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Sam Harris: ‘God’s Rottweiler’ Barks

Posted on Sep 16, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI
AP/ Jens Meyer

Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims as he climbs the stairs of a stage before celebrating Mass at a Munich fairground Sept. 10. The German-born pontiff visited his homeland Sept. 9-14.

By Sam Harris

The bestselling author of “The End of Faith” responds to Pope Benedict XVI’s speech on the interplay between faith and reason. Harris: “It is ironic that a man who has just disparaged Islam as ‘evil’ and ‘inhuman’ before 250,000 onlookers and the world press, is now talking about a ‘genuine dialogue of cultures.’ ”

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Harris’ new book, “Letter to a Christian Nation” is available here.

Cross-posted at Huffington Post

The world is still talking about the pope?s recent speech?a speech so boring, convoluted and oblique to the real concerns of humanity that it could well have been intended as a weapon of war. It might start a war, in fact, given that it contained a stupendously derogatory appraisal of Islam. For some reason, the Holy Father found it necessary to quote the Emperor Manual II Paleologos, who said: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman….” Now the Muslim world is buzzing with pious rage. It?s a pity that Pope Benedict doesn?t also draw cartoons. Joining a craven chorus of terrified supplicants, The New York Times has urged him to muster a ?deep and persuasive’’ apology. He now appears to be mincing his way toward the performance of just such a feat.


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While the pope succeeded in enraging millions of Muslims, the main purpose of his speech was to chastise scientists and secularists for being, well, too reasonable. It seems that nonbelievers still (perversely) demand too much empirical evidence and logical support for their worldview.  Believing that he was cutting to the quick of the human dilemma, the pope reminded an expectant world that science cannot pull itself up by its own bootstraps: It cannot, for instance, explain why the universe is comprehensible at all. It turns out that this is a job for? (wait for it) ? Christianity. Why is the world susceptible to rational understanding? Because God made it that way. While the pope is not much of a conjurer, many intelligent and well-intentioned people imagined they actually glimpsed a rabbit in this old hat. Andrew Sullivan, for instance, praised the pope?s ?deep and complicated? address for its ?clarity and openness.? Here is the heart of the pope?s argument, excerpted from his concluding remarks. I have added my own commentary throughout.

“The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizon….”

The pope suggests that reason should be broadened to include the empirically unverifiable. And is there any question these new ?vast horizons? will include the plump dogmas of the Catholic Church? Here, the pope gets the spirit of science exactly wrong. Science does not limit itself merely to what is currently verifiable. But it is interested in questions that are potentially verifiable (or, rather, falsifiable). And it does mean to exclude the gratuitously stupid. With these distinctions in mind, consider one of the core dogmas of Catholicism, from the Profession of Faith of the Roman Catholic Church:

?I likewise profess that in the Mass a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice is offered to God on behalf of the living and the dead, and that the Body and the Blood, together with the soul and the divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really, and substantially present in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, and there is a change of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into Blood; and this change the Catholic Mass calls transubstantiation. I also profess that the whole and entire Christ and a true sacrament is received under each separate species.?

While one can always find a Catholic who is reluctant to admit that cannibalism lies at the heart of the faith, there is no question whatsoever that the Church intends the above passage to be read literally. The real presence of the body and blood of Christ at the Mass is to be understood as a material fact. As such, this is a claim about the physical world. It is, as it happens, a perfectly ludicrous claim about the physical world. (Unlike most religious claims, however, the doctrine of Transubstantiation is actually falsifiable. It just happens to be false.) Despite the pope?s solemn ruminations on the subject, reason is not so elastic as to encompass the favorite dogmas of Catholicism. Needless to say, the virgin birth of Jesus, the physical resurrection of the dead, the entrance of an immortal soul into the zygote at the moment of conception, and almost every other article of the Catholic faith will land in the same, ill-dignified bin. These are beliefs that Catholics hold without sufficient reason. They are, therefore, unreasonable. There is no broadening of the purview of 21st-century rationality that can, or should, embrace them.

“Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today….”

It is ironic that a man who has just disparaged Islam as ?evil? and ?inhuman? before 250,000 onlookers and the world press is now talking about a ?genuine dialogue of cultures.? How much genuine dialogue can he hope for? The Koran says that anybody who believes that Jesus was divine?as all real Catholics must?will spend eternity in hell (Koran 5:71-75; 19:30-38). This appears to be a deal-breaker. The pope knows this. The Muslim world knows that he knows it. And he knows that the Muslim world knows that he knows it. This is not a good basis for interfaith dialogue.

“In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures….”

Astrologers don?t like ?their most profound convictions? attacked either. Neither do people who believe that space aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Happily, these groups do not take to the streets and start killing people when their irrational beliefs are challenged. I suspect that the pope would be the first to admit that there are millions of people on this Earth who harbor ?most profound convictions? that are neither profound nor compatible with real dialogue. Indeed, one doesn?t even need to read between the lines of his speech to glean that he would place the entire Muslim world beyond the ?universality of reason.? He is surely right to be alarmed by Islam?particularly by its doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. He is right to find the treatment of Muslim women throughout the world abhorrent (if, indeed, he does find it abhorrent). He is right to be concerned that any Muslim who converts to Christianity (or to atheism) has put his life in jeopardy, as conversion away from the faith is punishable by death. These profundities are worthy objects of our derision. No apologies necessary, Your Holiness.

We might, however, note in passing that one of the pope?s ?most profound convictions? is that contraception is a sin. His agents continue to preach this diabolical dogma in the developing world, and even in sub-Saharan Africa, where over 3 million people die from AIDS each year. This is unconscionable and irredeemably stupid. It is also a point on which the Church has not shown much of an intelligent capacity for dialogue. Despite their inclination to breed themselves into a state of world domination, Muslims tend to be far more reasonable on the subject of family planning. They do not consider the use of temporary forms of birth control to be a sin.

“Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought—to philosophy and theology….”

This may have been where Sullivan found the Holy Father to be particularly ?deep and complicated? and ?profound.? Granted, questions of epistemology can make one sweat, and there are many interesting and even controversial things to be said about the foundations of our knowledge. The pope has not said anything interesting or controversial here, however. He has merely insinuated that placing the God of Abraham at the back of every natural process will somehow reduce the quotient of mystery in the cosmos. It won?t. Nearly a billion Hindus place three gods?Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver) and Shiva (the Destroyer)?in the space provided. Just how intellectually illuminating should we find that?

“The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur—this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. “Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God”, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor….”

Please read that first sentence again. I hope it doesn?t seem peevish to point out that the West faces several dangers even greater than those posed by an incomplete epistemology. The West is endangered, primarily, by the religious fragmentation of the human community, by religious impediments to clear thinking, and by the religious willingness of millions to sacrifice the real possibility of happiness in this world for a fantasy of a world to come. We are living in a world where untold millions of grown men and women can rationalize the violent sacrifice of their own children by recourse to fairy tales. We are living in world where millions of Muslims believe that there is nothing better than to be killed in defense of Islam. We are living in a world in which millions of American Christians hope to soon be raptured into the sky by Jesus so that they can safely enjoy the holy genocide that will inaugurate the end of human history. We are living in a world in which a silly old priest, by merely giving voice to his religious inanities, could conceivably start a war with 1.4 billion Muslims who take their own inanities in deadly earnest. These are real dangers. And they are not dangers for which more ?Biblical faith? is a remedy.

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By Rich Weitzel, September 17, 2006 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Test question: A man claiming to be infallible in matters of religious doctrine, must now apologize, because it offended potential homicide bombers and the people who admire them. Is it because he 1) didn’t speak the truth 2) did speak the truth, but Miss Manners said if you can’t say anything nice about homicide bombers, don’t say anything at all, or 3) realizes that those Swiss Guards don’t stand much of a chance protecting Vatican City, really?

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By Charlie Sitzes, September 17, 2006 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

May I make a comment on a comment? Comment # 23805 @ 10:39 attempts to put a good spin on Jesus. What he fails to mention is that even though Jesus had the greatest bully pulpit in the world, he somehow failed to condemn slavery. 71 years before he was born the remnants of Spartacus’s army (6000 of them) were strung up on crosses and stakes between the gates of Rome and the little town of Capua, some 130 miles away. That’s one dead guy on a cross or stake every 114 feet for 130 miles. Since Jesus was divine he had to have known about it. And they weren’t promised a heavenly reward. All they wanted was freedom. We don’t hear one peep out of Jesus against slavery, although it is the greatest atrocity known to mankind. What he did say was that he had come not to deny the old law but to uphold it. And the old law approved of stoning and mutilation and slavery. He acted as an irrational bully in the case of the fig tree.
Religion is nuts. I have ordered several copies of your next book sent to “believers”.  I would encourage all your readers to do the same. Most of us are not as articulate or learned as you but we can do our part by getting the word out.  Thanks Sam.
PS The long winded guy defending the Islamic faith obviously has not read the Koran, just as most “Christians” have no idea what is really in the bible.

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By Sayeed Y., September 17, 2006 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In response to Oskar Syahbana:

“1. Islam doesn’t treat women abhorrently. No passage in Koran does it degrade women in lower caste than man…”

You evidently haven’t read Chapter 4 verse 34 which reads as:

“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High.” (Quran 4:34)

“2. No, conversion away from the faith isn’t punishable by Sharia law (Islamic law) and killing other people is very much prohibited in the religion (unless, of course, that person is wielding an arm against you, that’s self-defense).”

Either you’re ignorant and lacking in knowldege about Islam, or you’re glossing over the truth. It is undisputed amongst serious scholars that apostates are to be killed. There are numerous edicts in the scriptures that sanction it and was a common practice by the Prophet Mohammed and the early Muslims. Consider Mohammed’s saying for instance (and there are plenty more such examples):

“If someone changes his (Islamic) religion, then kill them…..”

(Bukhari, Chapter 26, page 339, Hadith number 461)


“The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas (retribution)for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

(Bukhari Volume 9, Book 83, Number 17)

I’m afraid Islam’s a terribly violent religion with little regard for human life and particularly harsh against women. The notion that Islam allows for freedom of religion or protects women from oppression in the face of overwhelming textual evidence which suggest otherwise is just laughable and simply not true.

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By Angelia Stinnett, September 17, 2006 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment
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In the land of bible thumpers, I am sending a shout out to Sam for having the kahones to speak against the ignorance of a world leader. I feel trapped at times, being surrounded by “faithfilled” people who take everything the church leaders say as gospel.
One very large local church teaches adults that they shouldn’t watch movies with more than a ‘G’ rating, even when their children are out of the home. Well, the last time I checked, I am an adult and I can handle 4 letter words and on occassion, nude body parts.
A neighbor’s dad is a pentecostal teacher and he teaches loud and hard against premarital sex, homosexuality, and pornography. The irony is that his son found a porn movie in the preachers bedroon closet. 
It’s sickening how grown people will let the church “fathers” make decisions for them in every aspect of their lives, down to their thinking process. If I could say anything to the world it would be that these “leaders” are mere mortals and have no special powers to read the invisible/imaginary God’s mind any more than any other believer.
I once had a friend tell me that the reason I didn’t believe in God is because I was over analyzing and thinking too hard. As we say in the south, “Damn Skippy, she’s right!”
Thank you Sam, for speaking out against ignorance! Can you come live in the south, where we really need you?

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By albiegf13, September 17, 2006 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment
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We live an a very dangerous and intolerant world.  These so called great religions are nothing but bull shit that defies reason.  Keep up the good work….

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By atheist mom, September 17, 2006 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment
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I feel very tired lately. I have been an atheist all my life, although it never seemed very important until recently. Whereas I used to be amused by my religious friends, I now find displays of religiosity frightening and depressing. Books and articles like those of Sam Harris should feel energizing, but I feel increasingly isolated and helpless in a world of such primitive thinking. I suspect we freethinkers are anachronisms, born far too soon…

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By DAG, September 17, 2006 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment
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Love it!  Tell it like it is, Sam, for the rest of us who may not be able to.  You have the brain that I was supposed to get…damn it to hell anyway.

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By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, September 17, 2006 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment
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Ted Swart, you are so right than those religions cannot have the same god ! What balderdash to state that believers all worship the same god. But those believers won’t ponder Harriss, Swart’s and my points because their egos want a father -shepherd to give them ultimate purpose and a future life. They wrap their egos around faith. Their fragile egos just have to have a god ,even a dessicated one. It will take counter-emotions to get them to see the light!

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By Jimmie Osburn, September 17, 2006 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment
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Meanwhile, I’m down here in the gutter trying to knock religion off it’s moralistic pedestal.  This was in the local paper:

To the Editor,

The obvious basis for Rev. Waddey’s concern that the world hates us is that they do so because we are so absolutely right and everybody else is so absolutely wrong.  They hate us because of what we do, have, say, think and are.  Since the haters are so mired in error and sinful ways, they naturally despise what we pillars of virtue do to give them such noble examples.
Count me among the “haters”.  Our all-knowing, all-judging, all-perfection preachers have convinced me that some things are worth hating.  But it isn’t America that we hate.
We hate the conceited, arrogant, self-righteous, ostentatious presumption of moral superiority displayed by impudent snobs who would presume the divine authority to judge the rest of us by their own primitive, fuzzy brained theological standards.
We hate their holy crusades to curb, limit, restrict and even deny religious freedom to everybody else in the world so they can use their religious freedom to forcibly impose upon others their rituals, dogma, icons, theology and social order.
We hate the weeping, wailing, cringing paranoid claims of persecution they chant in mournful dirges while they take our taxpayers money to the bank, build tax exempt massive luxurious churches, and saturate the public’s airwaves with pleas for deductible contributions to bring obscene wealth to successful evangelists.
We hate the fortunes they spend on self-indulgent activities and ornate church furnishings while boasting about the pittance they spend on social services for any of the needy who are willing to trade holy-speak for a bowl of soup.
Most of all, we hate the presumption that criticizing and rejecting what ultra conservative preachers would impose on us is equivalent to hating America.  Get it right - nobody in this great land of ours is immune from criticism.
And that is why we love America.  No mindless accusations of “hating America” from those who don’t understand freedom will ever change that.

Jimmie R. Osburn
13813 N. 97th Ave
Sun City AZ 85351
623 322 6326

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By connie ruth, September 17, 2006 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The phrase that comes to mind when I think of the Pope’s criticism of Islam is ‘think before you speak.’ Surely this learned man might have considered the impact of his words before he uttered them. Maybe his miter was on a tad tight. But then I’m a little suspicious of a man who wears funny hats and robes and orates alot. Maybe the Pope and his cronies should chuck the silly garb and get an honest job like the rest of us.

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By Abdullah Tif, September 17, 2006 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment
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Behead those who say Islam is Violent! Hang those who say Islam doesn’t believe in Freedom of Speech! Allah is Great! Islam is Peace.

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By Steve Kern, September 17, 2006 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sandwiched between college football on Saturday afternoon and professional football on Sunday afternoon, many people engage in yet another competitive event on Sunday morning:  Competitive Religion.  When religion takes on a competitive nature, the mind-set is similar to that of sport:  “My team is better than your team!”  But the stakes are greater in competitive religion.  If our football team loses we are disappointed.  If our religion is wrong we are condemned.

A sporting event, if it is of any value, is intended to provide entertainment, and partisanship is effective in enhancing that entertainment.  But religion, if it is of any value, is intended to provide meaning, comfort, and inspiration.  Partisanship and competition are counter productive in achieving these goals.

Competition in religion is precisely this:  My claim to knowledge about the realm of the unknown is better than your claim to knowledge about the realm of the unknown.  By definition, no one can win this competition.  Is it really worth dying for?

Thanks, Sam.  Keep us awake and thinking.

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By Dave Summers, M.D., September 17, 2006 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“What the world needs now is [not only] love, sweet love” [but also]
a Sam Harris who, like Malcolm X of America’s tragic 60’s, courageously “tells it like it is”.  The Pope, whose entire being
dwells somewhere beyond an authentic “apology” for his pseudo-
logia fantastica (the worst of all delusions) or a Catholic “pot calling the [Islamic] kettle black”, should resign and hope (1) that his follower will abandon religious nonsense, then begin, “by any means necessary”, to replace Catholicism by truly secular humanism and (2) that Christian, Hindi, Jewish, Islamic & all other
believers in supernaturalism will do likewise.

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By Jon Nelson, September 17, 2006 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sam Harris for President!

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By JAKE, September 17, 2006 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good to see you’re still on the case, Sam.
Don’t give those patriarchal celibate costume-party clerics an inch.  They want our kids, and they have no mercy when counting souls.

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By Ward A. Riley, September 17, 2006 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Many who share your view of religion, nevertheless do not see (1) how the current situation can actually (pragmatically) change and (2) where the evidence is that convinces you that the “world would be a better place” if religion would not be a part of it? An appeal to reason leads to an appeal to evidence, and to what extent do you consider there to be strong evidence that the world would very likely be a better place with religion out of the picture? Can we really obtain such evidence in princple of the type that would be convincing and use it to move in the direction you would desire? Just because one view is “bad” should we assume without strong evidence that an alternative view would be better? Should we just accept the alternative view as obviously true?

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By Terry Roberts, September 17, 2006 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Sam, for your very clear analysis of the Pope’s speech.  I’m glad you are on the case, exposing the dangers of religious and dogmatic zealotry, which is the greatest danger facing civilization today.  The existance of a supreme being has never been proven.  Had it been, there would be no argument about it now.  The agnostics say, “well maybe, maybe not”, which is not a position at all, but rather the avoidance of a position.  The burden of proof is upon the one making the assertion.  Failing that test, we must take the opposing view.  “Sorry, your contention doesn’t stand up to rational analysis, so no, god does not exist.  But you may keep trying to prove it if you’ve got plenty of time to waste.”  Meanwhile, I’m supporting clear-headed, well-spoken people like you to try to bring some sanity into this world.

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By Mr. Wonderful, September 17, 2006 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Concise, amusing, and dead right, as always.

BTW, ahole:

You seem to be saying that reason can only take us so far as regards a complete understanding of the world.  That’s true.  But, as Sam says, the Pope seems to be calling for reason to broaden itself and transcend its (unnecessary, short-sighted) limitations by including the “truths” about “the divine.” 

This little switcheroo reminds me of something a vice-principal said to a student whose hair (this was in the 1960s) he thought too long:

“We acknowledge your right to wear your hair as long as you want to.  But you have to acknowledge our right to tell you how long you can wear it.”

Everyone has feelings about what’s true.  Everyone is entitled to their subjective opinions.  But all deistic religions claim that their (codified) subjective feelings are objective truths, and either insist that others act accordingly, or “tolerate” others’ refusal to do so.  This is primitive and dangerous.

One thing I’ve never read anyone address is, Why aren’t devoutly religious people, who have accepted the religion they were raised in, amazed at the “coincidence” that their opinions regarding the absolute truth about the universe just happen to be the ones they were taught?  While other people wrongheadedly believe false ideas? 

Then again, that’s like American voters disliking Congress while, in a large majority, approving of their own Congressperson.  “I AM being objective.  I objectively know that I’m right and everyone else is wrong.”

(How do you know?)

“Because it feels right.”

Isn’t that what “faith” is?

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By Ralph White, September 17, 2006 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sam…Thanks as usual for common sense. The Pontiff should have looked over his shoulder to see the Papal ghosts lurking in the shadows behind him, before including his Islamic remarks in the speech. If any formal religion has a past history of using the “sword”, Benedict’s predecesor’s demostrate a long, bloody lineage. As a catholic, I fear the long terror arm of the Bush neo-Bonapartism is reaching out, with favors in hand, in a struggle to continue their hurbis ideology in Iraq.

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By George, September 17, 2006 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It can be empirically proven that the world’s 3 major religions were born within 2oo miles of each other.  This means that their old world dogmas have remained intact, and with no updates, for at least 1300 years.

“Imagine no religion….”  John Lennon

“Religions lead us to believe that the soul is the ultimate family jewel and that in return for our mindless obedience, they can secure it for us in their vaults, or at least insure it against fire and theft. They are mistaken.” 
  Tom Robbins

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By James Miller, September 17, 2006 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I will try to be brief. The leaders of the “Christian” faith some time around the 4th century found it necessary to forbid the deliberate provocation by “Christians” against other faiths in the hope they would be killed as martyrs and therefore gain entry into paradise as reward. They were losing too many converts and gaining too many “Saints”. “Islam” will eventually suffer the same schizophrenic implosion of logic and set aside the rationals they are using to guide their idealistic youth into suicide. I cannot imagine what solice could be given a truly loving Mother and Father to receive a 12 y/o’s bodily remains after having strapped explosives to their chest in the hopes of blowing up a pizza parlor. I will only note that not a single Mullah has in similar fashion stepped forward to sanctify their cause.
Checkout the instant conversions permitted by the Saudi Ulema of the French assault forces by the simple expedient of reciting a “Shahadah” during the Grand Mosque seizure of November of 1979, in which blood was shed; all descreations of the Islamic Holy-of-Holies. Whatever this war started out to be it has become Jihad, and not a sand castle or petty potentate in all the Middle East is secure for a nights rest while this plague stalks the land. JBM

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By John Elliott, September 17, 2006 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My Many Thanks to Sam
for his “once again clarifing” article The Pope ... Barks: A clear and loud voice of the biggest challenge to human progress: religion.

I submitt that Sam is the ‘Carl Sagan’ of our generation and I hold him in the highest regard for that.  Although I know I am a member of the choir, I also have to think his message can penetrate to some of those whose addiction to religion has not become permanant. That’s my faith.

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By richard smith, September 17, 2006 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks. My thoughts, exactly! And thanks for the comments by others.

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By Oskar Syahbana, September 17, 2006 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sam, a very insightful (and rather entertaining) read wink

However, I think I need to straightened out the facts a little bit:

1. Islam doesn’t treat women abhorrently. No passage in Koran does it degrade women in lower caste than man. Furthermore, the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) even stated that the backbone of a country stands in its Women (clearly because they have the closest connection to future generation). The mistreatment of Women in some country (which unfortunately has a major moslem population) is a wrong interpretation of the religion.

2. No, conversion away from the faith isn’t punishable by Sharia law (Islamic law) and killing other people is very much prohibited in the religion (unless, of course, that person is wielding an arm against you, that’s self-defense).

3. There is some basis for inter-faith discussion. We acknowledge Jesus as one of our great prophet and we also acknowledge Bible as the voice of God (not the current version though, it’s Barnabaz version if I’m not mistaken).

In short, please do not mistaken a violent act from a religious follower as an act of violent permissible in that religion. This is why inter-faith discussion is important. Too much misunderstanding has occured between Christian and Moslem (and Jews for that matter).

And as killing in the name of Islam, look at the American soldiers dying everyday in the desert of Iraq? What are they die for? Some may answer, their country. And it’s not a sin to die for one country isn’t it? So why would it mattered to die for your own religion?

It will become a disaster if you use that very much ‘willingness to die’ to hurt other human beings (such as the 9/11—most moslem around the world condemned such an act—I said most because some people like Bin Laden actually enjoyed it) and Islam never tolerates hurting other human beings (unless you are hurt first, pretty much an eye for an eye, but then again, that’s the last resort because if you look deeper in Koran and hadith, you will find that violent never solves anything).

whew… quite a long comment

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By Hansjorg Fritz, September 17, 2006 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A comedian once said about this German pope;

When I see a German on a balcony with outstretched arms talking to a roaring crowd below, I am getting a little worried!

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By Joshua Welch, September 17, 2006 at 12:02 pm Link to this comment
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Sam, you are brilliant!  I just read your latest masterpiece, “Letter to a Christian Nation” and it’s fantastic.  All the truthdiggers need to buy numerous copies and distribute them to all thier Christian/Muslim/Jewish friends and family members.  Keep fighting for truth and justice!

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By Roxanne Karnick, September 17, 2006 at 11:59 am Link to this comment
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As a parent and an atheist, I struggle daily to help my sons make sense of an often senseless world, chock full of ignorance, fear and superstition.  Thank you, Sam.  Your guts and your eloquence make my job easier.

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By rdf, September 17, 2006 at 11:47 am Link to this comment
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Unfortuately this type of debate has been going on for hundreds of years, with only minor effect.

Those who insist on the supernatural cannot be persuaded by logical arguments. It is logic that they deny. Perhaps some people can be made to see that various myths are not literally true, but beyond this they have to do it themselves by introspection.

A perfect example of how long this has been going on is this important essay from the 19th Century by the American Pragmatist philosopher C.S. Peirce:

Sam may be more colorful, but Peirce is quite clear on why science must replace superstition.

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By Alan Herbert, September 17, 2006 at 11:46 am Link to this comment
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How delicious it is.  The Pope on one ‘side’, the Imams and Ayatollahs on the ‘other’.  Makes one wonder, since they are all cut from the same cloth, why there is any call for an apology.

The only thing frightening is this silly old priest has the ability to trick other silly old priests into a world war that would indeed, be fought over fairy tales.

Alan Herbert

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By Steve M, September 17, 2006 at 11:43 am Link to this comment
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Sam you may have a willing ally in Al Gore.  See excerpt below from today’s Washington Post”.

“Although saying he has no plans to run for president in 2008, former vice president Al Gore has nonetheless left the door ever so slightly ajar. It’s a good bet that door will swing open a good bit wider come next May.

That is when Gore is scheduled to publish his next book. With no fanfare, he signed a few weeks ago with Penguin Press to write “The Assault on Reason.””

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By Dale in Canada, September 17, 2006 at 11:38 am Link to this comment
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The world is under the gun of religion. We increasingly suffer the baseless and conflicting ideologies that create hatred and chaos by so-called Men of God. Doubly dangerous are their self-expressed apocalyptic solutions for their personal salvation. Only when the world adapts a more rational way of humanist thinking will we ever rise above the centuries-old dogmas that separate and endanger us. Personally, I increasing feel endangered and agitated by the religious minds at work in the world today. These are dangerous minds that think outside the realm of logic or rationality.  Unfortunately, these fools see the end as a glorious beginning. Such kinds adherents and their reckless religious fervour have us in a spiral that will increasingly bring chaos and potential world destruction. Much more effort is needed to build a secular bulwark of reason. Keep up the good work, Sam, and continue to show the light of rational thinking.

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By Sayeed Y., September 17, 2006 at 11:37 am Link to this comment
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Another wonderful disquisition by Sam. Insightful as always.

I however think the Pope has absolutely nothing to apologise for, and doing so would be detrimental to the exercise of free speech and will only serve to embolden Muslims the world over to commit acts of random violence whenever Islam comes under public scrutiny. It’s high time Muslims (and I speak as a former Sunni raised in the faith) learned to appreciate that Islam is not above reproach and valid criticism of it will be heard without fear of reprisals.

The practice of killing persons who speak ill of the Prophet isn’t the act of over-zealous Muslims as some would have us believe, but is Islamic in its root. Pronouncements to kill those that criticise Mohammed can be found in Islamic edicts, was implemented by Mohammed’s companions and is considered the duty of every Muslim.

Until the West makes unequivocally clear to the world’s Muslims that we shall not self-censor, learns that appeasement is not the answer, and takes real steps to tackle Islamic intolerance of free speech, this horrid business of intimidation, riots, and murder will continue to recur.

I’d be interested in what Sam thinks we can do and ought to do to tackle Islamic intolerance of free speech- particularly relating to criticism of religion.

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By Steve M, September 17, 2006 at 11:36 am Link to this comment
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Great job Sam.
Ok, religious belief can start wars and maybe kill us all.  The question is what is to be done about it?  I’m reminded of a book by Philip Jose Farmer (I don’t remember the title) it was set in the future and anyone who held religious beliefs were exluded from political office in the world government.  Seems like a great idea but how do we get there?

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By Ryan Parsons, September 17, 2006 at 11:35 am Link to this comment
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Well said.  “The End of Faith” is an awesome book, and I’ve pre-ordered “Letters to a Christian Nation”.  Religious people can be so idiotic.  Recently a female friend of mine showed concern that I was an atheist, so I asked her if she preferred that I were a Muslim, despite the fact that I would then hold the belief that she would end up in hell for being a Christian, and she said that she would prefer that, because then I would at least believe in something.  Ridiculous.  I guess religious people can “respect” the beliefs of other relgious people even when those beliefs teach them that those other people are deserving of death.  They understand each other in a sick way.

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By R Bishop, September 17, 2006 at 11:27 am Link to this comment
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I was in the middle of Blood Money’s (T. Christian Miller) account of how a group of KBR truckers got sent to their deaths near the Baghdad airport two years ago, a sad tale of war profiteering, incompetence and of course pointlessness, to say nothing of the shake your head stupidity of injecting mostly Christian Americans into the heart of Muslim darkness for the greater glory of a “I talk to God” president, when Sam’s response to the Pope arrived.

The whole scene—a Pope chained to an irrational belief set lecturing another group about their irrational set of beliefs—at least made me chuckle.

This is a little like believers in the Tooth Fairy lecturing Santa Claus followers about their gullibility.  Do any of these people understand the concept of projection?

Thank you, again, Sam for the clear-headed skewering of these fools.

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By David, September 17, 2006 at 11:13 am Link to this comment
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If only the Pope would read this… Keep up the great work Sam!  We are looking forward to your new book.  I’ll be the first in line on Tuesday to get a copy (or two or three).

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By Earle Jones, September 17, 2006 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
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Sam:  AMEN! (As I used to say before I was saved.)

What Muslim fundamentalists do today is what Christian fundamentalists did a few hundred years ago.

How did we wind up with this Neaderthal disaster for a Pope?  I thought he was the intellectual—the professor.  Jesus!

Question:  Is it possible to be concerned that five of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic without being a bigot?


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By RJJ M.D. (Seattle), September 17, 2006 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
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Cheers!  As always, I am happy to see that you are willing and extremely capable of replying to our irrational world, especially its religious cohorts.  I only wish that your reason and logic were displayed to a “mainstream” audience.  I recently saw Michael Shermer, one of the founders of Skeptic Magazine, speak at the Seattle Town Hall.  He posesses a great wealth of knowledge, and is a worthy perveyor of scientific logic.  I was however surprised to find that he was not willing to outrightly confront religious irrationality.  It seems as if even he is affraid to engage the subject as I believe it should be engaged.  Although I don’t think he would support any of ‘their’ dogmas, he seems to take the stance that diligent pursuit of scientific knowlege through empirical endeavors will win the race in the end.  This is where I deviate and take allegiance to your stance on the subject.  We must confront this head-on, and try to win back these religious minds.  Empiricism and rationality must win, but I’m afraid that it can’t unless we are willing to engage the ‘faithful’.

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By theSaiGirl, September 17, 2006 at 11:08 am Link to this comment
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Hey Harris,

When did you turn into such a coward ?

I guess you heard they issued a fatwa against the Pope ?

As a stone-cold atheist, I have to say, you sound pretty lame on this.

What happened to free speech ?
What happened to the universal right of free expression ?

The Pope has the right to say anything he damn well pleases.
In this case all he did was quote an obscure historical reference to a Byzantine quote about Islamic missionary aggressiveness.

Maybe you think that Salman Rushdie should never have written his “Satanic Verses”, and it was ok for the mullahs to issue a fatwa calling for his murder.
You do remember Salman Rushdie, don’t you ?
He had to travel around for years with bodyguards after they ordered his death.
Several of his translators and publishers were assaulted, and at least one was actually killed.

Thanks for standing up against religious tolerance and free expression.
You sniveling ass-wipe.
Just like all the other gatekeeping cowards on the spineless “progressive” left”.

I would never count on you or any of these “progressive” phonies to defend MY freedom.

If you had even an ounce of honesty or guts, you would have denounced 9/11 as an inside job.

But I guess we know the measure of your willingness to defend freedom.
Slim and None.
And Slim just left on the Metro.

L. Ertell
Elkridge, Md.

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By Linda Karosic, September 17, 2006 at 11:08 am Link to this comment
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I am not sure about the rest of you… but I have a lot of faith in my reasoning skills.

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By ruben, September 17, 2006 at 11:02 am Link to this comment
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Great article Sam keep up the good work!

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By TFYQA, September 17, 2006 at 10:52 am Link to this comment
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We are all taken hostages by religious fundamentalism…

Sad thing is they are all basically the same…

” Les trois monothéismes, animés par une même pulsion de mort généalogique, partagent une série de mépris identiques : haine de la raison et de l’intelligence ; haine de la liberté ; haine de tous les livres au nom d’un seul ; haine de la vie ; haine de la sexualité, des femmes et du plaisir ; haine du féminin ; haine des corps, des désirs, des pulsions. En lieu et place de tout cela, judaïsme, christianisme et islam défendent : la foi et la croyance, l’obéissance et la soumission, le goût de la mort et la passion de l’au-delà, l’ange asexué et la chasteté, la virginité et la fidélité monogamique, l’épouse et la mère, l’âme et l’esprit. Autant dire la vie crucifiée et le néant célébré... “

Michel Onfray Traité d’athéologie
Grasset, ISBN : 2-246-64801-7

…or as the American version would have it…

The essence of Christianity is told us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the tree of knowledge. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on. You could be in the Garden of Eden if you had just keep your fucking mouth shut and hadn’t asked any questions. - Frank Zappa

A great recipe for progress indeed wink 

The more you are ignorant, the less you’re aware of it - Louis Pasteur

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By Chip, September 17, 2006 at 10:48 am Link to this comment
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As usual Sam Harris hits the nail into the cross, I mean on the head. If you haven’t read his book do so, Its time for Atheist, Agnostics, and all rational people to start raising their voices. If you have had enough of their religious “beliefs” pushed on you, ie, vetoing stem cell research, teaching abstinance instead of birth control, intelligent design, 6000 year old earth, martyrdom, the list goes on and on. These are dangerous times, we can no longer say “well that’s their religious belief” so we can’t question it. Question it!

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By Bob Kealy, September 17, 2006 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
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Some folks are of the view that the Spinozist image of God Or Nature can serve to reconcile empirical science and the conventional ideas of faith based on the ideas of the Greeks especially those of Aristotle which the Pope seems to be basing at least in part, that is apart from strains of the mysticism of Kaballa and Augustine’s Neo-Platonism, seems to be basing his incomplete remarks about Islam and his incomplete ideas about genuine empirical science and its methods.
I’m sure the debate and its terrible outcomes will go on for a long time because the mastering of Spinoza’s “The Ethics”  and his idea that God and Nature is the only actual one reality we have to deal with. As Spinoza said as his last word, it’s a mastering of an idea of reason and its applications that is both difficult and rare.

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By Samantha, September 17, 2006 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
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I always love your work and analysis. I couldnt agree with your more.

It proves rather difficult for the world to realize the danger, hypocricy and brutally of religion when over 80% of humanity is infected with its deadly infection.

All we need to do is get religion to be considered a mental illness, and the world will be turned around in no time. ^_~

It is funny how they think intelligent people and non believers are soo eeeeviiil. last time i checked “non believer” meant humanitarian. I care about people far to much to have their individuality and humanity stripped and have them put wasted faith in a non existent god instead of themselves, other humans, or loved ones.

good and evil, right and wrong, pure and impure are all falsehoods. they do not exist. Just moronic illusions used to control the weak and brainless to promote discrimination and intolerance. whether something is good or evil isnt truth, but perception. if religion supposedly “saves” us, then why it is endlessly segregating us with its lies?

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By Hilary, September 17, 2006 at 10:46 am Link to this comment
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(Please do not pass on my email,  Thank you)

Can you please tell me what the current scientific wisdom is on eggs?  First we were told not to eat them at all because of the cholesteral, a few years later it was O.K. to have three a week, time passed and it becames acceptable to have one a day, then I was told to only use the egg white, a year later I was told the egg yolk was the better part to consume, now I am told the general populace can enjoy two or more a day! Which opinion do you think I should adhere to, and which expert?  Then, sir, please tell me if I should eat salt, or take hormones.  Both of which science has told me to use or not over the last 15 years, where I have been on and off them.  Might I add that I have always been a relatively healthy person except for hhe headaches I get trying to know who to believe in this age of reason.

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By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, September 17, 2006 at 10:43 am Link to this comment
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Harriss makes all my points that reason and faith are incompatible. One cannot gainssay that by stating that religions use logic in their doctrines. That is irrelevant in that they are not empiric as Harriss states.People in asylums can reason well ,but their facts are irrational .Peoples egos tie themselves into the irrationality of religion because they want a loving father-shepherd who can give them love and ultimate purpoe and an afterlife. Natural selection shows no such purpose and we have to make our own purposes . When our axons and neurons play out, we are no more. Nothing can transfer our thought to a an immortal body or to an immortal god as process theologians allege. Harriss urges everyone to forego the supernatural and the paranormal and such matters as Sasquatch and embrace reality.And this in not a prejudice or begging the question as we all have to argue from Existence to anything else . The supernaturalists and naturalists and all who embrace the weird have fallen in attempts to prove their points . One needs no more to validate them than patent officials do to deny pattents to makers of perpetual motion machines. As all those people do is to recycle old garbage into new cans , which we empty , one can safely state they never will find a valid argument . On that basis , we rationalists don’t make an argumentum ignornatium -absence of evidence here does show no gods , pararnormality and weird entities. One would be hard pressed to contemn this commentary and Harriss’s. Also , without special pleading ,how can the Pope allege that Christinsanity is superior to the other Abrahamic bastions of irreality.        The sword spread both Christianity and Islam .Charleslemagne got the Saxons to embrace his religion at the point of a sword and so did the Spaniards. Now we can embrace any doctrine freely and so finally reason can have a chance to prevail . It is an arduous task , a long slough . Emotional factors of the ego play the role here .Science has just a small part,if any, to persuade people to embrace reality . Theists and paranormalists use obscurantism to advance their nonsense ; they try to use science to solve their invalidity . We show that science does not validate them .Liberal theology is not a mid-way between creationism and atheism , but is itself a form of creationism, relying on faith - the I just say so of begging the question of   a god’s existence .  Francis Collins makes no more sense than Duane Gish . Swinburne alleges that we should embrace evil for helping us be moral beings, Plantinga begs the question with his warrant and Hick commits the all or nothing fallacy and strawman fallacy in his defence of free will . Logic is the bane of theists and paranormalists; reality is the joy of naturalists.

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By Jorge Rodriguez, September 17, 2006 at 10:40 am Link to this comment
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As usual you are on the spot with your comments.

To me this last speech like all of his predecessors speeches are simply geared towards increasing membership in the catholic Church and furthering separatism in the world. I find it completely moronic that he should say he “sincerely regrets” offending Muslims after the statements he made about Mohammad. Did he seriously think that Muslims would take what he said as a compliment? The popes words clearly reflect that his primary interest is to increase the falling membership of the Catholic church, and has no concern whatsoever about humanity or reason.

The fact that he is the pope almost assures that he is clueless and unable to deal with truth or reality. However, this inability to or unwillingness to deal with present day realities is not limited to the pope. In my opinion all practitioners and followers of religious dogma seem to suffer from this affliction

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By Dick Marti, September 17, 2006 at 10:39 am Link to this comment
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Marvelous essay, Sam. Yet you ignore these points:

1. Jesus fielded no army, conquered no peoples.
2. Jesus ordered no executions, mutilations, or stonings.
3. Jesus did not marry, much less marry a child.
4.  Yes, the Crusades were nearly a millenium ago, and yes, the Inquistion was a shameful episode in Christianity, but that mostly ended several centuries ago. This is 2006.
5. Yes, some so-called Christians blow up abortion clinics or shoot abortion doctors. But, notably, they don’t deliberately blow themselves up in the process.
6. The 9/11 hijackers did not profess Christianity and were not citizens of the Vatican.
7. Christians did not cheer in the streets when the Twin Towers fell.
8. Christians do not issue edits calling for the murder of novelists.
9. The Pope does not speak for all Christians, and not even all Catholics follow his every word. Yet if he does not speak out, who will? Jerry Falwell? Pat Robertson? You?

I could go on. But perhaps you see the point.

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By Shell Fisher, September 17, 2006 at 10:39 am Link to this comment
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Sam . . . Never had a “hero” before but now I’ve found one. Even though I express myself effectively with artwork, I still wish I could make my statements with words as brilliantly as you do. But, I hope you travel with a coterie of body guards . . . the world needs to continue hearing voices such as yours and we don’t want any fundamentalists wrecking revenge for the truths you speak.

Stay safe!!

Need any artwork?


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By Clint, September 17, 2006 at 10:39 am Link to this comment
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SAM IS RIGHT ON.  I’m reminded of the old bumpersticker, “Jesus, protect me from your followers!”  And having read and met Andrew Sullivan I find him to be a slave to his sophistry.

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By worldling, September 17, 2006 at 10:35 am Link to this comment
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Great article. The guy who writes Jesus and Mo seems to be on the same wavelength

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By Gijsbert Brandeveld, September 17, 2006 at 10:32 am Link to this comment
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Hear hear!

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By Gerry Delong, September 17, 2006 at 10:31 am Link to this comment
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Keep up your writing.. I send all of your opinions on to many people..somehow the world must harness all of this misguided passion and channel it into this world..How sensitive and touchy!!!!so let us hear one giant primal scream and be done with it..  ..there is no Santa Claus..none.. none..burn your costumes and join the human race..neurosis always considers itself “SPECIAL”

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By Zaheer Alam Kidvai, September 17, 2006 at 10:28 am Link to this comment
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Having adored The End of Faith, I am now in even more awe of your capacity for rational thought and logical, lucid expression.

This is truly a brilliant piece of writing that responds to the Pope’s inaninties and chastises him for his disparaging remarks against Muslims, without at the same time, overlooking in any way their equally damaging attitudes.

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By Robert, September 17, 2006 at 10:23 am Link to this comment
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It really doesn’t seem to matter how stupid the pope’s comments are. His supporters will find a way to interpret them as wise simply because he is the pope. When will people wake up and realize that there is no such thing as being too reasonable? It’s frightening that this argument is even made and then taken seriously by so many. Take a look at what’s going on around the world. It’s pretty clear that people are not suffering because of too much reason. They are suffering because of too much ignorance. The pope encourages people to stop thinking and they love him for it. Sam Harris is one of the few people encouraging people to think, and he’s villainized for it. What a bizarre world we live in?

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By Ted Swart, September 17, 2006 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
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What a superb analysis by Sam Harris.  Surely one of his best expostions so far.
One of the Pope’s spokespersons claims that the Pope’s position is unmistakeably in line with the Vatican teaching that the Church “esteems muslims who adore the one true God”.  No recognition of the fact that the god of Judaism, the Christian god, the Muslim god and the three main gods of Hinduism are all mutually contradictory.  So where is this mysterious one true God? Simply a figment of the imagination? —a totally irrational non-existent entity?  How can their be any dialogue between mutually conflicting faiths?

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By Peter M Britnell, September 17, 2006 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
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Ratzinger wears a funny hat.  He wore one back in his Hitler youth days as well.  Do you think there is a connection between the belief that contraception “is a sin” and capitalism’s desire for cheap 3rd World labor?  Probably reaching a little bit there, but I can’t help drawing the comparison. Hey Sam, the real church session starts in about 1 hour.  Its name?  NASCAR/FOOTBALL.  Come worship at the alter of noise and excess with a Coors Light, the silver bullet.  Thank you Jesus, thank you Jewish God.  What a joke.

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By Charlie Sitzes, September 17, 2006 at 10:14 am Link to this comment
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Spot on as the English say. When religious claims are made for which no evidence is required, anybody can claim anything and the sucess of the “religion” depends not on the truth of it but how many can be convinced it’s true. This will inevitably lead to chaos. The only reason homo sapiens has survived 195,000 years is we never had the capacity to destroy civilization. Until now. Much as I would like to be an optimist, I see no realistic way to educate the 1.3 billion Muslims concerning their ignorant religious beliefs.

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By Boris Yaker, September 17, 2006 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
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Me thinks that you’re just wasting your time and your ink.

The fundamentalists ALL are not interested in logic or reason… They are obsessed with believing and thinking that WHAT ISN’T…IS.

So rather then criticizing them for that why don’t you spend your time on a more reasonable and probably more productive effort of “WHAT IS and WHAT IS REASONABLE.

Thank you!


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By, September 17, 2006 at 10:09 am Link to this comment
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Our sentiments exactly, only expressed better.

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By Mary Ann, September 17, 2006 at 10:08 am Link to this comment
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All I can say is . . . Sam Harris is my hero!

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By Kevin McLeod, September 17, 2006 at 10:07 am Link to this comment
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My first exposure to Sam Harris was here at TruthDig. His direct, unapologetic style is very appealing, and I found myself checking to see if you had anything new from him at TruthDig every time I visited the site.

The interview you posted with Harris convinced me to buy his book. I had same reaction he did on 9/11 - a cold realization that religious fanatics will tear our world apart if they are not stopped. Harris examines the inevitable consequences of faith-based worldviews with brutal clarity.

I pre-ordered his new book, Letter to a Christian Nation, and just enjoyed this witty - and on-target - skewering of the Pope’s assault on reason and comments on relations with the Muslim world.

Harris challenges the assumptions underlying our culture’s conventional wisdom. It appears to me that is much of what Truthdig is all about.

Thank you for featuring a stellar mind. Thank you for having the courage to present a view that deserves wide exposure.

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By Scott, September 17, 2006 at 10:07 am Link to this comment
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Basically, he flatly stated that Islam is violent and spread by the sword.

In response, Muslims…got violent.

Threatening suicide assassination bombing
The Salman Rushdie treatment
Shooting up hospitals
Burning effigies
Blasting downtown (in a Buddhist country, I might add).
Attacking churches

“Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam

Apparently the concept of irony hasn’t quite arrived yet.

For the section of the speech that pulls the mask a little further down, A+. For the rest, D-.

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By Steve Canale, September 17, 2006 at 10:02 am Link to this comment
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Remember me Sam?  I’m the guy who invented the Theory of Ooga Booga.

I like you.  I like you a lot.  I’ve read your first book.  I’ve attended a lecture you gave in NYC.  I intend to read your second book.

I even listened to you on the Colbert Report. (A mistake—the show is stupid; Colbert is sophomoric.)

I wonder about your language.  I worry that you may alienate.  On the other hand, I haven’t written a best seller, have I?

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By Tom Russell, September 17, 2006 at 10:00 am Link to this comment
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Obviously the Pope is an idiot.  Well maybe not an idiot, but certainly an individual in need of training in the process of rational thinking.  Anyone who would apologize to those irrational animal forms cannot be taken seriously.

But then how does one deal with president Pinocchio?  His bumbling, irrational, assinine foreign policy (war) has resulted in the desirable daily death of hundreds of muslims.  Yet the price in American life and treasure is, as far as I am concerned, too high.

The pope can be dismissed out of hand as irrelevant.  The current leadership of our nation can not. 

What, pray tell(he, he), is the answer to our dilemma?

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By Dan, September 17, 2006 at 10:00 am Link to this comment
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You never disappoint.  I appreciate you pointing out what a hypocritical numbskull the pope is.  Your logical is flawless as usual and will therefore be ignored by nearly all theists.

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By Lisa W., September 17, 2006 at 9:52 am Link to this comment
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“unconscionable and irredeemably stupid”

Well said Sam.  Looking forward to reading your latest book, which just arrived a couple of days ago.

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By Mary Scriver, September 17, 2006 at 9:52 am Link to this comment
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The news we already knew was that this Pope was a twisted old fossil who somehow had managed to worm his way to the top of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.  The good news is that now that he is Pope, his ideas are harder to disguise and smuggle into policy.

The even better news is that this is known to many many of his own faithful, though they had hoped he might change or they might be mistaken.

So the sad news is that a time when the world needs another John-Paul, we have gotten some kind of throwback who will damage his church even more.  We can only hope that dogma is right—that God exists and has a bigger plan that this fits into.  Maybe this Pope is a Judas who prepares the way for someone truly loving and healing.

Otherwise, the authority of the Pope might well be challenged by efforts to somehow impeach him or, as been tried before, assassinate him.

Prairie Mary

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By Ricky Jimenez, September 17, 2006 at 9:49 am Link to this comment
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What I would have liked to have heard from the Pope was a statement like, “I call upon our Muslim brothers to stop behaving like we Christians did, until about 400 years ago and the ancient Hebrews did, 3000 years ago”.

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By ahole, September 17, 2006 at 9:19 am Link to this comment
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Alright, religious dogma about physical existence does lack evidence to support its claims.  About immaterial existence as a metaphysical under-pinning, well, again it lacks evidence (although, here at least it is not falsifiable).  On the other hand, no perception based upon positivistic sensory data alone is adequate to the experience of an object.  The unity of nature as a field for scientific study is not supported merely by the collection of isolated facts.  Theory exceeds empirical data.

So, as painful as it is to say, the pope is right up to this point.  Reason does require more than positing an existing world which our perceptions and knowledge merely maps through sensation.  Yet, this does not necessarily lead to dogmatic faith in doctrine, but, when spoken by someone committed to universal reason,  requires us to make science something more adroit than the dogmatic insistence upon the rationality of positivistic natural science. 

Is the success at creating greater banks of knowledge about the natural world sufficient to mark the limits of scientific reason?  What about human sciences?  Are these, if they are to exist at all, to be modeled after physical scientific exactness?  Or does the subjectivity inherent in all perception and experience have to find a place within our conception of reason?  That the theories of physical sciences ran into the problem of subjectivity only serves to undermine the positivistic explanation; unless we limit our conception of science to its technological productions, then we are confronted with a problem of reason that needs to be addressed if we are to unify our knowledge, however, this does not entail a relapse into the tuteledge of doctrine.

And there we have the rub.  The pope was right to point out that love is a worthy principle for universal appeal, a principle of respect and therefore of reason.  The sword does not merit respect.  The rest is dogma and bad science by reclaiming the beliefs of the past and perpetuating their debilitative effect.

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By MR.TUTTLE, September 17, 2006 at 9:15 am Link to this comment
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Deliver Us From Evil.
For the victims there is no such thing as salvation…

Just saw this trailer last night.
Whoa! IT made me so angry, sad for all of the children molested by these “Men Of God”

When will people wake up to this farse called organized religion.

The sooner the better.
For all of us.

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By james, September 17, 2006 at 9:11 am Link to this comment
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i love it when the pope gets owned.  i wonder what it would take to get muslims mad enough to try to kill the pope.

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By Bright light fading fast, September 17, 2006 at 8:48 am Link to this comment
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  As usual your arguments are thoughtful and succinct.  But I think if you check into it you’ll see that God™ does exist.  In fact God™ may be the only real deity that can be proven to exist.  I’m also appalled that someone could even think to create an animated children’s character that promotes atheism!!

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By Val, September 17, 2006 at 7:30 am Link to this comment
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Again, Sam gets it right. Good grief! Are 80% of Americans—80% of the world?—enamoured of the insanity that is “religion?”

Heaven help us.

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By Roberta Laidman, September 17, 2006 at 6:47 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Sam Harris.
Your essay was a perfect start to my Sunday morning.
Roberta Laidman

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By Joe R., September 17, 2006 at 6:28 am Link to this comment
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By DavidRP, September 17, 2006 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
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Sam Harris to the rescue again!!

The media has made a big deal about the specific “anti-islamic” comments made by the Pope and the Muslim response. Do we really need the pope to point out the evils of Islam? In fairness maybe his holiness could have given us a little history lesson on the Inqusition’s -  that could be enlightening too!  The real story to me is the church’s new anti-secular crusade.  Could it be that the secularist and rationalist have them running a little scared?

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By rachelle, September 17, 2006 at 4:54 am Link to this comment
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Very well written. I totally agree with you.

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By TomChicago, September 17, 2006 at 4:25 am Link to this comment
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Tristero on Hulabaloo yesterday referenced an article by Charles Krauthammer in WaPo comparing the faith-based madness of the East to that of the West.  Hackles should be bristling all over the planet at the prospect of fundies, of whatever stripe, with their finger on the button.

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By Druthers, September 17, 2006 at 2:46 am Link to this comment
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Beliefs are extremely comforting to people because they can cling to them in the face of evidence to the contrary, share them with others, need no evidence of their reality, find relief and forgiveness from their feelings of guilt and validation of their inclination to impose their beliefs on others.
Even Chekov mused “If only we could know.”  This longing is part of our human condition. Those who admit they do not know live perhaps with a greater degree of freedom, live in a human community and must forgo the protecting father figure, be he loving or judgmental.
That people turn to a group of perpetually renewed old bachelors for dogmas as to how to conduct their lives is rather a reflection on how these lives are being lived as children lost in the dark and how power is used to perpetuate itself.

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By SeanK, September 17, 2006 at 2:44 am Link to this comment
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Very interesting Sam.  Thanks. 

What a dangerous world we live in.  I am going to buy up some property in Antartica.  Do you think it is safer there?  (of course I am just kidding) :o)

Keep the reason coming!

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By Ted Nugnt, September 16, 2006 at 11:50 pm Link to this comment
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I have no doubt that this man wants a war.

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By paul kibble, September 16, 2006 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment
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Amen, Sam.

I never thought I’d feel nostalgic for the late and little-lamented (by me anyway)  Pope John Paul Deux, but Bennie 14’s latest exercise in papal bull actually has me longing for the days when Poland’s gift to the Holy See used to entertain us with an encyclical on the evils of abortion or homosexuality or whatever subject his Big Boss had on his list of talking points that month. At least JP II had a kind of gruff charm, whereas the rigid, humorless Benster seems intent on reinforcing every stereotype of German authoritarianism.

Benedict’s programmatic antirationalism represents a reactionary position that might make even Karl Joseph blanch. But why Muslims should be offended by his remarks is beyond me, since the Vicar of Christ shares with Mohammed’s faithful the kind of militant, murderous obscurantism from which the wicked secular Enlightenemnt helped rescue at least some of Chrstendom’s devout but not, alas, the Prophet’s peeps.

At the rate he’s going, Big Ben may succeed in time-warping Mother Church through the rearview mirror into the same century in which, intellectually, Islam is enmired: the 13th. Back to the Future, Your Holiness

The good news about the pontiff’s gaffe is that it’s created the kind of PR nightmare that the Church so richly deserves. The bad news is that it may cause a lot of innocent people to get killed. As if Catholicism and Islam didn’t already have enough blood on their sanctified paws.

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