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Chris Hedges: I Don’t Believe in Atheists

Posted on May 23, 2007
Chris Hedges
Truthdig / Todd Wilkinson

Chris Hedges reads from his essay at the Truthdig debate “Religion, Politics and the End of the World” on May 22, 2007.

By Chris Hedges

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday night, Chris Hedges and Sam Harris debated “Religion, Politics and the End of the World.” The following is Hedges’ opening statement, in which he argues that Harris and other critics of faith have mistakenly blamed religion for the ills of the world, when the true danger lies in the human heart and its capacity for evil. Click here for full debate coverage.

Sam Harris has conflated faith with tribalism.  His book is an attack not on faith but on a system of being and believing that is dangerous and incompatible with the open society.  He attacks superstition, a belief in magic and the childish notion of an anthropomorphic God that is characteristic of the tribe, of the closed society.  He calls this religion.  I do not. 

What he fails to grasp is not simply the meaning of faith—something I will address later—but the supreme importance of the monotheistic traditions in creating the concept of the individual.  This individualism—the belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, or the crowd, and that we are called on as individuals to make moral decisions that at times defy the clamor of the tribe or the nation—is a gift of the Abrahamic faiths.  This sense of individual responsibility is coupled with the constant injunctions in Islam, Judaism and Christianity for a deep altruism.  And this laid the foundations for the open society.  This individualism is the central doctrine and most important contribution of monotheism.  We are enjoined, after all, to love our neighbor, not our tribe.  This empowerment of individual conscience is the starting point of the great ethical systems of our civilization.  The prophets—and here I would include Jesus—helped institutionalize dissent and criticism.  They initiated the separation of powers.  They reminded us that culture and society were not the sole prerogative of the powerful, that freedom and indeed the religious life required us to often oppose and defy those in authority.  This is a distinctly anti-tribal outlook.  Immanuel Kant built his ethics upon this radical individualism.  And Kant’s injunction to “always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as mere means” runs in a direct line from the Christian Gospels.  Karl Popper rightly pointed out in the first volume of “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” when he writes about this creation of the individual as set against the crowd, that “There is no other thought which has been so powerful in the moral development of man” (P. 102, Vol. 1).  These religions set free the critical powers of humankind.  They broke with the older Greek and Roman traditions that gods and destiny ruled human fate—a belief that when challenged by Socrates saw him condemned to death.  They offered up the possibility that human beings, although limited by circumstances and simple human weaknesses, could shape and give direction to society.  And most important, individuals could give direction to their own lives.

Human communication directly shapes the quality of a culture.  These believers were being asked to embrace an abstract, universal deity.  This deity could not be captured in pictures, statues or any concrete, iconographic form.  God exists in the word and through the word, an unprecedented conception in the ancient world that required the highest order of abstract thinking.  “In the beginning,” the Gospel of John reads, “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  This is why the second of the Ten Commandments prohibits Israelites from making concrete images of God. “Iconography thus became blasphemy,” Neil Postman writes, “so that a new kind of God could enter a culture.”

God is a human concept.  God is the name we give to our belief that life has meaning, one that transcends the world’s chaos, randomness and cruelty.  To argue about whether God exists or does not exist is futile.  The question is not whether God exists.  The question is whether we concern ourselves with, or are utterly indifferent to, the sanctity and ultimate transcendence of human existence.  God is that mysterious force—and you can give it many names as other religions do—which works upon us and through us to seek and achieve truth, beauty and goodness.  God is perhaps best understood as our ultimate concern, that in which we should place our highest hopes, confidence and trust.  In Exodus God says, by way of identification, “I am that I am.”  It is probably more accurately translated: “I will be what I will be.”  God is better understood as verb rather than a noun.  God is not an asserted existence but a process accomplishing itself.  And God is inescapable.  It is the life force that sustains, transforms and defines all existence.  The name of God is laden, thanks to our religious institutions and the numerous tyrants, charlatans and demagogues these institutions produced, with so much baggage and imagery that it is hard for us to see the intent behind the concept.  All societies and cultures have struggled to give words to describe these forces.  It is why Freud avoided writing about the phenomenon of love.
Faith allows us to trust, rather, in human compassion, even in a cruel and morally neutral universe.  This is not faith in magic, not faith in church doctrine or church hierarchy, but faith in simple human kindness.  It is only by holding on to the sanctity of each individual, each human life, only by placing our faith in the tiny, insignificant acts of compassion and kindness, that we survive as a community and as a human being.  And these small acts of kindness are deeply feared and subversive to institutional religious and political authorities.  The Russian novelist Vasily Grossman wrote in “Life and Fate”:


Square, Site wide

I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man.  The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality.  It can never be conquered.  The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is.  Evil is impotent before it.  The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it.  This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning.

Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil.  It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness.  But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.

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By peacefull1, May 25, 2007 at 9:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What Hedges tries to do like many other “people of faith” is to make something that is very simple very complicated.  We increase our odds for better results when people don’t buy into absurd ideas about the nature of reality.  It’s that simple.  That’s the basic argument that Harris, Dawkins and other critical thinkers make.  Hedges also seems to put forth the notion that humans somehow need superstition in their life to have meaning.  We hear this BS over and over how people need “faith” to be good.  This is an insult to the intelligence of our species.

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By Ted Swart, May 25, 2007 at 9:26 am Link to this comment

Thanks to all those of you like Ellen Shortland #72330 who actually had a chance to attend the debate—for giving the rest of us an insight into what actually went on.  It would appear that Sam Harris conducted himself well, that Hedges often agreed with Sam but insisted on using hiw own words because he still clings to the notion of a creator God.  It would also appear that the whole exercis was somewhat spoilt by the poor handling of the Q&A segment of the debate.

I note that the laudatory comment by Bernadine Fisher #72593 was included even although it was not supposed to be included. I see that many others agree with me (#72583) that Chris Hedges comments were actually rather muddle headed and really do nothing to defend theism as commenly understood.

Let me close by joining Gerry (#72664) in pleading to have access to a written version of the Harris contribution.

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By Hemi, May 25, 2007 at 9:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dia dhuit TAO Walker!

“Sentient People free to explore endlessly all the nooks and crannies of the whole Living Universe don’t squander there precious attention and waste their natural vitality all tied-up in epistemological knots and semantic conundrums.” - TAO Walker

There’s a lot of truth there my friend but I can’t help but think that despite wanting to live above the fray we have a natural inclination to preserve our spot in the Living Universe from what we comprehend is detrimental. I can see where the mental gymnastics are mostly futile in affecting change. Though the exercise might be futile, that does not seem to quell the inclination. My thinking is that despite the bickering, name-calling and closed mindedness that arises due to the debate, a little introspection and exploration happens whether we admit to it or not. I would think that even your people have not outgrown debate. If we are only exposed to our own reflection does change ever occur?

There’s a story/parable my mentor once told me about a master and an apprentice. (I was apparently being too agreeable. Hard as that is to believe.) The apprentice is quite a “yes man” and is constantly agreeing with every premise the master presents. Finally the master says to him “would you kindly disagree with me so that I know there are two of us here”. (I think he accredited that story to some “wise guy” but I can’t recall.)

Good to know you are still here. Besides, if I were not tied in epistemological knots, how would I hear from you?

Sláinte chugat!

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By Chris, May 25, 2007 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think some people are confusing eloquence with intelligibility.  Frankly, Mr. Hedges is totally incomprehensible.  He identifies Mr. Harris’ target in the first paragraph (“He attacks superstition, a belief in magic and the childish notion of an anthropomorphic God that is characteristic of the tribe, of the closed society.” Superstition? Let’s see—Prophet goes to heaven on a winged steed; virgin births and later assumptions; theological debates over the existence of Limbo, check; Magic?  Hmmm, what about multiple healings, dead walking, walking on water, check; Childish notion of God?  How about killing everyone on the planet in a flood? Check.

Hedges does point out that Harris calls this religion, and then Hedges claims that it is not “religion.”  He says, “God is a human concept.  God is the name we give to our belief that life has meaning, one that transcends the world’s chaos, randomness and cruelty.  To argue about whether God exists or does not exist is futile.  The question is not whether God exists.” (Tell this to the other billions of theists).

Why are they having a debate?  Mr. Hedges is all over the place, and is not a theist in any conventional way. 

He says that religion is wonderful, but apparently doesn’t involve an actual “god”;

Religion is wonderful, but all of the stuff written in their holy books is hooey—“The moment the writers of the Gospels set down the words of Jesus they began to kill the message.  There is no room for prophets within religious institutions” (No prophets! The gospel writers killed the message! What does he think religious people do in church, but read the Bible and study the prophets? Does he realize what Islam and Christianity are based on? Tell me again, why is Hedges defending religion? );

Religion is wonderful, but really bad at times—“ Religion is often a convenient vehicle for this blood lust.  Religious institutions often sanctify genocide,…” ;

Religion is wonderful because from its beginning, monotheism fostered individualism—“This individualism is the central doctrine and most important contribution of monotheism.  We are enjoined, after all, to love our neighbor, not our tribe.” (Yes, the OT is a wonderful template of democratic freedom, and I just can’t get enough of Sharia laws and how fairly Islam treats its apostates.)

At least with a fundie, you know where he or she stands.  They are fair to the extent that they actually read their holy book; too many moderates, especially in debates with atheists, provide a continually moving target.

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By Gerry, May 25, 2007 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

I’m now tired of all this talk about the Hedges long introduction. When do we see/hear from Sam?

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, May 25, 2007 at 7:40 am Link to this comment

Check out #72607.  This is all BS dressed up in fancy language and pseudo-intellect and has nothing to do with digging truth.  “YOU (PEOPLE) CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

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By Max Shields, May 25, 2007 at 7:33 am Link to this comment

While I am still in the process of reading Hedges’ remarks, from what I have read of both Harris and Hedges’ I would whole heartedly agree with Bernadine Fisher’s remarks.

As I’ve posted elsewhere on this topic, Hedges should not be confused with some born again fundamentalism. He provides an extremely thoughtful presentation of theism which has no inherent fundamentalism to it. Fundamentalism - the target of much of what Mr. Harris aims - can be readily found in non-theistic endeavors. Democracy, taken to an extreme belief system becomes neoconservativism, exceptionalism, Monroe Doctrinism. In a word, fundamentalism.

Thoughtfully, as Mr. Hedges implores, we need to understand the best of theism - which can be found in atheism, spiritualism, universal morality - rather than to point at the worst of human transgressions and claim war on humanity (or in Mr. Harris’s case, war on theism).

I think we lose our way when we quibble about definitions of faith/belief. Common understanding holds them to be very much kindred spirits. Hedges is a progressive spiritualist (or theist). And that, for me, is a great tradition.

Mr. Harris makes some very important points, but his claims, his logic seem too wide a net.

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By Verne Arnold, May 25, 2007 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

Mr. Walker,
You are a true gentle-man.  At least, in your responses to these diggs.  I howled as I read your response, but also saw the thing you were saying.  I’m afraid we (domesticated people) are far from home and have lost our way. 
Please, keep writing…what you say is important and your absence was sorely missed by this “domesticated person”. 

I find it interesting there have been no posts to your comments.

I would like to know what “Hau, Kolapi”, means.


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By Griff, May 25, 2007 at 6:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When do we get to hear from Mr. Harris?

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By Arne, May 25, 2007 at 6:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great speech by Chris Hedges, so inspiring. And Fritzikatzi of course Religion and Gods are created by us… but the metaphyscial question still remains: Are we here for a purpose? And what could that purpose be? (And why are the universe fine-tuned for life anyway)

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By Denis Robert, May 25, 2007 at 4:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Mmmm . . . I don’t think so.  Faith is believing something for which you have no evidence.  Believing something that is contrary to the evidence would be more in line with delusion.  You can certainly have faith in something that you have no evidence for and not be delusional, can’t you?


Here you go again confusing simple belief and faith. It CANNOT be faith, if it has any reasonable basis. The belief in virgin birth is Faith BECAUSE it is impossible, and in direct contradiction to the evidence available. It wouldn’t be a miracle, and hence worthy of Faith otherwise. Job’s Faith in the goodness of God was proven by his willingness to stick it out EVEN THOUGH he had ample and sufficient evidence to believe that God was in fact evil.

People say that their Faith is tested when they face a situation where they are brought to the point of “losing faith”; why would they lose Faith? Because they are faced with significant evidence that their belief is either false or otherwise unwarranted.

So I maintain that Faith is NOT belief, but rather belief maintained in the face of contrary evidence.

If you want to equate Faith with Delusion, though, be my guest. I for one don’t see much of a difference.

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By Sybil Adams, May 25, 2007 at 3:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why are you headlining this idiocy on Truthdig???

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By manonfyre, May 25, 2007 at 1:07 am Link to this comment

did i mention Ken Wilber?

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By fritzikatzi, May 25, 2007 at 12:37 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges’ statement that he does not believe in Atheists is pure nonsense. Don’t believe… get on with your life, believe in whatever you want. But leave atheists out of it. Atheism means “not to believe” in one of those ridiculous gods, created by mankind’s selfcentered and narcissistic delusion.
Just say no: I don’t believe!!!
Why must you believe in something?

If you can’t be rational…go ahead… believe in God, Jesus, Allah, Zeus… who cares? Just keep it to yourself! If you ever see any of those guys… (BTW: why are all those gods “guys”?)
And make sure to take a photo for proof. Otherwise it won’t stand up in court.

Thank god I am an atheist!

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By Bernardine Fisher, May 25, 2007 at 12:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This comment is not for publishing.  I was so taken with Chris Hedges: I Don’t Believe in Atheists opening statement I was all the more sorry I missed the debate.  I am a reader of because I am (and have been since the LA Times) a fan of Robert Scheer.  I read Sam Harris’ LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION and loved it.  However, it needs Chris Hedges brilliantly written remarks as a counter balance.  The opening statement is incredibly wonderful…intelligent, clear, well-developed….I don’t even have the words to say how terrific it is.  I loved it.  Thankyou for it.  I love  Don’t go away.  I’m a fan.
Thank you.
Bernie Fisher

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By Bud Ranus, May 24, 2007 at 11:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges’ vituperative screed was long on bombast and ad hominem hectoring, and all but incomprehensible, especially in the context of a “debate.” By his “reasoning,” all knowledge acquired other than through direct experience (e.g. “I speak Arabic, I was a prisoner,” etc.) is of negligible value. His rant was characterized by a tone of rising indignation culminating in near apoplectic blather. He would have been better served by a more conversational presentation.

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By Ga, May 24, 2007 at 11:03 pm Link to this comment

Comment #72534 by Sid:

“Can small man know what goes on in this vast existence from a planet that is 100s of billions times smaller than a speck of dust in comparison to the vastness of the Universe. Is our primitive science able to contemplate things it cannot even observe? Of course not. Science can only comment on what it can observe.”

Ever observe an what goes on inside an atom?  Inside of a star? Ever observe “dark matter?” Ever seen gravity?

“Small” man is on the verge of knowing quite a bit about such things as physics and quantam mechanics and astronomy and chemistry and…

Science is not primitive at all and humans can indeed contemplate those things.

You are making a basic scientific error: You are starting with a conclusion.

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By straight_talk_11, May 24, 2007 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment

Fundamentalism, whether theistic or atheistic, is the great granter of evil to those who subscribe to it. It is the superficiality that ties us to ourselves as separate and distinct and nothing like anyone else and divides communities into “us and them”.

The fundamental premise underlying all modern research in theoretical physics is that the entire cosmos is the manifestation of fluctuations within a single field that transcends our common sense concept of space and time. We also know now that physical structure is clearly hierarchical.

Since we experience both individual intelligence and consciousness as associated with our physical bodies and how well or not they are functioning, it is both irrational and counterintuitive to assume that consciousness and intelligence are not hierarchical properties of the cosmos while physical phenomena are. The opposite position implies a Supreme Intelligence that is both conscious and intelligent.

The neo-atheists would have it that belief in God is an inherent evil and responsible for much if not all of the historical and current suffering and grief in this world. They are becoming militant and intolerant in the desire to stamp it out. Such a superficial perspective, one that effectively worships energy and matter as ultimate reality, belongs to a classical paradigm in physics that was on its deathbed even in the late nineteenth century. The mindset it represents displays all the signal characteristics of religious fundamentalism. It is the flip side of the same ugly, superficial coin.

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By Ga, May 24, 2007 at 10:46 pm Link to this comment

Comment #72571 by Ted Swart:

“There is much irony in the fact that he regards John’s words about the Word as supremely profound yet we would not even know what John said/wrote if his words were not in the Bible.”

Hedges was talking about, well, talking:

“Most moral thinkers—from Socrates to Christ to Francis of Assisi—eschewed the written word because they knew, I suspect, that once things were written down they became, in the wrong hands, codified and used not to promote morality but conformity, subservience and repression.  Writing freezes speech.”

And I find myself disturbed by his:

“Faith is not in conflict with reason.  Faith does not conflict with scientific truth, unless faith claims to express a scientific truth.”

Or deny or suppress or persecute scientific truth.

But he does tend to intermix “true faith” (his “what we do”) and “religious faith” (his “professed faith”). The faith of the religioius right is very much in conflict with reason.

And also:

“Reason allows us to worship at the idol of our intrinsic moral superiority. It is a dangerous form of idolatry, a form of faith, certainly, but one the biblical writers knew led to evil and eventually self-immolation.”

Can one go too far and “worship” science as an idol? Seems like something pretty farfetched, or, if it does happen, would it be all that bad? Would one country invade and occupy another based on scientific reasons? Can science be dangerous (in the sense of “idolatry,” certainly, an atom bomb is dangerous, but I don’t think that is what he means)? I think not, but it is an interesting question.

Is he really saying perhaps that reasoning (or knowledge) without wisdom is dangerous? Um, yeah.

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By Ga, May 24, 2007 at 10:21 pm Link to this comment

“I also know from my time in the Muslim world that the vast majority of the some 1 billion Muslims on this planet—most of whom are not Arab—are moderate, detest the violence done in the name of their religion and look at the Pat Robertsons and Franklin Grahams, who demonize Muslims in the name of Christianity, with the same horror with which we look at Osama bin Laden or Hamas.”

This is an important statement and one that too many people—most of whom would describe themselves as either Christian or patriotic or both—either ignore or are unaware of. It also (see previous few paragraphs in article at the end of part II) points out a problem with Sam Harris is how he tends to demonize Islam at a pretty precarious point in history. It is not politically correct to temper one’s words so as to not incite fear and loathing in other people.

Many religious leaders in our country, if they ruled, would teach the Bible in school, eliminate much of science from school, support censorship, advocate that a woman’s place in to obey her husband, enforce dress codes, etc. etc. etc.

Fundamental Christians are the same as Fundamental Muslims—just of a differnent “faith.”

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By Ted Swart, May 24, 2007 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment

The Chris Hedges contribution to the discussion on faith must surely rank as a most unconvincing defence of religious faith.
Hedge contends that Harris misses the “supreme importance of the monotheistic traditions in creating the concept of the individual”.  Yet this claim comes without any evidence or any explanation of polytheisms ineptness in this regard.  And no credit is given to the Renaissance – which was as much secular as religious.
Hedges quotes from John’s Gospe the well know phrase “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  And he connects this phrase with the second of the ten commandments – without any supporting evidence. Moreover, Hedges goes on to say:  “The moment the writers of the Gospels set down the words of Jesus they began to kill the message”.  There is much irony in the fact that he regards John’s words about the Word as supremely profound yet we would not even know what John said/wrote if his words were not in the Bible.  And, even to this day, we can only speculate as to what John was actually trying to convey. 
Strangely enough Hedge comes over as an agnostic pantheist rather than a man of faith. He says that “God is a human concept” which doesn’t sound much like theism or even deism.  He quotes, with approval, the message that Moses received from the burning bush namely : “I am that I am”—that can be paraphrased as <things are as they are> which is a sentiment very acceptable to agnostics/atheists.  He opines that “small acts of kindness are deeply feared by institutionalized religions and political authorities”—which does not speak of an admirer of formal religion.
He adds in a very pantheistic manner that “There is a spiritual dimension to human existence and the universe, but this is not irrational – it is non-rational”.  He says that “Reason allows us to worship at the idol of our intrinsic moral superiority”.  But reason does not obligate us to do anything like that and most agnostics and atheists are not at all what he describes.
Hedge takes Harris to task for “externalizing” evil yet it is the very externalization of evil which is real evil in action.  He does little to defend the core beliefs of Christianity but comes closest to doing so when he alludes to the notion of original sin.  He does not use that term but speaks of the “capacity for evil “ in our hearts and implies that this capacity can be overcome by faith and in no other way.  Proof?
Hedges rightly points out that evil deeds are not the exclusive trademark of religions – whether Christianity, Islam or any other religion— and such deeds are very much in evidence in the lives of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and others.  Yet there is a common basis to all such mass scale evil and it is the existence and worship of rigid dogmas – whether religious or non-religious.  A point which has not escaped Harris.

Nice sounding phrases about hope and love have very little significance if they are grounded in illusions?  Love can be a very nebulous concept and the hard truth is that love is actually an act of the will.  We love if and only if we behave like someone should if they do love.  And if we do so behave then, and only then, do we really love.  The most sensible thing that Hedges did was to quote from Matthews Gospel which says: “By their fruits shall we know them”.  We are all obligated to live worthy lives.  And, whilst reason does not answer all our questions and solve all our problems to abnegate reason is foolhardy in the extreme.  Harris, Dawkins and others are simply asking us to accept the non-existence of a Creator God as far more likely than any other hypothesis. Hedges suggests that the prophets of today “come not from the church but from our artists, poets and writers who follow their inner authority”.  Dare I suggest that Hedges was remiss in leaving out scientists and dare I hope that he might yet conceive it possible that Harris in his writings is one such prophet.

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By, May 24, 2007 at 10:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hedges ‘announced’ he was at the debate to ‘critique’ Harris’ book.  That’s not how the debate was advertised.  He came across as pugnacious, somewhat beligerant and if I’m not mistaken misquoted Harris.  If this was a ‘debate’, Harris won it handily.

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By Ga, May 24, 2007 at 9:53 pm Link to this comment

Comment #72446 by Bryan:

“No amount of debate can change your atheistic faith.”

The term atheism is incompatible with the term faith. Atheism is a philosophical view, generally based on what one perceives, or understands, as the result of reasoning. I.e. I investigate and come to a conclusion.

Faith too can be viewed philospophically, “Many noted philosophers and theologians have espoused the idea that faith is the basis of all knowledge.”—Wikipedia.

However, in the context of general usage faith means some sort of religious belief.

There really is no dogma or faith attached to atheism. That is one of the points of atheism: lack of adherence to faith-based dogma.

Fundamentally religious people tend—by and because of their own “faith” in their church doctrine—to be uneducated when is comes to science, philosophy nad critical thinking. That is what makes all this debating so frustrating.

Religious Christian fundamentalism is like this:

“I believe the Bible is the true word of God because the Bible tells me so.”

And once someone believes that, they stop all further attempts to gain knowledge.

End Program

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By A, May 24, 2007 at 9:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have not heard the entire debate, I have only read this intro by Hedges.  I think he just painfully recounted the tired old refrain of the evil nature of human beings - human beings who then desperately seek salvation.  Bullshit!

Lets teach children how wonderful the human species is, not to beg for forgiveness and salvation. 

I agree with Hedges that a story or narrative is healthy for a culture, mythical or not.  But he quotes his Abrahamic religious ideals as if they have been good for our culture… Chris celebrates a sick and faulty ‘story’.  I’ll keep searching for a better one. 

Im looking forward to the Harris response.


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By Sid, May 24, 2007 at 9:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You are very welcome. Also, nowhere do I say God is a “HE”. That must be how you see God?

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By writerdd, May 24, 2007 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I like Hitchens’s book, American Facists, but frankly I could not figure out what he was talking about in this article.

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By Sid, May 24, 2007 at 8:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You disprove it SMARTY? Can small man know what goes on in this vast existence from a planet that is 100s of billions times smaller than a speck of dust in comparison to the vastness of the Universe. Is our primitive science able to contemplate things it cannot even observe? Of course not. Science can only comment on what it can observe. All the rest is speculation.
Such arrogance Lefty!

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RAE's avatar

By RAE, May 24, 2007 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

“My atheist children, God is not here to listen to your every wish and say yes. Often no is the answer. God knows the “Big Picture” and we see only a very small part of it. Be not so arrogant to think that small man can know all that goes on in Heaven & Earth.”

Thanks, Sid. It’s comforting to know there people like you around who have special insight into the workings of “God” - what “He” knows, and why “He’s” here, etc., so you can explain it to the rest of us poor simpletons.

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By Rev. El Mundo, May 24, 2007 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Harris / Hedges debate was a bust.  They were each on “different pages.”  If they were debating the same issue it would have been memorable.  Overall, Harris presented himself well.  Hadges was a long-winded, irrelevent blowhard.

The Q/A period was pathetic.  In fact, it didn’t pan out at all.  Sheer’s handling of the Q/A period was insulting to the audience members who had questions.  Why pass out small papers and invite the audience to ask questions if you’re not going to present them to the users?

Time “ran out” and Robert called it quits; he said TD couldn’t afford to stay longer.  Ridiculous!

Hedges needs to get to JC Penny before showing up at a large public function like a debate.  He looked like a pauper.

Truthdig needs someone to critique the event.  I’d love to do it.  Hedges needs a swift kick in the ass.

Rev. El
Pastor, WVCSR

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By Jim H., May 24, 2007 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Those of us who live in the ‘REAL WORLD’ and refuse to accept fairytales as true, or factual are referred to by fanatical ‘Godists’ as “atheists”.

But, as Sam Harris implied, people who reject other asinine assertions for the ridiculous farces they pretend to be, are generally respected, and referred to as bright, thoughtful, intelligent people!

Isn’t it time those “God” freaks wake to the fact that every truly intelligent person on earth today is anti-religious, anti-supersticious, anti-“God” anti-first cause, anti-creator, anti-intelligent designer, and, anti-anything else some thieving charlatan pedophile, or other hopeless idiot, decides to refer to as a “God”?

People that reject, and expose such schemes as the Ponzi-racketeering religious enterprises that pretend to benefit mankind by promoting outrageous lies, and brainwashing, mesmerizing and indoctrinating innocent children and fools ought to be highly respected for their sometimes dangerous efforts to rid humanity of those corrupters of people they convert to shills and criminal cohorts in their ceaseless felonious efforts to enslave all mankind!  And, America’s right-wing Christian fundamentalists are a major part of this very serious threat!

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By Denis Robert, May 24, 2007 at 7:06 pm Link to this comment
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Faith is NOT belief in the absence of evidence; that is simply belief. Faith is belief in the PRESENCE of CONTRARY evidence. Faith is nothing short of the willful denial of evidence, and the maintenance of belief in an open act of defiance against reality.

Faith is only tested when one is faced with overwhelming evidence that our belief is unwarranted; just read the story of Abraham and Isaac, or that of Job, the two prime exemplars of Faith the Bible offers us.

So Faith can never be rationally justified, because Faith is the very act of the rejection of reason, and a futile attempt at the imposition of human will on a reality which we find unacceptable for one reason or another.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, May 24, 2007 at 7:01 pm Link to this comment

Religion is quite old.  If the world has turned out as it has being religious and all, then it does not say very much positive about religion.  Of course, religious people could aver that the world would be in a lot worse condition were it not for religion to which I would counter, BS.  They could also suggest that it is the heathens who are making the world so bad and they might be right about that, but I doubt it.  Smart people, really smart people would say, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the world.  Let’s stop doing what we have been doing for so long and do something different.  Let’s tear down old idealogies and institutions that haven’t been producing optimum results and construct new ones.  When we do that, let’s not wait a few thousand years to make the next change if results are less than favorable.  American democracy needs overhauling.  Maybe religion does too.  Maybe we should talk about throwing out both.  Maybe we should have meaningful, productive dialogue about meaningful subjects.  Bush, you know, won’t deal with the real, meaningful issues of poverty, race, health care, education, etc. in America because they’re too hard, so he keeps us focused on imaginary things like WMD and the War on Terror.  Harris and Hedges could put their considerable brain power to much better use and so could commenters.

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By david carpenter, May 24, 2007 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment
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i have respected this author’s writings in the past.i cannot disagree more with this view.the acceptance of paternistic abrahamistic-salvation thru suffering ideology is crap.the basis of this opening statement is still original sin.gnostic texts althought scant(because of christian persecution)point to the error in this type of thinking(refer to john lambe lash,this,isn’t really a debate,the same way darwinism and creationism isn’t a debate

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By tedrad, May 24, 2007 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

Religion is faith.  Faith is belief without evidence or despite evidence to the contrary.  William K. Clifford said, in 1877: “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”  Only a determined, deliberately irrational
(or religious) person can disagree with this statement. Whatever belief is not based on faith is in the realm of science.  Science and religion are incompatible.

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By manonfyre, May 24, 2007 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Herk, @ #72409, wonders:

>Manonfyre, in reply #72404, opined:

>“there is a “there” there!”


dare i say, right where you are!  everywhere (and nowhere)!  always-already!

“if you don’t follow the injunction, you won’t have the experience. if you don’t look through Galileo’s telescope, you’re not going to see the moons of Jupiter.”

~ KW on Spirituality and the 3 strands of Deep Science

more indepth?  The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion


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By slewis, May 24, 2007 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment
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Do we look at the mask or the soul of a man and does the manner of debate, or ill manner taint the message
offered by the messenger? Hedges can be shrill, elite, isolated and a bit vain at times, and yet his text, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, is a most worthy endeavor. Harris who is suave and well mannered is also well written and just like a religious icon, can speak of precious themes of love, learning, family & health and yet can’t quite side to or grasp the intimacy of faith.

Who is to set set the limited vagaries and boundaries of our lives? If we sense via a moral compass to move in the faith direction shall we automatically slip and fail; or if we gravitate to a secular course are we bound to bounty and success? Sad that folk seek such a higher academic/moral ground on both sides and are so disrespectful of alternate views and beliefs.

Both Hedges and Harris are imperfect souls, and if their reasoning or logic fails, hopefully the undergirding foundation of what they stand for also doesn’t tumble - at least that side of the debate I/we swing to and endorse.

Thanks to the editors of Truth Dig for offering the text and commentary.

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By S. Leonard Scheff, May 24, 2007 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges refers to “Buddhist Light”.  However he appears to be “Theist Light”. I was not sure on Tuesday night what role god played in his life but now reading his statement I still do not see what role god plays for him or how it affects his life or thinking. Buddhism believes that people are inherently kind and compassionate without a belief in god. The Dalai Lama said, “Kindness is my religion.”
  It seems to me Hedges should have been asked “What would you have said differently, if you did not believe there is a god?”

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By Sid, May 24, 2007 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment
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Sam Harris has become a spiritual prophet for the non-believers. That is why he is admired by the atheists. However, he is a false prophet and that is the problem.
Chris Hedges makes an intellectual statement for the need of God in our world and the good that has come from it. Harris speaks from his emotional heart and therefore loses the truth of what truly is.
Harris sees God from a childs point of view and Hedges sees him/her from an intellectual point of view. My atheist children, God is not here to listen to your every wish and say yes. Often no is the answer. God knows the “Big Picture” and we see only a very small part of it. Be not so arrogant to think that small man can know all that goes on in Heaven & Earth.

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By Vinelectric, May 24, 2007 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment
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Elegant and thought provoking.

I wonder if Hedges is a priest of a new deist-humanist movement but the sublime God he defends doesn’t share much with the deity described in the Torah or the Koran.

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By Bryan, May 24, 2007 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment
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Hedges hits the nail on the head but many of you are so caught up in your own atheistic dogma you miss his point. Too bad. No amount of debate can change your atheistic faith. I suggested further pursuit of the self examined life. Anyhow, this is an ageless debate that’s almost useless fighting. I suggested some light reading - Ibn al’ Arabi. You’ll either fry your brain, hate it or start to get what Hedges is talking about. Go get a drink! Cheers!

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By Hammo, May 24, 2007 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment

Hedges hits on some main points: belief, psychology, perception, etc.

The human mind is the source of many blessings and many problems.

Take a look at:

“Emerging discoveries in human consciousness may change many global activities”

American Chronicle
May 24, 2007

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By Hemi, May 24, 2007 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment
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“I hope Hedges will consider this point: using an idiosyncratic definition of the word “God”, pretending that that definition is widely shared, and ignoring the horrible things happening in our world right now due to the actions of people in thrall to a much different (and more prevalent) definition of the same word—all of that is exactly the kind of thing that gets so many of us frustrated with the religious left.” - Sportin’ Life

Thank you, I was thinking along similar lines, well put. Vocabulary is both divisive and blurring within this debate. (I guess that is a part of the nature of communication. Hard to agree on what “is” is.) The term “atheist” is another sore spot with me. Atheist has taken on a veneer of one, that along with not believing in a personal God, is mean spirited and not concerned with humanity. For most “who have yet to recognize a creative force in the universe” that is untrue in spades. If I can paraphrase Sam Harris, why don’t we have a term for those that don’t believe in the tooth fairy? Along with, aren’t all of us atheists regarding the God of another faith?

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By Tony B., May 24, 2007 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your my kind of subversive, Chris.  I’m glad I’m not alone.  When it comes to the “powers that be” (whatever that means) it isn’t their actions or they themselves that are the greatest danger to our society.  It’s what they represent - an absolute fear of nuance and intellectual curiosity.  It’s no matter which side of the argument one is on.  If these aren’t allowed in the equation, mankind is doomed.  Me no writeso good.  But I hope you get my meaning :p.  Fnord is upon us!  Emperor Norton for President…

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By TruthSeeker, May 24, 2007 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

Man isn’t molded in the image of God, God is molded in the image of Man.  Isn’t that quite obvious over the course of history?

Highly recommended religion truth essays with great insight and writing:

The Poisoning of the Well

Evolution of Revolution: Expelling the Demons of the Opiate

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By RAE, May 24, 2007 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

Mike Mid-City posted, in part… “I believe because to not believe is to admit that this very sad, lonely and selfish world we see everyday is all there is.  So I choose to believe in the teachings of Jesus.”

Again, Mike, a straightforward, honest (from your point of view) statement of where you’re coming from. I RESPECT you, not for what you believe, but because you have given sensible REASONS for believing as you do. Since “proof” doesn’t exist to support either side of the argument, a sensible, reasoned argument is all that is left.

Except for one thing… to choose NOT to choose to believe or disbelieve because of lack of evidence to support either position. While you choose to believe your reasons are sufficient to support your conclusions, I do not concur. It is just my opinion.

BTW, this world is just as “sad, lonely and selfish” no matter what you believe. Life is what you make it… and what you believe it is.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, May 24, 2007 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment
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Falling back on the old if-by-whiskey fallacy, Hedges simply whitewashes religion and faith as something almost wholly beneficial. Its perversion by the occasional demagogue is to be dismissed as anomalous and forgiven for greater good. If Hedges’ fanciful definition of religion had any truth in practice whatever, the whole atheist debate would be relegated to the hyper-cafienated blogs of bored, tenured professors.

Because monotheism may have been a helpful step in our evolution from the intellectual muck, would Hedges have us devolve to a cro-magnon philosophy? We are hard wired pattern-seekers. It’s one of our species’ greatest survival skills. In this light, I see faith, not as transcending Flaubert’s “mania for conclusions”, but as a direct result of it—an unfortunate side-affect. Apophenia—the illusion of seeing patterns in randomness—is a natural phenomenon, and part of the human condition, one of the pitfalls of our big brains. It is harmless enough on a theoretical level, but when acted upon, can become a danger to one’s self and others. And when adopted en mass, leads to institutionalized delusion and cult-like paranoia—a rose by any other name.

Normally nuanced in his thinking, Hedges next attempts to besmirch atheism with that lazy bit about Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler. This argument should be put to pasture. It convinces no one but the banner-waving hacks in the cheap seats. Is Hedges shameless enough to contend that any of these man would have behaved differently if they were ostensibly Christian, Muslim, or Jew? None of these men did what they did in name of atheism. They were despots, political ideologues who viewed religions (quite rightly) as power structures which posed a potential threat to their authority. In contrast, the crusades? Now they were done in name of religion—the Inquisition? the untouchables of India? the persecution of women? the cultural assassinations of South America? manifest destiny? the Arab/Israeli conflict?—it’s simply too depressing to continue…

Lastly, and most egregiously disappointing, Hedges implies that atheism is, if not a religion in its own right, at the least a potential form of idolatry. But equating atheism with religion is like equating an executioner with a murderer, or contending that those who condemn intolerance are themselves intolerant. If you are willing to hinge your world view on this kind of glib wordplay you haven’t earned the right to be taken seriously in this debate.

P.S. I don’t always agree with Harris either. The terrorism coming from the middle east is likely far more political than Harris (or G. Bush for that matter) wants to admit. It suits his agenda to broadstroke these people, but really, are they that much different from the Kamikaze? But that’s a horse of different color…

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By D, May 24, 2007 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
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Having read through Hedges’ defense of religion/faith and subsequent comments herein, and myself being a staunch anti-Theist, I think a reasonable conclusion can be made from this thoughtful (and sometimes not-so-thoughtful) public exchange and debate - that it is clear humanity will end in fire, with hearty thanks to all the psychic vampires of “god,” allah,” “vishnu,” or whatever “higher-power” scapegoat for existence petty humankind can define that compels them and their fellow insects to wage war, whether physical, emotional or psychological, on the non-believers.  If you disagree with me then you are clearly an uneducated whelp, as the answer lies everywhere around you.  Open your eyes.  Open your history book.  Your Bible.  Your Quran.  Read the news.  It should be a simple task proving to oneself that modern religiosity is a self-destructive hydra.

Hence, if there is a hell, sheol, tartarus - whatever you feel motivated to call a miserly state of pain and endless suffering (isn’t our planet engorged with this already?) I suppose I’ll see you all there. 

Maybe sooner than later.

Oh yea, and thanks for the love, Jesus.  Your blood tasted great before I awakened.

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By Jim H., May 24, 2007 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE: 72406 Herk



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By Herk, May 24, 2007 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment

Manonfyre, in reply #72404, opined:

“there is a “there” there!”


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By Herk, May 24, 2007 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

Andrew, in post #72335, said,
“Atheists believe there is no god. This is a foolish view of a very small amount of humans in a Universe where life seems not to exist anywhere else. Now prove your theory? Show me how you know that life on this planet always existed and was not created?”

First of all, I might point out that atheists seem to occupy a much larger piece of the pie than Andrew suggests: since Buddhism requires no gods and a great number of Buddhists have no god belief, the number is certainly not small. Even if the estimate that only perhaps 10% of US’ers are atheists, that still amounts to nearly 30 million people. But it’s still the logical fallacy of the argument from numbers. If the other millions of believers all jumped off a bridge, I would not choose to follow them.

Secondly, I must point out that Andrew mischaracterizes atheism. Generally speaking, the bulk of atheists does not believe there is no god. Rather, they are agnostic atheists who cling to the rationale that a god cannot be known to exist or not exist, and they take the position that they cannot have knowledge of something to believe in. Andrew does not believe in the God Zeus, I would wager, and yet it is not likely to be said of him that he believes Zeus does not exist. It’s not worth wasting the active word “belief” on. Andrew is an atheist regarding thousands of the gods invented by humanity. My favorite is the Vomiting God of the Pacific.

And there are a great many defenses against the teleological argument, the Argument from Design; one has only to do a little research. But then, one must come to knowledge without the obscuring glasses of magical belief.

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By manonfyre, May 24, 2007 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

there is a “there” there!

first, i expect this sort of conversation to be one in which people tend to simply talk past one another.  there’s a bit of that, here.  but in the debate and in these comments, i’m delighted to see a fair amount of earnest dialogue.

what’s that old saw?  you’ve got two ears and one mouth—use them accordingly.

personally, i tend to relegate the Bible—esp. the OT—ie, the Torah—and the Koran into a bin marked “tribal hooey.”  geneologies and sheep herding and “what the Prophet said?”  please!

but give me some Plotinus, or some Tibetan Dzogchen, or related Non-Dual teachings like Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism!  there is a baby in the bathwater (and a pretty big and significant Baby, at that) that we toss out when we go to chucking “religion” out the back door.

me (yes i am repeating comments below), i’ve found so much of this resolved in reading Ken Wilber’s stuff, AND (i dare say it) by encountering the Divine personally and most directly.

i am not a paid shill, here.  but, give ol’ Ken a whirl!

see, perhaps, An interview with Ken Wilber on the seven points of timeless wisdom.

and that Spiral Dynamics stuff is some pretty good dope, too!


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By peacefull1, May 24, 2007 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment
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Now it’s time for the next debate:  “Does the Easter Bunny exist?”  And soon to follow: “Why does the Boogie Man like hiding under our beds at night?”

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By mujahada, May 24, 2007 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment
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“The moment the writers of the Gospels set down the words of Jesus they began to kill the message.”
              We wanted Truth
              We caught it
              Nailed it down
              Wrote it down
              Now Truth can be found
              Wearing a crown

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By Terry Dougherty, May 24, 2007 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Parents who indoctrinate their children in the Christian/Islamic/Jewish faiths should be arrested and imprisoned for child abuse.

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By vonwegen, May 24, 2007 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This whole debate is a complete and utter waste of time.

Both of you speakers should be spending your time denouncing the Far Right televangelists that have polluted American airwaves for more than half a century and who contribute to radical political causes that would abolish our way of life.

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By TAO Walker, May 24, 2007 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment

Hau, Kolapi.

This old Indi’n's “capacity” for the Song ‘n’ Dance of Life Herownself remains far from exhausted, even after more go-‘rounds here already than can be easily counted anymore.  Science will “discover” whatever is accessible to its necessarily limited (in order to be at all “useful”) methods.  Religion will “reveal” whatever makes it through the filters of its adherents’(also limited) pre-conceptions.  And/or vice versa.

Here in Indian Country, the Way to “know” is simply to go and see.  That’s how come we’re in it for “the long haul.”  Still, speculating about “ultimate questions” comes as naturally to adolescents as being too engaged in “the moment” to worry about such no-things does to their younger brothers and sisters….and, if we’re real lucky, again to us Old-timers, too.

Sentient People free to explore endlessly all the nooks and crannies of the whole Living Universe don’t squander there precious attention and waste their natural vitality all tied-up in epistemological knots and semantic conundrums.  Neither do we get into any all-fired hurry to get to “Oakland” (with apologies to all you Zen Masters who are not not-there now).

Us free wild Indians are having the time of our Lives here, despite the sick-and-tired tormentors’ best efforts to ruin it all for all of us like they did for theirownselves.  So what in hell is this crying need you domesticated peoples seem to have to know ahead-of-time how it all turns out “in the end” (a sure-fire formula for getting there one helluva lot sooner then you’re going to be prepared to actually BE there)?

Take a tip from one of our own, (and, happily, yours as well) who still delights in it all, and who tries to remind all of you that, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”  Remember, Yogi wore the sign of “Infinity” on his Yankee uniform….“verticalized,” of course, to suit the conventions of the game, but don’t let that fool you.

Sam Harris and Chris Hedges are both good boys….a little green around the gills yet, maybe, but if that was a “hangin’ offense” wouldn’t none of us “manchildren”‘ve ever made it out of our ‘teens.  There’s not a thing “wrong” with either of ‘em that a good old-fashioned “vision quest” or “walkabout” wouldn’t fix in relatively short-order. 

The same “prescription” would do most of these other mostly well-meaning commentors here a world-of-good, too.  It sure did this old Savage anyway….at least that’s what The Old Woman says.


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By Mark Colby, May 24, 2007 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment

There are so many logical fallacies, errors of fact and reason, and conceptual misunderstandings in Mr. Hedges’ essay that I could assign it to my students in the courses in philosophy of religion that I teach at Rutgers University.  Just a few:

(1) The Abrahamic, monotheistic religions were not alone in inventing the idea of the morally responsible individual, contrary to his claim.  Buddhism also invented it, along with Confucianism and Taoism (I believe).  This means that belief in God is not necessary for morality.  (It also refutes those who claim that atheists are necessarily amoral or immoral since Buddhists are, strictly speaking, atheists.)

(2) Contrary to what Mr. Hedges claims, faith is incompatible with reason.  Reason is always fallible, provisional, evidentially guided, informed by ideals of objectivity and impartiality, and self-correcting (at least in its scientific form).  Faith, defined as an attitude of unshakeable commitment to a belief or doctrine, excludes all of these.  A simple test to show the difference: for the sake of argument, suppose the deliverances of reason suggest that God does not exist and those of faith that he does.  What would the faithful do in response?  I doubt whether they would abandon their faith.

Mr. Hedges quotes Popper but doesn’t seem to have learned what is most distinctive in Popper’s epistemology of science—namely, his understanding of reason.  As for Mr. Hedges’ distinction between the irrational and the non-rational, it is incoherent: what does the non-rational have to do with any attempt to use reason to understand the universe and attempt to answer the questions about meaning, life, death, existence, purpose, etc., which all religions seek to answer?  If reason cannot tell us, faith can be invoked instead.  But why invoke the non-rational at all as a guide to truth?  One might as well toss a coin—it is likewise non-rational.

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By tomack, May 24, 2007 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment
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Ahhh, religion. Well, this dig has posted 25 comments in a few short hours while only 18 have been posted in the last three days on the dig about the little girl beaten to death because she had the HEART to talk a little boy from another “religion”.

Yeah, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Stick your head back in the sand Mr. Hedges.

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By Jim H., May 24, 2007 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment
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Who, or what created the creator, that created the creator, that created ‘YOUR’ “CREATOR”?
If you accept what is taught by the criminal charlatan purveyors of that “Godism” you believe in; you therefore believe that your make-believe “God” “ALWAYS WAS”! Or, WAS “WITHOUT A BEGINNING”? which in fact, is, a valid description of the “ORIGIN OF NATURE”!  And, when a beginning cannot be determined, or found, a ‘so called’ “Creator” is a superfluous absurdity!

For simple minded people to better comprehend this seeming dichotomy, I suggest you, and they ‘stare at’, and concentrate on a ‘circle’, and, point to a beginning! or, a ‘creation’ point! 
Then, when you ‘give up’, read this:
Mass/energy never disappear
Ever were ever here!
J.H. 5/8/07

Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy     E=mc2
  1. In the Universe there is a finite amount of matter and energy. We cannot create any new matter or energy nor can we destroy any of the matter or energy we have for the Universe as a whole.
  2. We can change matter to energy and energy to matter without gaining or losing any of either to the Universe. 
  3. Energy can be changed in form, from one to another, without any loss to the Universe. 
4. Matter can be changed in form, or state, without any loss of matter to the Universe.
Without something to ‘create! a “so-called “Creator-God” is an impossibel superfluous nonentity!

  Beginning is never found but keep an ear to the ground
Accept the word of a friend there’s no beginning or end
  Natures origin for instance is ceaselessness Existence
Jim H. 8/29/06
  The worst form of child abuse is warping of the mind!

The “Big Bang” is just another “CREATED” term for a ‘so called’ (nonexistent) “CREATION”?
There is absolutely no more way to prove the so-called “BIG BANG THEORY”, then there
is to PROVE your silly idea of a “God Creator”, because, SOMETHING, perhaps another
“BIG BANG”, or, a series of minuscule “BANGS”, or, some other ‘impetus’ unknown to us
‘caused’ the “BIG BANG”! 
Anything you could possibly imagine except the ORIGIN OF NATURE, requires an ‘impetus’,
but the endless, ceaslessness of NATURE is ever ongoing!

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By Chad Scoville, May 24, 2007 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Religion doesn’t demand violence, men who misunderstand it do.”

Surely your mistaken my friend. Selected passages from the dominant notable relgious texts clearly delineate genocide and murder as acceptable ethics in response to non-agreement with the tenets of each dogma. Think again.

“I only know God by his word, Jesus Christ.”

Thats preposterous. You have no empirical knowledge or demonstrable experimental evidence to sustain the logic of such a statement. You are really saying that you believe in something that you cannot possibly quantify, reasonably or rationally and therefore is not valid.

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By Larry A. Taylor, May 24, 2007 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment
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I also was at the debate Tuesday night.

Although Hedges describes Harris’ book as containing “Buddhism Light”, Hedges actual description of belief is vacuous; a “Hollow Theism.”

Hedges, while having a number of good points—I applauded both speakers at different times—he does not seem to think belief is belief in anything. Maybe the world might have peace if Fuzzy God is adopted. “We believe in God, he is nice but has not really done anything in particular we need to fight about.” Non-propositional faith.


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By Not A Greekophile, May 24, 2007 at 11:52 am Link to this comment
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Normally I enjoy Chris Hedges writing immensely, but I wanted to take issue with this statement’s premise from the very beginning - That individualism has its roots in monotheism. I see nothing presented that backs this claim up - in fact, Chris seems to argue against himself.

Chris writes about two thinkers who speak out for the individual, angering the ruling powers - Socrates and Jesus. I think, if we look at this historically, we can say they died for similar reasons. Yet somehow, although the death of Socrates damns Greece to tribal, superstitious irrelivance, the Death of Jesus anoints the monotheistic religions of the middle east as the foundation of individuality.

Normally I find myself arguing against the idealized concept of ancient Greece as Cradle, inside which squeals the twins, Democracy and Freedom - But I just found this argument silly on its face. Isn’t it odd that The Birthplace of Reason, and rigorous, scientific ‘western’ thought, is so quickly written off and marginalized, for essentially the same intolerant act that sits at the core of modern Christianity?

I am curious to see the video of this debate, is it up online anywhere or do they plan to sell it?

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By Dale Headley, May 24, 2007 at 11:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hedges appears to share much in common with the deists, such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, and the rest of the founding fathers; but does he believe in God or not?  I think he is more like agnostics: apologists who can’t actually believe in the absurdity of a supernatural god, but are too cowardly to say so.

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By GlitchCog, May 24, 2007 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

“What was before the big bang?” and “What was before God” are two very different questions.

The big bang explanation starts with something absolutely simple, a singularity: everything in one tiny point.

“What was before God,” on the other hand, is a difficult thing to explain- especially relative to the big bang. God is a complicated being with emotions and ideas that need to come from somewhere. Even if you think God is simply a natural force or some universal good ethic, that is still infinitely more complicated than a single point of existence.

We don’t know for sure about either, but one makes a lot more sense than the other. And there is evidence in our current universe for one, but not the other. Also, all the scientists who think the big bang is a good explanation have an incredibly good track record of being able to figure things out. Priests don’t invent internal combustion engines or life-saving medication; the atheists do… or at least the guys who have gotten far enough to realize there is no personal god do. Look at the statistics Dawkins flaunts about the tiny percentage of elite scientist theists. The trend, among those who contribute the most to our society and collective knowledge, is towards less belief in the great bearded-sky-man.

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By jonathan, May 24, 2007 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

This is bible scripture – a history of religious violence.              (428 words)
1st Samuel chap 29 verse 5 says; Is not this David, of whom they sang (dancing in the streets) one to another in dances saying; King Saul killed his thousands and King David his tens of thousands.
Also Exodus chap 15 verse 3 says; Yahweh-God-Jehovah is a man of “War” “The Lord” is his name.  Also Ecclesiastes chap 10 verse 19 says; A Feast is made for laughter, wine to make merry; but Money is the answer to everything.  Also Isaiah chap 44 verse 10 says; Who ? Hath formed a God, or molten a graven Image of a God – that is profitable for nothing ?

In deep Theosophy studies of religions - Catholic priests, invariably find’ or stumble, onto the truth, while preparing for many years, for the priesthood. So, it is clear - they know the truth’ better than anybody.
Cannibalism in China may be an isolated case!
But here in America, religious people (religiously and methodically) do the Cannibal Ceremony (at least - once a week!  Unleavened bread, and wine assimilating human flesh & blood !  “The ceremony of the last supper.”
The last supper of blood and flesh, was Instituted by Jesus, (not his real name) whose religious dogma emanated from India, as historically recorded in the Hindu “Atharva Veda” (Divine knowledge) known as the book of “Abraham.” Moving the first “A” in Abraham, to the last, as is done in Hindu language, Abraham becomes “Brahma” (accordingly) Brahma, is the Hindu God, creator of the Universe. The Hindu scriptures, are composed of 18 books, 18 “Vedas”.  These books contain the biblical stories - that were reduced to one single bible - Including the Lord’s prayer. (in India, called, The Kaddish) The Hindu Trinity is “Brama,Vishnu & Siva”.
With no further interest or research, religious fanatics, immediately “deny all this” in its entirety.
Refusing to “disbelieve” is actually “resistance to change.”  It may take several years or never/ever, to undo the religious mental fixation - pre positioned by a religious mindset. - Religious indoctrination (with brain washing).

I only read and writein search of world peace - with knowledge and understanding. Doing research among my six sets of Encyclopedias, several Bibles, plus, my personal library - I also - Frequently stumble unto truths, which I am not even looking for.
Intelligent people will “not continue” to believe in Religions based on drinking blood and eating flesh and sacrificing of animals and human beings. The last supper - eating bread and drinking wine - assimilating human Flesh and Blood, is an abomination; it is a sin against humanity. End

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By Scott, May 24, 2007 at 11:29 am Link to this comment

I forgot to mention that we’re like spores hence the infinite regress comment.

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By art guerrilla, May 24, 2007 at 11:27 am Link to this comment
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to paraphrase: good people will always do good even in the absence of religion; it takes religion to make ‘good’ people do evil…

not to continue the inconclusive comparisons, but just how many atheist strongmen have attacked/conquered other countries in order to forcibly ‘convert’ those poor slobs to atheism ? ? ?

how many atheist/non-religious soup kitchens make their ‘supplicants’ listen to ‘atheist’ sermons, and/or ‘convert’ to atheism before getting any help/food ? ? ?

do atheists go door-to-door to ‘convert’ people ? ? ? the opposite -while nearly universally disdained- is not thought of as being ‘nutty’ or ‘offensive’; but would proselytizing ‘atheism’ door-to-door be given the same pass ? ? ?  (or would they get the shit beat out of them by, you know, good xtian folk ?)

just how much property/income do atheists get a free ride on by not having to pay taxes ? ? ?  *should* ‘religions’ get *any* tax breaks/exemptions AT ALL ? ? ?  (i mean, if it is s-o-o-o important, seems like the religionists can pony up the taxes… you know, god willing…)

tell me again which is the morally superior position: atheist or religionist ?

art guerrilla
aka ann archy


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By Scott, May 24, 2007 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

What was there before the big bang? It’s all relative but I imagine the question, “what’s next”?

I try to be a practicing atheist but I blame Joni Mitchell, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein for the sense of immortality that haunts me and refuses to let go.

Apparently there is no one single center to the universe because the center is relative to the observer. So I figure when I pass the event horizon a.k.a. my death my observer wave passes the wave of the universe I was observing and the new intervening space between them opens up into a new expanding universe.

Thankfully I can cling to infinite regress (where’d the first spore come from) the final recourse of atheism, to keep me grounded in reality.

Am I nuts or just hoplessly human?

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By Sylvia Barksdale Morovitz, May 24, 2007 at 11:22 am Link to this comment
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Chris Hedges has very eloquently explained my own feelings and outlook on gods and religion to me.  How many timeas does the “goodbook” itself say, “god is love?”

It will be most interesting to read the opening remarks of Sam Harris.

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By sesh velamoor, May 24, 2007 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
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Mr.hedges arguments shrouded in obfuscation, simply put, is not very different from the arguments made by the gun nuts of the NRA. Guns dont kill people, its people who kill people.!!

He expounds with eloquence the greatness of the monotheistic religions, while demonstrating profound neglect or ignorance of the eastern faiths and philosophies. His entire world view is circumscribed by the triumvirate of the judeo christian religions with scarcely a look or comprehension of the other faiths. A closer examination on his part would show him that these eastern faiths are far more in tune with his preferences for what faith is all about or should be.

He discredits buddhism and hinduism by citing solitary examples of suicide bombings but fails to objectively represent the generally clean overall record of these religions as it pertains to mass killings in human history. He gets carried away with the notion of “individualism” and of the alleged ringing endorsements that the Abrahamic faiths bestow on “indvidualism”, but then seems to be oblivious to the inherently “collectivizing” nature of these faiths, or any faith. These faiths endorse “individualism” no doubt but only if it is strictly circumscribed to be “within the fold”. Such emphasis on individualism of course varies, depending on which faith one talks about.

It is not that any of these religions do not have merit. He has glossed over the fact that what has caused all the devastation is the fundamental “my way or the highway” premise of the Abrahamic faiths. A premise that is absent in the eastern faiths. An error that creeps in when we discuss the various religions is the neglect of the context within which they evolved and then making the leap to claim/posit their universality beyond the tribe within which they evolved.

It is correct that evolutionarily we are tribal and possess the innate propensity for evil, alongside of our capacities for altruism, caring and compassion. But such capacities are not unconditional and/or absolute. Our capacity for evil is almost always directed at the “other” and all the other niceties ONLY toward “our own”. This is our essential nature. ( I recommend a brilliant essay by John Hartung titled “Love Thy Neighbor”.)

The fundamental issue facing us a species now is: Are we capable of assuming identities that go beyond our branding as “nationals” of a country or “adherents” of a faith, inspite of our “evolutionarily” determined limitations. It appears that this question can or will be answered if and only if we are presented with a hostile threat from “aliens”.. which most likely never occur and so we are condemned to ongoing mutual destruction. It may become necessary to perhaps “invent” one.

It is obvious that given all the problems we face as humans on the planet, (climate change, poverty, exhaustion of resources, population, and on and on, we have not demonstrated a capacity to even “react” in a coherent organized manner as a species.

He is correct on one count. Faith is, as described by Kierkegaard, “by virtue of the absurd”. That is why we have the expression: “a leap of faith” because it is above and beyond reason. And this faith that he describes, prefers, is possible with mere “spirituality” or “ethics” without wearing the cloak of religion. A spirituality or ethics that locates us as a species on the planet, interconnected and interdependent. independent and individual for sure, but to echo John Donne.. a part of the whole.!!On balance, I do think that we would be better off being a “buddhist light Harris” in this sense than a “heavy Abrahamic Hedges”.!!

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By Andrew, May 24, 2007 at 10:59 am Link to this comment
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Atheists believe there is no god. This is a foolish view of a very small amount of humans in a Universe where life seems not to exist anywhere else. Now prove your theory? Show me how you know that life on this planet always existed and was not created? Why is this the only planet where intelligent life lives? Show me proof that life exists elsewhere in this Universe? Why do you atheists believe that humanity is a product of chance with no purpose? Explain how complex beings can come about through an accident of nature without intelligent design?
Fact is you have no proof of any of your views about a no God world. You state opinion and nothing more.
I was listening to a physicist talking on the Discovery Channel. This individual stated that theory about the origins of the Universe are intelligent guess work and not fact. They arrive at their conclusions by bouncing their thoughts off other physicists to see if they can get a consensus of opinion. If they do it becomes current theory until proven differently.
He said that they do not have proof for there theories but assume this is the most logical reason for our existence based on their obsevations of current day scientific data.
I find this guess work to be very unscientific and prone to many errors. Scientific data is always changing and thus scientific theory with it.Today’s truths are tomorrows falsehoods.
Let science show me concrete proof of a no God universe and I will be in agreement with it.
Until then I chose to think that we are here for a purpose and that our lives are not just an accident of nature. Intelligent design is a much more logical theory in reference to how all that is came to be.

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By nulldevice, May 24, 2007 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

“what was before” the big bang isn’t, cosmologically speaking, a very meaningful question.  It is a lot like saying “what was before god” - except the answer is in terms theoretical physics instead of theology.  The way spacetime behaves under the conditions of the theorized early universe isn’t easily explained to/by those of us who don’t have the background in high-energy physics.

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By Ellen Snortland, May 24, 2007 at 10:07 am Link to this comment
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I was at the debate on Tues. night and while there were definitely points that Chris Hedges made that I agreed with, I was spectacularly underwhelmed by what I would identify as his ground of “being.” For me, he was all head and no heart. Ironically, Sam Harris, who is supposedly all about reason, came from a place of such heart and compassion, it was difficult to not be completely compelled by his reasoning.
Finally, and this exposes my bias: for an erstwhile intellectual addressing the important role of religion in the world in terms of creating “goodness” for all, to willy nilly discount and ignore the circumstances of half the planet—women—is to me intellectual negligence. Shame on Hedges for not even giving a nod to the very real oppression that religion has visited upon women for eons. Indeed, a good argument can be made that religions were designed to suppress women and sexuality.
Sam Harris not only mentioned women, but his analysis includes females in a compassionate and insightful way.
It’s not an accident that during the book signing phase of the Royce Hall TruthDig lecture that Sam Harris had people coming to him in droves and Chris Hedges sat there with nary a fan in sight. Hedges has very little heart and that’s what’s needed to move people to action. Heart with reason: wow. A very powerful combination.
Ellen Snortland

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By RAE, May 24, 2007 at 10:06 am Link to this comment

For a while, as a child, I was a Christian. The picture of Jesus on the Sunday school wall showed me a kind man, badly in need of a shave and a haircut, who nevertheless I thought I could trust and “follow.”

Then I grew up and realized that what I was “fed” in church had about as much veracity as what I was “fed” about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. So I became an agnostic… who the hell knows?

I was seriously considering becoming an atheist… but I decided there weren’t enough holidays.

I now am just me. I wonder and think and feel and enjoy the world around me. I realize that I “KNOW” practically nothing and never will because my human brain isn’t capable of “handling the truth.” And I’ve got better things to do with my limited time than sit around just “making it up” to suit myself.

I await my death with no more fear or expectation than I experience when I go for an afternoon snooze. I’ll be the last person to know when I don’t wake up… and as far as I can tell, there is only one other person who will even give a damn.

My only firm belief in this life is that NO ONE ELSE “KNOWS” VERY MUCH EITHER. Some are just better than others with the carnie-pitch.

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By Jim, May 24, 2007 at 9:55 am Link to this comment
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Hedges says:  “Sam Harris has conflated faith with tribalism.”
Hedges says:  “He calls this religion. I do not.”


“FAITH” is the ‘PRIMARY’ ‘tool’ of the charlatans who promote ‘Godism’ the “TRIBALISM”

‘Religious’ “parents” already mesmerized and ‘indoctrinated’; are the absolute worst ‘indoctrinators’!
(because, they have first access to the innocents at the earliest age!)
Religious parents mind’s are warped by the charlatan’s lies and fairytales, and by passing it on, they are naive, unwitting cohorts of the ‘criminal’ charlatans’; and are abetting the spread of the infectious plague-like disease called “Religion”!  These “parents” are criminals! They are guilty of ‘branding’ and ‘warping’ the ‘pristine’ minds of the innocent defenseless children and robbing them of the mental acuity they were born with.
THERE NEVER!, NEVER!, WAS A JESUS! YOU ARE PROMOTING CRIME!  Wake up!  Stop promoting that Ponzi-like racketeering scheme that coerces children and fools into performing atrocious sex acts! 
After the recent discovery of Essene documents at Kimberth Qumran (Palestine) it has been proven that Jesus was the result of an artificial construction operated by falsifiers in the second century.
Mass/energy never disappear
Ever were ever here!
J.H. 5/8/07
Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy E=mc2
1. In the Universe there is a finite amount of matter and energy. We cannot create any new matter or energy nor can we destroy any of the matter or energy we have for the Universe as a whole.
2. We can change matter to energy and energy to matter without gaining or losing any of either to the Universe. 
3. Energy can be changed in form, from one to another, without any loss to the Universe. 
4. Matter can be changed in form, or state, without any loss of matter to the Universe.
Without something to ‘create! a “so-called “Creator-God” is an impossible superfluous nonentity!
Beginning is never found but keep an ear to the ground
Accept the word of a friend there’s no beginning or end
Natures origin for instance is ceaselessness Existence

Religion’s evil bigotry has relegated all non-religious people and realists, to a lower class ‘infidel’ status.
And, the time has arrived for all ‘Secular’ Organizations, and realists to seriously consider aligning under one ‘banner’ to fight the fight of our lives; to overcome the deadly influences of those religious fanatics who intend to overthrow our once Democratic Government and accede to domination of our society by brainwashing innocent children and fools, infecting them with the plague-like disease called “Religion”
and thus branding and converting them into mesmerized, robot-like monsters, and cohorts, suborned to ever ceaseless efforts aimed at gaining total, and complete control over our entire way of life.
JH 2/7/2007

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By Jim Houghton, May 24, 2007 at 9:42 am Link to this comment
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I thoroughly enjoyed the debate Tuesday night.  I kept waiting, however, for someone to object that the discussion of who is killing whom in the name of religion is really a political matter, with religion a way of keeping track of who’s on which team.  Are the Sunnis and the Shias really fighting because they disagree about Mohammed’s uncle?  Was Northern Ireland really torn up because of the differences between two ways of approaching God?  Religious affiliation has been a handy way to divide people into groups, and when one group has some advantage over the other resentments grow and often erupt into violence.  Take Sunnis, Shia, Protestant, Catholics, Jews and Hindus, put them in a place where everyone has equal opportunities and there will be no violence between the religions.  Not that religion isn’t fairy-tale based, but people ARE going to find a way to create groups and sub-groups; it’s just something we do.

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By Jim H., May 24, 2007 at 8:48 am Link to this comment
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Hedges says: “Sam Harris has conflated faith with tribalism.”
And, he says: “He calls this religion. I do not.”

I say: The pandemic plague-like disease of “RELIGION”, is “TRIBALISM” a culture spread by “FAITH” instilled by indoctrination in the minds of innocent children and fools who are unable to defend themselves against parents or others who often are victims of the same type of brainwashing, mesmerizing, and indoctrination, or are the charlatan purveyors of that ponzi-like racketeering enslaving “FAITH” of ‘Godism’!
Without “FAITH” there would be no ‘Godism’ religion!
Mr. Chris Hedges needs a DICTIONARY, and his head examined!

From whence, and how did “Religion” become an important part of peoples lives? Shouldn’t people know the origin of something they rely so heavily upon for directing their energies, thoughts, actions, and intolerance? “Religion” is to the “World”, like a horrible infectious pandemic plague, that robs ‘peoples’ reasoning power and ‘converts’ them to ‘irrational’ robot-like mesmerized fools! “Religion” accumulates wealth from every possible source, including school children’s pennies, inheritances, government gifts, and every type of investment; and, all dividends, being tax-free, ‘they’ reinvest for gains in other profit sources from which they continually amass great quantities of money. The money is then used to facilitate the spread of their disease via every possible means, including ‘buying’ lobbyists, and purchasing
all sorts of ‘media outlets’, such as Radio and TV stations, newspapers, magazines, and publishing companies. And those poor ‘irrational peoples’ and their progeny are, and have been surrounded, and are trapped in an ever tightening ‘Gordian knot’ from which, without the benefit of our “rationality” they will continue to suffer the degradation of having to beg their ‘captors’ for forgiveness for their “original sin”, and chance being raped as the cost of their atonement!
There is no excuse for intelligent people to be so ignorant of facts about the charlatan fantasies and make-believe pretenses of religion, that works to undermine the true Democratic principles and unifying influences of our Democratic Society. To promote, propagate, profligate or publish the same pretentious and pompous falsehoods that are the evil tools used by Fallwell, Baker, Haggard, the Pope, and their ilk to brainwash, indoctrinate, brand, and subjugate innocent children and fools for the purpose of using them to gain ever more money, power, and divisive influence, is tantamount to supporting pimping, and prostitution.
And because those charlatans use their evil schemes and lies to control, and enslave those misled ‘bovid-like’ droves by rendering them ‘virtual’ robots that do their bidding; they are criminals, and by supporting them, ‘you’, are a criminal cohort, equally guilty of the crimes they commit against humanity, those fools, and the children they sexually molest!
The vast majority of “religious” people were: forced into their ‘belief’! They had no say in the matter, they were imposed upon, brainwashed, and indoctrinated when innocent and defenseless! They were not old enough, wise enough, or informed enough to make a decision, or to determine the value of the information passed to them by elders who, they were taught to obey and were not able to question or contradict! And, generation, upon generation the same methods have been perpetually used and promoted by a big gang of thieves as their victimizing schemes to rob people of their pristine mental facilities and their ability to determine fact from fiction! 
Most religious indoctrinated “children” never reach an “age and ability” to recover from the ‘disease’!

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By Gary, May 24, 2007 at 8:47 am Link to this comment
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Sam Harris seems to facing a more and more “watered down” version of Religion with each debate.
Both Andrew Sullivan and Chris Hedges seem to be arguing “for” most of Sam’s positions, while only resisting strongly the abandonment of their own “personal” God feelings.
I think that Sam should be feeling quite pleased with the unintentional support he’s getting.

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By nulldevice, May 24, 2007 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

One of my favorite quotes to retort to “atheism is a religion” is “Atheism is a religion inasmuch as ‘bald’ is a hair color.”


In my opinion, the debate of religion v. rationality always focuses on the wrong things.  The argument very quickly becomes a bodycount - who has killed more people/caused more suffering?  Stalin?  The crusades?  Hitler? (and then Godwin’s law should kick in).  In the end it really does a disservice to both sides of the debate - it attempts to reduce the debate to a numbers game, and it also grossly oversimplifies the reasons for any human suffering.

The argument could, and in my opinion, should, be one of philosophy and epistemology.  Does religion deliver on its promises, are its definitions of good and evil appropriate, is it a living philosophy or a fixed one, is it relevant?  What about atheism?  Is its promise of rationality enough?  Where does morality come from, then?  Is everything relative?These are questions that I’m sure students of both sides could answer in great and fascinating detail…if they weren’t busy arguing over whether Stalin killed people because he was an athiest or whether Hitler was secretly catholic.

Perhaps it’s too academic to thik we should be discussing the underlying philosophies of religion and athiesm.  But it always seems to me that we’re busy talking about the symptoms without diagnosing the disease, so to speak.

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By AtheistCanadian, May 24, 2007 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

Hi all!  Great to see Sam Harris putting good effort into these debates and other appearances.

Hi also to <Mike Mid-City> who asks: “What came before the Big Bang?”

I just listened to a CBC Radio 1 “Ideas” re-broadcast of the Richard Dawkins lecture given last autumn at McGill here in Montreal, entitled: “Too Queer To Suppose”.  I’ll look around for a web link to podcast, but for now I’ll just describe an interesting point he’s on about - one that relates to your very legitimate question.

Dawkins submits that, due to our ancestors having evolved in a world of middle sized scales of time, size and distance, our brains are wired to comprehend best those things (and concepts) which fall within a certain range.  For example, we can visualize things as small as a pinhead, or as large as 20 kilometres - whereas the subatomic distance scale is baffling.  We think of rocks as being solid, but to a neutrino, all matter is largely empty space.  (A fly at centre field of football stadium would represent the nucleus; the entire stadium is the atom’s size including electron shell; and the next stadium in the next town over, represents the neighboring atom).

So when I suggest that Lisa Randall’s latest book “Warped Passages” is a good starting point to understand what is currently understood about cosmology, I fully expect all humans (leading physicists included) to scratch their heads as they grapple with the concepts.  They are quite simply too queer to suppose - at least without the tremendous assistance of the scientific method and perspective.

I am just a lowly electrical engineer in comparison to Carl Sagan, Lisa Randall, E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Chris Hitchens.  Yet, I can see the merit in suggestions that Quantum Mechanics must be at least in some sense correct if it makes predictions that are as repeatably accurate as it does.  (Dawkins relates QM’s predictive accuracy as being able to measure North America’s width to + or - the width of a human hair).

Apologizing for not describing what came “before” the Big Bang, I offer this next bit in an attempt to show that I share most humans’ inability to directly grasp what science is telling us - while still somehow “getting it”.  I read a Q in Carl Sagan’s Q/A section of the latest book: “The Varieties of Scientific Experience - a personal view of the search for god”.

Q: If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?  Something that isn’t the universe?

In his answer, Carl suggests imagining what the perspective might be of a creature who could only detect or experience in two (2) dimensions.  Such a creature could live on the surface of an expanding balloon - and observe that all the dots on the balloon are receding - without being aware of the balloon’s expansion into a “3rd” dimension.

“Up” things by one (1) more dimension and you have an analogy to our situation with receding galaxies.

Neat, huh?  It may not fully satisfy, but I think it shows the wisdom, as Dawkins suggests, of recognizing that our human brains are the product of having evolved in our 3-D “Middle World”.

Indeed, we must allow for the possibility that it’s inappropriate to use the word “before” in a sentence relating to the “Big Bang”.

In no way does any of this bolster Bronze Age mythological notions such as supreme beings or omnipotent deities.  Quite the opposite, I should think.

(... Now if only I can spell “atheist” correctly next time I join a web board… wink

Take care, everyone!  Peace and kindness to all creatures with nervous systems.

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By Herk, May 24, 2007 at 8:17 am Link to this comment


Having read through the article, and having recently read End of Faith, I take issue with both Harris and Hedges.

I agree that Harris should not have included “Buddhism Lite” in his book, and he’s been criticised for it sufficiently. My reasoning is that it has nothing to do with atheism, except for being a nice philosophy. Most atheists don’t bother with it, though many Buddhists are atheists.

Nor was I comfortable with Harris’ rationalization of torture and his easy dismissal of the life of Chomsky as blind. These things, of course, are again not caveats of atheism, but opinions of a single atheist.

But I was stunned at Hedges’ implication that the sandbox religions giving us tribes was a good or necessary thing, given the 5,000+ years of warfare in the region. It seems a poor argument for religion and a bit contrived. That the individual is the result of religions’ conferring of altruism is laughable in the Dark Ages’ Christianity-as-mob imprisonment of the human mind, topped only by Islam’s infidel-as-enemy as a repeated theme of the Koran.

I agree with Harris’ and others’ claim that moderates both support and turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of the mad in their midst.

Hedges seems to miss the obvious: those madmen who died to be with the spaceship beyond the comet and those who drank Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid are credulous in the same way that those who believe the dead can be made to “rise,” whatever that means.

His claim that the gospel writers put down the words of Jesus assumes first that Jesus was a real person rather than a mythical construct and secondly that the four extant gospels and the hundreds of original gospels, now lost, and monographs that were discarded, are faithful representations of the life of a real person rather than plain mythmaking.

And any claim that the religions of the Middle East contain some sort of moral guides must be taken as a joke or an indication that the claimant has never read said books. These “scriptures” have the onus of irrational belief and surrender to the will of the imagined magical beings as their central themes. Religions, by their nature of belief, are divisive, clannish, and a thumb-sucking pablum which uses death, fear and guilt to bond those individuals into mobs - the human race as shirts and skins, Montagues and Capulets who are all sure that they have the proper code of ethics and behavior, and too bad about all those deluded others.

Hedges claim that faith allows us to trust in human compassion occludes the simple fact that humans are compassionate by nature, and that if you can get a man to believe, you can get him to believe anything, including that his neighbors are not believing correctly.

I too am hoping for an end of faith, perhaps ushered in by an increase of skepticism and growth of knowledge. My hope is dampened by a growth of religious and idealistic fascism that seems to have taken a life of its own in these United States.

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By griff, May 24, 2007 at 7:58 am Link to this comment
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Chris Hedges is a really humane person who desperately wnats to believe in a humane god. People tend to want to believe in a god that wants what they want. Whoever said we make up our own gods is right on. The mean old god that smites folks and sends ‘em to hell isn’t for Chris.
So Jerry Falwell and the other mullas have their gods and Chris has his. Harris has the sense to ask why we make them up at all.

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By Andrew, May 24, 2007 at 7:53 am Link to this comment
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Go see a doctor you are delusional. Man is the problem as Mr. Hedges point out. It is man’s ego that causes the moral crimes in our world and not God.
Take care of that fever!

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By Jeremy, May 24, 2007 at 7:48 am Link to this comment
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Reading sure reads a lot better than it sounded in person, allthough about as unconvincing.

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By Andrew, May 24, 2007 at 7:45 am Link to this comment
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Archeon of Disgrace:
So clever, of course atheism is the same as religion.
There is the atheist movement which is broken up into groups of people who look to eliminate religion and promote their own non-god view of existence. Get real liar, atheism is just a religion or cult which does not believe in a god.

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By Adam, May 24, 2007 at 7:37 am Link to this comment
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Thank you, Chris Hedges.  Your words are so clearly from the heart that I sense they’ll move within me for quite some time.  I’ve been uncomfortable with Sam Harris’ hyper-rational bigotry and have recognized its utility to those evil enough to think they can run the world (i.e. the anti-Christs of Bush, Inc.), but your depth of analysis and integrity has spoken directly to the heart of Harris’ dangerous assertions. 

It’s amusing to read the comments of those readers and audience members who expect a quick answer to the world’s problems in the enemy of religion.  But it’s also frightening to read the certainty and finality in these comments.  Don’t you all see your actions and beliefs mirroring other forms of intolerance, most obviously the fundamentalisms of the religions you so hate?

The world is in crisis.  Our certainties—whether religious, scientific, or political—seem to have led us to the precipice.  May we forgive each other for our arrogance and accept our ignorance in the face of the living world.  It’s not enough to condemn cults of death; we have to embrace meaningful life.  I’m thankful that Hedges has articulated part of that vision—I’m sure many are able to listen.

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By MYRON, May 24, 2007 at 7:31 am Link to this comment
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Chris Hedges states: We have forgotten who we were meant to be, who we were created to be, because we have forgotten that we find God not in ourselves, finally, but in our care for our neighbor, in the stranger, including those outside the nation and the faith. 

How does Chris know what we were meant to be? Who we were created to be? It is evident that mankind has been evolving for several hundred thousand years. How do we know what the next thousand years of evolution will bring? Common sense tells us we must rely on and help others if we are to survive. Kneeling, bowing down and praying to an invisible idea will solve none of mankinds present problems (war, disease, starvation, hatred, greed, etc.)

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By Carl Baydala, May 24, 2007 at 7:18 am Link to this comment
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“God is not an asserted existence but a process accomplishing itself.”

“but the supreme importance of the monotheistic traditions in creating the concept of the individual….”

“God is a human concept.”

I could rest my case right here, since I have already shown that God is indeed something that springs from the mind of man. No doubt Mr. Hedges would say that this is a gift from God; that he (God) gave us the ability to think, to have free will, etc.  The great monotheistic religion of Christianity gave us this gift.

My understanding of this monotheistic religion ( Judaism ) was that is simply exemplifies the selfishness of man, in this case of the Jew in the creation of the entity in question.  To have but only one god, and to be his pal ( the Covenant )is an act of selfishness.  Man created a god and a relationship with him, a special relationship it seems.  He also wants to have everlasting life ( another selfish act )and his creation, his god will provide that for him.  The origin of Christianity then is selfishness, i.e. wanting to keep everything for yourself:  me and God are pals, I am special. This is my interpretation of the great monotheistic religion that Mr. Hedges talks about.  It is not something that bestows individualism upon the earth so that man may discover God, but rather it indicates the selfish nature of man and his ability to create belief systems which cater to his inner desires, needs, and fears.

If that is all that God is trying to do, i.e. create a framework of individualism, then he should say so. He should remove his Covenant, his rules and his regulations. He should not restrict, but he should set us free. God is indeed a human creation.  That has been the argument of the Atheists all along.

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By still confused, May 24, 2007 at 7:17 am Link to this comment
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For those who were in the audience, while I’m sure these remarks were at times hard to follow as they were delivered orally, and while Hedges can be a bit of a windbag (which is unfortunate, because I do find him to be quite sensitive and intelligent), I don’t think his arguments are obscure or circuitous. I think they are rather a well-articulated, perfectly standard explication of a mature, sophisticated faith, and successful expressions of such transcendent experiences should always be lauded.

I look forward to Sam’s response. I’ve followed him in debates with others - I’m curious to see where he goes with these particular assertions. There is a notion of God that seems to consistently evade these athiests. Actually, I shouldn’t say ‘notion’ of God, because I’m actually referring quite specifically to ‘God’ himself. Thank you, Truthdig, for this event.

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By Jason, May 24, 2007 at 6:52 am Link to this comment
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What you atheists fail to understand about Hedge’s article is that humans are the problem and not the belief in a loving God who commands you to love your fellow human being.
Humans can and will turn any document written into what they believe it says to support their position on things and that includes the OT & NT. The freewill mind of humans is the problem and God’s teachings are the force which seeks to control it for the good of the individual and community.
A world without a God would soon destroy itself and humankind would be no more. Proof of that is Hitler, Stalin and other EGOTISTICAL men who murdered countless millions of people to accomplish their self serving goals. Yes, man is the problem not God!

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By James Yell, May 24, 2007 at 6:27 am Link to this comment
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My first comment is really in response to one of the comments, which called this person calling Hedges not religious, but a humanist. This brings me to ask a question that I have asked before, if Jesus is God than why do people quote the passages from the old testement as God’s words, when they contradict the teachings of Jesus? It seems to me that Jesus moved beyond the old testement, which is a collection of opinion and history, contradictory and mean spirited.

Saying that I must say if there is a God of any sort he would not be the Abrahamic God, or any number of invented Godheads. These God heads are all narcisstic, bullying, & quite insane and if they are the creators than they are trashing mankind for the Gods own incompetence.

No matter how constructive monothiestic religion trys to be they create hate by the simple act of proclaiming that only they know what God wants and than proceed to contradict everything that the next God talker says God told them. Well God has told me nothing and if he wanted me to pay attention, he would not address me thru the likes of the Pope, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, or any number of false and hateful people.

As an none believer I only ask that Religious stop trying to hi-jack civil law to enforce their idiotic pronouncements. I am sure if God has something to say to me he will do so with out the help of idiots and self-appointed divines. You are welcome to your beliefs, but I am welcome to my own and protected by the Bill of Rights, no matter how much Bush/Cheney try to subvert it.

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By Ken from Pasadena, May 24, 2007 at 3:16 am Link to this comment

Sorry about the typos in my original message: it should be “how much smarter” instead of “has much smarter” in item #1, and “as you *were* rebutting Sam” in item #3. That’s what I get for posting something at 2:00 am after a very long day! smile

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By Ken from Pasadena, May 24, 2007 at 3:03 am Link to this comment

I was in the audience last night as well, and I have some observations for Chris, many of which are based on what he said last night, as well as on on the essay posted above:

1. Chris, if your intention was to show the audience has much smarter you THINK you are than everyone else, you succeeded. Your introductory remarks were extremely difficult to understand, until approximately the last few minutes when you finally started to make some valid points. I am not an unintelligent person, but I always appreciate direct communication, something Sam Harris excels in. Your comments, as reflected above, are didactic, unnecessarily circuitous, and on occasion so full of yourself as to be laughable.

At one point last night you were asked a direct question about your religious beliefs, and instead of a direct answer you once again launched into a discussion of “tribalism.” I would suggest you climb down from the Ivory Tower and learn to answer questions more clearly.

2. Your comments later in the debate about the honor killngs of women, based on your essay as quoted above, were SERIOUSLY flawed. You maintain it’s the evil in people’s hearts—and sometimes political manipulation—and not religious beliefs that gives rise to events like this, and that’s bad enough. But then you have the gall to claim honor killings of women in the Middle East is “not really that prevalent.” Are you KIDDING? Just today, the Chicago Tribune had a very thorough article on the horrors women in Iraq are facing, including an ever-increasing amount of honor killings, and how widespread they are. And that it is the result of RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE, not “evil.” Here’s the link:

Even TruthDig itself has articles on this today! You referred several times to Sam about how much time you spent working and living in the Middle East, as if to say one can’t have a valid opinion on the subject unless one has actually lived there (which is also patently ridiculous). Apparently you didn’t see enough of what is really going on in that country, and other Middle-Eastern countries, or—more likely—you never actually talked to any of the women living there. Perhaps you weren’t even allowed to.

3. On a slightly different subject: where did you learn grammar? At one point last night—as you rebutting Sam—you said “irregardless”! I don’t know if you heard the gasp from the audience, but I did. Is that what a Harvard education is worth these days? Speaking of the debate, you could learn something from Sam: he looked at the audience whenever he spoke, while you looked only at Sam when you spoke from the chair.

4. As to the chair vs. the podium, why did you have to use notes and literally read the essay you wrote to the audience? Did you not have enough time to properly prepare for this debate? Sam was secure enough in the knowledge of his material to speak without the aid of notes—why couldn’t you?

5. You once again trotted out the canard about Islam being the religion of peace, not Jihad. I am so tired of hearing this! If your statement is really true, who is telling the Islamic fundamentalists this? THEY are the ones who need to hear it, not us in the West. But no one in the Islamic world will speak this out loud, for fear of severe reprisal, which is why Sam Harris says religious moderates are more dangerous than fundamentalists, and also why too much tolerance of medieval and bizarre religious beliefs is now dangerous. You completely mis-represented Sam’s positions on these points last night, something you did often.

5. Finally, I—as well as many audience members around me—was shocked at how many times you actually AGREED with points that Sam Harris made, but felt you had to express the same sentiments in different (and denser) verbiage. Several times during your attempt to counter Sam, I heard people crying out “but that’s what he just said!”

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By manonfyre, May 24, 2007 at 2:34 am Link to this comment

better yet, how about, Ken Wilber’s Summary of Spiral Dynamics.


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By manonfyre, May 24, 2007 at 2:27 am Link to this comment

i commend to mr. hedges, mr. harris, and truthdig readers the work of Ken Wilber; and, also, a very relevant field of thought to the subject of this debate, Spiral Dynamics.

as a jumping off place, perhaps, Which Level of God Do You Believe In?; or maybe, A Spirituality that Transforms, by mr. wilber.  any quick web search can get you to his website, and so much more.

regarding Spiral Dynamics, perhaps, Colors of Thinking, or, google away!

looking forward to reading more of this debate.  deep thanks to chris, to sam, and to truthdig!

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By valupak, May 24, 2007 at 2:23 am Link to this comment
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I don’t believe Hedges is a Christian. He is a Humanist. He may have reinforced his humanist beliefs with passages from the Bible, but he appears to follow little to none of the non humanist edicts and passages in the Bible. He could just as easily call himself a Muslim or a Hindu while quoting the humanist-supporting passages from the Koran or the Vedas. Perhaps Hedges will realize this someday.

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By Mark, May 23, 2007 at 11:44 pm Link to this comment
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Mike Mid-City..I have a question for him with respect to his last question.  So, I guess he believes in god.  And asks, what was there before the big bang.  This is no help to the theist.  I ask him then, who designed the designer.  It’s the same problem.

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By frustrated, May 23, 2007 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment
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This was such silly obscurantism. I was in the audience, you can have no idea how long it went on until you see the video. Poor Robert Scheer looked like he was gonna lose it in the last ten minutes, couldn’t sit still. Sam, for whom I have more respect now than ever, stayed so calm, even in the face of being called a racist by Hedges. It really was a shameless display.

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By Sportin' Life, May 23, 2007 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment
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I’m an atheist who is exceedingly grateful to Sam Harris for throwing down the gauntlet with End of Faith, but I do agree with some of what Hedges has to say.  At least, I can find common ground if I overlook the questionable claims made for monotheism—e.g. that it “created the individual”, pffft—and some of the other off-putting stuff.

I believe in building a moral community, cultivating altruism, creating meaning in life, valuing each and every person, and all of the same values that Hedges appears to—including the rejection of torture.

But here’s the problem: “God is the name we give to our belief that life has meaning, one that transcends the world’s chaos, randomness and cruelty.”  Huh?  How about if we give a different name to that belief—since the word “God” is already used for something else?  Specifically, for the anthropomorphic deity which Hedges freely admits is a relic of superstition.

I hope Hedges will consider this point: using an idiosyncratic definition of the word “God”, pretending that that definition is widely shared, and ignoring the horrible things happening in our world right now due to the actions of people in thrall to a much different (and more prevalent) definition of the same word—all of that is exactly the kind of thing that gets so many of us frustrated with the religious left.  Doesn’t such sloppiness give away the game to the fundamentalists and the fanatics?  Frankly, they have much more consistent, convincing, and historically justified definitions across the board when it comes to religious vocabulary.

This column could be the beginning of a great and healthy discussion of human ethics, but honesty and clarity—in short, rationality—is a critically necessary component of that discussion.  It doesn’t seem rational to me to give up a traditional religious concept, yet so desperately cling to the word that refers to it.  At the very least, doing so is bound to create unnecessary confusion and opportunity for mischief.

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By Ga, May 23, 2007 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment

Comment #72120 by Mike Mid-City:

“Religion doesn’t demand violence, men who misunderstand it do.”

Oh please! The Bible demands violence for many things. We always debate this, don’t we? For 2,000 years!

If we have been “misunderstanding” religion for 2,000 years, how can you possibly profess to be one of those who really know what (your) religion means?

Religion is delusion. Supported by circular logic. The direct cause of almost ALL bloodshed for the last 2,000 years. The cause of the suppression of science and reason for the last 2,000 years!

You are so wrong. So, so, wrong.

Unfortunately, you know not what you do.

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