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Harris writes, "and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever."
These authors have no geopolitical strategy to advance; they're interested in the metaphysics of belief, not the politics of the First Amendment. It's the idea of putting trust in God they object to, not the motto on the nickel.
I loved the article! And i was drawn to the same two quotes you mentioned.
Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever."[/b]
I find this to be so true and so depressing. Some creationists or Biblical literalists take classes to learn how to debate people who question the Bible. You'd think this would be a form of them "looking for evidence" but, instead, they just "learn" how to answer the questions posed by science, etc.
These authors have no geopolitical strategy to advance; they're interested in the metaphysics of belief, not the politics of the First Amendment. It's the idea of putting trust in God they object to, not the motto on the nickel[/b]
Someone should inform the news of this. Faux news continually brings up these seemingly petty debates (Christmas, "happy holidays", "in god we trust", the pledge, etc) and they go at the story from the angle that the debate is about the phrase or slogan or saying...they dumb it down so far that it becomes comical instread of an issue worthy of discourse.
taking jm breaks if you don't see me around much
I love Sam Harris. I really need to get his last two books "The End of Faith" and "A Letter to a Christian Nation". He was on the Infidel Guy show last Friday. You can download the interview for free until the next show on Wednesday: Infidel Guy Podcast
Sam Harris recently wrote a commentary on Francis Collin's book. I highly recommend reading it. If you don't know who Francis Collins is, he is the director of the Human Genome Project. His book is about his conversion to Christianity and it is full of absurdities and fallacies.
Here are some edited comments I put together for another thread that talk about Sam Harris' opinions on why religion is generally bad for society. I thought it might be of interest:
What is better for society? An open dialog that is reality based? Or religious dogma that compartmentalizes people into separate moral communities of Christians, against Muslims, against Jews, etc. Most of the human population believes that a creator of the universe wrote their religious text, and these texts make incompatible claims about the Universe and the claims are non-negotiable? Oh, and it is also taboo to question these religious claims.
22% of Americans are certain that Jesus will come out of the clouds like a superhero in their lifetime, another 22% think he "probably" will come back in their lifetime. That means 44% of Americans think the human experience will unravel in their lifetime. That also means that 44% of Americans believe God literally promised the land of Israel to the Jews. This means that almost 1/2 of Americans believe no matter how bad things get, a mystical God will come down and correct all the problems and misdeeds taking place on the Earth. 44% of Americans support teaching religious absurdities such as Intelligent Design in biology classes, despite the fact that it is completely unscientific. 53% of Americans are creationists and believe that Adam and Eve were created from dirt and divine breath 6000 years ago, in a garden, with a talking snake and a desire for apples. This is absurd and refuted by thousands of pieces of scientific evidence across all disciplines of science.
Over 1 billion people in the world support Catholic dogma that says a person should not use condoms to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. They would rather see 3 million people die every year in Africa than have them use a condom, and they call that "moral". This is genocidal stupidity propagated by religion. Such policies put forth by a secular organization would be laughed at, yet from a religious organization it is accepted with little fanfare.
Stem cell research is being held back because of religious beliefs. A 3 day old embryo consists of 150 unorganized cells which is nothing compared to the one hundred thousand cells in a fly's brain when you swat it. An embryo has no nervous system, consumes no resources, it is just a bunch of duplicate cells. Religious faith teaches that this fertilized egg contains a soul, and that it is sacred, and that this determination is non-negotiable. You cannot sacrifice one "soul" to save another. Every time you scratch your nose, you kill more cells than exist in an embryo. The other side of the issue is tens of millions of people, suffering terrible afflictions, that could benefit from stem cell research. Does this matter? No, religious metaphysics has blinded people to normal ethical intuitions.
Faith trumps rational arguments. Faith is the license that religious people give one another to keep believing in the absence of evidence. This is unacceptable in every other area of our lives. If someone said that Poseidon was the real God, most people would see that as an absurdity, but that is because most people are not raised with that belief. Yet, Biblegod, or whatever god someone believes in, is just accepted by its basic assumptions.
This taboo that prevents religious criticism also prevents criticism of fundamentalism that causes people to fly planes into buildings. If you don't want your own faith views questioned and criticized, it is hard to support questioning and criticizing other people's faith views. It is easy to look at these terrorists as backwards thinking religious fanatics, but the reality is these were educated individuals that believe their version of God is reality based and they were doing exactly what their god desired. Perhaps such thinking was not that bad as you said. After all, most people don't hurt others in the name of their god, but the thinking that supports these beliefs leads to madmen doing dangerous things. This is no longer an issue of a car bomb here and there, we are now talking about terrorists having nuclear capabilities to gain God's favor by destroying all of the infidels. We are talking about the end of life as we know it. Religious war needs to be made unthinkable by undermining the dogma of faith. Beliefs that are sanctified by religious faith need to go away, and if you are not part of the solution, you are likely part of the problem.
It is time that religion be assessed critically and questioned seriously. It is time for society to think rationally and face the reality that were are here without a god looking over us. We need to take care of our planet, we need to think seriously about the future that our children and grandchildren will inherit. Luckily, religion evolves and Christianity and Judaism have moved away from many of the terrible actions that resulted in the Old Testament where God was clearly not a moderate, but a fundamentalist. God makes Osama look like a saint. Your child talks back to you, kill them, homosexuals, kill them, neighbor working on the Sabbath, kill them, your new wife was not a virgin, kill her, see someone praying to a foreign God, kill him and his family, kill fornicators, kill adulterers. The list goes on and on. And there are Christian Reconstructionists that want these "laws" brought back!
Religious dogma stops us from seeking better solutions to the problems of humanity, and results in sticking with taboo and religious superstition. It prevents us from developing rational alternatives to religion. It is important that we, as a society, determine what is best for us, and not some 2000 year old book. We need to determine what is good for society now, and what is bad, and not wait for this supposed God to tell us. If the Bible is the best book we have for moral questions, then we are in deep trouble. For example, slavery is an abomination. Society has determined that. The Bible supports slavery. It was incredibly immoral and we now recognize that. If someone truly believes the Bible is the world of God, then you have to accept that slavery is a good thing (just don't beat your slave to death).
Either you have a good reason for your beliefs or you have bad reasons. Every religion makes "factual" claims about reality and the way the world is. Religion does not demand good reasons. In all other areas of life, we demand good reasons for core beliefs, but religious claims are accepted at face value based on a "feeling". Feelings are often a horrible way to assess reality.
(portions of this response were paraphrased or directly copied from Sam Harris' talk at the Seminar for Long-Term Thinking: SALT)