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Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt

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The Rising Stars of Atheism

Posted on Nov 20, 2006

The Three Wise Men of Atheism (from left): Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.

This month’s Wired explores the reinvigorated atheism movement and the three men behind it, including Truthdig contributor Sam Harris.


It’s a question you may prefer not to be asked. But I’m afraid I have no choice. We find ourselves, this very autumn, three and a half centuries after the intellectual martyrdom of Galileo, caught up in a struggle of ultimate importance, when each one of us must make a commitment. It is time to declare our position.

This is the challenge posed by the New Atheists. We are called upon, we lax agnostics, we noncommittal nonbelievers, we vague deists who would be embarrassed to defend antique absurdities like the Virgin Birth or the notion that Mary rose into heaven without dying, or any other blatant myth; we are called out, we fence-sitters, and told to help exorcise this debilitating curse: the curse of faith.

The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it’s evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there’s no excuse for shirking.

Three writers have sounded this call to arms. They are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. A few months ago, I set out to talk with them. I wanted to find out what it would mean to enlist in the war against faith.


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By Smithers, December 19, 2006 at 10:48 pm Link to this comment
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Maani, you’re hurting my head.  Claiming to be logical and good with reason, and accepting religious or spiritual beliefs, is impossible.  You can say the words, and we can read them, but they don’t make sense, they aren’t real, there’s no way. 

In response to what you said…

The good moral ideas found in the Quran and the Bible say the same damn things.  They are good and moral in and of themselves, with NOTHING to do with their respective religions save the fact that those religions are the umbrellas under which these moral ideas are believed to have started.  Dawkins put it plainly and simply:  A species with individuals trying to survive and pass on DNA must get along others in order to extend their lives and widen the window of time that they are alive to propagate DNA.  That’s it.  If you do bad things to others, they might kill you or hurt your chances of getting with a person of the opposite sex. 

Without these religions, without anyone claiming to be a member of any of these religions, it is possible to be just as good, fair, just, compassionate, brotherly, peaceful, loving as someone who says they are a Christian or Muslim, etc.  What you get from the religion itself is a feeling of belonging, and comfort in having a convenient answer to huge unknowns.  That’s it.  They represent the inability to accept that we’re here only as vehicles of propagation of DNA, and that the world itself in all its complexity and improbable history is very wonderous indeed.  The world is wonderous.  God is a good as a fiction novel, giving you something pleasant to dream about and imagine.

And because of you’re inability to grasp that, you are misguided when you talk about christian organizations.  Under the name of Christianity, people have done many good things.  They haven’t quite realized that those things are perfectly possible without the name of religion uniting them.  Religion is easy.  It’s a quick way to an answer.  There is no inquisitive thought going on.  It’s not scary, therefore easy to latch onto.  People who are God-fearing can’t discipline themselves without believing that there is someone always watching them up above, judging their performance.  If that’s what you need to accomplish the same thing, then do it.  Just keep it to yourself and don’t advertise to others that it is a basis of truth in the universe.  It defies truth by the mere mention of it.  The first four words of the bible are a clear indication of the easy-way-out explanation. “In the beginning, God..”  How is it known that God did ANYTHING in the beginning?  Sadly it doesn’t explain anything, but creates more that needs to be explained.

@ Ken Mitchell-
If one is zealous about the truth in a world that justifies its misconstrued perception of reality with fictional stories, then what is the problem?  Being zealous about a suicide bomb and being zealous about knowing the truth and not distorting your life and others’ lives aren’t both wrong just because they are zealous.  The former is stupid, the latter is not.

Atheists aren’t preaching befiefs when they speak about their ideas.  They’re recognizing that faith and logic don’t mix, that logic doesn’t have room for faith, that the physical matter of the universe is the only certain thing, something that cannot explain faith.  There is NO EVIDENCE of faith using the only thing that truly exists: physical matter.    Just because your mind is complex doesn’t mean you should assume there is something higher than you.  Because humans think they are so great and are the only species that can do almost impossibly beautiful things, we think that in order for all this to exist there must be something higher than us that created the world and the universe in the first place.  A series of improbable events, not so improbable if you consider the billions of years that life on earth has had to see those improbable events, have produced what we see today.

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By Maani, November 24, 2006 at 11:04 am Link to this comment
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As noted, I “pre-apologized” for my arrogance, by letting you know that you had “pushed my button” by calling me a right-winger.  To me, that is perhaps a greater insult than anything I can think of…LOL.  So please accept a more specific apology for the arrogant attitude in my comment.

It is true that I don’t know you either.  However, I am usually correct about my left-center socio-political activism vis-a-vis others, given my history and background; i.e., I have simply met very few people who were further left than me (other than socialists and communists…LOL).  So it was as much observation and experience as it was arrogance.

That said, you seem to harp on Mao, Hitler et al.  Dare I ask whether you are attempting some sort of “apologia” for them?  Because, as noted, I have read my history pretty well, particularly with respect to Hitler (who I studied especially deeply BECAUSE of how much historical revisionism is taking place with respect to him and Christianity).  And I continue to maintain that I am correct about both the statements I have made and the numbers I have provided.  Indeed, you still have provided no support in opposition to my statements or numbers, except to maintain that I am wrong.

I am happy to be led to books, articles, sites, etc. that offer a clearly opposing position.  Otherwise, we are talking semantics.


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By Spinoza, November 23, 2006 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

> Trust me, I am FAR more left of center - and actively socio-political - than you will ever be.

Well I would trust you to be much more arrogant than I probably am. Since you have never meet me I don’t think you know squat about me.

But you did use the standard right wing mantra about Mao, Stalin, Hitler, PolPot etc and the millions that they killed.  It is a stupid and false statement and I hold to the truth as I see it as it is based on evidence, logic and reason. You sound like an interesting person and I will read your posts more carefully in the future.

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By Maani, November 22, 2006 at 10:28 am Link to this comment
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I forgot to add:

Although I am an evangelical minister, I do not support Bush; I disagree completely with the Religious Right; I do not believe in creating a quasi-theocracy; I do not believe in legislating morality; I strongly support the separation of church and state; I am pro-choice; I believe in evolution, and do not agree with the teaching of creationism in the schools; and I have voted Democratic in every election since I was 18.

I would say that all of this safely takes me out of the category of “right-winger.”


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By Maani, November 22, 2006 at 10:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Right-winger?  Do you know to whom you speak?

I wass tear-gassed at my first anti-war demonstration at 10 years old.  I was one of 700 people to “jump the fence” at the Shoreham nuclear reactor to protest its construction, getting arrested, jailed and fingerprinted.  I trained in non-violent civil disobedience through Peacekeeper, the highest level.  I chained myself to the fence at the General Dynamics plant in Groton, CT to protest the launch of a Trident submarine.  I was on the advisory board (along with Peter Yarrow, among others) that worked on the merging of SANE (anti- nuclear energy organization) with FREEZE (anti-nuclear weaponry organization).  I have participated in numerous civil disobedience actions, and been arrested numerous times.

So before you make accusations like that, you better find out who people are.

I do not “lie” about Stalin’s and Hitler’s religious beliefs.  Re Hitler’s, I dare say I have studied him FAR more than you have, and read FAR more books and articles on him.  If all you have read is Mein Kampf and one or two mainstream biographies, you can hardly be expected to know more than you do.

Re Stalin, one need only Google him and read both Wikipedia and most of the articles one finds to see that, whatever he may have claimed, he was no friend to religion.  That he may have allowed the Russian Orthodox Church to remain is inconsequential - especially since you admit that he was probably only “using it” to keep his troops happy.  But as you well know, Marxism—Leninism is anathema to faith and religion.

I don’t usually respond to people with this sort of emotion.  But you really pushed my button this time.  Trust me, I am FAR more left of center - and actively socio-political - than you will ever be.


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By Spinoza, November 21, 2006 at 11:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

>>>Finally, you seem to have missed my comment that not all believers are “indoctrinated” in childhood; that many believers come to faith later, for a wide variety of reasons.  I was raised in an atheist household by a Marxist father (religion was “the opium of the masses”) and a scientist mother (religion is just so much superstition and hooey).  Both were college-level professors, and I was raised with rationalism, empiricism and very high-level intellectual reasoning. <<<<

Well obviously you learned nothing and you totally lie about the religious beliefs of Stalin and Hitler but that is expected of right wingers.  Why do right wingers lie so much?

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By Spinoza, November 21, 2006 at 11:28 pm Link to this comment
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> And ideology is the antithesis of logic and reason.

Of course not. You don’t know what these words mean.

In fact, I found amazing the level of ignorance
displayed by posters here.

Anyhow the only important issue is right vs. left:

  Are you for the underdog or the top dog?  Do you believe in might makes right or do you believe in justice and fair play? Do you believe in nation-states and that your nation-state is best or do you believe in the brotherhood of man and the need to abolish the nation-state? Do you believe in capitalism/greed or do you believe in socialism/fair play?

These are the important polarising issues facing mankind.

After we resolve these issue we will answer: Do you favor rational ethics or religious superstition?

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By Maani, November 21, 2006 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment
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Tdbach hit it right on the nose, and all of the extremists here would do well to listen - really listen - to what he says:

“To turn that famous (and wise) Christian axiom - hate the sin, not the sinner – on its ear, ridicule the actor, not the context. If the religious Right is what’s getting your goat, laugh at their leaders’ hypocrisy. It’s hard to miss! If they sight the bible to make their case, sight other passages that contradict it (those, as you know, are always there, too). Make the battle personal – not with the great sea of believers whom you want to win over, but with these charlatan leaders who are using religion as a lever for power (and financial gain, most likely).”

It can’t be more perfect than that.  If you have a bone to pick with someone, pick it with THEM - not with them, their family, their friends, and their dog.  Most of the people on this thread who support Harris, Dawkins et al seem not to understand this concept.

For those believers (and agnostics with Scriptural knowledge) among us, tdbach’s admonition that “If [the Religious Right] cites the Bible to make their case, cite other passages that contradict it” is exactly how we should be dealing with the narrow, unloving, unforgiving and often un-Christian views and positions that know to be anathema to our faith.  But we should do so in a FAR more loving, patient and humble manner than they do.

Finally, I want to point out something I should have said earlier on.  There is an old saw that “Religion is about laws, rules and behavior; faith is about a relationship with God” (Christian add “and Christ”).

What those who hijack, co-opt or pervert various faiths and religions do is to focus people’s attention on “religion,” often at the expense of “faith.”  In the current geopolitical climate, this is as true of Christianity (particularly in the U.S.) as it is of Islam.

Despite what Dawkins et al believe, one need not “throw out the baby with the bathwater” where faith and religion are concerned.  Faith and religion have both been forces for good at least as often as they have been forces for evil.

For over twenty years now, I have ended every single communication - every phone call, every letter, every e-mail, every post to discussion groups - with the word “peace.”  As has been said before, peace is not simply the absence of war and violence.  It is an active approach to living and interacting with ALL of the other people with whom we share this single fragile planet.

Are those of you who claim to follow “rationality” and “reason” going to tell me that your extremist, intolerant, dismissive and divisive attitude and approach to faith and religion are furthering the cause of peace?  Are you going to claim that fighting fire with fire will further the cause of peace?  Are you going to claim that broad-brush generalizations and stereotyping further rational discourse, much less the cause of peace?

If those of you who are feeding the anti-religion hysteria took a few steps back and few deep breaths - and spoke from true reason rather than from the passion and emotion that the issue evokes - I think you would see how wrong Harris et al are in inflaming that hysteria, and in rejecting the idea of a true discourse in favor of a outright “war” against faith.


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By Griff, November 21, 2006 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your history is a little off. Stalin did indeed procecute and kill orthodox priests until it became convenient to reinstate the church, during ww2. Although never a part of the government, it was granted the right to exist by Stalin, who thought it was a good idea for the soldiers. Who knows what a psychopath beleves. His history with the church is complicated.
Hitler claimed repeatedly in public and private he was doing god’s work. There are numerous quotes from reliable historians, and you can read his own book. More imortantly, the Germans themselves were largely christian and went along with Hitler for the most part.
Was he a cynical user of religion? Probably. But he got away with it because people wanted to “believe”. That’s the problem.
History aside, I don’t think it’s militant or fanatical to subject religion to the same tests as any other claim. But it does make some believers uncomfortable to see religion (their religion, in particular) treated to the same scrutiny as astrology or astronomy, alchemy or the periodic table. All claims should get the same scrutiny. I think it’s a good thing. Not that I expect believers to agree.

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By tdbach, November 21, 2006 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I find this ire directed at religion, coming from the Left, discouraging and disheartening. It’s also misguided.

Leave religion alone. It does nothing for the cause of progressivism. If our goal as progressives is to promote social and economic justice through our political process, how does risking insult to 80 percent of the population help? More important, it’s beside the point. To an agnostic progressive like myself, denouncing religion and its adherents as “irrational” and “dangerous” is just silly (as if centuries of very rational, brilliant, and progressive thinkers can be dismissed with the wave of a hand); to many others, this is a slap in the face. We on the Left have a reputation (much exploited and hyped by O’Reilly, Coulter, et al) for elitism and ridicule. It wouldn’t stick if there weren’t a grain or two of truth to it, and the biggest “grain” is this misguided critique of religion.

Religion – or more generally, spiritualism – is a context for thinking about the world and our place within it. Nothing more. It isn’t irrational; it’s pre-rational. It starts from the unknowable, so you can’t prove or disprove it. You can ONLY believe it, ignore it, or ridicule it. So what’s the point? Sure, crimes against man have been perpetrated in the name of religion; just as horrible things have been done for secular reasons. Men (and women) do bad things, religions don’t do anything.  The only reason you can site more history of religion-associated evils than secular ones is that religion was the predominant context of civilization in historical times.

To turn that famous (and wise) Christian axiom - hate the sin, not the sinner – on its ear, ridicule the actor, not the context. If the religious Right is what’s getting your goat, laugh at their leaders’ hypocrisy. It’s hard to miss! If they sight the bible to make their case, sight other passages that contradict it (those, as you know, are always there, too). Make the battle personal – not with the great sea of believers whom you want to win over, but with these charlatan leaders who are using religion as a lever for power (and financial gain, most likely).

In other words, be smart. But never forget, you’re not as smart as you think.

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By Maani, November 21, 2006 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A very interesting article for this group:


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By Maani, November 21, 2006 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gary said: “I respect your right to practice your christianity.  Unfortunately, it has become increasingly apparent that religions in general will not leave the rest of us alone.”

No, not “religions in general”; SOME people in SOME religions.

Gary then says: “GW Bush, his religious right and apparent theocracy, muslim militants, fundamentalist christians and all of you moderates in between (through your non-action), all threaten the world with their own brands of violence and belief.”

At least you are getting somewhere logical now by narrowing down your broad-brush generalizing.  As for moderates’ “non-action,” how would you know?  I am a moderate evangelical who rails even more against my extremist brethren and their narrow, unloving, unforgiving and un-Christian views than I do against atheists who are more extreme in THEIR position than my brethren are in theirs.  And there is an increasingly large and powerful movement of moderate evangelicals (and other Christians) whose “voice” is finally beginning to be heard over the long-standing din of the Religious Right, and whose goal is NOT the conversion of others or the institution of a quasi-theocracy: indeed, all of the Christians I know strongly support the separation of church and state.  So before you make yet another broad-brush accusation, why don’t you actually research what is happening out there?

Gary then adds: “Your god is the only god and death and eternal damnation in hell for those who don’t agree with you.  Just ask Falwell, Haggard, Robertson et al.”

What I may or may not believe about the afterlife has not one iota to do with how I behave here in the temporal world - particularly with respect to how I treat my fellow humans.  My life here is exactly that: my life here.  And my faith teaches me to be loving, peaceable, forgiving, compassionate, patient, charitable, selfless, just and truthful with ALL people at ALL times.

Gary concludes: “I respect your right to believe whatever religion or god you choose, how about respecting my right NOT to have your religion or personal beliefs jammed down my throat.”

No, you do NOT respect my right to believe whatever religion or God I choose.  How can you say this and then conclude your post with a horrific statement like “I don’t have the stomach to kill the required number of people” to make you feel “safe” from believers.

And yet except for a loud minority called the Religious Right - which is the one with the political lobby that is trying to legislate morality and other things - I do not know any believer who does not respect your right to be an atheist.

Most people are familiar with Marlon Brando’s famous line from Apocalypse Now: “What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassins?”

A similar question could be asked here: “What do you call it when the extremists accuse the extremists?”  But in this case, it is even worse, because the extremists are accusing not only the extremists, but are generalizing about the majority of the world’s population.

And you call yourself “rational” and “reasonable” people?


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By poor old crow, November 21, 2006 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment
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It’s not God’s fault. It is all the fault of man-made religion. You can believe in ‘God’ without stuffing up the world. You can have the kind of pure spirituality that only comes from within, not from a book, not from the teachings of others, but from your own deep, courageous and honest relationship with yourself, with others, and with the world around you. No religion required. Actually religion is antithetical to what is required… constant examination and re-examination, constant inner reform and movement. But in a peaceful way, no bloody revolutions. The same way the wider society would evolve if enough of us examined and re-examined and reformed and moved, in any individual direction, but with thought, joy, and love of life and the world. Money’s not necessary. Power’s not necessary. Good health is not necessary. A partner is not necessary. Only a good relationship with yourself and the world is necessary.
‘I believe in God, but i call it nature.’ -Henry Thoreau

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By Joseph Cantu, November 21, 2006 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you dont believe in God or a religion, it is your right. I think throughout history we have had alot of religious extremist that have took away from its true purpose. I have struggled with my beliefs in God and religion my whole life, butI respect anyone’s beliefs, because they probably have a reason to see life the way they do. For a group of “writers” to try to push that kind of disrepect out on “believers” is just mind boggling to me. I guess that is where we are in this world today. Just an interesting study:

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning
of history, has been about 200 years.  During those 200 years, those
nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  1. From bondage to spiritual faith;
  2. From spiritual faith to great courage;
  3. From courage to liberty;
  4. From liberty to abundance;
  5. From abundance to complacency;
  6. From complacency to apathy;
  7. From apathy to dependence;
  8. From dependence back into bondage”

Interesting how we forget where me come from, isn’t it?

One of my favorite sayings is ” it is better to live your life like ther is a God and find out there isn’t, then to live your life like there is not a God then find out there is”- Choose wisely

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By cynner, November 21, 2006 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maani writes:  “As well, it was the very Bible given to slaves by their masters that not only gave them comfort, but ultimately led them to the belief that slavery was wrong, and thus to the abolitionist movement.”

Do you know your history?  It was illegal to teach slaves to read and write.  Whatever biblical information they received was passed down from their masters and the clergy.  Do you really believe slavemasters and the clergy of the day preached that slaves should be free?

The American Civil War was not fought over an ideal to end slavery, but over the slavery-based economy.

I think the people we call abolishionists would have been so without Christianity.

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By Socrates, November 21, 2006 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The irony of the New Atheism – this prophetic attack on prophecy, this extremism in opposition to extremism – is too much for me.”

Well said. I really enjoyed this article, thanks for posting it Truthdig.

However, I didn’t quite understand how Dennett is aligned with the “new atheism,” as the title and summary suggests, since his comments seemed to place him more among moderates (the “new atheism” being a call against moderation in all forms ala Harris and Dawkins).

One must also note that Robespierre didn’t get his head lopped off for being part of a “cult of reason,” but rather because he had imposed a “maximum wage” for the laboring class that was less than what the workers of Paris had been earning…clearly he was unhinged, and as a consequence was subsequently unhinged.

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By sharon ash, November 21, 2006 at 11:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Bible mentions religion five times and spirit five hundred and five times.  Spirit, is that part of us which is important and which is with us, whether we recognize it or chose to acknowledge it and it is our connection to God.  We are spirits in a body taking this journey in the Earth school to learn and grow.  If you are making this journey in disbelief of God, you are making the journey in the way in which is right for you and you will learn the lessons you need to learn.  If you are making the journey in belief of God, you are making the journey in the way which is right for your growth.  However you are making this journey, you do not impede your growth so much by belief or disbelief of God, but by being in judgement of others. Find your own peace and let others find their God or not.

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By Gary, November 21, 2006 at 11:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Den Mitchell comment #39062

I respect your right to practice your christianity.  Unfortunately, it has become increasingly apparent that religions in general will not leave the rest of us alone.
GW Bush, his religious right and apparent theocracy, muslim militants, fundamentalist christians and all of you moderates in between (through your non-action), all threaten the world with their own brands of violence and belief.  Your god is the only god and death and eternal damnation in hell for those who don’t agree with you.  Just ask Falwell, Haggard, Robertson et al.

I respect your right to believe whatever religion or god you choose, how about respecting my right NOT to have your religion or personal beliefs jammed down my throat.  I have no desire to live by the tenents of this mockery you call a bible (or quran for that matter). I don’t have the stomach to kill the required number of people.

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By Maani, November 21, 2006 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Are you actually listening to yourselves?  Most of you debate in broad-brush generalizations about faith/religion, just as Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Maher et al do.  You are sheep as blinded by your own anti-religion hysteria as those believers who hijack, co-opt or pervert their faiths.  Where is YOUR “reason?”

Have faith and religion been used to horrible ends?  Yes.  Are they still?  Yes.  But the percentage of believers who actually support such uses - whether Muslim, Christian, Jew or other - is nowhere NEAR a majority.  Indeed, although there are no solid statistics, I would guess that it is barely above 50%.  MOST believers (again, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish or other) are happy to practice their faith quietly, without seeking to impose it on others, whether through evangelical or political means.

Yet because a loud minority of believers (particularly Muslim and Christian) are following an even louder (and actually quite small) group of leaders who have hijacked those faiths with narrow, unloving, unforgiving and ultimately un-Christian or un-Islamic views, your PERCEPTION of what is occurring has been skewed from the reality of the totality of faith and religion.

Just as a rubber band stretched to one extreme goes to the other extreme before coming to the center, the backlash of Harris et al is the rubber band going to the other extreme.  It may not be unexpected, but only Harris et al - and all of you - can bring the rubber band back to the center.

Re specifics.

Stalin was not a Christian.  Indeed, he almost single-handedly wiped out the Russian Orthodox Church.  In fact, Stalin was not simply a Marxist-Leninist, but his only ideological contribution to M-L was to make it even MORE anti-faith.  Read your history.

Neither was Hitler a Christian; he was an equal opportunity hater.  Remember that in addition to 6 million Jews, he murdered 2 million Christians, plus 3 million others, including communists, unionists, the elderly, and the physically and mentally handicapped.  Hitler simply “used” Christianity: he had every intention of wiping out Christians next.  In a speech to the party faithful in 1933, Hitler said: “It is through the peasantry that we will finally destroy Christianity.  One can be a German or a Christian, but not both.”

Re the “underground railroad,” it is true that most (but not all) of those in the north were Quakers (and Methodists).  However, in the South it was Protestants, including Lutherans, Baptists and Methodists.

Finally, you seem to have missed my comment that not all believers are “indoctrinated” in childhood; that many believers come to faith later, for a wide variety of reasons.  I was raised in an atheist household by a Marxist father (religion was “the opium of the masses”) and a scientist mother (religion is just so much superstition and hooey).  Both were college-level professors, and I was raised with rationalism, empiricism and very high-level intellectual reasoning.

As ironic as it may sound, I came to my faith THROUGH that reason, not in spite of it.  And I have not rejected my rational upbringing.  And I see no conflict between my faith and my reason.

I know hundreds of other believers who were not “indoctrinated” as children.  All of these people are high-level thinkers in various scientific, academic and other disciplines. Indeed, at the risk of sounding snooty, I dare say that many of them could out-debate many of you in any number of “rational” subjects, including hard science.

I am not suggesting that any of you become believers.  Nor am I suggsting that you even “respect” faith.  But I AM suggesting that your extremist, broad-brush, dismissive attitudes are not only NOT conducive to finding solutions to the problems that DO exist with faith and religion, but actually underscore an even more narrow-minded approach and belief than you accuse many believers of having.


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By Sam, November 21, 2006 at 10:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hee hee.  I’m chuckling.  I respect the right of anyone who does not believe in God, no problem.  But to hear people so self assured that He doesn’t exist is just comical. 

It’s not about logic, or proof.  When you have faith in Christ you just do and people come to Him all different ways.  It doesn’t mean you have to have a right wing agenda to go along with it.  It doesn’t mean you have to believe every word men wrote in a book thousands or hundreds of years ago either. It doesn’t mean you can’t smoke pot or support a woman’s right to choose.  God makes the rules not poilticians.

I was the biggest skeptic in the world in my early 20’s but Christ found me.  So again you can’t argue away someone’s faith, it’s more powerful than that. That’s why this discussion will last for all time. Knowing some of the posters on this website I’ll be called an “stupid idiot” now!

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By The Free Wheeling Socrates, November 21, 2006 at 10:19 am Link to this comment
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Notice the lengthy posts below.  Here ye, here ye, authors of lengthy discourse: The one doing the most talking is in the wrong.

Learn this lesson nine word lesson from me now and thank me later:

“God is a fraud and all religions are false.”

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By SuGee, November 21, 2006 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
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Sorry to any religious nut who still believes there is a God.  That is, in my opinion, a marketing scam.  Remember, on March 21. 2003, George W. Bush said, “We’re all Sinners!” after his Shock & Awe bombing campaign to begin the 2nd Iraq war. When a human, who professes a belief in a Christian God and uses those beliefs to cover for his criminal acts; that’s a demonstration of criminal insanity. People who believe what the Bible says should actually read their “good book”.  After reading the Holy Bible, King James version, from 1976 to 1978, I found it racist, sexist and the most violent historical docudrama, I’ve ever read. Like I said, religion is a marketing scam for people that choose to not educate themselves.  Just like “When you wish upon a star"religion is a fairytale and no more than that.

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By chuck, November 21, 2006 at 9:31 am Link to this comment
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With religion,just because you believe in something doesn’t necessarily mean it is true! There are too many “Gods” out there for one to be the true God. It is the greatest story ever told. I’m told that if you are in a foxhole and live ammunition is being fired over your head, you become religious and pray for salvation.It is hard to be a Catholic after all the true pedifile stories. Yet the flocks go to church on Sunday and put hard earned money in the basket!

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By C Quil, November 21, 2006 at 9:08 am Link to this comment
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The “Christians” who fought against slavery were quite often Quakers - no church leaders, no big shiny churches, no big money, pacifist. They were considered outcasts from the mainstream religions of the time because of the participatory nature of their religion. Every can speak. Everyone has a say in how things are run. Men and women are equal participants. Mainstream churches were pro-slavery - Catholic and Church of England/Episcopalian. Governments and business were pro-slavery. It took ordinary people, of any or no denomination, to finally tip the balance.

The recent book “Bury the Chains” covers the whole thing extensively.

The whole idea of relgion being a force for good was summarized by Orwell in “Down and Out in Paris and London”, where people were required to listen to sermons and pray before they were given anything to eat.

“Religious” charity is like “celebrity” adoptions. Both would have much more legitimacy if the the religions kept their gods to themselves, and the celebrities didn’t expect publicity for their good works. Either shut up and give, or just plain shut up.

People don’t use medical knowledge and practices thousands of years old, but they still stick to mouldy old texts of dubious authorship to decide how they deal with the problems facing us every day.

Man is a rational animal. This world is the only world there is, and we’re not here for very long. Looked at this way, bigotry, hatred, war, piling up of excessive wealth make no sense.

If this life, short as is it, is supposed to lead on to an afterlife, with all our pitiful accomplishment supposedly buying us either eternal bliss or eternal damnation, what the hell is the purpose of the next life? Are we just supposed to sit around and enjoy enormous returns on a pretty measly investment, like some celestial stock-option sheme?

This is it, folks. Enjoy it while you can. Help others to enjoy it, or at least don’t destroy their chances of finding some reason for existing.

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By griff, November 21, 2006 at 9:04 am Link to this comment
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Harris makes it clear in his book that he is opposed to fundamentalist ideologies in general, not just what we conventionally call religion but all ideologies that are not open to evidence. Communism and fascism have most of the same characteristics as most organized religions. In these systems, morality is determined by belief, not evidence, or action. No one knows how many lives were shortened and made miserable by the long dark centuries of christian rule in europe, because of enforced ignorance, never mind the “holy wars”.
My mother was German, and grew up during the nazi reign. She told me that pretty much all Germans claimed they were good Christians, especially the nazis. I met some older Germans as a child who were actually nostalgic for Hitler, and were faithful church goers. Hitler said he was working for God, repeatedly. These people believed it. Stalin studied for the priesthood very seriously before becoming a communist. I think it was probably an easy transition. From one corrupt heirarchy to another. In this case, one with a more room for advancement to the top.
The real enemy is ideology that does not allow for evidence based thinking to replace dogma that dosn’t work, and heirarchies that can be co-opted by psychopaths.

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By Evergreen, November 21, 2006 at 8:35 am Link to this comment
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Religion is one form of ideology.  And ideology is the antithesis of logic and reason. 

Prior to the age of information ideology might have been adaptive as it served to bond a group together, therefore helping survival of its members.  (Groups were more isolated then and didn’t have all this techno weaponry.)  I think that ideology in today’s world is non-adaptive as it serves to divide us and so endangers our survival and that of our fragile earth.

Note to Maana who commented above:  Stalin was not an atheist. He was a Roman Catholic and believed he was doing “Christ’s work”.    It is called a messianic complex and is a type of disordered thinking.  It would appear that Bush has this problem too.

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By Spinoza, November 21, 2006 at 7:50 am Link to this comment
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> Dawkins talks about “the virtues of atheism.” Perhaps we could learn those virtues from Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot, who between them murdered over 100,000,000 people -<<<

The trouble with right wingers besides there being evil is that they are stupid.
They are also ignorant of history.  They keep up the crap mantra of Mao, Stalin, Hitler and PolPot though these world historical actors had nothing in common except being human.

The true evil in the world is and always has been capitalism and its ideology, that and its defenders.

For example the below article clarifies the origins of early death under capitalism.

Further Dr Sen and others have explained that far more people died early deaths in India than in China because of differences in economic social policies. The same can be seen in the state of Kerala in India when comparing it with the rest of India. (Kerala has had socialist/communist governments since the 1940’s and a social democrat policy). Capitalism kills much more viciously than any authoritarian ideology.

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By Anchorite, November 21, 2006 at 7:43 am Link to this comment
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“Man is a Rational Animal”

But man is also natural
His chain of thought rhetorical
Persuasive yes
Linguistic so
But valid logic uh-oh

He serves himself
His way to go
His words, connected
Give him hope

But put us down
To logic huh?
We run no such
A marathon

  ~ Anchorite

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By Tero, November 21, 2006 at 7:36 am Link to this comment
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Hey! - what’s wrong with premarital sex? I’ve always thought it as being quite pleasant.

But yes, the world would be much better off without religions. The shameless brainwashing that is involved in converting people into believers should be criminalized.

Making claims based on the Word Of God or backing up your opinions based on the bible or any other holy book should be ridiculed upon publicly.

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By Ken Mitchell, November 21, 2006 at 7:17 am Link to this comment
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I respect their right to be athiests if they respect mine to be a Christian. I have no objection to prayer in school as long as it’s voluntary. I hope they don’t become as zealous as the fundamentalists.

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By SuGee, November 21, 2006 at 6:47 am Link to this comment
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Finally there is discussion of the fact that there is no “God”.  “God” is a marketing technique used by persons with power for whatever they personally want.

I was raised a Christian, but I always had questions after statements in sermons that were so ridiculious to equate belief with stupidity.
I read the Holy Bible, King James version from 1976 to 1978.  I really tried to get something out of it.  I found it racist, sexist and the most violent historical docudrama I’ve ever read. Thank you for this recognition.

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By Finn Connell, November 21, 2006 at 6:46 am Link to this comment
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Finally we (people who do not believe in fairies, ghosts and all powerful widgets) are getting recognition not as “crazies” but people who have a genuine disbelief in the money making fantasies of an almighty, fearful, retribution driven wisp.

Having grown up in Ireland as an atheist child of atheist parents I have seen and been victim of the astounding bigotry and hatred of “christians”.  I had (now dead) relatives who were part of the organized hatred system known as the catholic church.  One, a priest,  had a mistress and children another just had a mistress (as far as I know).

Hypocrisy, bigotry and fear were standing operating procedure as the “true church” weaseled money from the poor and bought ever more gold for the altar and and glitzier robes and dresses for the priests.  Violence against children was/is the norm for the (sexually?) repressed nuns and pedophiliac priests.  And all in the name of, and using the fear of, some imaginary (what?).

As a young child sometimes creates an imaginary “friend” that only he/she can see but occasionally will use as an excuse for poor behavior so do the believers in a “supreme” object many times use it as an excuse for violence and criminal acts. 

I look forward to the time when reality takes the place of religion.

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By Peter W Barber, November 21, 2006 at 5:56 am Link to this comment
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We may have to tolerate religion, but we do not have to respect it.

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By Scott Lewis, November 21, 2006 at 12:20 am Link to this comment
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In the early 1970’2 little Jim Leighty (I hope you died a horrible death you little heathen!) took both the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus from me one horrible and unforgettable summer.  For the next decade I spun adrift, stuck between different beliefs, never latching onto anything until the day I saw a Christian Evangelist (white) waving a rattlesnake in his infant daughter’s face.  I realized at that moment that only a kind and benevolent and omnipotent creator could be the architect of this world.  Now that I finally live my life in constant and undying mortal fear of God these three devils want to take Him from me.  In Jesus’ Holy name I know that when these bastards are burning in HELL for eternity I will be in Heaven Above!  I will be laughing at their undying anguish.  I will piss into their never-closing wounds.  I will ride my unicorn down into the bowels of HELL just to spit in their faces! 
Not that I am a fan of bowels.  Don’t get me wrong, I want homosexuals to suffer an even worse fate, as our ever-loving God demands it!  And don’t believe everything you don’t see on FOX news.  I was just helping that sheep up the hill!  Anybody who says otherwise is a God-Damned liar!  And plus I was drunk!

Death to the a-theist’s!
I am not a homosexual!

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By Maani, November 20, 2006 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment
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[Part 2]

Harris then talks about slavery, saying, “People used to think that slavery was morally acceptable…We’re going to look back and be amazed that we approached this asymptote of destructive capacity while allowing ourselves to be balkanized by fantasy…At some point, there is going to be enough pressure that it is just going to be too embarrassing to believe in God.”

Yet, as noted above, Harris seems to forget that the abolitionist movement - in both England and the U.S. - was led by Christians.  True, many Christians supported slavery based on their interpretation of Paul’s words.  But many more were convinced that that interpretation was wrong, and fought - often at the expense of their own lives - to end slavery.  As well, it was the very Bible given to slaves by their masters that not only gave them comfort, but ultimately led them to the belief that slavery was wrong, and thus to the abolitionist movement.  Is Harris ignorant of this?

Harris then makes a comparison which I can only hope was an error in judgment: “There is nothing more natural than rape. But no one would argue that rape is good, or compatible with a civil society, because it may have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors. Like rape…religion may be a vestige of our primitive nature that we must simply overcome.”

Only the most callous and inflammatory person would even use “rape” and “religion” in the same sentence.  Shame on Harris!

Finally, the issue of Darwin is brought up: “Darwin did not become an atheist because of evolution. Instead, his growing resistance to Christianity came from his moral criticism of 19th-century doctrine, compounded by the tragedy of his daughter’s death. Darwin did not believe that evolution proved there was no God.”

Thank you!  It is about time someone got this right.  Darwin never set out to disprove the existence of God; he set out only to prove that each individual species was not “specially created” by God, but was the result of the processes of random mutation and natural selection.  Darwin was a lifelong Christian, even if he had moments of doubt.  His only earned degree was in theology, and he was studying for the ministry when he was offered the ride on The Beagle.  In The Origin of Species, he makes clear that he believes that life was created by “the Creator,” who also “set in motion” the process of evolution, but did not “interfere” with that process.  He became a deacon of his church, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.  He never renounced his faith, and some biographies note that toward the end of his life he still harbored questions about his own research.

Ultimately, people like Harris, Dawkins and Dennett are no less “extremist” than some (but by no means all) of the people they rail against.  Indeed, I don’t know a single Christian - or, indeed, any person of faith - who is calling for the abolishing of atheism or agnosticism.  Yet Harris et al are calling for the abolishing of faith and religion.  So who is more extremist - and less “reasonable?”


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By Maani, November 20, 2006 at 10:38 pm Link to this comment
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[Part 1]

Having read this very interesting article (the denouement of which is the best part), I believe that some rebuttal is in order.

Dawkins talks about “the virtues of atheism.”  Perhaps we could learn those virtues from Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot, who between them murdered over 100,000,000 people - more than 4 times the number of people estimated to have died in all the “holy wars” throughout history.  And consider that it took thousands of years to accumulate the 25,000,000 estimated deaths from religious wars; it took only 60 years for those four men to murder four times that number.

Dawkins also talks about the indoctrination of children, saying, “Bad ideas foisted on children are moral wrongs.”  There are two problems with this statement.  First, not all believers are products of childhood indoctrination; there is not even any supportable statistical estimate of how many believers are so because they were raised as believers, and how many became believers after they were “cognizant” (no earlier than late teens or early 20s).  Second, and perhaps more importantly, every study done on the average “moral compass” of children raised in faith-based households shows that they grow up to be far less likely to smoke, drink, take drugs, or have premarital sex, and do as well or better in school and in life in general as their atheist or agnostic counterparts.

One atheist says, “Moderates give a power base to extremists…A lot of Catholics use condoms, a lot of Catholics are divorced, and a lot don’t have a particular opinion about whether you are homosexual. But when the Pope stands up and says, ‘This is what Catholics believe,’ he still gets credit for speaking for more than a billion people.”  So?  What are the atheists actually more worried about - one guy who CLAIMS to speak for a billion people, or the people themselves and whether or not they follow that guy?  Their reasoning in this regard seems backward.

Dawkins then say, “As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect from the faith of Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers.”  Wrong.  One can respect religious faith in general without respecting (i) an extremist or fundamentalist interpretation of that faith, or (ii) the misuse of that faith for inhumane ends.  That is, one can respect Islam for the overall tenets of the faith as underscored in the Qu-ran - peace, brotherhood, community, spiritual growth - and yet reject the fundamentalist interpretation which allows only very narrow positions in certain areas.  Indeed, closer to home, one can respect the overall tenets of Christianity - love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, humility, patience, charity, selflessness, service, justice, truth - and yet reject the narrow-minded and often un-Christian positions of the so-called Religious Right.

Harris then mentions “the suffering [Christians] create in service to your religious myths.”  Excuse me?  Unless he is still harping on the Crusades, Harris must have missed recent history.  Because Christianity, for all its admitted faults, has been a force for good FAR more often than a force for bad.  Every major socio-political movement in the U.S. was started and/or led by Christians: the abolitionist movement, the child labor movement, the suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement, among others.  As well, in the past 150 years, Christianity has founded more orphanages, hospitals, school, universities and community centers than even the local, state and federal governments.  As well, it is Christian-based organizations that have been and continue to be in the forefront of providing emergency and disaster relief - on a completely non-partisan basis (i.e., regardless of gender, age, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.) - in times of war, civil strife, natural disaster, etc.

[End of Part 1]

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By Spinoza, November 20, 2006 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment
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Yes, religion sucks but it is not the most important topic on the Worlds agenda.  We have to first fight against all forms of fascism, that is key, we have to fight against all forms of capitalism, that is key, naturally and logically religion will disappear of its on accord

By the way we are not at war with faith, it is a war on irrational faith. I believe the Amazon River exists and it is in a country called Brazil and I believe this despite the fact that I have never been to Brazil nor have I seen the river. The basis of this faith is evidence, logic and reason.  The chances that the Amazon exists is fairly good. The chance that a god exists is very poor. Man is a rational animal, we employ reasoning.


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