have been wiped out if the amount of murders which have been taught actually occurred. Not everything that you read is true, test everything my friend. in addition, RABBI Dalin has just published a well researched book called "the myth of hitlers pope"look it up on amazon. its a really good read. take care and peace to you.

tdwan

08/20/2006 12:32:19 AM

steppen, my friend. Hitler was well associated http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler's_religious_beliefs True Christians would never murder, some call themselves Christian, but like messiah warned us, "you will know them by their fruits" and "those that do the will of my father are my brothers and sisters”. Which books or titles of Aristotle or Thomas of Aquinas have you read or studied? i can tell by your comments that you have not. its like the modern day philosophers that state today in arrogance that "there is no truth" what’s wrong with that statement is if there is no truth, then is that statement in itself true? i don’t have the writing space here to discredit what Mr Harris has falsely stated, however i strongly encourage you to get the cspan transcripts. in addition, like i stated before, i really do have an appreciation for Sam and others like him. Who knows? i might be mislead as well, so i truly appreciate the points they bring out which i can in turn research with truth and not hearsay.

steppen0410e

08/19/2006 11:23:57 PM

(continued) The Church had its influence upon Hitler, especially in the shape of Catholicism. Raised Catholic, Hitler had developed a strong admiration for the Church. Rome has 'a religion you can take seriously, 'a great position to defend', one that had endured for centuries. Though he could hardly have been more dismissive of its teachings, he admired its organization and power. He claimed to have learned much from its skilful manipulation of human nature. One could also show how much Slavic Orthodoxy had influenced Stalin in a similar way. But again, I emphasize, it is dogma that is the chief source of evil. It warps the human spirit, kills off its compassion and goodness, replacing it with blind obedience. Yet we need compassion and goodness and should shun blind obedience, which entails shuning dogma.

steppen0410e

08/19/2006 11:15:26 PM

tdwan: I can assure you that I wasn't infuriated by your comments, and I can also assure you that I have read both Aristotle and Aquinas, but, so what? I have to say, that I don't feel that I have been enlightened by your comments one little bit. I wanted you to give me an example of where Harris' research had been found wanting, but instead, you simply reiterate that you gave sources. So what that the Nazi's convinced the German people prior to the holocaust that the elderly and the mentally challenged should be executed? The Nazi leadership, including Hitler, believed that they were doing God's work. They weren't atheists! I don't think it is I that should be doing more thorough research before 'making a sound judgement on all subjects, as if I was doing that.

tdwan

08/19/2006 09:29:49 PM

and still further, sam harris does raise some very good points. its like taking the statement. "you stole money". that could be interpetted as stolen money, time or property, past, present, etc. you can spin anything.

tdwan

08/19/2006 08:45:22 PM

my friend steppen, i sited my sources: request the transcripts from cspan, fox and the morning show with Matt Lauer. i should of mentioned that i am highly grateful for living in a country where we can all voice our opinions without being imprisoned or beheaded. we have the resources to analysis and research information as a whole and then to be able to sort out truth, fiction and hearsay. My intent was not to infuriate you which caused your attacks on my comments so I apologize! My intent is purely to enlighten you to really, really research your information before making a sound judgment on all subjects. Remember, the German people where convinced by the nazi’s 2 years prior to the holocaust that the elderly and mentally challenged population should be executed because they were not contributing adults. Look at where those philosophies lead them. You should read Aristotle or Thomas of Aquinas.

steppen0410e

08/19/2006 04:18:20 PM

Let me try that again. Give us some examples, tdwan. I guess what transpires in an interview lies largely in the eyes of the beholder. Actually, Harris' evidence is efficiently researched, but there is no doubt that it would be unfair to castigate religion alone as a systematic source of evil. As I said below, it is dogma, the belief that there is a set of principles that is entirely right and can justify, exculpate and motivate any act in their service, that is a systematic source of evil. Theism is such a dogma, and consequently, should be shunned.

tdwan

08/19/2006 03:38:31 PM

i had the opportunity to view cspan interviews with sam harris regarding his book and unfortunately he was stumped several times with his inaccurate historical accounts that he sites to support his theology. i felt a little embarrassed for him. ellen johnson was a guest on fox news and i thought, well here seems to be an intellect and i was very interested in why she is atheist, the interview ended in a chaos. When she was asked to explain the Nazi’s and the Russian massacres all she did was repeat over and over-her statement that religion was the source of all worldly pain without any historical validation. Brian Fleming appeared on nbc and matt made him look like a moron. His evidence that he sites was thrashed.

steppen0410e

08/19/2006 02:32:58 AM

geologist: That is nonsense. The countries you mention were not "organized around atheism", and you miss - surprisingly for an educated person - the real source of their evil completely when you lay it at the feet of atheism. The fact is that, there is something that Christianity, other religions, and the regimes you index all share: they are to varying degrees dogmatic. All present their adherents with a set of doctrines that they must accept. Failure to conform to the dogma led to a fate similar to that which followed failure to conform to religious dogma: a combination of public humiliation, show trials, punishment, being ostracized, exile, and death. The dogma justified persecution within the society and persecution by the society. The issue is not atheism or theism, but dogma and its effect upon human goodness. The source of svil is dogma.

ldybg48

08/18/2006 04:55:12 PM

I agree with rapture14, I do not believe God intended for mankind to be a religion or to be certain denominations but to believe, have faith and do the work in which we were called forth to do. And yes, if we all believed in one God as we were ment to, this world would be a much better place.

sergentmaj

08/18/2006 08:41:07 AM

Religion has nothink to do with your (FAITH)or(BELIEF).Just to beleive is enough, it`s not a denomination,this is mans doing, all these changes and comprehentions of what the bible teaches us.Just as ourself and as parents we strive to have some perfection in our life, as wellas our children. Just as GOD shows us in the bible, HE comes in the New testament to tell us the true way to live >TOGETHERi believe< take to heart! sergentmaj,hendersonville,nc.

sorrowful_mysteries

08/17/2006 10:39:11 PM

It's not about trying to convert anyone. What it is about is getting people to start being honest and stop inventing things that do not exist, in order to evade taking full responsibility for their own lives. An evangelistic mindset if I ever heard one... "I don't want to convert you to a dogma... I just want you to see that I'm right and you're wrong and that I'm a better person than you because of it!"

geologist

08/17/2006 05:40:51 PM

Recent history has demonstrated that societies organized around atheism are notoriously inhumane. Atheist countries - the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea, etc. - have been responsible for the genocide of more than 100 million people and the enslavement of millions more.

zenmonk_genryu

08/17/2006 03:57:55 PM

It's not about trying to convert anyone. What it is about is getting people to start being honest and stop inventing things that do not exist, in order to evade taking full responsibility for their own lives.

jackturner3

08/17/2006 09:10:33 AM

I agree with Sorrowful…this is article is just one more example of non-believers trying to convert believers into non-belief. There even seems to be a subtle to not-so-subtle thread running through this guys thinking that those of us who aren’t religious should have our civil right to freedom of religion taken away because we do too much damage to society by believing. He speaks of wanting verifiable proof for faith, and yet, in the end, his argument boils down to “my non-god is better than your god.” IC XC NI KA

sorrowful_mysteries

08/15/2006 07:46:45 PM

I commend BNet on their latest series on people who believe in No God, and worship Him. Oh, I know I know, atheism is officialy about a lack of belief. However, William James, in his classic Varieties of Religious Epxerience submits that "religion" is just however you orient yourself to whatever it is that you believe to be ultimately true. In which case, this who argument is moot. We're not talking about religion vs. no religion. We're only talking about whose religion is most true.

Miguel_de_Servet

08/15/2006 09:36:25 AM

A have looked at the "Who is who" of the 10 prominent atheists. They are not really atheists, any of them. They all invariably propose another "god" whose common denominator is not to be Personal (as the God of all main Monotheistic reliegions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam is) to be amazingly similar to the "inner god" of Buddhism or the Atman=Brahma of Hinduism. There is a good tern, that of the Abrahamic religions. They are simply trying to move Christianity to the other camp, the "mystical god"

steppen0410e

08/15/2006 02:38:44 AM

I'm inclined to think grasshopper60 is right, but I totally disagree with Joey39. Joey may not be able to "rule" himself, but that is no indication that others cannot. Joey also suggests that "chaos and confusion" will reign in any society without "God's laws in the Bible". Well, there are, and have been, societies without "God's laws" from the Bible where chaos and confusion have not been the order of the day, and many Christian societies based on "God's laws" that have been murderous regimes. Think of a society, for instance, where God's law that anybody who didn't believe should be put to death (Deut.13:6-10), or where anybody too squeamish to take part in such religious killing must be killed as well (Deut.13:12-16).

grasshopper60

08/15/2006 01:25:30 AM

Are you simply regurgating the same old thing your parents told you? Are you afraid of the truth? Where was this god while the Israels were bombing Lebanon? Slaughtering innocent old women and crippled kids?Where was this god when Hezboolah was lobbing rockets into Haifa? Killing innocent Jews? Like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus, god is supposedly a feel good image, but think people, think. 1. This is it! 2. There are no hidden meanings 3. You can't get there from here, and besides, there's no place else to go 4. We are all already dying and we'll be dead for a long time. 5. Nothing lasts! 6. There is no way of getting all you want. 7. You can't have anything unless you let go of it. 8. You only get to keep what you give away. 9. There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things. 10. The world is not necessarily just. Being good often does not pay off and there is no compensation for misfortune.

makamewi

08/14/2006 09:40:56 PM

I have troubles in life, but if it wasnt for God, I wouldnt survive. He is the one I turn to when I need guidance. Praise be to the Lord!!!!

Adam107

07/26/2006 04:25:38 PM

Most of those rules and regulations you speak of are not of a Christian origin, at least not primarily. Same with basic morals such as not killing, or lying, or stealing, those kinds of things that the Ten Commandments state. Those morals are not exclusive to Christianity. Many, many religions have the same sort of morals including ones that were around before Christianity. In fact, the Code of Hammurabi stated similar morals over a thousand years before Christianity came to be. Basic morals such as what the Ten Commandments state did not come from some divine force, they came from human instinct. The instinct of not wanting to be killed or lied to or stolen from and to treat others as you would want to be treated.

Joey39

07/11/2006 04:37:03 AM

I am a Christian, so no, I definitely DO NOT believe that our world would be a better place without God or Christianity. Atheism would make things worse, not better, because I believe that we need God as our Ruler to help us maintain our moral standards and to keep us all in line. In other words, we cannot govern ourselves. Why do you think we have rules, regulations, and laws in our society? Without them, there'd be utter chaos and confusion. Likewise, without God's Laws in the Bible governing our very lives, there'd be utter chaos and confusion. WE SIMPLY CANNOT RULE OVER OURSELVES!!!! Every time we try, we fail, and that's why, no matter how little sense some things might make to us, WE NEED GOD JUST AS MUCH AS WE NEED RULES, REGULATIONS, AND LAWS IN OUR SOCIETY!!!!

Heretic_for_Christ

05/26/2006 05:05:15 PM

Whether it is ascension or any other concept, "serious re-examination of ancient doctrines" is exactly what dogmatic religion will NOT do. Rationality and dogmatism occupy entirely separate universes. Hope to see your contributions on other boards.

davinci.friend

05/25/2006 06:28:00 PM

Thank you for responding. I will certainly keep my eyes on this site. Regarding the Ascension question that I raised, I am truly amazed that this is not a greater focus point for serious re-examination of ancient doctrines that work to divide humanity and literally to cause killing in the name of "god". But I am not an atheist. I believe in a God that created the world (the "First Cause", per Acquinas). I also believe that everything makes sense in ways that we mere mortals do not understand and which transcends physics. PS -- I pay lots of tuition for Catholic education from grammer school to the Jesuits for college. I am not happy with secular public education.

Heretic_for_Christ

05/24/2006 10:41:57 PM

dv.friend, Welcome to Beliefnet. This board has relatively little activity on it right now, and I am hoping that you will join in on some of the more active discussions.

davinci.friend

05/24/2006 05:03:15 PM

The problems with ancient western religious books do not end at the Old Testament. Consider "Ascensions" into Heaven by Jesus or Mohammed. These myths are demolished by proof that the earth is round and that the sun does not revolve around the earth. That is why the Catholic Church accused Galileo of heresy. The Bible & Koran defenders are stuck with their Ascensions. They cannot acknowledge that the end of their stories are false. It is that simple. Until we all recognize that every human being has the same stake in a world created by one creator, organized religion will continue to divide us more so than it can possibly unite us.

maxpontifex

05/20/2006 01:26:18 AM

It is ultimately not about removing ideology (philosophy, religion, whatever) but dogmatism. If you don't think one could have leftist extremists or "rational" extremists...

Heretic_for_Christ

05/17/2006 09:09:38 PM

jon, That sounds clever, but it is shallow and facile. The problem isn't rationalism or secularism any more than it is religion per se. The problem is IRRATIONALITY, which can take many forms including but not limited to dogmatic religiosity and dpgmatic political ideology. There is also individual selfishness and immaturity, social and economic injustice, and the occasional case of true insanity - all of these can lead to mayhem. True rationality is, in a way, something like true Christianity - nice concept, maybe someday they'll actually try it.

joninokc007

05/17/2006 07:07:18 PM

To do away with religion is what the Pol Pot followers tried, what Stalin tried, what Lenin tried, and what the Red Chinese are to some extent doing now. Atheism has a ocean of blood on its tender soft hands, and no fuller canst wipe out that spot, to misquote a certain Bard. You can discuss the glories of the gentle european atheist, but leftist non-believing Lutherans decided to replace God with the State, and Black Shirts and Jackboots attempted to wipe Germany, and Europe clean of those nasty religious Jews and the people who helped them. Humans kill, not because they abandon rationalism for faith, but because they are human, and want the things others have. We use our rational minds to do cons, steal things, put others in real or mental slavery, abuse our wives, kids, or menial workers, and then blame God, Allah, or Krishna for our shortcomings, when we just need to study the monkey in the mirror. Rationalism is the opiate of the atheist.

overcomingbygrace

05/17/2006 02:48:35 PM

It is obvious that religion in general is very much a dividing issue amongst the followers of any ism or group for or against any belief systom or lack of one. Yet doing away w/ isms is to vanish humanity from their exsistance altogether. Individualism is one of the rawest forms of diversity in all life and that is an ism. Joining the human race is about embracing the difference and yet being thankfull for what views of life the universe has given you. T religion ofbelieving in humanity and not a diety has been around for as long as one person has believed his view where more vital than another. There is nothing new under Gods great plan on earth and for us His children.

tmaster1

05/17/2006 11:39:14 AM

[CONTINUED FROM POST BELOW] Brezenski was the former National Security Advisor to President Carter. He's a very worldly man and a deep historian. So, this rap against religion is GARBAGE. Also, again, Sam Harris is obviously a very ignorant atheist ["ignorant," meaning literally not knowing. There is no way he has read Qur'an] The passion at the root of religious fundamentalist thinking is the SAME passion at the root of secular fundamentalist thinking. Both passions are the same, and dangerous. It is control of those passions, NOT the elimination of religion, or secularism for that matter, that will prevent violence and chaos. Secular demagogues of the 20th century were just as capable of inciting violence as religious demogogues. Look at Lenin.

tmaster1

05/17/2006 11:38:43 AM

"But the Qur'an, virtually on every page, is a manifesto for religious intolerance." YIKES!! My God, this man is extremely ignorant [I guess anybody can write a book]. How did he get to be interviewed? Brezenski ["Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Even of the 21st Century"] stated that during the 20th century--a span of just 100 years--a whopping 175,000,000 human beings were murdered due to NON-RELIGIOUS secular ideas that, in part, had their origins in the French Revolution. I'd like to know if there has been 100-year period in all of human history where 175,000,000 people were killed due to religion. Name it. [NEXT POST--SEE ABOVE]

filmalicia

05/16/2006 06:17:13 PM

cont. My Episcopal congregation had a wonderful priest who was there for almost 30 years. When he retired to do something else he preached as his closing sermon on a text about "sheep and shepherds" and his insight was that the language of the Church to be sheep (we are the flock, our leaders are the pastors, pastor meaning, literally, shepherd). His insight was that we all have a need to be "sheep" somtimes, to follow and to be cared for, but if we all take turns being "shepherds" as well, both leading and caring for others, then we won't get into so much trouble. I think that is what Mr. Harris is actually preaching against in his sermon on atheism, against the tendency of the religious to engage in sheep-like behavior.

filmalicia

05/16/2006 06:12:12 PM

jacknky and maplewood, It sounds like we are in agreement that dogmatism, whether it is religious, atheistic or political, is the source of a lot of our problems. I prefer to view it as the difference between ideas and ideology. Creative and insightful people look at the world and propose wonderful ideas about the world -- originators like Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Freud, Marx, Jung, Gandhi, etc. Then their disciples come along and treat those ideas like shiny toys that they possess and that give them secret, special knowledge that allows them to achieve power over their followers. The ideas harden into ideology and become flat and boring. Yet the disciples are strong enough and bask in enough reflected glory from the original ideas to convince their flocks (ie. us sheep) to follow them.

jacknky

05/16/2006 03:25:47 PM

maplewood, Good point about religion and music. I hope we never get rid of music. "...secularism is FAR more responsible for FAR more death and destruction than religion." I would respectfully suggest that dogmatism in ALL its forms is responsible for the death and destruction. Theocracy is dogmatic religion, communism is dogmatic secularism. Both tend to create suffering and death. Most of Europe is primarily secular and more benign than the communist examples many point to as THE example of secular societies. Also, I would submit that it is the secular portions of our Constitution that make America great, that keeps our country from sinking into dogmatism, either theocratic OR secular.

jacknky

05/16/2006 03:19:12 PM

filmacia, "I am not optimistic about a world which either institutes a theocracy or which outlaws religion. Both seem equally bad to me." You make many good points. I don't think this author was saying we should "outlaw" religion. I think he was saying that we should confront religion when it is doing harm, hold it to the same standards we hold anything else.

gadje

05/16/2006 03:15:06 PM

rapture14 5/16/2006 11:02:19 AM "... If we can come into agreement that there is But only One God we would be heading in the right direction and the world would be better off if we All knew that there is but one Creator and Creator of All. Then there will be the start of a real and true Peace in the World." But nature prefers diversity. What you are calling for is totalinarianism. Monotheism(read here as christianity and islam) is the only faith tradition concerned with how and what image of 'god' people worship. Ironically, your post is exactly what sam harris is talking about.

maplewood

05/16/2006 02:52:21 PM

I think the call for an end to religion within humanity is like a call for an end to music. It may not be the least bit rational, but good luck trying to kill it off! Two other points: Harris gives good food for thought, and secularism is FAR more responsible for FAR more death and destruction than religion. Source: book: "Out of Control", by Brezinski, ex Sec'y of State.

filmalicia

05/16/2006 01:15:25 PM

Thanks, Usonido. I used a political example yesterday, but I really do wonder if the difference between someone like Pat Robertson and the Ayatollah Khomenei may have more to do with the rule of law than and the legal protections that the U.S. Constitution give Americans against state religion than they do with what kind of Ayatollah Robertson would be, if he was able to institute a theocracy in America. Of course, I can't really say what the American Religious Right would do if it got into power, and I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Nor can I say what atheists such as Sam Harris would do if they were able to put their anti-religion program into practice. I can only say that based upon the examples of places like North Korea, Iran, the former Soviet Union, etc. I am not optimistic about a world which either institutes a theocracy or which outlaws religion. Both seem equally bad to me.

bhaktigirl22

05/16/2006 01:12:07 PM

But rapture, you want everyone to believe in YOUR version of God, don't you? I believe in what the Rg Veda says: "The truth is one; sages call it by many names"...Saying there is only one true concept or version of God is making God too small. And I agree with what he says here about the Old Testament- what an ogre of a God! And so is a God who thinks the torturous death of a wonderful prophet is the best and only way to "save" mankind...No thanks!

rapture14

05/16/2006 11:02:18 AM

I think the World would be better off if we all had Faith in One God. As the Bible said there is only One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism. The problem is not religion, God never called us to have religion but do Religous work, Like pray, worship him, feed the poor, Love etc... The works of God is the Religous work. God never called us to be a religion or denomination, this is where the problem is, this is where men argue with one another and separate himself from one another, not loving one another. If we can come into agreement that there is But only One God we would be heading in the right direction and the world would be better off if we All knew that there is but one Creator and Creator of All. Then there will be the start of a real and true Peace in the World.

trth_sekr

05/16/2006 09:34:02 AM

Do world will be a better off without religion?I dont think so ,religion is just a tool which is being misused.If it not religion people will use other tools..creed,language,etc.Add some sentiment and justification to it,it can be turned to weapon.The religions I have come acrossed have two things in common which is its spirit and dogma.We have bypass the dogmas to understand the spirit of the religion.I do believe that the spirit of all the religion are the same and only it can bring the peace.

Cusidh

05/16/2006 01:56:03 AM

Same with Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland; their conflict was (is) an issue of national identity and both its existential and practical implications. Well, just on this, the troubles in Ireland have deep roots in actual political policies rooted in de-Catholicising Ireland. It's obviously very complicated, but transplanted Protestants and Irish Catholics wouldn't be in this lousy situation in the first place, never mind having been through a history of brutality, if, frankly, the Church had been able to give Henry VIII a divorce.

Usonido

05/15/2006 08:38:33 PM

filmalicia, I agree with you with respect to both religion and politics. I know many folks of other religions or none who treat my beliefs with respect. I feel the same about their beliefs.

filmalicia

05/15/2006 06:22:46 PM

cont. Where I disagree with Mr. Harris is in his labeling religious moderates as part of the problem. Once again, "moderate" is used as a bad word. While I wouldn't consider myself a religious moderate necessarily, I do consider myself a passionate moderate politically. To me, people at the extremes (including the religious extremes) are mirror images of each other. For instance, I regard Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore as twins suffering from the same disease, to use a political example.

filmalicia

05/15/2006 06:13:18 PM

I agree with H4C that people can find justification for many different attitudes and beliefs in the Bible and other scriptures. Some people seem to find only hatred and condemnation in the Bible, some find only concern for social justice and the poor, some find only myth or poetry, and some find love. I think it is an interesting question why the followers of different religions can develop such vastly different images of God. The three chief monotheistic religions supposedly worship the same God, but seem to be getting very different messages from Him/Her at the moment.

Usonido

05/15/2006 05:55:46 PM

"No! I believe the idea isn't to get rid of ideas that Sam Harris dislikes, it's getting rid of absolutes, when dealing with the great mystery and the questions that I doubt anyone can answer." I have to disagree. His hostility to religious moderates indicates that for Mr. Harris you're atheist or your bad. Harris says, "merely identifying yourself as a Christian or a Jew lends tacit validity to this status quo." So from Mr. Harris' view, even a Jewish atheist is disapproved of. They have to completely abandon cultural identity as well as their religion.

xholdencaulfieldx

05/15/2006 05:37:56 PM

Another thing, anyone who says that religion is the "cause" of so many violent conflicts in the world needs to look past the soundbites. Palaestinians could care less about theological differences with the Jews, they'd be just as angry with other Muslems if they evicted them from their homeland through violent force. Same with Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland; their conflict was (is) an issue of national identity and both its existential and practical implications. The same goes for the conflict in Darfur. People fight over land, resources, and the right to preserve their culture and govern themselves; religion is no more a factor than any other aspect of ethnic identity.

xholdencaulfieldx

05/15/2006 05:27:10 PM

How do people like this get books published? This kid clearly knows nothing about the countless, diverse phenomena that fall under the umbrella of "religion". Christian fundamentalists and the fashionably atheistic are ultimately two sides to the same coin; they both define God in the same hyperliteral, finite, fundamentally incorrect terms, they differ only in the conclusions they reach.

informedattimes

05/15/2006 04:15:22 PM

Thank providence for people like Sam Harris , who have the guts and ability to stand up to the faith based amongst us and pint out truthfully , accurately , and with application of common sense; the nonsense and horror of the beliefs of so many.I'm not as diplomatic or articulate as he, but I may have more of a vested interest. The development of treatment options for HIV/AIDS was seriously delayed by the actions of the religious right in opposing all funding for research in the early years of the epidemic. Thus , having been denied even a fighting chance at additional life , I buried fifty-six of the most remarkable men anyone could ever hope to know in life. I believe that given the right chance and enabling cirumstances there are thousands of religious zealots in our society whoo would resort to the barbarism of medieval times , without thinking twice.

Heretic_for_Christ

05/15/2006 02:17:38 PM

filmalicia, Your questions are legitimate, and my answer is simple: People find whatever they want in the Bible about anything, including God. Whatever we want God to be - an avenging judge, a savior, a meddler in human events, the creator of all - there is a scriptural passage to support every notion under the heavens. We create God in our own image, seeing in God whatever we want God to be or fear that God is. The common theme among all these different perceptions is that God is some kind of superbeing who exists outside ourselves, watching and judging human conduct. Another perception is that God is not a superbeing "out there" at all, but the spiritual wellspring within us; and there is a scriptural basis for this view, too: From Luke 17, "The kingdom of God is within you." Proof-texting, however, is NOT the way. The way is to experience God's presence directly rather than rely on ancient speculations about God in scripture, or on modern speculations about ancient speculations.

filmalicia

05/15/2006 01:23:20 PM

To speak to what some posters said below about the "God is Love" concept, I agree that it was a sort of "marketing slogan." It was out there when I was growing up, and I always felt it was a reaction to the "Hell Fire and Brimstone" version of Christianity. The trouble was that it was such an oversimplification (very different from "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul and mind, and your neighor as yourself") that I don't think it really answered the "Hellfire" preachers... If God is Love, why is the God of the Old Testament manifestly so jealous, vengeful, violent, etc.? The problem of evil. All those other questions.

jacknky

05/15/2006 12:39:18 PM

I do agree that doing away with religions won't necessarily change human nature. It seems to be human nature to join tribes and defend our tribes from other tribes. The most common forms of tribes that lead to violence include religion and country. We're really in trouble when those two are combined. God bless America.

rea_1219

05/15/2006 11:23:07 AM

Well, religion and faith are two completely different things, no? Religion is just a way to group us together based on a commonality - one into which we're often born, just like our nationality, race, etc.

Heretic_for_Christ

05/15/2006 08:32:27 AM

Lots of people are making the point that religion is not the root cause of violence and injustice, and that eliminating religion would not end those things. That is true, but it should be noted that religion CAN have the effect of making people feel that THEIR resentments are God's resentments, and that they are doing God's work when they attack their enemies. The attack might well have taken place anyway, but there is less likelihood of peaceful resolution when one's enemies are considered God's enemies and are therefore deserving of destruction.

DrWhiteII

05/15/2006 07:41:59 AM

Why should religion end? People will still find a reason to kill others. It's not religion that's bad, but people in those religions.

Cusidh

05/14/2006 11:10:58 PM

oh yea, that'll fix it, without religion people will stop being racist, stop murdering, lying, and sexually abusing children. His idea of tolerence is being intolerant of other beliefs. BTW, Didn't Jesus... What is he doing that's so new and revolutionary? Apparently, the same thing Jesus did, by your standards. As if 'abolishing religion' were actually on the table here, let's think a moment. 'Just because people murder, lie, and sexually abuse children with aid and motivation and cover from certain religions, doesn't mean religions should stop doing these things, because the same religions teach us that people would do these things without religion, even if they kind of don't when these religions are absent...'

Cusidh

05/14/2006 11:10:39 PM

(cont from above) "I think it'd be just as bad without our perfect sacredness which takes away all evil, except for what'd be there, anyway," ...isn't exactly a compelling defence of religions that overtly say, 'I'm lying, killing, and abusing children and messing up the environment in the name of God! You should be glad you're so lucky! It'd be worse without us. Really. Cause you're that awful a person that without believing in us, you'd be, like... Gay cannibals! Yeah! That's it!" Eh.... no.

Cusidh

05/14/2006 11:08:57 PM

(cont from above) 'Human nature' isn't 'evil,' ...human nature is to 'be sharing and cooperative mostly, and flip out when stressed.' 'Religion' as most know it, tends to inflate, 'OMFG!!!! he g0t hedd! She ate pork!!! into a mortal threat to the life and souls of a given mismanaged social unit. I hate to mention it, but we're lucky to get off with a public brawl when society ays that. These days, gunfire ensues. I mean, go to your own churches for a century without *killing* anyone, *then* say you're better than 'evil human nature.' I mean, it's the Big Three religions that claim all this atrocity is 'human nature,' ...and, not to make out like everyone else in the world is saintly, but *did you guys ever meet a culture you *didn't* try to kill?*

killwill

05/14/2006 08:21:18 PM

oh yea, that'll fix it, without religion people will stop being racist, stop murdering, lying, and sexually abusing children. His idea of tolerence is being intolerant of other beliefs. BTW, Didn't Jesus have the same philosophy of not being over-religious? What is he doing that's so new and revolutionary?

fromoz

05/14/2006 07:31:23 PM

No! I believe the idea isn't to get rid of ideas that Sam Harris dislikes, it's getting rid of absolutes, when dealing with the great mystery and the questions that I doubt anyone can answer. "Absolutes" for me are people telling me that their God exists, and Athiests telling me that God doesn't exist.

Cusidh

05/14/2006 01:22:10 PM

Well, I think the real problem with certain religions is a matter of terms and paradigms: it's not really about 'faith vs reason,' it's about when there's 'unreason vs reason.' When a system of belief says, 'One must have or pretend absolute certainty that no other point of view is legitmate, ...that other people are literally 'chaff' in the grand scheme of things, then that's a core belief that *needs* to be challenged. Because it's wrong and destructive, in the world people of all faiths and disbeliefs must share. Whether you believe in one god or many or none neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket, ...it's just that some systems of belief lead further on to ideas that those things are acceptable. It's not about faith, or even about what divine beings 'actually' exist, ...it's about *the systems of belief we create.*

PakehaTohunga

05/14/2006 11:11:53 AM

I don't know whether religion needs to come to an end, or not, but it's hard to disagree with Sam Harris that many elements of many religions need to come to an end! His argument is compelling; it's hard to poke holes in it--and I say this as a religious person, a Christian to be specific.

Usonido

05/14/2006 09:26:14 AM

So the solution to intolerance is to get rid of ideas that Mr. Harris doesn't like.

Livindesert

05/13/2006 09:27:59 PM

If they don't bother me with their Christianity I wont bother them with my Atheism. I scratch your back you scratch mine

BillThinks4Himself

05/13/2006 09:10:13 PM

I don't like intolerance - under any umbrella. When atheism is used as a pin to pop other people's balloons, it undermines its own objectives. If the purpose is to get people to think for themselves, to be rational, what, do you suppose, will be the effect of telling other atheists to "try to convince religious people "of the illegitimacy of their core beliefs?" Won't such aggressive proselytizing simply play into an already tense set of prejudices about atheists? Don't get me wrong. I love the opportunity to exchange ideas and put in a plug for reason - but to go out with a faith-destroying agenda is to feed the fear.

Cusidh

05/13/2006 02:48:34 PM

This idea just belies an ignorance of human nature. Without religion, we'd find something else to hate each other over. Religion is not the cause of anything, just the symptom. Well, I think certain *forms* of religion lead directly to hate and acting upon hate: namely ones that believe spiritual reality and especially rules derived from such *supercede* life and reason rather than informing it. If one believes that proper morality comes *from* religious beliefs, rather than being brought *to* them, then that tends to come with the idea that the 'other' is morally-inferior which fuels conflict.

Livindesert

05/13/2006 02:40:21 PM

If we realize we are human and in charge of our lives we can create a Heaven on Earth. If mythology and deities are in charge then we do not create and a hell on earth is what is left.

Livindesert

05/13/2006 02:37:19 PM

Humans are human. We kill each other no matter who is in charge. Be it Communists or Christians. Sam Harris and a lot of modern atheists are open minded enough to realize spiritual practice can be good for you. But he draws the line at things that can be harmful. Things like taking mythology as fact. Using superstitious ideas like Astrology and orders from gods to create national laws or policies. Sam just wants common sense to prevail and I hope it dose.

Michael_Thoma

05/13/2006 02:00:12 PM

This guy practices Zen and says "religion must end" - what he means is 'certain religions' must end. Those which he dislikes - just like Communist China, Soviet Russia, and other atheistic regimes - very peaceful places I might add **sarcasm**

MissElphaba

05/13/2006 11:51:15 AM

This idea just belies an ignorance of human nature. Without religion, we'd find something else to hate each other over. Religion is not the cause of anything, just the symptom.

jd70

05/13/2006 09:33:20 AM

I agree. Ending religion will make no difference at all. Religion needs to evolve to overcome dogmatic world views which will naturally result in a more spiritual inclusive perspective. This also includes atheism as well, which can be very dogmatic in it's own right.

Heretic_for_Christ

05/13/2006 08:22:06 AM

The disappearance of religion will NOT bring about world peace. Rather, social and spiritual evolution toward peace will leave dogmatic, divisive religiosity behind.

LaJoyaMorena

05/13/2006 06:57:08 AM

Ending religion will not make people overcome their differences. Even if there were no religion, people would find something else to fight about. Like race. Or socioeconomic class. Or nationality. It's all human nature and therefore inevitable.

Cusidh

05/12/2006 08:05:10 PM

For those so disposed it's time however for a new religion to reflect changing times and values. The Bible with it's hate, violence and injustice has had it's day. Oh, there are some, already. Most just haven't been named yet, and maybe some of those with names actually jumped the gun a bit on that score. :) Bet a couple will even be known as 'Christianity.' :)

fromoz

05/12/2006 07:11:22 PM

BeerLover Please read your Bible and read the interview with Sam Harris. The Bible abounds with the hate and injustice of "God". The notion that "God" rejects bastards for the sins of their parents is unjust; the teachings that "God" creates people for dishonour and to do evil are abhorrent to me. The hatred of Jesus speaking in parables so that people would not supposedly receive his message and be saved eclipses his violence, etc etc, etc. Cultures and people create religions, and I'm sure there are now many people with good intentions foolishly hanging their love for humanity on "Christianity", not really looking into what the Bible teaches. "Religion" is OK with me if it doesn't harm the practitioners or others. For those so disposed it's time however for a new religion to reflect changing times and values. The Bible with it's hate, violence and injustice has had it's day.

Heretic_for_Christ

05/12/2006 04:28:55 PM

akbusch, I've met lots of people who call themselves atheists but are really agnostics. They don't believe in God, but neither do they make the categorical statement, "There is no god." They just see no evidence for God, and regard it as unimportant in their lives. I'd also say that many of them WILL say categorically that certain fundamentalist beliefs are clearly false, but that is not the same as saying "There is no god." They deny the existence of that chronically dyspeptic being worshipped by fundamentalists, but they have no definite opinion about the general concept of some kind of deity; they don't believe it, but neither do they deny that it is possible. Militant atheism - the absolute denial of the existence of God in any form - is unusual, and I agree that it is as dogmatic as fundamentalism. However, militant atheists can look objectively at science and history, whereas religious dogmatists cannot look objectively at ANYTHING that threatens their dogma.

Cusidh

05/12/2006 04:25:45 PM

Personally, I always found the term 'atheist' to connote disbelief in a particular sort of God, and in my 'nontheistic' period, as I called it, I didn't think 'atheist' fit. The very word seemed to accept being defined by beliefs I simply found irrelevant... not something I was defined by rejecting... In my perceptions, my spirituality and my Gods were with me all along... it was the *definitions* of what Gods and religion *were supposed to be* that had to fall away. Yes, there are immense problems with 'religion' in this world... I think religion is one of the most pernicious and retarding forces in our social development, ...but it's not about *faith.* It's about *systems of belief.* This isn't a problem of accepting or rejecting the Divine... It's about *systems of thought and belief.* (cont below)

Cusidh

05/12/2006 04:25:05 PM

See, this: Yeah. It is still fashionable to believe that how you organize yourself religiously in this life may matter for eternity. Unless we can erode the prestige of that kind of thinking, we're not going to be able to undermine these divisions in our world. It's not about whether or not there are Gods or if we have religious practices... I think these things can be good. More than that, they can work. The problems are on the much more mundane levels of what we believe, how we believe, what it means to believe, and *what *we* do with it.* Does it make us better humans, or give us an excuse to be worse at it? Cause, by the Gods, that's *the one part* anyone can know is on *us.*

akbusch

05/12/2006 03:42:24 PM

Okay, Heretic, as usual, you put it quite well and raise an excellent point. I agree that dogma (woof!) does get in the way both of creative thought and of the truth, and that our a priori assumptions determine to a great extent what we actually see. Like the old saw, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, pretty soon all you see is nails." That said, could the same not be said also of atheism, which holds the a priori assumption of what its adherents assume MUST be true, that there is no God? All of that of course begs the question: Is true objectivity really possible?

juditt77

05/12/2006 03:35:09 PM

"The G-d you don't believe in, I don't believe in either."

Heretic_for_Christ

05/12/2006 02:29:09 PM

As jd70 says, we should seek for truth and ways to find truth. Science is an obvious way to find certain kinds of truth. Spirituality is, I think, a way to find a different kind of truth. The problem with religion (defined as an organized system of beliefs usually founded on some scripture held sacred) is that it usually makes a priori assumptions about what MUST be true and MUST be false, based on its own dogma. That mindset can NEVER find truth because it isn't really looking for truth in any objective way; truth can be discovered, but it cannot be predetermined.

filmalicia

05/12/2006 01:57:51 PM

cont. ... mistakes made in the creation and practice of those religions, I should have said. I find I do this in my own life all the time -- I make certain choices, and then forget that I've made them, and suddenly I feel my life is out of my control and full of "shoulds" and "have tos" but these are really just the consequences of my own choices.

filmalicia

05/12/2006 01:55:09 PM

cont. And, speaking of Marx, he talked about an interesting concept (I'm not sure if he originated it) called Reification. He said that human beings invent Gods, and then forget they did. I love that idea. Of course, I believe in God so my take on the concept would be that human beings discerned the existence of something far greater and more meaningful than themselves and the physical world, and then invented religion to try and explain it. If we could just remember that we invented religion (but not God) then perhaps we could deal with the mistakes made in the creation of those religions.

filmalicia

05/12/2006 01:50:29 PM

As I said yesterday (see down below) I don't believe that human beings will ever do away with the need for religion. But, I've often wondered (especially since 9/11) whether we would be better off if we replaced religion with "the god of Reason." I don't think we would. First of all, how would one go about eliminating the religious? Re-education camps? Well religion simply whither away, like the Marxists once thought the State would? I don't think so. I think human beings will always need to look to something larger than themselves, and that societies that try to eliminate religion usually have to do so through totalitarian means. But they don't really eliminate it -- just drive it underground, so that it re-emerges as something like worship of Chairman Mao, or of Consumerism.

jd70

05/12/2006 01:06:14 PM

Religion in my opinion should be a vehicle for seeking the "truth". When religion claims to know the "truth" it becomes self defeating. Mr Harris makes some good points, but to limit it to religion is rediculas. Politics, athiesm, materialism, etc.. Anything that creates an egotistical bias and prevents ones own rationality from shining through is detrimental.

Landers

05/12/2006 12:18:07 PM

I disagree with Mr. Harris. Most of the violence in this world hasn't been due to religion. Political ideologies, tribal/ethnic hatreds, nationalism, imperialism, etc., has been the cause of most wars. I don't think Alexander, Ceasar, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, or Hitler were fighting wars in the name of religion. I think the core values of the majors religions are essentially the same. They all promote honesty, compassion, charity which call us to act with our higher natures. I also believe, unlike Mr. Harris, that tolerance is the answer. I would like to point out that in democratic nations where people have the right to practice the religion of their choice, there is little to no religious strive. Religion has helped transform countless millions of lives for the better. It is interesting that Mr. Harris practices a form of Buddhism and that most Buddhist would disagree with his position. I know the Dalai Lama does not agree with his position from what I have read in his books.

akbusch

05/12/2006 12:02:55 PM

You're correct, Heretic, about how relgion evolves, and also that it must. I don't think, however, that humankind will ever evolve out of its need for ritual, community and symbols, which is what religion offers. And I don't hear Harris saying that we must evolve out of religion, rather we must just plain pro-actively do away with it. And I agree that the "dinosaur" must become extinct, but it looks to me like in some quarters, at least, the more we try to convince the "dinosaur" that he must move on and evolve, the bigger, meaner and hungrier he becomes. Frightening and sad, but true, IMO.

preacher13

05/12/2006 11:14:24 AM

Harris is to some extent correct. Religion must die, however, he confuses religion and faith. Religion is a man made institution and as such is flawed. Faith is born in the heart, by the inspiration of God and thefore is perfect. We need to do away with the titles and denominations and listen to the still small voice speaking to us.

Heretic_for_Christ

05/12/2006 10:03:01 AM

It's not a question of religion "dying" but evolving. Are the dinosaurs "dead"? Or did evolution take them in a different direction to a form that looks very different now? Similarly, religion evolves. Fundamentalists HATE that idea, but it is true. Religions splinter and unite and then do it all over again in ever new patterns. Attitude toward clergy change. Even our attitudes toward God change (from primitive belief in thunder-gods to monotheistic belief in a god of retributive justice to the huge, riotous range of beliefs we see today. I think the overall evolutionary trend is away from dogmatic religiosity toward rational spirituality, and Harris seems saying that the former is what must go. Yes, it must. Evolution will see to that, for the world is too small and crowded for such a dinosaur to persist.

akbusch

05/12/2006 09:20:06 AM

A person of faith need not feel threatened by what Mr. Harris says. He says, albeit eloquently, the same kind of things that have been said for over 200 years by other cynics, skeptics and atheists. Religion has been denounced and even diagnosed to be in her "death rattle" many times, many, many years ago, and guess what--she's still here!

akbusch

05/12/2006 09:16:52 AM

A couple of thoughts: This fellow is obviously very bright, and he writes well. He also gets me thinking, which is always good. And much of what he says is true. The difference between him and me is our apriori assumptions.

tonygalli

05/12/2006 04:22:17 AM

What exactly is a "mystical" experience to one who considers rationally the highest virtue? Does he spend up to 12 hours in meditation to completley undo what he, apparently, values the most? Indeed, what does "mystical" even mean without metaphysics (and metaphysical assumptions) and how does this square with his atheism and secular understanding? Does he posit something more (above, beyond - take your pick of prefixes) than the physical universe? If so, what is this supernatural? Some kind of non space-time that physicists postulate? He has direct "contact" with it? So science validates his Zen religion of non-religion. I wonder what happens when the science of the future, that is, its new finding, paradigms, and consensus, moves on. Will he rationally change his position? Perhaps he too has assumptions that play into his interpretation of mystical experience.

shanti99

05/11/2006 10:27:38 PM

Having read the article of Sam Harris, I find I agree with most of it even though I would not want to define myself as atheist. But one must ask the question - what is an atheist? Or a better question is: What is ones concept of God - or creation. I think then the idea of being a theist is much more broad. What seems to matter is not so much what one believes, but what ones experience or reality is. Beliefs are mearly thoughts racing around in ones head. An experience is subjective and becomes the essence of knowing. A belief then is meaningless within the context of an expanded awareness. The problem is that this personal experience is subjective and cannot be shared. Words do it a huge injustice. And those such as Jesus or Buddha who do get their words in print become terribly misunderstood. But these teachings are valuable in the sense that they point the way so that you can explore and find your own experience.

LivingEZ123

05/11/2006 10:24:43 PM

(3)Torah, and Jesus if he were Jewish, endorsed sacrifice as a form of symbolic worship. The Prophet Mica speaking for God said that true religion required by God is “only to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. Among many Christians if you don’t love Jesus and believe in him as the son of God, you will be denied life after death or worse yet burn in Hell. This is love? Jesus, the Jewish man, would have been much kinder. He would have agreed with rabinic tradition that “There are righteous individual in all nations who will have a share in the World to Come (Tosefta Sanhedrin xiii,2).

revinpitts

05/11/2006 10:24:24 PM

jacknky: I quite agree that the real problem is absolutist dogmatism, which is actually an approach to life which seeks to deny mystery and to replace belief with certainty. I always cringe when people declare that they know certain articles of faith to be true (and I'm not just talking about theological discussion, here.) There are a number of things I strongly believe, and have staked my life on. But I cannot honestly say that I know them to be true. I must always be open to the possibility that my perception of truth is not the truth. To do otherwise is arrogant self-righteousness posing as piety.

LivingEZ123

05/11/2006 10:21:12 PM

(2)“Who is the mightiest of all? He who turns his enemy into a friend"(Avoth d’R. Nathan xxxiii). The irony is that gentiles turned the idea of Gods love on its head. The Church built an entire theology around a very legalistic, juristic concept of sacrifice, which was 1,200 years earlier rejected by Torah even in the criminal law. At one time it was common practice to substitute an innocent victim to die for the crimes of another. A tribal war lord could have his son executed in his place. This concept was carried into worship in pagan sacrifice.

LivingEZ123

05/11/2006 10:19:19 PM

(1) I really don’t care when the “God is Love” mantra was invented. My dog loves – is the creator of the universe a simple animal emotion? The slogan has marketing appeal. If you are an ethical monotheist in the Jewish tradition, as was Jesus, it is more accurate to say God commanded “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord (Lev. xix, 18). God spoke through his Prophet Malachi “Have we not all one Father? Has not God created us? “(Malachi ii,10). The Rabinic tradition also places great emphasis on the value of love. “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. R. Akiba said “this is the fundamental principle of the Torah” (Sifra).

BeerLover

05/11/2006 09:39:44 PM

"“God is love” is only a recent invention and a follow-on from 60’s “hippie” beliefs, As a child I was raised with the true God of the Bible, one of hate, murder and injustice." Then you must be reading a different bible than mine, fromoz. this whole "God is love" idea was NOT dreamed up by a bunch of 60's children. It goes back a lot further than that. Look at Jesus' own life. He reached out to those marginalized by the current In Crowd. When asked which was the greatest commandment, His response invoked love. Love is the central tennent of Christianity. Read the bible, you will see. Now it is true some have taken a different interpretation of the bible, but love is there. In abundance. Look at Jesus' life. It is a good pattern to follow. He reached out to those different than himself. That is a good thing.

Peaseblossom

05/11/2006 07:38:45 PM

To speak specifically of our problem with the Muslim world, we are meandering into a genuine clash of civilizations, and we're deluding ourselves with euphemisms. I wish that this wasn't true, but it is, and I'm still having a hard time admitting it to myself. As much as I love and respect Muslims, is it really only that extremists are taking parts of the Qu'ran out of context? It is more -- something inherent in the Qu'ran itself that easily allows for extremist interpretation. "Deluding myself with euphemisms" =( Harris is right...especially with the conflict with extremists and relations with the Middle East.

fromoz

05/11/2006 07:34:51 PM

And many secularists, rationalists and agnostics in my town work for Christian organisations that could not function as they do without support from those people or our secular Government. Where religions bring people together they are benign, however the extremists in many religions divide, and it's those sorts of divisive, destructive and violent religions that shouldn't be tolerated. The core teaching of many religions is that non-believers should be put to death, and that is a core belief of Christianity that has been put into practice for many centuries. At present in Indonesia Christians and Muslims are murdering each other. I can't understand people following a religion where their humanist beliefs cause them to reject much religious teaching. “God is love” is only a recent invention and a follow-on from 60’s “hippie” beliefs, As a child I was raised with the true God of the Bible, one of hate, murder and injustice.

rea_1219

05/11/2006 06:26:02 PM

While it is of course very possible to do good outside of religion or apart from religious motivation, to be accurate, many of those secular organizations are staffed with and supported by many of the faithful who feel compelled by their beliefs to work towards humanity's good.

Livindesert

05/11/2006 05:53:30 PM

"We can do all that good--and we are doing all that good--without any affiliation with religion. It's true there are Christian missionaries doing very fine work in Africa. There are secular groups like Doctors Without Borders doing the same work. They don't need to believe in Jesus coming out of the clouds in order to do that work. " I wholeheartedly agree : ) Great article b-net keep them comming : )

BillThinks4Himself

05/11/2006 04:37:52 PM

I don't mind religion as a highly-stylized, dramatic, ritualistic expression of basic ideas that are common to humanity. Show me a culture where it's okay to steal, lie to the authorities or kill, and I'll show you a society ready to fall apart. But there's no need to withdraw into ritual and myth, except for the spectacle and amusement of it. Wouldn't it be more helpful if people simply addressed their problems, in plain language and dialogue, rather than packing it all into a guilded box that can only be opened with permission?

Heretic_for_Christ

05/11/2006 04:16:00 PM

So as not to violate the rule about duplicate postings to multiple boards, I will just say that this is a fascinating topic, and I have posted a 2-part comment on the companion board about how wonderful religion is.

BlessedCelt

05/11/2006 03:34:44 PM

Religion is the form that we use to bring the greatness of God into understanding and all of the faiths, both modern and ancient, used metaphor and story to explain the unexplainable. It is less important whether Christ was a real person that what His teachings (and those of all other wise men and women) can tell us. For a wonderful introduction to the reality that all cultures and all faiths have some basis in common, read Joseph Campbell's "Hero of a Thousand Faces" and, for a wonderful weekend of this kind of conversation, join me in Atlanta at the Mythic Journeys conference in June. If it is anything like the one in 2004, it will be filled with these kinds of conversations and chances to interact with others who are open to many ways of viewing the world. You can find out more at www.mythicjourneys.org

jacknky

05/11/2006 03:25:01 PM

Actually, I'm leaving soon for a three day weekend away from a computer. Peace...

filmalicia

05/11/2006 03:13:18 PM

Thanks, jacknky. I do agree that the freedom of religion (or from religion) guaranteed in the Constitution helps to maintain our freedoms. Stephen Carter, who wrote "The Culture of Disbelief" said that those religious conservatives who feel that we are taking God out of the public arena too much often forget that freedom of religion also exists to protect religion(s) from the State. Those who would like a theocracy with their religion in charge forget that they could end up with a theocracy with someone else's religion in charge. I'd love to talk about this more at the end of the workday, but have to get back to work at the moment. I hope you can stick around or check the boards later on today.

jacknky

05/11/2006 02:41:15 PM

filmacia, Also, do you agree that it is the secular aspects of our society in the US that maintains our freedoms, not the religious? Could not the US be predominantly ANY religion and as long as it adhered to the Constitution we would be relatively free?

jacknky

05/11/2006 02:38:09 PM

filmacia, Wonderful posts. I agree that we humans will certainly have religions for a long time to come. We humans seem to be hardwired to look for supernatural explanations. I also agree that I'd rather live in a country that worshipped the Christian God than Chairman Mao. (I say Christian God because so many Muslim countries appear to be too theocratic.) I think that using Communist countries as THE example of secular societies is a bit misleading. The examples are of DOGMATIC atheism. I think the true villain in societies is dogmatism, whether religious or secular. Perhaps much of Europe today, where religion seems to be less a force than here in the US, might be better examples of secular societies.

Landers

05/11/2006 01:54:22 PM

Religion is not the cause of most of the wars throughout history. I submit that most wars in antiquity had nothing to do with religion. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, or Chinese did not engage in wars that had anything to do with religion. In modern times, it is has been no different. For instance, has the US ever been involved in a religious war? No. The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Gulf War, and the current Iraq War have nothing to do with religion. Yes, the Islamic Terrorist claim to be acting in the name of God, but that does not make what we are in a "religious" war. Atheistic Communism was responsible for the death of tens of millions. I am not saying religion has not been a cause for strife in the world, but it has not been the cause of most of the wars or suffering in the world. I feel the good far outweighs the bad when it comes to religion.

filmalicia

05/11/2006 01:51:41 PM

cont. Moreover, I believe that those who understand and appreciate religion are better-equipped to fight against religious fanatics than those who think religion and the religious should just go away and stop bothering everyone. I do definitely agree with Harris about religious moderates often being part of the problem. I think we have to be willing to fight the fanatics, and challenge those parts of religious scriptures that are being used to justify violence and religious tolerance, and I agree that we need to use reason as one of our tools to do so. But I don't think reason and appeals to reason are enough.

filmalicia

05/11/2006 01:43:34 PM

Wow. I agree with almost everything Sam Harris says about the damage that is being done in the name of religion, EXCEPT... I don't believe that humanity will ever eliminate religion or the need for religion. It seems to me that society's that are too secular are almost as toxic (and sometimes, even more toxic) as societies that are dominated by religion. North Korea, anyone? I wouldn't want to live there anymore than I'd want to live in Iran. Besides, those societies that eliminate God usually replace God with their supreme leader. I'd rather worship God than Chairman Mao, thank you very much.

rea_1219

05/11/2006 01:16:32 PM

Jack, great points!

rea_1219

05/11/2006 01:14:05 PM

But the vast majority of people arent following their religion G_isinthetv. If they did, the world really would be a better place. And religion would work - or atleast, if adherents actually did follow the teachings of the different faiths, the world would benefit (think of the effects on matters of war, poverty, disease.) Runecaster: Great posts. I also saw some weaknesses in Harris' argument. It is true that he doesnt seem to recognize the difference between culture and faith. And, he really doesnt seem to have a complete understanding of the faiths he demeans. Windsinger: He is not just addressing the "Abrahamic relgions."

reddopto

05/11/2006 01:12:37 PM

German existentialist Karl Jaspers said that there are three groups of people concerning belief: believers, unbelievers, and the faithless. The faithless don't buy into any belief system except self interest, and will follow the strongest man on either side at crunch time. He saw this as an explanation for why the Germans followed Hitler in the 1930's. True believers can cause mayhem in society and unbelievers can also. But, watch out for that mindless mob.

jacknky

05/11/2006 01:03:48 PM

One point of this article I can really relate to is that we should challenge religious beliefs when they are harmful rather than give a pass because it's a religious belief. I came to the same conclusion about Christians wanting to discriminate against homosexuals. I don't care how much they believe God condemns these people. They must be stood up to because they are doing real damage to real people. His point is true. If people say the star alignments tell them homsexuals are out of alignment and therefore not "good people" we would be more likely to challenge them. But because some adherents of the dominant religion say so we tend not to challenge them.

jacknky

05/11/2006 12:56:38 PM

Lookbeyond, "God is the author and giver of all truth....truth is a constant and does not change....only our perceptions of truth change!" Maybe but it's our perceptions that matter. Why else would there be thousands of Christian denominations and thousands of other religions?

jacknky

05/11/2006 12:54:59 PM

"There is nothing in the human soul to prevent any philosophical disposition from turning monstrous. Not even an atheist disposition is any protection, and Stalin and Pol Pot racked up the 20th century body count records to prove it." True. The real problem is dogmatism which is possible under secular rule just like religious. I think the point is the ideal we aspire to. I agree with the author that reason is the highest ideal.

Bravo88

05/11/2006 12:49:58 PM

I'm waiting for the sequel : "Atheism must end..."....

Bravo88

05/11/2006 12:38:00 PM

Sam Harris is simply "blowing smoke", even though he may not realize it; the problem is not so much with the religions as much as with those people who are the believers/practicers of those religions. There are the exceptions such as where a religion actively calls for repression or destruction of other religions or non-believers. Rationalism led in part to the world situation we are in; the idea that science was a "cure-all", that man could improve on his own, that endless progress was possible. In fact, rationalism is entirely at fault for our current rapacious attitudes; true religion advocates being a good steward of the earth and its resources.

Lookbeyond

05/11/2006 12:06:29 PM

Pure religion, undefiled will give answers to man's existence...where he came from, why he is here, and where he is going. God is the author and giver of all truth....truth is a constant and does not change....only our perceptions of truth change! When all is said and done, the "wisdom of their wisemen shall perish.."....and God will prevail, and those with sufficient faith, will prevail likewise. Good and evil will always be at odds....but good will eventually win out over evil..in spite of the anti-christs who arise! :^)

Eszie

05/11/2006 12:02:47 PM

Any form of radicalism brings trouble to the world. Religion exists to create order. The 10 commandments on which Christianity, Islam & Judaism are based, are commandments of love and respect. Whatever other radical/ignorant minds have come up with are not religion's faults. Faiths bring millions of positive things, and should not be frowned upon due to radicals & ignorants. The human race per se is aggresive. It isn't religion that makes it so. Yes, more than 6 million people died in the holocaust, let's say due to religion... but how many people died in slavery in the US? Is that due to religion? How many people died in 9/11? Compare that to how many people have been shot in the US just because people are insane & aggresive? Don't blame religion. Blame the intrinsic faults of the human race.

dplatt

05/11/2006 11:59:19 AM

The fact is that everything he says could also be said about language or ethnicity. The greatest mass murderer in teh world is not a person at all but the idea of tribalism, which transcends religion.

dplatt

05/11/2006 11:57:03 AM

I read a review in which someone said that if everyone stopped believing in God, the world would be a better place, and especially said that George W. should read this book. I think this is hopelessly naive. Suppose Bush gave up his fundamentalism for an entirely materialist point of view. That probably wouldn't change his view that the U.S. must dominate the world (and it would definitely not change the fact that the Middle East controls a heck of a lot of oil).

Mastorn

05/11/2006 11:05:58 AM

Wow, a b-net main article I agree with. However, I would also include fundamentalist materialism as one of the religions which needs to be done away with. Amen.

sagenav

05/11/2006 11:05:45 AM

kwinters: Whatever you believe to be the Truth about our human existence should not be thrust upon others. Many believe their faith to be deeper than a social construction. Using that kind of language does nothing to bridge the gap, but instead widens it. I'll wager that there are many things that you feel that you cannot explain, or that you explain them and experience them differently than someone else. As you can tell, this is why I'm Unitarian Universalist. I believe that there are many ways to enlightenment, and no one faith or belief systems has a monopoly on that.

rbethell

05/11/2006 10:54:27 AM

kwinters: what you personally believe to be obvious, and what actually IS obvious are not synonymous. To claim God to be completely without evidence is, I am afraid, to far overclaim. Scientists would not have as many handwringing solutions to the teleological problem (such as the anthropic principles) if it were not so.

rbethell

05/11/2006 10:52:25 AM

This man is as much a fundamentalist as Pat Robertson. Even the softball and friendly questions lobbed at Harris don't hide that. There is nothing in the human soul to prevent any philosophical disposition from turning monstrous. Not even an atheist disposition is any protection, and Stalin and Pol Pot racked up the 20th century body count records to prove it. Rather than deifying "reason" (which in truth is only a small part of the human experience), lets permit those who truly indulge the "experiences like that are very interesting and worth exploring" to take those experiences to where they really believe them to lead. Lets let people believe what they believe, without assumine we're right, and they are not.

KWinters

05/11/2006 10:48:25 AM

It's not about thinking you know the truth, its be honest enough to admit that religions are just another social construction created by humans. There are no gods, and no evidence of gods. People should based their lives on what is real, not - as religions ask us to do - believe something which is obviously just imaginary.

sagenav

05/11/2006 10:34:46 AM

The problem with Harris is that he falls into the same trap as those fundamentalists he condemns. Like fundamentalists he believes that everyone should think and act like he does, and then the world will be a better place. Well, I say to him the same thing I say to fundamentalists: Be aware of anyone who claims to know the Truth, for they are either lying or are deceived.

winterstar

05/11/2006 10:25:52 AM

Clearly the real danger, which the author pinpoints with deadly accuracy, is literalism. For thsoe with an understanding of any religious belief system as symbolic, as a pattern of metaphors referring to the forces of the human pysche, rather than the outside universe, there's much less danger of falling into this absolutist & simplistic mindset. But people have to be educated & aware of such nuances, and all too many are reluctant to give up the comfort of a rigid, unbending belief in order to get past their own insecurities & fears -- which they always seem to take out on some other group.

darnay3

05/11/2006 10:16:37 AM

I actually agree with Mr. Harris a great deal, but he's shamefully wrong on one major point. Not all Christians take the Bible literally. He, among all people, should know that literal readings of any religious text are the lowest form of reading and interpretation. These texts can, should and must be read sacramentally, metaphorically and liturgically. Anyone who does so would not find any reason to use religion as a weapon against other religions. He is dead-on, tho, about the fact that fundamentalists continue to use childish readings of these traditions in horrofying ways. But to continue to paint all Christians (or Muslims, or Jews, etc...) with that brush is his mistake, not religion's.

WillSea

05/11/2006 10:08:02 AM

This is like asking if the world would be any better without fire? The problem is not with fire or with religion. The problem is with HOW IT'S USED. Both can be destructive and can get seriously out of control. Both require dry combustible material, an accelerant and a spark. There are arsonists in both. The power and laws that govern both are misunderstood by laymen (ask a firefighter for stories about how people are stupid around fire!). And burn as they might, people keep coming back to them, and doing the same stupid things with them. Both fire and religion can provide comfort, can be used to create beautiful things, can light our darkness. But they have to be used conscientiously. But the greatest comparison between religion and fire is that no ones is any better than anyone else's, they all can burn as bright or as destructively as anyone else's.

sagenav

05/11/2006 10:07:52 AM

This may have already been said, but Atheists have caused their own fair share of misery, just in the 20th century take a look at Stalin and Mao Zedong. I don't think faith needs to be eradicated. What I do think is that people need to stop using faith as a tool to promote exclusion, greed and power. When this is accomplished universal faith will be a positive component in the world.

kauko15

05/11/2006 09:17:54 AM

I think its so arbitrary to dump all the problems of the world on religion and claim that we need to abandon it. I think that most will admit that a lot of bad has been done in the name of politics/ gov't, yet I don't hear Harris advocating anarchy. The whole religion-is-evil argument is simplistic and doesn't take into account what the real problems of the world are.

LivingEZ123

05/11/2006 09:16:01 AM

(3) Judaism never was literal. There are no “literal interpreters” of Torah in Judaism. The written Torah itself makes reference to the existence of the oral Torah and assumes it is known by the reader. Jewish rules of legal interpretation only allow rational argument. No normative decisions can be based on mysticism or the testimony of miracles. Once God gave Moses the Torah, its development was intended to be entirely in human hands. The decision of the majority of judges is the normative practice. There is an essential balance in life. Steinsaltz, a modern interpreter of Judaism has taught that “the essence of Jewish life is a rhythmic oscillation between the worlds of both mind and emotion; between feeling and devotion in prayer to critical questioning in Torah study and back again. There is no conflict between mind and emotion. They both serve as passages to God. In both the ascent to God and the descent to matter there is holiness.”

hotdoggie

05/11/2006 09:15:38 AM

The world is a scarier enough place now without eliminatinating faith. We surely need something to believe in and I can not think of anything more comforting than faith and trusting in God.

LivingEZ123

05/11/2006 09:15:25 AM

(2) Judaism is an “historic” religion. Written Torah reflects reform for its time and was always supplemented by oral teaching and interpretation. In Judaism both the written and oral law derive their authority from the Divine revelation at Sinai. The written Torah is a “constitution”, establishing rules for interpretation as well as who has authority for interpretation and administration of the legal system. Judaism has been developed and continues to be developed by religious authorities. The key word is “authorities’.

LivingEZ123

05/11/2006 09:13:20 AM

(1)“On the subject of religious belief, we relax standards of reasonableness and evidence that we rely on in every other area of our lives. We relax so totally that people believe the most ludicrous propositions, and are willing to organize their lives around them. There is no text more barbaric than the Old Testament of the Bible--books like Deuteronomy and Leviticus and Exodus. The Qur'an pales in comparison.” I would agree with Harris that reason is of high value and that some rather ridicules notions are clung to because they were indoctrinated on “faith”. There is, however, no such thing in Judaism as “the Old Testament”. The mere fact that he uses the term is indicative of his ignorance of Judaism.

hootie1fan

05/11/2006 09:10:13 AM

I'd like to add that while I consider myself to be religious, I don't think that religion is necessary for a person to be good.

hootie1fan

05/11/2006 09:08:39 AM

We have confused the public declaration of faith with actually living the faith. So much of the bad in faith/religion comes from people who not only don't lead a faithful life, but who try to force their public version of religion on everyone else. You don't have to tell me what a religious and faithful person you are. If I don't know from the way you are, then I doubt that you ever were in the first place.

Usonido

05/11/2006 08:19:32 AM

This is the same old nonsense. First he sets up a straw man by claiming the right to interpret your religion for you. This is your belief whether you believe it or not. Then he shows that the belief that you didn't know you believed is wrong. Then he offers the solution that if everybody identified with his culture and beliefs there would be no problem. This is neither a new idea nor a useful one. It's just a new variation on the on true faith idea.

god_is_in_the_tv

05/11/2006 08:14:19 AM

You miss my point, rea. There has been religion since... well, since there's been civilization. Since the beginning, man has tried to use the great heeba-jeeba in the sky to scare people into being good. What I'm saying is, it didn't work then and it ain't working now. Not because peopel aren't following the religion, but because the religion, itself, is a bunch of hooey.

softsilk

05/11/2006 08:13:42 AM

I am the first to say that the madness of killing in the name of any religion must stop. I am also equally quick to say that one of the primary tenets of Christianity is to forgive those who harm us countless times (70 x 7) for anyone to suggest that that radical concept is dangerous, inconsequential, or equivalent to a tooth-fairy belief is to miss the entire point on which Christianity turns: it is NOT about being right; it is about DOING the right thing show me a secular humanist who cares as sincerely for his or her neighbor than s/he does for her/himself and I’ll show you a Christian wannabe who just hasn’t heard the call yet is your heart truly open to the radical love that is G-d? M.

softsilk

05/11/2006 08:13:11 AM

I think faith is a tricky business the first thing to see in the trickiness of faith is that it is pure gift it is not a feeling it is an awareness why is faith deposited with some and not with others? why are some Christians while others have different faiths? who can know the ways of G-d? to realize that someone does not possess faith, of any sort, should make us more tolerant. we have an understanding that is simply not available to them to read the words of an atheist is to understand first that they do not have faith, or an awareness that which we do have we know something palpably different from them it should not be a surprise then that atheists think that religion should be done away with they are behaving and thinking with integrity based on the information that they do have at hand how else could they be? con't next frame...

Windsinger

05/11/2006 07:47:05 AM

Sure, Abrahamic religion must go. But let it die the death it is already dying.

Bidar

05/11/2006 07:30:23 AM

Again, we see the usual arguments that religion only causes people to be ignorant while killing other people who believe differently. Religion has done violent things, there is no denying that. Also, such texts as the Qu'ran and the Bible do have commands that are hard to understand in today's light. As Christian, I can point out the things that seem hard by today's belief systems. However, I look at what is called 'rationalism' and I don't see much of an improvement. To be 'rational' doesn't mean you are only going to be doing good things. It would see that no matter what, no one can be 'rational' in a perfect sense.

Runecaster95

05/11/2006 07:06:37 AM

I thought this man was making some valid points until he equated honour killings with Islamic theology. There are two hadith that explicitly condemn such killings. In one narration, Muhammad cries and says to the father who has murdered a daughter, "How can you expect to receive mercy if you have never shown it?" Honour killings are a cultural evil. They are prevalent in some Hindu and Sikh communities too. And women's rights agencies in Jordan have noted that a significant minority of victims come from Jordanian Catholic families. If you can't distinguish between culture and religion, then you're argument is flawed.

Runecaster95

05/11/2006 07:06:15 AM

Like Muslim extremists, Harris translates the word 'kaafir' as 'non-Muslim'. It actually means 'one who is ungrateful to God'. Under its proper translation, there are kaafir Muslims and kaafir non-Muslims. Linguistically, the Qur'an does not promote the violent us-and-them mentality that extremists have made their own. I write this not as a Muslim, but as a Roman Catholic girl who has, as Harris advises, read the book - but read it in its original language.

Zero-Equals-Infinity

05/11/2006 06:46:07 AM

The Old Testament God is a psychotic monster, but he's OUR psychotic monster. It is almost unavoidable when reading some parts of the Old Testament to find an image of God forming who is tribal, jealous, intolerant, and extremely violent.

DRE013

05/11/2006 05:31:42 AM

BTW- I pray for Richard Dawkins. May he be forgiven for his statement referring to the Old Testament God as being a "phsyhcotic monster!"

DRE013

05/11/2006 05:23:08 AM

It saddens me to think, as of this date 5/11 5:26 AM that 36% of the people who took this poll think we would be better off without religion!This is what is precisely wrong with Mr. Harris and others who don't believe. Perhaps IF they believed in some being and/or HAD religion in their lives, then maybe he would think differently. I realize he practices Zen, but ho does he think is attributed to those "mystical experiences" he has?

Livindesert

05/11/2006 05:20:40 AM

revpitts "By all means, challenge religion when evil is committed in it's name. But history does not indicate atheism is the cure. " I see your point but you are misguided. Religious and Atheistic regimes have killed people to push their agendas. Humans are human. We do human things one of which is kill. A world lived on natures rules would be a horrible place to live. That is why todays Atheists generally are Humanists. We see the world and realize we can make it a better place now unlike some Atheists of the past and many religous people. We see how the world operates and want to trump nature and try to work together to make the world a better place. What we do not need are people making up laws using mythology. If you want to believe in weird things do it just stop making laws based on it.

rea_1219

05/11/2006 02:51:22 AM

G_isintheTV, You really think religion is to blame for mans inability to be 'good'?? "Religion would tell you it's because people are inherently flawed in some way. A more simpler and more rational explanation for the lack of good in the world is that religion simply doesn't work." No, thats not it. Unfortunately. Though I would agree that is definitely a "more simpler" ;) explanation. (hehe, sorry, couldnt resist, though Ive written some very messy emails when sleepy myself!) I think people are much more comlicated than to be made "good" by the absence, or the presence, of religion. In fact, the idea that people and religions are either "good" or "bad" is also too deceptive, though it would make life much more simple.

ganapatikamesh

05/11/2006 12:33:02 AM

Seems to me that he isn't really for all religions to end. His attacks are definately aimed at Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. He never mentions Hinduism, Buddhism (which he seems to practice some Zen aspects of), Paganism, etc. He is revealing a bias. He makes some valid points, but none that would make me denounce Hinduism and declare myself an Atheist. Taking a note from Hinduism I will simply accept that this is his perspective, his approach, but realize that all of us are unique individuals who experience life differently and therefore interpret things differently; most especially on matters of religion. "Truth is one, though humanity calls it by different names." Rig Veda.

gerald_ford

05/11/2006 12:31:37 AM

Though a Buddhist myself, I think this guy's statements are only geared Western religions. We do have a devotional side to Buddhism as well (something Westerners usually overlook), with all the trappings of "religion", but the dynamic is still different. If there is a problem, it's with the Abrahamic religions only. The rest of us tend to get along better (though not always). ;p

andrewcyrus

05/11/2006 12:09:51 AM

Christ forgave his enemies - he didn't war against, unfortunately we have "leaders in high places" who commit mass atrocities in the name of God. It's easy to understand why there are atheists in the world. But to truly know Christ - risen meant that the disciples saw something better than this earth and heaven in JESUS. They came out of their hiding to share JESUS risen and his kingdom to come. A faith that was marked by their own martydom, and observation sealed in their own blood. the atheist see only his own self filled limited life in a world that he thinks exists to serve his own impulses. It's an empty dish of hopelessness.

god_is_in_the_tv

05/11/2006 12:07:41 AM

Jeebus - did I just type "more simpler???" Time to go to bed :)

god_is_in_the_tv

05/11/2006 12:07:08 AM

Are we so sure we know how to be good without religion's help? I think that's exactly the point. Religion has been telling us "how to be good" since religion began, and it hasn't worked. Religion would tell you it's because people are inherently flawed in some way (because of some mythological altercation with a snake and a piece fo fruit in Judeo-Christianland). A more simpler and more rational explanation for the lack of good in the world is that religion simply doesn't work. If a business was being run by principles that were proved time and time again to be not only ineffectual but downright counterproductive, the management would be fired and a replacement found post haste. Perhaps it's time for a change in "management?"

revinpitts

05/11/2006 12:04:12 AM

I do humanitarian mission work in the former USSR. I am a Christian, but never make conversion a condition for receiving whatever help I can render. If Mr. Harris wishes to speak of "psychotic monsters" he might look to the rulers of atheistic regimes like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. who perpetrated over 100 million deaths in the name of their "enlightened" doctrines. I have seen the lingering and profound damage they have left. By all means, challenge religion when evil is committed in it's name. But history does not indicate atheism is the cure.

andrewcyrus

05/11/2006 12:04:01 AM

I feel that emptiness in Sam Harris. A misconception of Christ, and his true followers. The promise of forgiveness, and it's daily application in the life of those who correctly divide God's word. Anyone can take scripture an contradict other scripture, but the gift of truth is to know which the time and circumstance that each scripture applies to, thus there is harmony in the bible not the contradiction of not led by the spirit of truth.

Frunkvanwinkle88

05/10/2006 11:58:08 PM

It's impossible to condemn all religion because there is extremism in everything. Most people who do those sorts of bad things in the name of religion aren't religious they use religion as a means to gain power. There are always going to be those people who have faith because it allows them to do good things. It gives them something to believe in. Granted religion is not rooted in logic, neither is atheism because it can only account for what is logical and not everything makes logical sense.

SeaWA

05/10/2006 11:16:52 PM

Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Because of that statement, I am persuaded that we should not put our faith into somebody that was seen, heard, or touched, as Christ was. John the Baptist proclaimed that Christ is the "Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world." That was Christ's primary objective. Regarding Christians pushing their belief system throughout the world, it did not need to happen. Because Christ's mission was a success, anybody anywhere can seek God, the One that sent Christ. Do you need a formula or a secret prayer? NO. You need faith and sincerity. Faith in God, as you understand God. You know that inner place that you go to for serenity? God is there. The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.

logophilios

05/10/2006 11:01:31 PM

Harris is far from being a "standard" atheist. He sees great value in spirituality and spiritual seeking. He values the meditative traditions. He may not believe in a "personal god", but he does not put any limits on the potential "god-state" of the human spirit, or on "Enlightenment". As the Buddha was said to have been, Harris is not so much a-theist as he is non-theist. Most of what he says is important, true, and thought-provoking. If this is "atheism", let us have more of it.

NightLad

05/10/2006 10:38:40 PM

Personally, I’d argue for a rationally based freedom of Faith – all faiths – in our modern and ever changing world. Because, like it or not, faith in a Divinity (or plethora thereof) is an important part of most peoples lives. It always has been, and always will be. Instead of speculating what a world without faith might be like, I prefer to deal with the reality which we all must inhabit together. For better… or worse. That is why I try to propose freedom of and to religious belief… as long as those freedoms extend to everyone, and nobody seeks to oppress anyone else using their beliefs as justification. As for a moral compass; if you need to read in a book that killing is wrong, that slavery is wrong, that murder is wrong and that theft is wrong before you know these things on your own… wow.

Strigoica23

05/10/2006 10:18:29 PM

If there wasn't religion, humanity would think up another set of boxes to divide us and make us feel safer in an essentially scary universe.

Livindesert

05/10/2006 10:07:07 PM

Merlock "And the fact is, if the moral lessons came easily from the mind, religion probably would never have bothered mentioning them, or wouldn't exist at all." Religion comes from the mind of man also. I am not concerned about the next life. I am concerned about making a Heaven on Earth now.

windbender

05/10/2006 09:14:21 PM

"The reality is that the system that puts more food on my plate than I can eat has nothing to do with putting food on the plate of a person in Africa." It damned well should.

Jstanl

05/10/2006 09:12:15 PM

"We just have to believe that it is unethical that people are starving to death while we are throwing out half of our meals." This is what passes for rational thinking to a secularist. The reality is that the system that puts more food on my plate than I can eat has nothing to do with putting food on the plate of a person in Africa. If we all cut our food consumption in the US in half, soon the food production and distribution system that supplies our tables would be producing only half as much food. That might eventually prove to have a negative effect in Africa. What would help Africa would be to transfer agricultural knowledge and technology to Africa. The only thing preventing this now is African politics, not religion. Jim

Jstanl

05/10/2006 09:00:44 PM

This man believes in mystycism but not God. That's a non-sequitur.

Merlock

05/10/2006 08:38:07 PM

Livindesert--- I disagree with you because, the fact is, most people don't think we're supposed to wait for God or Jesus or whatever to fix the world; we think that the world won't be PERFECTED until then, but anyone who REALLY reads the Bible knows you're supposed to be making the world better to prepare. And the fact is, if the moral lessons came easily from the mind, religion probably would never have bothered mentioning them, or wouldn't exist at all. I think the state of the world proves they don't. Mr. Harris is right about one thing---you're never going to find that giant diamond. But just about every time I look for it, I find a little shard of diamond---a tiny, precious piece. Right now I'm working on collecting them all together, to cash them in at the end of my life. God bless!

Livindesert

05/10/2006 08:32:24 PM

"Do unto others" comes from the Human mind. We all know that a cruel and unfair world is bad but it is the way it is. As humans we realize the potental that the world has. We make the world a better place through human action. Not stitting on our hands waiting for a Houdini in the sky to wave his wand and make the world a better place. When you realize your potental has no limits you can change the world. Great article b-net keep it comming : )

Merlock

05/10/2006 08:02:12 PM

I disagree with Mr. Harris for a few reasons: 1.) Are we so sure we know how to be good without religion's help? I mean, if people know to do unto others what they would have done to them automatically, why aren't we doing it already? 2.) On the same note, the point of religion is to tell us what's right and wrong. A lot of people think that now that society has different opinions, that invalidates religion. I'm not saying we should stone people, but I don't believe God instantly changes His Mind when Congress changes a law. 3.) Religion can be rational. I've heard a lot of rational explanations for there being a God. Apparently, lots of physicists become religion after studying their field for a long time, because they become convinced that there must be an Intelligence that created all those particles and atoms in such perfect working order. (If you really think about it, does it make sense that "rationalists" assume the world came out of meaningless, random chaos?) Continued...

seeker36

05/10/2006 07:40:09 PM

read this bloke's book & i did find myself broardly agreeing with him.I feel uncomfortable with feeling this way because i want Islam to be "nice", but the truth is that I find it a horrifyingly narrow & bigoted religion.(With the possible exception of sufism). My perception of Christianity is that it is a little more compassionate, but even here my view is that the central doctrine is sadomasochistic & absurd(God gets creation wrong & then tortures himself for his cock up). This said i disagreed with his views on torture.

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