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Sam Harris, Andrew Sullivan, Jonathan Kirsch Debate Religious Tolerance

Posted on Oct 6, 2006
Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan

Sam Harris, left, and Andrew Sullivan explore the differences in their religious-philosophical worldviews in an Oct. 3 KCRW (Santa Monica public radio) show.

Three of the country’s leading religious intellectuals—Truthdig contributor Sam Harris, author and blogger Andrew Sullivan, and author Jonathan Kirsch—engage in a spirited KCRW radio discussion about whether the world’s major religions are truly compatible.

  • Check out Sam Harris columns and essays (scroll down) published originally in Truthdig
  • Check out Harris’ new book, “Letter to a Christian Nation”


  • Check out Andrew Sullivan’s new book, “The Conservative Soul”

  • Check out Jonathan Kirsch’s new book, “A History of the End of the World”

  • KCRW:


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    Are the world’s major religions truly incompatible? KCRW General Manager Ruth Seymour talks with authors Sam Harris, Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Kirsch about the philosophy of religion in today’s modern world.

      * Sam Harris: Author
      * Andrew Sullivan: Author and web blogger
      * Jonathan Kirsch: Author and book-review columnist


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    By Mossada, July 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Andrew Sullivan is just sucking up to the Bushites so he can get his US Citizenship. NO amount of trailer park double talking verbage is beneath his desire for Neocon approval. A true cheerleader for the born again 9-11 Republicans.

    If a shallow contrary mud slinger like Sullivan can pass judgment, tell out and out lies about one of the finest intellects in the world, namely,  Noam Chomsky, then it is obvious he is hoping his servile groveling might score points with the powers that be.

    Good Luck Mr Sullivan.  Maybe if you Kiss Mr Cheney´s Haliburton ring often enough, it might help in your application for citizenship.

    Report this

    By Reed Richards, October 19, 2006 at 7:55 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)


    All organized religions are full of bunk and bull.  Christian nuts, Islamic Nuts, Judais’ nuts, Buddhist Nuts, all are rightwing fanatics hell bent on destroying mankind threw brainwashing via religious extremism.  Even Karl Rove realizes that Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and company are “the nuts and fanatics”.  These people are being used as they should be, being dumb enough to think that Republicans lunatics are going to outlaw abortion when they have no intention of doing so.

    Religion has killed more people than war itself ever has and until people understand this, they will continue to kill each other for no good reason and doom themselves to eteranl damnation on earth…..............

    Report this

    By Broiler, October 9, 2006 at 8:51 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    “Unfortunately, this concept has ruled human civilization for 10,000 years, instituted for the masses by ruling classes.  This means everyone is infected.  That includes atheists.

    Comments railing against religion show this, and do not bring out the best in us.  If God does not exist, if religion is a fantasy—then why are atheists so upset about it?  Because they are still infected with religious thinking—that ideas determine reality, that religion can determine reality.” - Vera

    Atheists are not infected by religion. They have
    to live in a world where religion seemingly rules.
    (For point of reference, raised and until recently
    practicing Catholic here. I’ve seen both sides.)
    If the religious right can affect the laws we live
    with and under, the atheists fall under the same blanket.
    The atheist is further punished believing that any of
    us has only one life and that life is being frittered
    away by the fantasy world of organized religion.

    Religion is only a veil for materialism but while
    the veil dominates the view, the brainwashed never
    see the wizard behind the curtain. My guess is that
    when reality and not religion dominates our nightly
    news that is when atheists will not be upset about it.

    Check this article out on the ABC news site.
    With all that is happening in our world this
    is what passes for news. God in a chocolate bar.
    (I think it looks more like a parakeet but
    who worships parakeets?)
    What could possibly be upsetting knowing that
    the same folks venerating the chocolate have a
    voting influence on your life. “Our Lady of the
    Heavenly Confection” came to me in a dream and
    told me to vote for…

    Report this

    By joe, October 9, 2006 at 8:35 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    to moslems,

    from the state of the world it could be inferred that god favors the western infidels. what does the religion of islam say about this?

    just curious

    Report this

    By Vera, October 9, 2006 at 1:29 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    You want to know what is the rock-bottom basis of religious thinking?  It is the idea that ideas determine reality.  God is the Ultimate Idea that created all of material reality.

    Unfortunately, this concept has ruled human civilization for 10,000 years, instituted for the masses by ruling classes.  This means everyone is infected.  That includes atheists.

    Comments railing against religion show this, and do not bring out the best in us.  If God does not exist, if religion is a fantasy—then why are atheists so upset about it?  Because they are still infected with religious thinking—that ideas determine reality, that religion can determine reality.

    People should check out Materialism, the true atheism.  Following are materialist analyses:  Phenomena like the religious right are political phenomena, not religious.  Arab fundamentalism is not the cause of Anti-Westernism, the oppression of the Arab peoples by Western imperialism is.  The battle in Northern Ireland is not one of Catholics vs. Protestants, but of the fight for Irish self-determination.  The Inquisition was conducted for political purposes as was the persecution of scientists—all to uphold and advance the ruling classes of the time.

    Religion is only a trapping, an organizing tool for certain interests.  Faith has no inherent power.  Let us atheists realize that, and stop believing in religion!  Politics, the material world, is what operates.  Politics is what counts.  We should politically organize for defense of democratic rights, and link up with religious forces (who are the majority!) in an alliance to protect democracy.

    By being religious—anti-religious—we shoot ourselves in the foot.  Let’s abandon anti-religion and become true atheists—Materialists. It’s the only way we can build a new world truly governed by reason, solidarity and science. If anyone desires to discuss this political take on atheism further, please email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  I would prefer only those people serious about human liberation to contact me.  Thank you.

    Report this

    By VC, October 8, 2006 at 9:06 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    The one thing all religions have in common is that they all suck as they’re all based upon primitive irrational nonsense which truly has no sane or logical place in modern society.

    It’s interesting that an islamic nut would whine about their idiotic beliefs being attacked, the same beliefs which are responsible for planes being flown into buildings, countless suicide bombings, jihads, fatwas, incomprehensible sexism, xenophobia and basically wanting convert the world to wackadoo islam by any means (usually violent means) necessary. That’s not to say that christianity and judaism are any better, they’re not. The difference is we generally have laws based upon SECULAR principles whereas islamic countries do not.

    Frankly all believers of christianity, judaism, islam and the rest are stupid fools who are blinding themselves to reason, logic and common sense and deserve each other. Why can’t you stupid nuts keep your stupid beliefs to yourselves ?

    Report this

    By Fadel Abdallah, October 7, 2006 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Comment #27529 by Paul King on 10/07

    Thank you Paul King for being a rational and free thinker individual. I could not have said it better in defense of my faith when being attacked by faithless people or brain-washed fundamintalist Christians and Jews. You said it very well when you stated, “The panel would have been better informed if there was an Islamic scholar present… it was disheartening to hear them make pronouncements on Islam that were entirely false.”

    These are days when ignorance is rampant, irrational hate is deep-seated and sought for scapegoting, and most people in power and the media are in a state of denial about their own shortcomings and evil ways. These are times of insecurity when leaders and people seek scapegoating in an imagined big enemy, and the enemy was made to be Islam. But what can you expect when a nation is led by a drunk behind the wheel, who is in a state of denial about his intoxication?!

    That’s why when I come across a person of reason like you, I feel consoled. Thank you again for consoling my soul , and most importantly, for saying the truth!

    Report this

    By Paul King, October 7, 2006 at 5:40 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    The panel would have been better informed if there was an Islamic scholar present. Although I share many of the ideas stated by the participants, it was disheartening to hear them make pronouncements on Islam that were entirely false.

    Andrew Sullivan, a self identified Christian, begins from a premise that only Christianity is “true” and overlooks many of the very same “problems” in the Old and New Testaments that he is very happy to attribute to Islam.

    Having Mr. Sullivan explain what Muslims believe is like having a right-wing Republican explain what Democrats believe. 

    The Muslim world has been trying to overcome decades of colonialism and neocolonialism and Islam is used as a rallying cry for unity and motivation in that struggle.

    If a Muslim army had invaded the U.S.A. with the purpose of colonizing America, enslaving the population, and so on, I think Americans would form an insurgency and Christianity would be used as a unifying ideology and motivation for many to fight against those invaders. I do not think one would hear much admonition to “turn the other cheek.”

    Report this

    By Vania Doige, October 6, 2006 at 10:29 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    In my point of view, religion should be something that people can believe or not, can use as spiritual suport or not but it should not have anything to do with politics. In reality, if we take all the religions away, I think the world would be much more peaceful.

    Report this

    By toc, October 6, 2006 at 6:05 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Why would you waste the space to propagate this nonsense?

    Report this

    By toc, October 6, 2006 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Delusional morons

    Report this

    By R. A. Earl, October 6, 2006 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Religions are not compatible with one another, nor with reason, logic or facts. I think it’s funny that these three are called “religious intellectuals.” That’s on a par, as far as I’m concerned, with being an expert in Alice in Wonderland or Grimm’s Fairy Tales! Oh well, if you can make a living at it, why not?

    It completely confounds me why so many millions become infected, or astoundingly, actively SEEK TO BECOME INFECTED with religious nonsense and then spend all their lives defending the incomprehensible.

    I guess I must be missing the “God part of the brain.” THANKS BE TO JESUS! I don’t know what I ever did to be so blessed, but thanks anyway!

    Report this

    By CB, October 6, 2006 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Religions are completely compatable, provided we detach from them - emotionally - long enough to see that they are all about the same thing; symbols or masks of the as-yet unknown divine truths about consciousness and nature. 

    Literalism is as dangerous as athiesm because religious mythologies, or outright rejection of them, miss the point.  All religions are “perfect”.  They are neither true nor false, but strive to transcend duality.  If an artist claims his painting of a tree represents life, it does; there is no debate.

    I fear on some level sort of a Maoist mania gripping us, over the long term, in reaction to the present insane claims of religious dogma as legal/historical absolutes.  Hopefully we can avoid tearing down cathedrals and simply realign our definition of “myth” to include immediate and relevant sacred artistic meaning that knows no time period or culture.  A good place to start is a book called “Thou Art That” by Joseph Campbell.

    No single thing bears the blame for this surreal fundamentalism, but in the USA there is a gaping void in public education where art, philosophy, and linguistics should be.

    Report this

    By Christopher, October 6, 2006 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Andrew Sullivan is one of the nation’s “leading religious intellectuals?”

    Since when?

    Last time I checked, Sullivan is a champion of bareback, male-on-male sex. For the faint of heart, this term refers to unprotected sexual intimacy.

    Furthermore, in an essay for The Advocate that earned him near universal condemation, Sullivan equated having HIV with nothing more medically challenging than diabetes. What a message to send young people—especially, young gay men who happen to be one of the fastest growing demographics in the HIV community.

    If Andrew Sullivan is what passes for informed, intellectual thought in 2006, we’re in serious trouble.

    Report this

    By kevin99999, October 6, 2006 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    There are not compatible to the extent that the rulers use the religion to advance their economic and poltical agenda. Otherwise, whether they are compatible or not matters very little.

    Report this

    By T Janzen, October 6, 2006 at 11:48 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    I can’t believe this debate is still going on! I thought the debate was settled in 1781 when the founding fathers inserted the prohibition of establishment of religion clause in the Bill of Rights.  Let’s review that again for those who need a brush-up:
      Religions (institutionalized) are not compatible.  So long as they do not control the levers of political power (allowing them to compell adherance to all/some of their beliefs by others with different beliefs); that is the best you can do.

    Report this
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