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Sam Harris: The Language of Ignorance

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Posted on Aug 15, 2006
The Double Helix and the Cross
Illustration: Karen Spector

By Sam Harris

(Page 2)

On the question of why God simply doesn?t provide better evidence for his existence:

If the case in favor of belief in God were utterly airtight, then the world would be full of confident practitioners of a single faith. But imagine such a world, where the opportunity to make a free choice about belief was taken away by the certainty of the evidence. How interesting would that be?

One is tempted to say that it might be more ?interesting? than a world unnecessarily shattered by competing religious orthodoxies and religious war, only to be followed by an eternity in hell for all those who believe the wrong things about God. But, to each his own.

How does Collins settle the problem of theodicy—the mystery of why there is evil and misfortune in a world created by an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly benevolent God? He takes it very much in stride:

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Science reveals that the universe, our own planet, and life itself are engaged in an evolutionary process. The consequences of that can include the unpredictability of the weather, the slippage of a tectonic plate, or the misspelling of a cancer gene in the normal process of cell division. If at the beginning of time God chose to use these forces to create human beings, then the inevitability of these other painful consequences was also assured. Frequent miraculous interventions would be at least as chaotic in the physical realm as they would be in interfering with human acts of free will.

But why was God obliged to make cell division susceptible to the perversity of cancer? And why couldn?t an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly benevolent God perform as many miracles as He wanted? There isn?t time to entertain such questions, however, as Collins must solve all outstanding problems in the science of cosmology:

The Big Bang cries out for a divine explanation. It forces the conclusion that nature had a defined beginning. I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural force that is outside of space and time could have done that.

It is worth pointing out the term ?supernatural,? which Collins uses freely throughout his book, is semantically indistinguishable from the term ?magical.? Reading his text with this substitution in mind is rather instructive. In any case, even if we accepted that our universe simply had to be created by an intelligent being, this would not suggest that this being is the God of the Bible, or even particularly magical.  If intelligently designed, our universe could be running as a simulation on an alien supercomputer. As many critics of religion have pointed out, the notion of a Creator poses an immediate problem of an infinite regress. If God created the universe, what created God? To insert an inscrutable God at the origin of the universe explains absolutely nothing. And to say that God, by definition, is uncreated, simply begs the question. (Why can?t I say that the universe, by definition, is uncreated?) Any being capable of creating our world promises to be very complex himself.  As the biologist Richard Dawkins has observed with untiring eloquence, the only natural process we know of that could produce a being capable of designing things is evolution.

Any intellectually honest person must admit that he does not know why the universe exists. Secular scientists, of course, readily admit their ignorance on this point. Believers like Collins do not.

The major and inescapable flaw of ? [the] claim that science demands of atheism is that it goes beyond the evidence. If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove His existence. Atheism itself must therefore be considered a form of blind faith, in that it adopts a belief system that cannot be defended on the basis of pure reason.

Is disbelief in Zeus or Thor also a form of ?blind faith?? Must we really ?disprove? the existence of every imaginary friend? The burden of producing evidence falls on those making extravagant claims about miracles and invisible realities. What is more, there is an enormous difference between acquiring a picture of the world through dispassionate, scientific study and acquiring it through patent emotionality and wishful thinking—and only then looking to see if it can survive contact with science.

Consider the following fact: Ninety-nine percent of the species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. There are two very different questions one could ask about a fact of this sort, if one wanted to assess the reasonableness of believing in God. One could ask, ?Is this fact compatible with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and compassionate God?? Or, one could ask, ?Does this fact, alone or in combination with other facts, suggest that an omnipotent, omniscient and compassionate God exists?? The answer to the first question is always, ?Well, yes—provided you add that God?s will is utterly mysterious.? (In the present case, He may have wanted to destroy 99% of his creatures for some very good reason that surpasses our understanding.) The answer to the second question is ?absolutely not.? The problem for Collins is that only the second question is relevant to our arriving at a rational understanding of the universe. The fact that a bowdlerized evangelical Christianity can still be rendered compatible with science (because of the gaps in science and the elasticity of religious thinking) does not mean that there are scientific reasons for being an evangelical Christian.

Collins? sins against reasonableness do not end here. Somewhere during the course of his scientific career, he acquired the revolting habit of quoting eminent scientists out of context to give an entirely false impression of their religious beliefs. Misappropriation of Einstein and Hawking, while common enough in popular religious discourse, rises to level of intellectual misconduct when perpetrated by a scientist like Collins. Where either of these physicists uses the term ?God?—as in Einstein?s famous ?God does not play dice??—he uses it metaphorically. Any honest engagement with their work reveals that both Einstein and Hawking reject the notion of Collins? God as fully as any atheist. Collins suggests otherwise at every opportunity.

In his role as Christian apologist, Collins also makes the repellent claim that ?the traditional lore about Galileo?s persecutions by the Church is overblown.? Lest we forget: Galileo, the greatest scientist of his time, was forced to his knees under threat of torture and death, obliged to recant his understanding of the Earth?s motion, and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life by steely-eyed religious maniacs. He worked at a time when every European intellectual lived in the grip of a Church that thought nothing of burning scholars alive for merely speculating about the nature of the stars. As Collins notes, this is the same Church that did not absolve Galileo of heresy for 350 years (in 1992). When it did, it ascribed his genius to God, ?who, stirring in the depths of his spirit, stimulated him, anticipating and assisting his intuitions.? Collins clearly approves of this sordid appropriation, and goes on to say that all the fuss about Galileo was, in the end, unnecessary, because ?the claims that heliocentricity contradicted the Bible are now seen to have been overstated?.? (And what if they weren?t overstated? What then?) It is simply astonishing that a scientist has produced such a pious glossing of the centuries of religious barbarism that were visited upon generations of other scientists.

If one wonders how beguiled, self-deceived and carefree in the service of fallacy a scientist can be in the United States in the 21st century, ?The Language of God? provides the answer. The only thing that mitigates the harm this book will do to the stature of science in the United States is that it will be mostly read by people for whom science has little stature already. Viewed from abroad, ?The Language of God? will be seen as another reason to wonder about the fate of American society. Indeed, it is rare that one sees the thumbprint of historical contingency so visible on the lens of intellectual discourse. This is an American book, attesting to American ignorance, written for Americans who believe that ignorance is stronger than death. Reading it should provoke feelings of collective guilt in any sensitive secularist. We should be ashamed that this book was written in our own time.



Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation. He is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of contemplative disciplines, for twenty years. Mr. Harris is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Economist, The Guardian, The Independent, The Globe and Mail,  New Scientist, SEED Magazine, and many other journals. Mr. Harris makes regular appearances on television and radio to discuss the danger that religion now poses to modern societies. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. Several foreign editions are in press. Mr. Harris lives in New York City.

His most recent book is “Letter to a Christian Nation” (Amazon)


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By R. A. Earl, August 25, 2006 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment
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Broiler asks “Like I said, if you rant and rave the “believers” will simply turn off to you. How do you get the point across in a calm, palatable way?”

When “they” come to the door, dressed like the salesmen/women they are, I listen to their opening remarks for a few seconds with polite interest. They usually get quickly to something like “we’d like to share a moment with you in prayer…”.

I then, calmly and as “palatably” as I can muster, say “I don’t believe what you believe. For several decades I read the books, listened to the preachers, watched the videos, attended the services and examined my own heart, using reason, logic and common sense, before coming to the firm conclusion, THERE IS NO GOD and all religions are man-made clubs designed to perpetuate myths and control masses. I’m not willing to discuss the issue further. Have a nice day.” And I close the door. Why should I waste any more of my time or theirs?

In writing on the internet it’s a matter of directly stating my views. I don’t expect to “convert” any believer this way. All I expect to accomplish is to maintain the non-believer’s visibility. I don’t want to give believers the opportunity to assume “everyone” believes the stuff they do.

It’s important to let believers know that I support their right to believe, even if I completely disagree with what they believe. I try to demonstrate respect and common courtesy - attitudes and behaviors I expect from them regarding MY views.

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By Broiler, August 24, 2006 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment
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The god or no god discussion simply goes ‘round and ‘round here. The arguments against god and religion are poignant and reality based. The few religious folks that speak up here are fighting to hold on to lifelong beliefs and getting thrashed royally. Most “believers” will never think rationally about what the other side is saying. That’s the religious mind control kicking in. There’s always a line thrown into the scriptures to combat these types of attacks. “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe”. A nice one-liner that let’s you move on to other thoughts. These verses were concocted long after any historical truths were forgotten. They work though; they’re quick fixes that keep lost sheep in the herd. Tell a lie long enough and it becomes the truth. Taught and told over generations it becomes faith.

I ask again, how can the fact that there is no god be communicated to the masses? I’ve lived half a century participating in organized religion. Shredding insults did nothing to convince me what I believed was wrong. It was my own critical review of the facts that brought my thinking around. It was also at a point in my life where I had time to research and read on the topic.

Most people have rather cluttered lives. This type of “enlightenment” can tax your system and upset your applecart. I speak from experience. Most adults don’t want to confront their belief system half way through life.

The “History Channel” runs shows trying to prove or in search of biblical origins all the time. I’ve rarely seen them present the other side of the coin. Biblical laws and stories came into existence for various man-made reasons and those reasons are rarely brought out during these presentations. If the validity of the biblical account is questioned at all it only delivers a “glancing blow”. You wind up with a “see, I told you there was a great flood” kind of response. Thus, if there was a flood, there was a guy with a boat, there were animals, and the boat’s on a mountain in Turkey but nobody’s found it yet. Those damn Turks won’t let us climb up there and find it!

You could argue that you shouldn’t have to prove there is no god. The problem is that belief in god has been argued and advertised since the beginning of mankind. Cecil B. DeMille’s “King of Kings”, “The Ten Commandments” and “Samson and Delilah” regularly run on television. Viewed as entertainment by some, illustrated belief system by others. You’ve seen the movies, TV series and televangelists.

There’s a lot of mind control out there. Like I said, if you rant and rave the “believers” will simply turn off to you. How do you get the point across in a calm, palatable way?

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By saul, August 23, 2006 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment
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Will not get into God subject except to say that the God of the Bible is a stupid baby killin liar as shown by the following
In two different places the Bible says a man that sleeps with a married women they both shall die and yet Bible God let his favorite King David not only commit adultery but premeditated murder by acting like a Mafia boss and taking out a contract on the Husband. God said In Deuteronomy 24:16 ” a son shall NOT die for the sins of the father” and yet your God again couldn’t keep his own Commandment since he allowed David to Live but caused the death of the son.
God of Bible proved that Crime DOES Pay as David not only got to keep the Kingdom but got the object of his crime, Bathsheba. Then this idiot smiled on Solomon who turned around and built altars to other Gods showing that this God is as incompetent as George Bush.
As for why Jesus was a stupid liar go to http://www.religionquestioned.com where there is an offer to shut down based on misinformation given Christians about OT Messiah message

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By bbj, August 23, 2006 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
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James Watson called Francis Collins a “wacko”

Last night on Charlie Rose Show on PBS there was a rebroadcast of the interview of James Watson and Edward Wilson. The original show was broadcast on Dec. 14, 2005. The topic was Charles Darwin. Needless to say, James Watson is the Nobel prize winner for the discovery of the DNA which is the foundation of modern biology. Edward Wilson is a distinguished scientist/author and a professor of biology at Harvard. In a whole hour, the two eminent scientists and authors discussed Evolution in great detail.  What fascinated me the most was the discussion about scientists who believe in God. I paraphrase what they said:

Charlie Rose: Do you know any serious scientist who practices religion on a daily basis.
Edward Wilson: don’t know anyone.
James Watson: I only know one scientist… Francis Collin…who thinks a God interacts with him on a daily basis…I consider this kind of person a WACKO!

Watch the video for yourself:  http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6927851714963534233&q=label:watson+and+wilson

Compared to James Watson, Francis Collins is nobody. Collins was just an average scientist before he gained notoriety when he was promoted to be the administrator of the Human Genome Project,. Like someone posted, this kind of position is frequently a measure of his coordination, management and interpersonal skills, rather than how good a scientist he is.

Edward Wilson and James Watson both spent an entire life in academia and together they probably know hundreds of scientists personally, and yet they can only name one scientist (Francis Collins) who thinks God interact with him on a daily basis. To be called a “wacko” by James Watson the towering scientific giant who knows Francis Collins personally, it should illustrate the true standing of Francis Collins in the mind of the scientific community.

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By Barry Clifton, August 23, 2006 at 10:38 am Link to this comment
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Mr Harris - how is it possible to undertake a serious review of a book, when you read it with a firmly closed mind? I can imagine you skimming it with an incredulous, smug grin on your face at the preposterous idea of anybody attempting to marry their scientific knowledge with their profound faith in God.

Closed-mindedness and intolerence are to be reviled, whether from religious fundamentalists or their atheist reflections.

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By Dan, August 23, 2006 at 10:14 am Link to this comment
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What puzzles us most of alll is that anyone should exert himself so extremely to JUSTIFY his belief. Harris knows that one believes because one wishes to believe. What could be simpler? The contortions that Collins has gone through to rationalize his belief is a catalog of several debilitating psychological maladies. Sadly, none of these has proven fatal to Collins.

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By R J Ells, August 23, 2006 at 9:11 am Link to this comment
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RELIGION HAS ITS POSITIVE SIDE.  There are many positive sides to religions techniques. Science have learned that humans can be controlled by mystical and devised thought processes.  Let us take another look at religion before we throw out the cat with the bath water.

1.  People have basic needs that are satisfied by the structure.  Religion offers a release of the pressure of every day human contact good and bad.  A training occurs that provide the dictates of the cult or the individual instructor. 

Catholic priest have helped the people by being their confessor.  Through the act of confession a person can close the door on the past in order to begin a new future. Some mental health professional talk to their priest to release themselves from human problems that they deal with in their professions.  I asked Monsignor Patric Flood, “Who listens to you.?”  He said, “I talk to god.”

Some religions set up rightous rules that are designed to limit or enhance a persons choice to do things objectional or approved by the cult.

2. Religion and the belief in some higher being gives humans a unique ability to visualize a better place and time.  I believe there are many people, (the majority) that depend on irrational rationalization, which are offered by some religions, in order to cope and progress.

SUMMARY:  There are numerous positive sides to religion.  Let us list more of them here.

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By Brian, August 23, 2006 at 8:31 am Link to this comment
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Colin, that review is weak… It’s author is a believer no doubt.

I’ll say it again.  FEAR fuels FAITH.  But, I’m a nobody so don’t take my word for it.  Take Albert’s.

Albert Einstein - “Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and longing are the motive force behind all human endeavor and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present themselves to us. Now what are the feelings and needs that have led men to religious thought and belief in the widest sense of the words? A little consideration will suffice to show us that the most varying emotions preside over the birth of religious thought and experience. With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions - fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death.”

Read the rest at http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/einstein_religion.html

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By Colin, August 22, 2006 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment
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A book review I found of “The End of Faith”:

In this sometimes simplistic and misguided book, Harris calls for the end of religious faith in the modern world. Not only does such faith lack a rational base, he argues, but even the urge for religious toleration allows a too-easy acceptance of the motives of religious fundamentalists. Religious faith, according to Harris, requires its adherents to cling irrationally to mythic stories of ideal paradisiacal worlds (heaven and hell) that provide alternatives to their own everyday worlds. Moreover, innumerable acts of violence, he argues, can be attributed to a religious faith that clings uncritically to one set of dogmas or another. Very simply, religion is a form of terrorism for Harris. Predictably, he argues that a rational and scientific view one that relies on the power of empirical evidence to support knowledge and understanding should replace religious faith. We no longer need gods to make laws for us when we can sensibly make them for ourselves. But Harris overstates his case by misunderstanding religious faith, as when he makes the audaciously naïve statement that “mysticism is a rational enterprise; religion is not.” As William James ably demonstrated, mysticism is far from a rational enterprise, while religion might often require rationality in order to function properly. On balance, Harris’s book generalizes so much about both religion and reason that it is ineffectual.”

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By Frank, August 22, 2006 at 4:54 pm Link to this comment
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Judging by his picture it appears that his “God” made him bald, but he does’nt seem to be able to accept that. If that atrocious wig he has on is anything to go by.

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By Gerry, August 22, 2006 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In Hindu mythology, Chukwa is the first and oldest turtle, supporting the Earth. When a small child asked his Dad if it is true that a turtle supports the earth, what supports the turtle. The Dad answers that it is supported by another turtle. When the child asked what supports the second turtle, the Dad answers yet another turtle and before the child could ask the next logical question, the Dad said that it is turtles all the way down!

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By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 22, 2006 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
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Bizby, complex questions are loaded questions. Sahakian is writer of some introductory book on philosphy I once came across.English is my native language, but I read ten others .Professors didn’t mine my style .I derive my arguments from advanced books on philosophy of religion .See Michael Martin and Quentin Smith for such . Special pleading is to make an exception without a valid reason .And begging the question is to assume the conclusion. See Ausin Cline @ about .com atheism or whatever the address is where he discusses arguments about a god and logical fallacies. Some accuse me of being long-winded!

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By Bizby, August 22, 2006 at 8:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Comment on:

Comment #19448 by morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy on 8/21 at 9:24 pm

Morgan-lynn,

I’ve read a number of your posts now, and I seem to need an appendix, or maybe footnotes.

First, David Hume I know, but who or what is “Sahakian.”  Is that a typo by any chance?  Or perhaps a non-English philosopher?  Your grammer suggests that you are not a native speaker of English.

Second, what is the “fallacy of complex questions”?  From the title alone I’m having trouble understanding what could ever be false about a question that is complex.

Third, I understand “question begging,” but not “special pleading.”  What is that.  An example would help.

Fourth, what is a “special creationist” as a subset of creationists generally, and to what tautology of “fitness” are you referring?  Again, an example would be helpful.

Just trying to follow.

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By MB, August 22, 2006 at 4:51 am Link to this comment
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As a practising scientist for the past 20 years, I can tell you that scientists who rise to lead projects, like Collins, are not necessarily the best scientists.  Often, the opposite is the case.  They are often the best at administration and organization.  So I’m not suprised that an eminent “scientist” like Collins wrote a book like this.  He probably spends very, very little time being a real scientist.

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By MikeL, August 22, 2006 at 1:28 am Link to this comment
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I have a suggested reading… I hesitate to give the link only because the title sounds more inflammatory and blindly impassioned than the actual text is.  It’s actually a very cool, calculated, and thoughtful dissection of religion, spelled out in very simple, logical progressions.  I think the title is only to hook people and get them interested.  Hey, it worked for me… 

It’s called “Why Does God Hate Amputees?” (or, on some pages on the site, “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?”)  Again, forgive the title and check it out.  It opened my eyes quite a bit to some disturbingly obvious contradictions we’ve all just learned to ignore.  Here’s the table of contents:

http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/god-toc.htm

I hope this discussion continues, and continues respectfully.  I’m hooked on reading everyone’s comments.  Oh yeah, and Sam Harris’s book review was great… I’m definitely getting “End of Faith”.

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By Gerhardt Steinke, August 21, 2006 at 11:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This forum provides a VALUABLE service.
Arguments appear to be very well handled.
Refuting absurdities remains a challenge.
Or better said - EFFECTIVE refutation.

I look forward to Sam’s new book.

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By Mary Wallman, August 21, 2006 at 10:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

19389 BBJ—
re: Look, judging from the sentence “the majesty and beauty of God’s creation overwhelmed my resistance”, Collins did not suddenly turn into a believer when he saw the frozen waterfall. He was ready to be converted before that. Ordinarily when a scientist saw something hard to explain, they look for natural reasons to explain it and look for knowledable experts in relevent field (in this case a geologist) for explanation. Mr. Collins would rather assume that this frozen waterfall was God’s handy work.
—I had the very same revelation as I read the same passage…

And to 19393 Broiler
re:  “I’m guessing those that “know” believe that mankind would self-destruct without the laws, teachings and mental constraints of the church.  Just my opinion. I also contend that most people of higher education also “know”. That is Bush, Clinton, Reagan (knew) and most world leaders “know”. The so-called “illuminati”. So, the president claims to have a revelation from God which makes it palatable for a majority of us to accept a war in the middle-east. He pretends to be Christian to maintain control of the masses. How many people would enlist in the service with no hope of an after-life? How brave can you be without a safety net? How many parents would allow their children to lay down their lives (their only lives) for big business and oil?”—these are my same suspicions. 

Curiously, we are nearly peers (me-41) and from a similar background. If our suspicions are true, how intelligent could this design be…?!  DOH!

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By Jon B, August 21, 2006 at 10:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If Collins can’t scientifically proved the existence of god and god is nowhere to be found or come forward to validate his existence, then god talking is more of delusional than real.

Adios.

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By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 21, 2006 at 9:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sahakian states that to ask who made god is to commit the fallacy of complex questions,but to make that statement is to commith special pleading and question begging ,for it assumes that a god is such as admits to no   creation of it when that is the question at hand . Critics also falsely accuse David Hume of question begging in his treatment of miracle when all he is doing is using experience as we all do in evaluating anything. And special creationists accuse scientists of a tautology in talking of fitness.Not only do theists make logical fallacies ,but here they falsely accuse others of fallacies.So once again, logic is the bane of theists!

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By Lily Maskew, August 21, 2006 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The perplexing point about most of the above comments is that most people equate God with a definite man-made religion.  Take the world’s contradictory religious admonishments out of the equation.  What you have left is spirituality.  Forget facing Mecca or the pomp and circumstance of High Mass, definite commandments, etc.  Rules and regulations that people have believed in for thousands of years are not the same as God. God is, among other things, truth, justice, compassion, and honesty.  I am not saying I have all the answers here; I am just saying I have been contemplating this subject for nearly 50 years.  These are just some of my conclusions for whatever they are worth.

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By Joseph Swope, August 21, 2006 at 8:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s obvious to me that most people are as easily lead as sheep, and they cling to the myths they were taught by their families and communities. Sam Harris’s only “agenda” is to help take the blinders off of the human race, but i can tell by most peoples’ responses that they prefer to remain blind. The compartmentalization that must take place in the brains of Christians who map out the Genome is something a good psychiatrist should study! I don’t like the idea of our scientists and politicians under some mass hallucination that armegeddon is here when it’s obvious to me that most religious folk care little about this earth as they wait for their angels to come save them. I applaud Sam Harris for writing down what myself and most of my friends have thought for quite some time. Thank You Sam!

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By Karl G. LaPinska, August 21, 2006 at 6:46 pm Link to this comment
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Whatever or however creation came about it has “evolved” to the point where we have the capacity of reason and to abandon that for some “leap of faith” is to deny that faculty and to suspend its use.

In my opinion there is an answer to all questions which arise and the road to understanding is through the use of reason not by abandoning it. If “God” is responsible for creation than “God” is responsible for our capacity to reason. If we choose to abandon reason we, in a sense are denying the “God” who created us. Let the search continue.

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By R. A. Earl, August 21, 2006 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ferguson in #19390 wrote: “to disbelieve in a creator is to believe that objects pop into existence out of nowhere.”

NOT necessarily, Fergy. Perhaps to those who can think only in black and white, thereby avoiding having to deal with ALL the complications of shading and contrast and colors, the either-or dichotomy is the only answer they comprehend.

I DO NOT KNOW how this world and everything in/on/around it came about. AND NEITHER DOES ANYONE ELSE. Furthermore, I don’t spend a whole lot of whatever time I have on this planet wondering/worrying about it. It’s clear to me that we just don’t know and an UNPROVEN THEORY, or bunch of theories, IS NOT AN ANSWER.

He continues…“this defies logic and common sense. to believe in the god of the bible requires faith, setting aside logic and common sense.”

WELL, you got that right. To believe in the God of the Bible does require a suspension of reason and logical thinking because faith is the opposite of reason. Reason imposes very strict limits on what can be true while faith imposes no limits at all… REALITY vs DISNEYLAND. Faith is not a valid tool of knowledge and to escape into faith is not a retreat into safety. It’s a surrender of all your brainpower. It’s a cop out. It is intellectual bankruptcy.


He continues, “... religion was founded by man for man and has no relation to the creator just as faith has no relation to science.”

I’M at a loss for a much of a comment because I don’t understand the point attempting to be made. Except I have to agree that “religion was founded by man for man.” That’s obvious. Religions are just sets of “club rules.” Wanna belong to club… here are the rules and regs. Leave your own opinions, thoughts and, for that matter brains, at the door while you leave the contents of your wallet in the bucket. In exchange we’ll assure you that God loves you and you’ve got a reservation confirmed in the next world. If this were the computer business we’d call the product VAPORWARE!

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By Bizby, August 21, 2006 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Reply to:

Comment #19390 by ferguson on 8/21 at 11:47 am

Ferguson,

You wrote: 

“to disbelieve in a creator is to believe that objects pop into existence out of nowhere. this defies logic and common sense.”

I agree, but the problem I have with your statement as an argument for a god—if that is what you mean to say—is the age old question asked at some point by every smart little kid: “So who made God?”

Once the logical rule is: “Things cannot pop out of nothing,” you have a logical conundrum, no.  God poped out of . . . what?  The only answer that makes sense to me is “I don’t know.”

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By Heather, August 21, 2006 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment
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To the first comment by ferguson: “to disbelieve in a creator is to believe that objects pop into existence out of nowhere.”

So answer me this: WHERE exactly then ferguson, does your creator come from?  He must have just popped into existence out of nowhere.

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By Brian, August 21, 2006 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment
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#
by Mobashir Ahmad on 8/21 at 11:10 am

“I have asked one simple question from Sam Harris and his followers umpteen times but am yet to get the answer. What is the aim of life?”
Answer: Your lifes aim is what you say it is.  Or it could be put this way.  ahem…  I don’t know!

Added to that is another question. All things produced by the mankind have a producer/manufacturer, or an author for anything written. Who is the creator of us all?”
Answer:  We do not know!  Neither do you!  Accept it!  Deal with it.

Now maybe you could answer a question for us.  Why can’t the answer be one of the following.
A. “Do Not Know”
B. “We don’t have enough information to answer factually”
C. “It is beyond our ability to comprehend.”

We can admit that we don’t know.  Why can’t you?

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By Broiler, August 21, 2006 at 12:02 pm Link to this comment
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Many people have commented here, some with fervor, others with calm, most with a measure of rationality. I am 48 and was raised Catholic. I was baptized, confirmed and married Catholic. I recently read a book that changed my outlook on life. The book is The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyam Maccoby. I’ve investigated much further but this book was what got me started.

The point of the book was that the apostle Paul exaggerated the facts regarding the life and accomplishments of a Jewish preacher of royal descent. The book explains that much of what Paul did was both out of guilt for his crimes against men and for having been snubbed by the scholars of the Jewish community. At this point in history gentiles, Jews and the majority of citizens of the world were looking for ways in which to live with persecution and poverty. Power and money were the keys to a happy life. Belief in God was an escape from a life of misery to a better life. Not much has changed.

I consider myself quite rational and yet this was devastating for me to read. At times liberating but devastating none the less. I continue to attend church and I’m sure that surprises many of you. I’m not there for God; I’m there for the community of people. I have much in common with the people of the parish and that has not changed with my “epiphany”. Good people are difficult to give up.

How do you convince the masses that they have been living a lie? Jews, Christians, Muslims and all. Everything I had learned told me not to question my beliefs. “Honor thy father and thy mother”. “Blessed are they who have not seen and still believe”. There are “sacred mysteries of the church”. Speaking from a Catholic point of view, I now believe that the Pope and Cardinals know the truth. The Vatican has a sealed portion of its library. I believe it contains Gnostic and early Christian documents that would bring down the church and organized religion in general. I couldn’t venture a guess as to why they would keep such things. I simply can’t rationalize why anything else would be kept secret.

Why would those that “know” keep up the pretense? I’m guessing those that “know” believe that mankind would self-destruct without the laws, teachings and mental constraints of the church.  Just my opinion. I also contend that most people of higher education also “know”. That is Bush, Clinton, Reagan (knew) and most world leaders “know”. The so-called “illuminati”. So, the president claims to have a revelation from God which makes it palatable for a majority of us to accept a war in the middle-east. He pretends to be Christian to maintain control of the masses. How many people would enlist in the service with no hope of an after-life? How brave can you be without a safety net? How many parents would allow their children to lay down their lives (their only lives) for big business and oil?

Not everyone can think on the same level. Not everyone has the general education to conceive the inconceivable. How do you tell everyone, there is no god? Can it be done with any modicum of compassion and civility? Consider the repartee between theists and atheists in this column. There is much passion but little compassion on both sides. Is this the issue you would expect a terminal patient to confront on their deathbed? The world is dependent on the myth. For many, the myth is their life and what can anyone offer in exchange? The carnage from the falling dominos would be frightening.

I’m sorry; I can offer questions but no answers.

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By ferguson, August 21, 2006 at 11:47 am Link to this comment
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to disbelieve in a creator is to believe that objects pop into existence out of nowhere. this defies logic and common sense. to believe in the god of the bible requires faith, setting aside logic and common sense. religion was founded by man for man and has no relation to the creator just as faith has no relation to science.

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By BBJ, August 21, 2006 at 11:43 am Link to this comment
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Collins wrote in his book:

“On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains … the majesty and beauty of God’s creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ”.

Look, judging from the sentence “the majesty and beauty of God’s creation overwhelmed my resistance”,  Collins did not suddenly turn into a believer when he saw the frozen waterfall. He was ready to be converted before that. Ordinarily when a scientist saw something hard to explain, they look for natural reasons to explain it and look for knowledable experts in relevent field (in this case a geologist) for explanation. Mr. Collins would rather assume that this frozen waterfall was God’s handy work.

Would Mr. Collins be converted back to a non-believer when someone offered a natural explanation for the frozen waterfall, or is his conversion an irreversible process?

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By Ruby S, August 21, 2006 at 11:42 am Link to this comment
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Thanks for taking on this pseudo-scientific drivel even if from a “scientific” person. Need for vigilance against the dark side is made clear by the following:

It was approx. 50AD when Hero of Alexandria invented the steam engine. However, Christianity was on the upswing, and within the next 2-3 centuries the city of inventors, philosophers and mathematicians had become centre of the Coptic Church. Steam engine and further advancements in mathematics would have to wait 1400 additional years.

It is relatively easy to lose to irrationality and shut down progress for a millenia or two. Consequences for humanity….? Who needs to think about that when you have found Jesus! (susbtitute your favorite God/God’s Agent)

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By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 21, 2006 at 11:37 am Link to this comment
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Theists just cannot answer us ,fellow skeptics!Strobel and McDowell right their shallow books for their fellow gullibles- the faith crowd. They , McGrath , Hick, PLatinga,Colllins and Swinburne all fall back on faith .And so many people praise their speciousnes as though it was profound .They caused me to come up with my signature statement:logic is the bane of theists.Fellow skeptics, thanks for the good work. Perhaps a wavering person or two we have helped shown the light of reason .

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By R. A. Earl, August 21, 2006 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
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I think Colin has had his share of lumps for one day but dammit I just can’t keep my hands off the keys for one more minute…

It’s about this “prayer works” notion.

Colin, even you must admit it is completely irrational to think/hope that the Ruler of the Universe will run to YOUR assistance and bend the Laws of Nature for you. Isn’t that just a little bit ARROGANT? This whole notion of prayer implies that everyone else (such as the opposing football team, applicant, driver, student, parent) is DE-SELECTED, unworthy of being favored by God, and that YOUR WANTS/DESIRES/NEEDS are so SPECIAL they deserve special attention.

I think athletes who drop to bended knee to thank “somebody” for their achievments are commiting a particularly arrogant act. Do they really think God hasn’t anything better to do than “arrange” for them to make that touchdown or winning time? Outrageously presumptive!

I’ve often heard people in prayer say things like “Your will be done…”. Well ain’t that nice. They are acknowledging that God will do what He/She/It wishes. If the answers to prayer are merely what God wills all along, then WHY PRAY?

And PULEEASE Colin, stuff that “God Bless” supercilious bunk where the sun don’t shine. It makes you sound like a cloned LDS (Latter Day (Red) Skelton)!

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By Mobashir Ahmad, August 21, 2006 at 11:10 am Link to this comment
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I have asked one simple question from Sam Harris and his followers umpteen times but am yet to get the answer. What is the aim of life? Added to that is another question. All things produced by the mankind have a producer/manufacturer, or an author for anything written. Who is the creator of us all?

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By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 21, 2006 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
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One can hardly hate the non-existent .Skeptics reason with theists all the time .And theists answer back with faith . We have no need for a Sky Pixie to keep us straight. Indeed , it cannot keep its own flock -dumb sheep -in line ! Answer my philosophical points which authors try to answer if one can. Harriss offers nutrition, not gum . Those here who malign him show their own fatuousness. As Dawkins dismisses McGrath’s speciousness about him , so we skeptics dismiss the speciouness of theists here . The universe itself is the first cause . How can one think         of non-existence anyway.So, purveyors of gulllibility , flail on !

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By Brian, August 21, 2006 at 10:28 am Link to this comment
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This book “The Language of God” and man “Francis Collins” really break my heart.  For a man in his position, professionally, to write a book like this is so incredibly dishonorable that I feel he should be relieved of his duties as a scientist.  If ignorance is the enemy this book is the equivalent of treason.  He deserves a dishonorable discharge from the scientific community.  Remove him from his post! He can no longer be trusted.

It seems to me that it always comes down to FEAR.  Lines from the movie “A few Good Men” pop into mind.  “You want the truth!?  You can’t handle the truth!”  Collins and his theist can’t handle the truth.  They are afraid of the chaos and the unknown.  Instead of turning to face reality eyeball to eyeball they cower and opt instead to hide away in a fairytale of angels and gods who love and protect them from the unpredictable whirlwind of chaos that is LIFE!  They are cowards! 

Embrace the chaos and the unknown! That’s what makes life worth living!

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By Colin, August 21, 2006 at 9:14 am Link to this comment
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I’m sorry if I offended anyone, including Sam Harris.  Someone, in a response to what I wrote, said prayer doesn’t work.  Well, that’s true, in a sense.  It doesn’t work if you don’t try it.  I sincerely apolgize for my rant.  It was immature.  God bless.

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By R J Ells, August 21, 2006 at 8:57 am Link to this comment
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COMMENT IN RESPONSE TO:  Comment #19311 by Colin on 8/21 at 12:46 am

Sam Harris is obviously very intelligent.

(Intelligence is not a prerequisite to understand the obvious effect of religion used as a control of human thinking.)

  But what he writes is meaningless and childish.  If you don’t agree with someone’s religious beliefs, then dismiss them and don’t pay attention to them.  You go your way, and I’ll go mine.

(Religion as a selective human control tool has had some benefits in human development.  Religion has been a guide to healthy living.  It has also been the catalyst to violence and distruction.)

  Harris thinks believing in God is harming society?  That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  It’s no wonder most people have never heard of the guy.

(Religion has had its 6000 years (snicker) to bring us to the level that humans may have attained. It has served its purpose and now its time for evolution of thinking to bring us to a new level of understanding.) 

Sam Harris is not a great thinker, despite the self-important pose he sets out for himself.  He’s a minor, angry crank, who feels compelled to denigrate religion as a whole simply because he thinks religious belief is irrational, and irrationality, to him, is the greatest of all evils.

(Why do you feel the necessity to attack someone in an irrational triade as above.  You have no basis of facts to make those accusactions.  I detect that you are lashing out in anger because someone is opened a new thought for discussion.)

  Fine, pursue your scientific understanding of life—if that makes you happy.  I’m sure it doesn’t, but go ahead and do it anyway.  For those of us who believe in God—that is, the majority of the human race, since time immemorial—Harris’s attacks are utterly laughable.  They don’t convince anyone, except those who already subscribe to his kindergaarten efforts.  You go your way, and I’ll go mine.  And good luck with your own brand of secular happiness, whatever that entails.  Go enjoy a scrumptious meal or the “love” of a beautiful, sensuous woman.  Oh yes, that will make you happy.  Fill your mind with the height of scientific beauty and reside in the intellect, all of which will disappear when you die.  I don’t know if Sam Harris realizes that he’s going to die someday.  Maybe he would like to explain that and deal with that scientifically.  Nobody is saying that he’s going to hell.  I’m not saying that.  He already said it himself.

(Oh well, a person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. You have closed your mind to any developent of human physic.  Religions have not failed. Religion has in itself demanded a change of thinking based on its results.)

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By R. A. Earl, August 21, 2006 at 8:33 am Link to this comment
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In #19311, Colin is at it again… thumping away on his one-string fixation - God. “For those of us who believe in God—that is, the majority of the human race, since time immemorial—Harris’s attacks are utterly laughable.”

We get it, Colin. You believe.

Have you ever considered that “the majority of the human race” is MENTALLY DEFECTIVE, either by nature or NUTURE, which could account for the, to use your word, “laughable” and irrational and illogical clinging to an imaginary friend?

I suggest that GREAT HARM is being done to society by religions for many reasons: to ensnare, condition and PERVERT young minds to think and feel the way of YOUR group is ABUSE of their ABSOLUTE RIGHT to determine for themselves what life is all about. To instill, in vulnerable minds, fear and guilt based on FANTASY and WISHFUL THINKING should be illegal. Then to offer YOUR DRUG OF CHOICE to assuage the anxiety YOU INDUCED AND INSTILLED should be considered a federal crime!

You and your GROUP have no more qualifications or evidence that your views are the way it really is than do those you preach to. All you have is a guide-“book” of (mostly) irrelevant nonsense that tells you that. No references. No bibliography. No EVIDENCE to support claims or observations. You “believers” have made it all up!

You must be aware that your guide-“book” is full of talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say YOU BELIEVE IT! The most “laughable” part is that you expect US TO BELIEVE IT TOO! Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha!.... (breathing heavily)... and that your GOD WROTE IT! Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I apologize, Colin. It’s not appropriate to laugh at the beliefs of the disabled.

But I do agree with your suggestion that you go your way, and I’ll go mine. Please publish your itinerary before you travel… I want to make CERTAIN I’m on a different path.

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By Bizby, August 21, 2006 at 7:33 am Link to this comment
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Reply to:
Comment #19311 by Colin on 8/21 at 12:46 am

Colin:

I tell my 4 year old child that there is a tooth fairy, and he believes it.  That belief by my child is “child like.”  My 14 year old, however, no longer believes in this super-natural entity.  If she still did—insisting upon the existence of a fairy despite all of her powers of obervation and rationality—that would be “childish.”

Harris’ writings are the very opposite of childish.  He challenges all of us to use our powers of observation and rationality to analyze the stories we have been told.  That the vast mass of humanity believes in one god or another, is of no moment.  There was a time when practially all people on earth, at that point “since time immemorial,” believed that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around it.  They were all wrong.

As history has shown repeatedly, religion can cause harm when these stories are accepted unquestioningly, particularly by those with their own ax to grind.  How can you say that religion causing harm is “ridiculous” when religion has been the root of so much harm—the crusades, the inquisition, Salem witch trials, the list goes on and on.

So, true, Harris’ efforts may not convince you (although I dare say you have yet to read his book), but not because his efforts are laughable.  He can’t convince you because your mind is closed to any challenge to the stories you like to believe.  There may well be a god, a creator of one sort or another, but the proof of this god as you promote him is based upon no more evidence than the story of the tooth fairy that I tell my child.

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By Rick Wingrove, August 21, 2006 at 6:10 am Link to this comment
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Colin:
>>For those of us who believe in God—that is, the majority of the human race…<<

The majority is right? Is that how we determine reality on this planet? Then you should be aware that your numbers are WAY off - the vast majority of people on this planet - around 5 Billion people - are of the considered opinion that your religion is crap - nothing more than a quaint fairy tale, woven together from the cloth of ignorance, superstition, and ancient urban legends, and devised by men who thought the world was flat, and protected from intense scrutiny by the direst imaginable threats. Many others merely find your particular religion “meaningless and childish”. Sadly most of those people think that their own locally practiced system of snake handling or entrail worship is the One True Religion.
Obviously most of these superstitions appeal to relatively small numbers and can be dismissed out of hand. However, as an adherent to the “big numbers equal TRUTH” school of thought, you should recognize that the number of believers in Allah, by most counts, has surpassed the number of believers in the alleged christian deity, presumptuously referred to as “God”. That can only mean you had better get your head wrapped around the idea that Allah is now the One True God and your soul is in mortal danger of missing out on your share of heavenly virgins.
OR - you could just come to the realization that all gods are obvious mythology, invented by men, and remnants of an age before the dawn of knowledge.

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By Ed W., August 21, 2006 at 6:10 am Link to this comment
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Colin wrote:
“Sam Harris is not a great thinker, despite the self-important pose he sets out for himself.  He’s a minor, angry crank, who feels compelled to denigrate religion as a whole simply because he thinks religious belief is irrational, and irrationality, to him, is the greatest of all evils. “

wow.

irrationality, as it were, is not the greatest evil.  but when acting as the basis for the greatest evil, we are required to point it out.  the simple fact is, no people have ever killed themselves because they were too reasonable.

and what is it exactly that makes sam such a terrible thinker?  is it that he challenges your thinking, or that he points out how stupid you are to base your life around fairytales?  whatever the case, it has obviously hit home - judging by your heated critique.

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By Luis Cayetano, August 21, 2006 at 5:23 am Link to this comment
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In response to Colin’s infantile rant:

“Sam Harris is obviously very intelligent. But what he writes is meaningless and childish.”

And saying that you “know” that Jesus Christ should be worshipped when you see a waterfall isn’t? What precisely is “childish” about what Harris wrote? I wonder how carefully YOU’VE thought about all this before shooting your mouth off. But I suppose having a religion means you’re immune to formulating a proper argument, and calling anyone who wants to hold you to account “childish”. The irony couldn’t be more glaring. Or disgusting.

“If you don’t agree with someone’s religious beliefs, then dismiss them and don’t pay attention to them.  You go your way, and I’ll go mine.  Harris thinks believing in God is harming society?  That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  It’s no wonder most people have never heard of the guy.”

I wonder if you’re aware of a study finding that religious societies are in general more unhappy than secular ones? Or that prayer doesn’t work? Or a thousand other things I could list but won’t bother to because they won’t even make a dent in your self-important moral chest thumping? Catch a clue: do some actual READING and open your eyes to the REAL WORLD, where we all live.

“Sam Harris is not a great thinker, despite the self-important pose he sets out for himself.  He’s a minor, angry crank, who feels compelled to denigrate religion as a whole simply because he thinks religious belief is irrational, and irrationality, to him, is the greatest of all evils.  Fine, pursue your scientific understanding of life—if that makes you happy.  I’m sure it doesn’t, but go ahead and do it anyway.” 

Sheeesh, talk about pretentious. This arrogant, vile slur is typical of unthinking know-nothings who think that they’re entitled to denigrate anyone who doesn’t believe in their fictitious God. You commit one logical fallacy after another without taking a breath, then lace it all with an insult.

“For those of us who believe in God—that is, the majority of the human race, since time immemorial—Harris’s attacks are utterly laughable.” 

Your point being? How does that in the slightest way whatsoever validate ANYTHING about religion? Do you honestly think that the ignorant, scientifically-illiterate masses are on a par with the scientists? You obviously think that “might makes right”. OFCOURSE the majority of the human race will find Harris’s attacks laughable: because they don’t know how to think rationally, which is what Harris is trying to get at. But whenever someone points out that religion is an irrational belief system, people get all defensive and practically demand that everyone “respect” their beliefs as if they were on a par with science. Did you know that something like half of all Americans believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible? By your own “logic” (i.e. pathetic appeals to the ignorant majority) creationism is an equal to evolutionary theory.

“They don’t convince anyone, except those who already subscribe to his kindergaarten efforts.  You go your way, and I’ll go mine.  And good luck with your own brand of secular happiness, whatever that entails.” 

It entails living in this world. Obviously people like you think you’re entitled to more.

“Go enjoy a scrumptious meal or the “love” of a beautiful, sensuous woman.  Oh yes, that will make you happy.  Fill your mind with the height of scientific beauty and reside in the intellect, all of which will disappear when you die.  I don’t know if Sam Harris realizes that he’s going to die someday.” 

Where madness begins: when people think that death doesn’t really equal death. And yet atheists are the ones accused of being unreasonable. Pathetic.

“Maybe he would like to explain that and deal with that scientifically.  Nobody is saying that he’s going to hell.  I’m not saying that.  He already said it himself. “

Nice all-compassionate God you have there, sending people to Hell to be tortured and roasted for all eternity, just for thinking differently. Your way of thinking is the height of arrogance and stupidity. I pity you, and your God.

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By Colin, August 21, 2006 at 12:46 am Link to this comment
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Sam Harris is obviously very intelligent.  But what he writes is meaningless and childish.  If you don’t agree with someone’s religious beliefs, then dismiss them and don’t pay attention to them.  You go your way, and I’ll go mine.  Harris thinks believing in God is harming society?  That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  It’s no wonder most people have never heard of the guy. 

Sam Harris is not a great thinker, despite the self-important pose he sets out for himself.  He’s a minor, angry crank, who feels compelled to denigrate religion as a whole simply because he thinks religious belief is irrational, and irrationality, to him, is the greatest of all evils.  Fine, pursue your scientific understanding of life—if that makes you happy.  I’m sure it doesn’t, but go ahead and do it anyway.  For those of us who believe in God—that is, the majority of the human race, since time immemorial—Harris’s attacks are utterly laughable.  They don’t convince anyone, except those who already subscribe to his kindergaarten efforts.  You go your way, and I’ll go mine.  And good luck with your own brand of secular happiness, whatever that entails.  Go enjoy a scrumptious meal or the “love” of a beautiful, sensuous woman.  Oh yes, that will make you happy.  Fill your mind with the height of scientific beauty and reside in the intellect, all of which will disappear when you die.  I don’t know if Sam Harris realizes that he’s going to die someday.  Maybe he would like to explain that and deal with that scientifically.  Nobody is saying that he’s going to hell.  I’m not saying that.  He already said it himself.

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By roberta ishmael, August 20, 2006 at 11:51 pm Link to this comment
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hello sam….i hope you remember me. 
  i am the old lady that “thinks too much”  i wrote that to you as an opening paragraph so that you might have an idea of kind of a personality…...and your book “THE LOSS OF FAITH”  FIT RIGHT INTO MY WHOLE LIFE OF THINKING I MUST HAVE BEEN BORN ON THE WRONG PLANET QND IFYOU REMEMBER WHAT I WROTE I LIVED WITH A FAMILY WHERE THERE WERE 7 OR 8 DIFFERENT RELIGEONS…..I DIDN’T SEE ANY SENCE IN ANY OF THEM….I HAVE CHANGED MY THINKING SINCE THEM AND AM STUDINGTHE EASTERN BUDDAH AND ZEN.  AND I AM TOO OLD TO REALLY GET INTO IT BUT IV’E NOTICED A CHANGE FOR BETTER IN MY LIFE AND MY TREATMENT OF OTHERS.
  I HAVE HAD ONLY HAD ONE THING TO ACCEPT…..I REALLY HAD TROUBLE REALIZING THAT I WON’T HAVE THE WONDERFUL MEETING ALL MY FRIENDS….....THAT HAVE GONE BEFORE ME…..BUT NONE OF US KNOW WHAT WILL BE AFTER WE BREATHE OUR LAST.  I AM WAITING FOR YOU TO OPEN A PLACE WE COULD MEET WITH PEOPLE AND TALK ABOUT THINGS WE BELIEVE….DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG I HAVE HAD TO PRETEND TO BE LIKE THEY ARE JUST TO BE POLITE…
WE HAD A SEVENTH ADVENTEST IN THE FAMILY AND THANKSGIVING , THEY WERE BOSS OF THE FOOD…....
WELL SAM,I THINK OF YOU EVERY DAY AND READ AND PRINT ANYTHING I CAN AND FIND THAT YOU WRITE…THANKS TO TRUTHDOG….SP?BUT IF YOU FIND MY OLD SILLY E-MAIL PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF THERE IS ANYTHING I CAN DO FOR YOU EFFORTS. (YOU ARE MY FAVORITE GRANDSON AND I LOVE YOU FOR SAVING MY LIFE…...I MEAN IT FROM YOUR OLD STINKING..NO I MEAN THINKING TOO MUCH GRANDMA….

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By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 20, 2006 at 11:55 am Link to this comment
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Yes , my fellow skeptics !We have well shown the ugliness of the Tanakh and the Testament . We have shown no need for a Ground of Being . We have shown Christinsanity and its forebear as wo rthless. None of the Abrahmic religions have a raison d’etre.

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By Alexander Pink, August 20, 2006 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
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Sam,

I just wanted to write and say thanks for having the courage to be a voice of reason amongst this nation of cretins. As a medical student with a former degree in Philosophy I am disgusted by the disservice done to our field with people like Francis Collins writing such inane books. How can one so educated me so stupid? I think Francis should look in the mirror for wonderful evidence at how unintelligent his god must be. Converted by CS Lewis? That’s his first problem, he needs to drop that garbage and pick up some Michael Martin. Afterall, I don’t get my science knowledge from Behe now, do I! Please keep up the good work and don’t let intellectually dishonest and unethical people stand in your way. Kudos to you for looking out for truth.

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By Gary, August 20, 2006 at 8:51 am Link to this comment
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re: comment #18980 by critter

I cannot abide your biblical view of slavery (or maidservant or servant).  Forced servitude of any kind is repugnant to me, as it should be to any decent human being on the face of this planet.  Unfortunately, the bible (and for that matter the quran) continue to lend credence to slavery to this day. 

Exodus 21:1-4 states that slaves were to be emancipated after 6 years, but only if they were jewish.  Exodus also states that female slaves sold into slavery by their fathers were slaves forever. 
Proverbs 29:19-“by mere word, a servant is not disciplined”... 
John 15:20-“a servant is not greater than his master”...
1Peter2:18-“servants, be subject to your masters with all fear”...
I suggest readings in Exodus, Ephesians, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Titus, John and Colossians show that slavery is endorsed by god and jesus.  And there is nothing that can be said to justify this, or all the human suffering that has occured as a result, of a journal as odious as the bible.

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By Kurt Rufli, August 20, 2006 at 12:39 am Link to this comment
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Dear Sam,

Being an atheist myself, after having left the catholic faith, I see how many of my friends still call themselves Catholics or Jews etc, not practicing the religion. The step to become a free thinking person is for many a difficult choice.
Your so well written books will positively help many to make the effort and become selfdeclared freethinkers/atheists.
Thank you so much.
With my deepest respect for you.
kurt

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By Arthur Michael Ambrosino, August 19, 2006 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment
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Dear Sam:
  As a like anti-religious apostle, who’s contempt for Christianity (or other religious myths) is as agnostic as one affected by pedophilia, I honestly do not share your contempt of Collin’s.
  Someone like us is lucky, given the media’s role in perpetuating American ignorance, gets little or no airspace/airtime to make our case and at the very least, Collin’s may get the braintime of the believer, that evolution is compatible with the bible.
  Although Collin’s wouldn’t want to hurt his book sales by acknowledging your criticisms, it could just be that by playing the system, he and his family benefit more greatly?  I’m willing to give that to him, suspecting that he truly knows better!!!!

With my deepest respect and encouragement,

Arthur Michael Ambrosino
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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By kya, August 19, 2006 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment
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Addendum to my comment #19154
Comment #19154 by kya on 8/19 at 3:11 pm

I have not identified as a Christian since age 14, but I do embrace “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself”, i.e., Equality as a value.


Comment #19152 by john williams on 8/19 at 2:34 pm

“Children, Children behave yourselves !!”

John, it is ironic that your comment itself could be taken as a put down and condescension. Did you mean it in a put down context? Put downs are a contradiction in egalitarian context, but fit right in with superior/inferior context.

Warm regards,

kya

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By Eve, August 19, 2006 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment
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I will never understand how someone else’s subjective experience of believing in god is going to change my subjective experience of (not) experience anything that leads me to believe in god.  Especially why a personal epiphany based on nature is somehow proof of god. 

It’s a stock “conversion story” theme, but I can’t be the only one who’s had a similar experience, but with the opposite conclusion. 

I had the only experience I’d call an epiphany in my life so far, at about age 11.  I was sitting pulling up grass, as kids do, and suddenly wondered why I didn’t ever pause to think that grass (a living thing) has any sort of afterlife.  I knew that had been a living green stalk one moment ago, and now,even though it would for a little while look alive, it was dying and would dry up and blow away.  It suddenly seemed the most simple and obvious thing that the distinction with people (vs plants and animals and bugs) possessing some supernatural component (soul) that lives on in an afterlife is artificial, and just like the grass had no way to continue living once I pulled it up, neither did we once our systems failed.  Until then I’d pretty much believed in heaven, but after that, no matter how much I wanted Grandma, and my pets to be waiting for me, I didn’t believe they were.
 
Since then I’ve had the experience of being moved to tears hiking outside with the wind blowing through the trees and the hum of bugs and the smells of a million living and dying bits of nature, by the realization of how amazingly beautiful the world is at this moment, and that it will never come again, and how lucky I am to be alive in this moment. 
That’s my personal nature story, no Trinity required.  No more, and no less proof, than the story offered in this book.

Thanks for the review, very thought provoking.

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By kya, August 19, 2006 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment
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Comment #18712 by Tapu Tuailemafua on 8/16 at 7:26 pm
Comment #18818 by Gary on 8/17 at 9:45 am

I agree with Tapu: “… religion that is contributing to poverty in our small island state. Keep up the good work. Christianity in our context is the “real culprit” that destroys and supporting [sic] the pedagogy of the oppressed.”

And Gary:  “…those of any religious faith are the real and future problems in our world.”

I have received several emails in the past few years that stated:

***********************************************
“It has been reported that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a mess about having “In God We Trust” on our money and having God in the pledge of Allegiance.           
               
Could it be that WE just need to take action and tell the 14% to “sit down and shut up”?”
************************************************

I am old enough to remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance when “under God” was not in the Pledge. The most eloquent solution would be to change the Pledge (again) to read “under religious freedom”. That would be an inclusive solution that covers ALL people, including atheists, agnostics, and any person identifying with a particular religious brand name such as Christian, Hindu, Islam, Buddhism, Heaven’s Gate, Scientology, etc.

Certainly, telling the “14% to “sit down and shut up”” is not in keeping with “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” which is one of the defining values of Christianity.

I think I am safe in saying most Christians, as well as most Americans (including Francis Collins and Sam Harris), support Capitalism, which is one form of economic hierarchy. Other forms of economic hierarchy are Communism/Totalitarianism (as practiced by China and the former USSR/Russia), Fascism, Dictatorships, and Nazism. The definition of any individual’s personal worth inside the economic hierarchy paradigm is: inferior to some people AND superior to other people. I say AND because no humans are considered to be omnipotent, omniscience, or omnipresent. So any person supporting economic hierarchy has to see themselves as inferior AND superior. This is inequality. Equality is the opposite:  seeing oneself as neither inferior NOR superior to any other person, i.e., economic non-hierarchy, which is a personal choice. (And there is no social equality without economic equality).

Here is a very specific definition of equality:
http://www.freedom-universe.org/values.htm

I maintain that “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” is the essence of equality and does not mean:
“figure out a way to get a bigger portion of the natural resources (that’s what money represents) than your neighbor” which is the essence of economic hierarchy and the motivation for deception.

I am also defining Truth as a large body of values/premises that contain no contradictions (deceptions). It is observable that economic hierarchies reinforce deception. Enron, steroids in sports, pharmaceutical drug trials like Vioxx, office politics to get a promotion, and misleading marketing blurb are examples. I am sure most of you can think of other specific examples from personal experience.


Most people who identify themselves as Christians have absolutely no intention of choosing to “Love Their Neighbors As Themselves” (I’m just basing this on observation). Therefore, I agree with Gandhi in that “I have never met a Christian”.

“Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” is also a value in the Jewish Torah. (I’ll leave the examination of the Koran on this point to someone like Sam Harris who has read it.) Since all (I don’t know of one that is not) organized Christian religions and Jewish Synagogues are economic hierarchies, the contradiction (deception) is built right into the religion. The Catholic Church is one of the largest economic hierarchies on the planet. All wars, including so called religious wars, are really economically motivated.

If we have free will and I choose to believe we do, then deception is a choice. Of course, deception is most always followed with some explanation of plausible deniability, which is just another deception.

BTW, I do not hate Christians or members of any organized religion, but I am going to continue pointing out the contradictions as negative behavior, graciously, of course.

May your own personal choices be positive!

Warm regards,

kya

We must be the change we want to see in the world. - Gandhi

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By john williams, August 19, 2006 at 2:34 pm Link to this comment
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Children, Children behave yourselves !!
Put downs whether for or against a position is a weak brew unless you sit down with a person and
discover the whole person.

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By robert kealy, August 19, 2006 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment
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I’m glad, Sam, that in your End of Faith, you list Antonio Damasio’s book, Looking for Spinoza. I hope you have, or will, comment on Rebecca Goldstine’s Betraying Spinoza:The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity because she has given me the best take on Spinoza and his book, The Ethics, I have ever read. In her book Rebecca tried to put together her girlhood love of the subjective personal Spinoza with the cold objective impersonal system he gives us in The Ethics,namely that existing reality consists of a single infinite matrix of objective logical impersonal connections of an infinite and eternal Self-Aware Being who has infinite attributes two of which we also are aware: the material world and our inner mental life. We see a very different world at birth clouded by misleading senses and emotions whose domination we can escape by cultivting the liberal arts to achieve as much as possible the infinite enlightenment of the single matrix which Spinoza calls God,or Nature and the ethics it has from its eternal view from everywhere over all times and places.Before the rise of modern science Rebecca sees that people had no choice but to rely on the blind faith of religions and unscientific philosophies and now, if not enlightened by Spinoza and writings like yours Sam they either still follow blind religious faiths or philosophies, or despair of finding any objective truth in what happens in history, now or the future. After mastering the teaching of the cold impersonal Spinoza of The Ethics Rebecca finds again the subjective personal Spinoza in the story of his rejection by his Amsterdam Jewish community and the Jews’ terrible history of pain and suffering. Spinoza takes the idea of a chosen people and universalizes for all people who work to acquire adequate ideas and practice an ethics by doing their best to help everyone to do likewise. In this system all that happens is accounted for by reason and has a puely logical explanation. Wise scientists like Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist, are finding that their empirical inductive studies are validating the conclusions reached by Spinoza’s logic. Of course it and their studies can’t verify the empirical existence of our embedding in the single infinite matrix of logical connections of the infinitely Self-Aware Being. We have to die to find out whether that is so.

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By wealthandtaste, August 19, 2006 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment
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thank you.  THANK YOU.

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By R J Ells, August 19, 2006 at 10:50 am Link to this comment
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We have the ability and deserve to make our own heaven and hell.

God is in the mind of the possessor.

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By Steven MacLeay, August 19, 2006 at 9:50 am Link to this comment
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Is Collins a liar?  Think about this.  The air temperature is cold enough to freeze a water fall.  That’s pretty cold.  Yet the next morning he’s kneeling in dewy grass???

Thanks Sam!

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By Aaron, August 19, 2006 at 9:22 am Link to this comment
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It is always astonishing to me that any educated adult living in the modern world can look into the grandeur of the night sky, or in this case- the beauty of a frozen waterfall, and instantly come to the conclusion that an angry Middle Eastern sky deity who order brutal genocides over milk and honey, demanded barbaric animal sacrifices, and supposedly chose a specific race of desert nomads as “his people”- is *The* undisputed creator of the Universe.

  Can’t we at least move into a more nebulous idea of god? A more spiritual one? Spirituality and religion will not go away, but for crying out loud, when can we put this ridiculous biblical god aside finally???

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By Joan Johnson-Porter, August 19, 2006 at 8:47 am Link to this comment
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One underlying issue that keeps bubbling up to the surface for me is that although evangelical Christians always return to THE Bible…there is no THE Bible…just the current selection of verses and imposed meaning…that can do no more than come out of their current cultural framework. Collins dismissal of Galileo’s plight 350 years ago because NOW we have seen thus and so is one of the postively scary points for me.

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By James M. Ridgway, Jr., August 19, 2006 at 8:20 am Link to this comment
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Man is a binary creature of two mindsets.  First there is the primitive, emotional mindset that longs for happy outcomes and thrives on hope.  It wishes most fervently to latch on to any story line that tells it what it yearns to hear.  This represents the poetic, spiritual side of our nature.  Then there is the relatively knew aspect of our being, our rational mindset, that curiosity to know things as they really exist no matter how what we may discover impacts us personally. 

The trick is to satisfy both aspects of our being without confusing emotional needs with literal truths.  Mr. Collins is one who simply cannot understand the difference between apples and oranges.  He does not appreciate that well balanced humans can have a great time at Disney World without having to believe that such fantasy embodies the real world.  Indeed, it is both possible and wise to satisfy emotional and rational mindsets in separate harmony.  Using science to try and prove emotional desires is child’s play.

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By Maezeppa, August 19, 2006 at 7:58 am Link to this comment
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Typo alert

“Faith in God now seemed more rational that disbelief.”


than

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By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 19, 2006 at 2:47 am Link to this comment
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Maybe the bloke was schizotypal as I am and unlike me believed in weird things .

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By Stephen Borkowski, August 18, 2006 at 11:29 pm Link to this comment
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Thank you, Dan Klein. For years I have tried to get psychiatrists to address the mental status
of the prophets and others in the 3 Big Books. I have sent letters to the presidents of a few state’s associations of psychiatrists about it. They use the hearing of voices and seeing things that are not there as symptoms of mental illness as you imply. I believe that they were either mentally ill or were con artists to gain control. It is no secret that religion has been used for power in some form for thousands of years. It shouldn’t take much effort for the
experts to come up with a consensus paper to
clarify this assertion if they have the courage of their conviction. I personally believe that Jesus, or whoever came up with his ideas was a very bright person which is why I would guess that he was a manic depresive.
  Can anyone get a psychiatrist to give an opinion on this?

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By Matt Dillahunty, August 18, 2006 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment
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Russell P. Rasche wrote:
“My problem is that this is a book with a scientific basis and I have seen no evaluation of the science included.”

Because the book isn’t written from a scientific basis.

Collins presents a few versions of standard cosmological arguments, focuses on the anthropic principle and then manages to contradict himself by hinting that he agrees with the idea of nonoverlapping magisteria (NOMA) - which means that science and religion are separate domains which address different questions by different methods.

If we accept NOMA then, clearly, science cannot act as confirmation of religion. Yet Collins, in keeping with his trend of cognitive dissonance, seems to accept NOMA and yet also makes weak attempts at using science to make his case.

So many people think this is a recent change for him and that his conversion is based on science. In truth, his conversion took place at the age of 27 and had nothing to do with science…though he’s happy to sound as scientific as necessary - because if he admitted that it was just a personal opinion, based on blind faith, who’d buy his book? After all, people - like yourself - are interested in this book _because_ he’s a scientist.

When science can be made to seem to support his conclusions, he’ll use it that way…if it contradicts his conclusions, it’s tossed aside. The arguments he makes aren’t scientific, they’re sciency - and full of logical fallacies.

First he builds a case for “some” God by making a huge argument from ignorance - he can’t sufficiently explain beauty or morals, so there must be a God. Then he argues that the Christian God must be the correct god. Why? Because, in his opinion, the Christian God is holy and righteous and seeks a personal relationship - just the like the god he thinks he feels.

In reality, it’s wishful thinking. Collins, like many, faced with the harsh reality of daily life, witnessing the pain and suffering of others, feeling lonely, insignificant, overwhelmed by beauty, confused and terrified of “not knowing” - basically, being human - decided that it was more comfortable to believe in a god than not believe.

There’s no real science here and no real arguments.

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By jimbo92107, August 18, 2006 at 9:51 pm Link to this comment
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I recognize a distinct type of individual in Francis Collins.  I’ve seen this kind of guy before, and I can tell you right now that the Human Genome Project survived DESPITE him, not because of him.

True religious believers have mental blocks when it comes to science, and there’s no way to bust past them.  The inevitable logical dislocations introduced by mixing religion with science will eventually screw up the science, because when something in science appears to contradict something in the Bible (as frequently happens), the true believer always sides with the Bible.

And when these sometimes highly skilled wackos finish torpedoing valuable work, all they have to offer you is that saintly, beautific smile.  Bible doesn’t talk about geological time?  Why, just delete it from the database!  People like that are inevitably a disaster.

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By Maurice Rhodes, August 18, 2006 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment
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An excellent review; as good as “The End of Faith” in exposing the nonsense behind religion.
I grew up in a Protestant “Christian” home during the Great Depression where I was regularly punished with a kindling stick for not hewing the Sunday School line or for innocent and harmless behaviour typical of young children. I was left with red bruises and welts for days. That was “Christian” discipline. Now it is considered child abuse.  Later I became an Anglican and yielded to heavy persuasion to enter the Anglican (Episcipal) ministry. Fortunately common sense prevailed after I registered at the university where the theological training was held.  I cancelled out.

I wandered with the tide of “faith” coming in and going out as I considered the whole thing as best as I could. The problem is that religion, and specifically “Christianity” has been such a pervasive influence in our world for two thousand years, in our country since it began and in my parents’ house always, that when I was young only the brave and foolish would counter the church line of propaganda. The only rescue was to leave home, cut off all home ties to escape the ever-present barrage of nonsense. I went my own way, but it took many more years to really break free.

Reasonably well educated in philosphy and political and cultural history, plus both a scientific and an arts education at the baccalaureate level, not to mention a graduate degree in Public Administration, it was obvious to me that the message of science did not leave any room for the kind of religion I had been exposed to. And the religion left little room for the conclusions real science. It is surprising that fundamentalist churches still believe the whole literal scam.  Finally, as controvery swirled around the church which I attended, controversy on abortion, homosexuality in ministers, same-sex marriage,  yes and even evolution, I left in disgust and had pretty well sorted it out when along came Tom Harpur’s book “The Pagan Christ”. The message here was that the Old Testament was theologically largely an adaption of Egyptian religion and mythology, and that the Gospel pitch in the Christian story was simply a replay of Gnostic and Egyptian material written by cult members, leavened by Greek mythology, once again retold to fit the current cult(my word) requirements. Moreover, he advanced his belief that the early church propagated the story as “historical” rather than apocryphal. In other words Christianity, like all world religions is just a succesful cult. Harpur ends his book by postulating a universal “spirit”, obviously leaving me behind.  But this book had a marvellously freeing effect. Good Bye Sunday School! There is no longer any question about the Gospels being ‘historical.’

Then along Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith.” This clear-headed reasoning was like a breath of fresh air - but fresh air hard to find in most North American communities without arbitraily being branded an athiest. Perhaps it takes a lot until you are willing to drop even the possibility of much of it being factual. However, there is no doubt that parts of Christianity have had a beneficial influence on our civilization, even to the point that the requirement for actual truth in the development of science was a product, in the beginning largely of priests, for example, Bacon. If someone has a pitch to make, he had better have evidence and a reasonable theory.  I guess that makes me agnostic; however scientific theories of “The Big Bang” and the overwhelming evidence for evolution and natural selection places me where I want to be.  As for most thinking people, the tripe that Collins put out is obvious nonsense.

That fact that Collins’ book may be accepted in “religious” circles as the supporting evidence of a scientist is more a comment on the paucity of common sense which appalls me.

Finally, in regard to the parallel arguments of “intelligent design” that some fundamentalists put forward,  you would think that the creator, if he was there, would use a better model than a primate ape,if as the bible claims, man is created in God’s image, and that nonetheless he could have handled the required food inputs and disposal system more elegantly, being omnipotent. A case of C. Difficile is enough to make one wonder if the result coud be better packaged and disposed of. Why didn’t he just stop with the soul that needs no feeding or disposal? (Tongue-in-cheek).

Cheers, and congratulations on having a keen brain, Sam.

MAR

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By Mad As Hell, August 18, 2006 at 8:45 pm Link to this comment
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“I repeat, why is everyone so offended.  I am not offended by atheism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Budism, etc.  I may disagree but I am not offended and I am content to let everyone believe what they will. “

Mr. Raasche, you didn’t ask this before. I wish you had because it’s a good paragraph with a good question.  If everyone was like you, willing to let others believe what they will, I don’t think this debate would be raging! 

The problem is when people who are Christian, Moslem, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc, STOP being willing to let others believe as they will and try to shove their beliefs down everyone else’s throats. It can be a little thing, like trying to put a creche on the town square lawn. (I have no objection to all the churches having them on THEIR lawns…Why would I?) or it can be a big thing like trying to teach my children that The Theory of Evolution is “just a theory” and is no more valid than Genesis to be taught in Biology.  “Just a theory…” betrays complete and total ignorance of what a theory in science is.  The Quantum Theory is just a theory, but without it you and have not computers to sit in front of, no cell phones, no semi-conductors.

Or it can be a judge putting HIS religion’s version of the Ten Commandments in the PUBLIC courthouse.  Why do I say “his version”? Because the 10 Commandments in the Torah are not exactly the same as those in the Vulgate (Catholic) Bible, which are not exactly the same as the KJ Bible.  Check it out and you’ll see I’m EXACTLY right.  The Jewish and Protestant versions are closer to each other than the Catholic version—they are all similar, but they are all different.  So what gives this arrogant jackass the right to put HIS personal version of them in, of all places, a court of law that is SUPPPOSED to be unbiased.

“I wish you happiness and peace!”

Same to you, bub!

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By N. Stillman, August 18, 2006 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment
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Hey Sam - Good on you. I’m getting so tired of the stupidity of people regarding religion.  In the wars, in education, in everyday life.  And for this eminent scientist to “see the light” - it’s sort of like the ultimate betrayal.  How can I believe anything scientific that comes out of his mouth now?  Every study, every thesis is going to be tainted by and filtered through “God-colored” glasses.  Thanks for lobbing a coherent counter-argument.  Although, as usual, there shouldn’t be one.  There’s no god.  That much should be patently obvious to everyone, but unfortunately for mankind, it isn’t.

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By Stephen, August 18, 2006 at 7:48 pm Link to this comment
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This is simple. The existence of Gods does not stand up to simple elementary analysis. It isn’t real folks. These ideas are based on our beginnings to understand the world around us, and of course, not being able to, filled in the uncomfortable answers. My cat thinks I am a God.

We know things now about the world around us, so, let’s just accept these things that we collectively have discovered and also accept that we don’t know all things, and drop these silly intellectual crutches.

For those of you who know this, it is our responsibility to make it clear to others, no matter how fierce the response that an idea of a God is nothing more than emotional nonsense and it will destroy us all if we don’t change the course of human thinking.

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By FromtheEast, August 18, 2006 at 7:22 pm Link to this comment
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I think that it is not quite correct to label Sam as an “atheist” or “agnostic.” These terms have a lot of baggage and don’t really help us to understand where Sam is coming from. A careful reading of “the End of Faith” indicates that Sam has great respect for Eastern Religion in general and Buddhism in particular. From a Buddhist perspective, all this anger from either an (organized) religious point of view or an anti-religious (atheist, agnostic, scientists, whatever) point of view does not seem to be very productive.  Buddhism, translated into Tibetan as “inner science,” encourages practioners to take nothingg on “faith,” and to only accept things directly experienced or understood not through a rational “scientific” (read Western scientific method) but through meditation, which allows “truths” such as karma, reincarnation, etc. to be understood at an intuitive level. I suggest people re-read the passages in Sam’s book about Buddhism, and then pick up a book such as Mu Soeng’s work on the Heart Sutra, or the Tibean Book of Living and Dying…then sit down in a quiet place, let go of anger, and calm the mind….maybe you will see a waterfall, but soon, with persistence, the waterfall will not freeze, but flow into a calm river, flowing slowly and deeply….

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By Dan Klein, August 18, 2006 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment
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After twenty years as a police officer I dealt with many folks who said they were Jesus or Mohammad, etc.  We know this folks are mentally ill.  So the question for my fellow humans who believe in Jesus et al is this:  Why would you not follow the man on the street who is telling everyone he is Jesus and has come back to earth?  If you are willing to believe in a fable from 2000 years ago then it should not be such a leap to believe the “crazy” man who is ranting around telling everyone he is Jesus. 

Of course we now profess to understand what mental illness is and recognize it.  Why then can’t we recognize it from 2000 years ago?

Lastly, why would anyone follow any belief from what I think is the most messed up part of the world?  The folks in the middle east have never gotten along and have always hated each other, yet we believe in “religons” that came from this region!!!!! 

I personnally believe that most humans are mentally ill. It takes a crazy person to dismiss reality for fable, to kill themselves and others in the name of fable and to do things that you know are destructive (drugs, alcohol, smoking, obesity, etc) but still do them knowing it will destroy you.

Rational humans must be heard.

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By Dave Mead, August 18, 2006 at 6:54 pm Link to this comment
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I hate to be a pessimist, and I surely don’t intend to demean Sam’s good work, but I am nevertheless beginning to think it futile to attempt to use reason to persuade evangelicals such as Collins.

Ardent religionists process new information in much the same way as conspiracy theorists.  (No wonder, since Christianity in particular IS one large conspiracy theory.)  For example, earlier this week I allowed myself to be drawn into an online debate with a 9/11 conspiracy enthusiast who fervently believes that the Bush Administration actually orchestrated 9/11 for political gain.

In response to the conspiracy nut’s assertion that the WTC was brought down by demolition charges put in place by operatives of our own gov’t, I asked him to explain how the Bush administration could have possibly pulled off a plot involving probably hundreds of Americans in the murder of thousands of their own fellow citizens, and to have subsequently kept them all quiet for going on five years now.


The conspiracy nut replied: “It’s called compartmentalization. Most of the people involved don’t have the first clue that they are part of a grand conspiracy against their own people. The actual number of planners and “lead men” are rather small. So the answer is no, not that many people would have to know.”


To which I responded: “. . .so the members of the demolition crew, those who actually planted the charges throughout all three towers (and who therefore surely must’ve numbered in the dozens, at least), thought they were doing. . .what? Hiding Easter eggs?”

To which the conspiracy nut replied: “. . .the demolition team could’ve been told their work was actually a good thing—tearing down a building ridden with asbestos and other health and safety hazards. Perhaps they were told the demolition would actually take place when the building was evacuated.”

See a pattern here?  A cherished belief system, built on nothing more substantial than shadows, and finding itself challenged by arguments that would at least give pause to any rational person, instead retreats ever deeper into increasingly improbable assertions and irrationality. 

Is it mere coincidence that David Ray Griffin, who authored _A New Pearl Harbor_, the book in which he makes many of the same arguments about 9/11 that my opponent expresses above, is by profession a theologian?

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By Russell P .Rasche, August 18, 2006 at 6:30 pm Link to this comment
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Dear Mad AS Hell:

Thank you for your comments and the effort you expended in providing them.  This is sincere.

My problem is that this is a book with a scientific basis and I have seen no evaluation of the science included.  Maybe he is right and maybe he is wrong.  Unfortunately, the review gives no coherent insite in to the man’s position.

Everyone just thinks he is wacky because he does not agree with their world view.  I am 60 years old and am still searching for the truth.

AS a society we have abandoned the ability to listen to one another and learn from each other.  Name calling only drives us farther apart.

I never even heard of this book until I accidental
came accross this review.  Now I am intent on reading it to evauate for myself what he has to say.

I repeat, why is everyone so offended.  I am not offended by atheism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Budism, etc.  I may disagree but I am not offended and I am content to let everyone believe what they will.

I wish you happiness and peace!

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By Jamie Wagoner, August 18, 2006 at 6:04 pm Link to this comment
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RE: Joel Pelletier’s eloquent take on the distinction between aesthetic and spiritual experience

This is a very astute observation. As a fellow musician, I have had several transporting experiences while engaged in the performance of some exquisite music. The characteristics of the experiences included a loss of self, a sense of ‘oneness,’ and the loss of time. I immediately understood these to mean that I had succeeded in mastering my art—however fleeting that might be—for just long enough to ‘lose myself’ in the music.

But I also immediately understood the experience to be analogous to what had previously eluded me—that is, a religious experience. My heightened sense of beauty, of complete engagement with others in evoking a profound feeling, must have been similar to a transcendental religious experience—though, I hasten to point out, that I did NOT take it as such, merely as like such an experience as I was likely to ever know.

Perhaps what we need as much as more rigorous critical thinking, in this country, is better arts education, so that people can learn early and well to both appreciate and distinguish between aesthetic and spiritual experiences.

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By Petra Strassberg, August 18, 2006 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment
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I was raised in a “Christian” home and spent most of my life thinking there was something wrong with me that I did not believe what I was being told in Sunday School and church.  Then I realized I did not believe what I was told because it did not make sense to me even as a child.  How could I believe god loved me when I would go to hell if I didn’t do what he wanted (believe Jesus was the son of god and my “savior”?)  It is coersion pure and simple.  Do what I say (says god) or go to hell.  Jesus had a good message about how we should treat each other “as you do unto the least of these my breathern you do unto me.”  I try to live my life my what Jesus said.  I do not accept that he is a god or a savior.  I believe we, meaning mankind, created “god” because we needed an explanation for the physical world we saw around us and we were scared to be here in this scary world without a “parent” that would take care of us.  Anyone that has lived any time at all knows “god” does not take of us and praying gives us comfort because we are doing “something” but does not effect any event.  For every “miracle” there are millions of instances where a miracle was prayed for (and duly deserved) but not received.  I think people believe in god because they are afraid not too.  In case there is a god they want to be on “good” terms with the diety.  Social pressure also forces people to say they believe even as they doubt.  “Christians” don’t believe in separation of church and state or religious freedom.  The DEMAND everyone believe as they do or be seen as a threat.  The Catholic Church took many pagan ideas to make Christianity acceptable to the pagan tribes they were trying to convert.  For example:
    1.  most pagan religions have an “angry” god that must be pacified by being worshipped and “obeyed.”
    2.  most pagan religions required a human sacrifice to further appease the angry god (as in throw the virgin in the volcano.  Jesus took the place of the “virgin” by being “without sin” and therefore an acceptable sacrifice.
    3.  most pagan religions promise “good” things will happen to you if the “god” is pleased with the persons behavior.  Christians will go to “heaven” if god is pleased with them and “hell” if he is not pleased.

Unfortunately most people can not see that religion is a tool used by part of each society to have power over the others in the society.  People are afraid and religion helps quieten the fear at the same time it opens the individual up to being controlled by unscrupilous religious leaders.  I know it is scary to be in this big world, we do not understand how it got here and where we go when we die, but we are not children anymore we need to act like the grown ups we are and live this life as best we can, even without the answers we want.

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By mondo, August 18, 2006 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment
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Critter,

I am open-minded.

I have no desire or need to read about a “Case for Christ.”

I know it’s hard for Christians, as rooted as they are in proselytizing, to understand there is no contradiction here.

I’m just not interested.  And for anyone to be surprised, for anyone to be bewildered that many of us want to get on with the beauty and mystery of this world *as it is*—and not be mired down in religion—may need to consider his or her open-mindedness, or lack thereof.

I’m just so tired of the suggestion that if I’m impatient with in-your-face-Christianity that I must be intolerant.

When will you see that people who are not religious don’t care what you believe or how you worship?  Go for it!  Has anyone stopped you from doing your thing on Sunday morning?  Why do you feel attacked by nothing stronger than indifference?  Why does a shrug threaten you? 

And actually, any intolerance I DO feel is a moral position.  Are we supposed to tolerate everything? 
Should I, for instance, give Israel or Hezbollah a free pass when they kill civilians in the name of religion, for the sake of tolerance?

NO.  A thousand times, NO.

I say NO to you too—but only because you come asking.

next time don’t ask, don’t impose.

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By Johnny Tee, August 18, 2006 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment
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I was out fishing (just like Jesus) and came upon a frozen waterfall and fell to my knees with the thought, “What ignorant superstitious self-righteous idiots there still are in this world.”  Then I had a nice day fishing (just like Jesus).

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By Marc Desmarais, August 18, 2006 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment
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Collins states: “If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove His existence.”

If Collins proposes the hypothesis of a God, the burden of proof, or at least, the burden of providing some reason to entertain this hypothesis , is on him. 

There is no difference between his hypothesis and a figment of imagination at this point. All he offers as “reason” to entertain this fancyfull idea is his emotions. As if emotions were a source of information.

Collins tries to make the case that science should go beyond the evidence. He gives no reason to suspect that there is anything beyond the evidence, only strong desires that their be something beyond the evidence.  Personal desire is precisely what the scientific method is designed to minimize.

Science does not have “all the answers”.  Many will come, and some probably never will. Lack of a scientific explanation is proof of ignorance, it’s not proof that emotions are an alternative method to acquire knowledge. 

People, Collins included, would rather feel that they have the answers, then know that they do not.

Collins, like many others, is the one who is intellectually dishonest.

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By Andre du Plessis, August 18, 2006 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment
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I think it is a shame that a scientist can be deluded so in this day and age… but hey unfortunatley its each to his own. We can’t turn the tide except standing like a rock.

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By Mad as Hell, August 18, 2006 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment
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Mr. Rasche:

Your post is SO lacking in detail, so based on assumptions of things all your Fox/Pravda watchers take as truth when they are fantasy that I have to laugh!

“I was disappointed in the total lack of intellectual evaluation of the text in question.  Instead, the author merely provided a diatribe against a belief in a devine being.”

Um, he’s an ATHEIST! What do you expect, that he’ll give it up for Lent?  Perhaps you missed the portion in the diatribe as to why faith as a concept is irrational.  Since “people of faith” take faith as a given, they cannot even CONCEIVE of a realistic, powerful challenge to the premise of faith.

“I can respect everyone’s opinion, but I atleast expect that a review of a book will be based on an intellectual analysis of its contents, not just an ad hominem attack. “

Again, what do you expect? A supposed scientist abandons all of his scientific skepticism and, witnessing a certain beauty of nature, leaps to the conclusion that this proves the existence of God.  To an atheist, or an agnostic, to present this as reasoning is nothing but wacky.

“Sadly, this is the state of the liberals in our society today.  They substitute animus and invective for rational thought.”

Would you care to support that with FACTS?  Or have you just be listening to Rush Limbaugh and Nazi-Ann Coulter again.  This is such a mantra of the extreme right-wingnuts that they never bother to question it or challenge but simply assume it is so because it’s so nice’n'comfy.  You believe it without proof.

Furthermore, the airwaves are FILLED with nothing but right-wing invective calling anyone to the left of Orren Hatch every obnoxious and demeaning and insulting name they can think of—but YOU don’t see or recognize THAT as animus or invective—after all, you all think it’s TRUTH!

Pal, that’s pure hypocracy!

“The author has demonstrated his distain for people of faith.  It is certainly his right to believe whatever he wants, but why is he so upset by people of faith.”

That’s awfully decent of you.  Again, of COURSE he shows disdain for people of faith—he’s an ATHEIST!  And he’s not of the Marxist flavor, who accept, on faith, that Marx is right. Rather he’s of the Agnostic flavor that challenges the concept of faith as valid.  If you recognize that faith is the source of ALL the worst evil deeds in this world, then how can you have anything BUT disdain for people who continue to subscribe to a method of “knowledge” that has resulted in literally hundreds of millions of deaths?  After all, not only did the Crusaders demand faith, but so did Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot. 

“He totaly failed to educate his readers as to what the offense is.  Is he only offended at Christians or is he equally offended by Jews and Muslims.  I think the author should advise the readers to enable them to properly evaluate his article.”

Since the US is made up of over 90% with people born into Christianity, and there is a very loud and obnoxious contingent that insists we are a “Christian” nation, it seems quite logical.  While your point here is well-taken, I would make the “leap of faith” that Harris is equally offended by other religions than just Christianity, but the person’s book he is criticizing is, of course, making it the target of Harris.

“Personally, I am tired of politcal diatribe an hunger for intellectual evaluation. “

Tell me, is it just liberal diatribes or are you sick of right-wing reactionary ones as well? Is that why you are on a clearly liberal forum, because you are so SICK of the idiocy and invective on the reactionary ones?

“It is time for the American people to stop feeling about things and to start thinking about things.”

Now I’ve been saying this since I was a kid with parents involved in the Civil Rights movement and couldn’t believe that people actually believed that people with higher levels of melanin were inferior, and killed them to keep them down.  Nor could I believe when we were being lied to SO OBVIOUSLY about the war in Viet Nam and people couldn’t see it.

Now that we have an admistration again that lies, cheats, steals elections, robs us of our rights, and more, yet people are more interested in a 10 year old murder, I’m wondering the same thing again.

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By robert puglia, August 18, 2006 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment
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collins’ turn of mindlessness is an amazing disgrace. genome loves me this i know for the
science tells me so. can’t wait ‘til the particular
gene which causes humans to surrender to the idiocy of
god is sorted and weeded out. i’d cell my soul for the
cure. human beings are no more capable of piety than
they are of flight; not from the taint of original sin
but because we are not birds. i’ll fly away one day, indeed.

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By Matt Dillahunty, August 18, 2006 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment
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Critter wrote:
” Lastly, I’m going to open myself to the possibility of a hit in terms of flame-warring on this, but if you really do wish to be open-minded read Lee Stobel’s “Case for Christ”.  He makes a case far better than what I am capable of.”

As an atheist and former Christian, I’d like to point out that books like this seem convincing to those who already believe and those unwilling or unable to critically examine the claims. For those who actually investigate the claims and examine the evidence, Lee Strobel’s “Case for” series, along with Josh McDowell’s “Evidence that demands…” and similar apologetics remain wholly unconvincing.

Strobel is particularly unconvincing as he continues to play the role of a “skeptic” on a mission to “find the truth”...though he interviews _only_ those who agree with his foregone conclusions, ignores contradictory evidence and fails to ask critical questions. Hardly an honest take on skepticism.

An honest search for the truth involves critically examining all available evidence and considering more than one explanation.

For those interested in thorough rebuttals to Lee’s books, visit the infidels.org library (you can do a quick Google search for ‘case for christ rebuttal’ and one of the first links is sure to lead to the library).

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By Russell P .Rasche, August 18, 2006 at 11:24 am Link to this comment
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“Dear Renali

Thank you for making my point so vividly - no intellect - just nasty.

You are a perfect example of todays liberal - a total lack of thought process.

How sad! “

Oh good, more lies to work with.

1. Where did I say I was a Liberal?
2. Of course I was nasty, just as you were nasty.  If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.  This is very basic.
3. If you’re going to whine about there being no intellectual discussion, try to make sure you’re not guilty of EXACTLY what you’re whining about in the same post.

You’re still a lying hypocrite, but we can now add to that a lack of personal responsibilty.


Dear Renali:

1.  If you were offended by being called a liberal, then I guess being a liberal must be a negative thing which is offensive to people.  If you are not a liberal then I suggest you stop thinking and behaving like one!

2.  At no time have I been nasty.  You may find the truth odius, but it is not being nasty.  This is very basic.

3.  Why is intellectual argument considered whining?  More ad hominem?  If you are up to the challenge - I hereby challenge you to read the book that is the subject of this article - I too will read the book and we can have a real intellectual discussion and analysis of the book.

PLease be advised that I am fully up to this task!

NOW WE WILL SEE WHO LACKS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILTY!

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By Joel Pelletier, August 18, 2006 at 10:04 am Link to this comment
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So Mr. Collins had a profound and overwhelming Aesthetic experience in the woods, and because his training was in science and not the arts, he could only interpret this as divine.

Many non-theists are science-types for the obvious reason that REASON appeals to their personality and worldview. But sometimes it seems many in the “Humanist” community (scientists/freethinkers/atheists/agnostics) forget that the term Humanist implies all of humanities and the human condition, especially the intangible and immeasurable sensual activities of the Arts. There is no contradistinction between demanding a rational worldview and standing in awe of extreme beauty, sensual and intellectual ecstasy. This, in fact, is what makes life worth living and so wonderful. Belief in a deity, imaginary friends or other childish notions is not required to appreciate the real “magic” that exists in our lives, from art to food to orgasm.

As a musician and artist, I have always been aware of the line that must be walked between technical proficiency and inspired interpretation. Without both, there is no music, no art. Life is like that as well - reason balanced with intuition, intellect with ecstasy. We don’t need gods and mysticism to explain this, we just need to look at ourselves.

Mr. Collins needs to take some art appreciation classes, eat a nice piece of chocolate or drink a glass of fine wine and get over himself.

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By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 18, 2006 at 9:59 am Link to this comment
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How shallow to defend slavery! No rational being would defend the practice ,however benign, and why should we think that in those cases it was so benign . And another piece of nonsense is to say that when Sky Pixie allowed his Satan to murder Job’s children, he did them a favor -they went to Heaven. Murder is murder. Such shallow,far fetched non-thinking is the mainstay of the fundamentalist .

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By Gloria, August 18, 2006 at 9:29 am Link to this comment
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Sorry Johnnie I stand by what I said. I want to be left alone & leave alone. It’s simple. It’s direct. It’s immediate. Beliefs are personal. The Hell would I let Collins nor Harris push me around.

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By critter, August 18, 2006 at 9:28 am Link to this comment
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JBL -

I was no taking anything personal, and in fact was attempting to point out that there is entirely too much emotionalism here. An example would be to lay judgement on my intelligence. Respectfully, I ask that you do not do so.  I haven’t dismissed your criticism at all and welcome a healthy respectful debate.

GW Andersen - Sadly, I *do* understand religion in the US today (see my response to Ed W below).  For my part, I am truly sorry that so many people have been such crappy witnesses in their personal lives.  There should not be any forcing of religion. 

Obviously there are ideas that will be put forth in the political arena that are part of any representative republic such as ours (mistakenly referred to as a democracy).  Most will not make everyone happy.

Everyone has some moral code, whether derived from religious beliefs, personal viewpoint, or status in life.  That moral code defines how we personally choose to elect our leaders to make our laws.  In such an environment laws made that reflect the desire of the majority - in the perfect world - are valid, whether they be pro life or not (to use an example).  Using that example neither of us can claim that anything was forced on us.

So I can say that I do believe that it is valid to use one’s beliefs in guidance of how to conduct daily life and make decisions, but I agree with you that Bush has been… shall we say… overzealous?  It can’t be wrong to use one’s morals in decision making and we all do it all the time, but to overtly use one’s power in the name of religion - that’s dangerous.


Ed W. - Please accept my assurances that I feel that “Religion” has been the single worst thing that could have ever happened to the world.  I look around and see the horrible things that have been done in that name and cringe.

That said, the right-minded christian world-view is that this is a symptom of humanity’s failing. An analog I might use would be the ELF - the ideal of protecting the environment is a noble one, but when we address them as a group we cannot condone destruction of property (arson) and violent acts. 

I cannot defend those actions nor do I wish to.  But I will say this, a christian who truly has committed his or her life will find that sort of behavior abhorrent. 

Given my physics background, I find every reason TO believe that God exists.  Entropy is anathema to a complex ordered system - life.  I realize that this is in itself not an “iron-clad” argument but it is very compelling if you look at all the improbables that have to occur for us to even be having this conversation.

Gary - Slavery in the Jewish community and in Christ’s era, was not slavery as we commonly think of today.  Anyone could be a slave by circumstance (debts owed, agreements made), be they a common laborer or a great scholar.  They were generally treated well and at the end of a seven year period were released - all of them, by decree.

The is nothing, and I mean *NOTHING* that Christ said or did that condones the horrific treatment of humans that we’ve seen in all too many cases.  The evil that men do…


Lastly, I’m going to open myself to the possibility of a hit in terms of flame-warring on this, but if you really do wish to be open-minded read Lee Stobel’s “Case for Christ”.  He makes a case far better than what I am capable of.

Have a great weekend everybody,

C.

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By Renali, August 18, 2006 at 9:20 am Link to this comment
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“Dear Renali

Thank you for making my point so vividly - no intellect - just nasty.

You are a perfect example of todays liberal - a total lack of thought process.

How sad! “

Oh good, more lies to work with.

1. Where did I say I was a Liberal?
2. Of course I was nasty, just as you were nasty.  If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.  This is very basic.
3. If you’re going to whine about there being no intellectual discussion, try to make sure you’re not guilty of EXACTLY what you’re whining about in the same post.

You’re still a lying hypocrite, but we can now add to that a lack of personal responsibilty.

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By Rick Wingrove, August 18, 2006 at 7:53 am Link to this comment
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Thank you Sam for a cogent and articulate review of Francis Collins’ nervous breakdown. We witness a rare but frightening occurrence of a Scientist working at a very high level - at least within the confines of the specific and finite task at hand - but clearly unable to sort Science from mythology. It seems to me that he is really only a highly skilled technician since his writings reflect both an utter disregard for the principles of Scientific methodology and a shocking ignorance of the current state of scientific knowledge beyond his own area of involvement.
His fantastical musings are not merely harmless or queasily fascinating to watch - he does great harm to this country’s ability to conduct pure research while lending aid and comfort, and providing a quotable hero, to those who detest Science.
Islam was once host to the most advanced Science and math on the planet. Then the fundamentalists got the upper hand. The results of that you can watch on TV. People like Francis Collins play into the ridiculous notion that there is some sort of convergence possible between Science and mythological religion. We are, with the publication of Collin’s nonsense, (and I say this without fear that I am overstating the case) one step closer to an Islamic-style solution for practitioners of Science and adherents to Reason. The rest of the Scientific world is right to keep a nervous eye on this country as the worst elements of religion attempt to dumb down Science to the point where the ridiculous biblical creationism myth will be on the test.

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By CJ, August 18, 2006 at 7:44 am Link to this comment
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This article contains the makings for a great argument supporting the creation of an express line at the airport for atheists only.

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By GW Andersen, August 18, 2006 at 7:28 am Link to this comment
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Regarding Critter comment on 8.17.

Obviously you do not understand religion in the US.  In the US it is our right to believe in any god or no god at all.  But, the reason you hear anger or nastiness is that the Christians in our country are jamming it down our throat in an elitest way.  Now the Bush Administration is prosecuting a war and virtually all his failed policies with Religion as his roadmap.  And, due to bush’s faith based inititative acceptance, now my tax dollars are partially going to religious organizations.

If you look at any religious organization or any political organization you will notice many similarities, especially when it comes to membership/recruitment.  If one is going to heaven, why must he/she constantly force their beliefs on others, what business is it of thiers if I am a christian or not.  they will say they are just concerned out of love.  But, what they are really saying is “more people in the group, more money generated” and the “more people in the club, more political power”.

So, if the Christians of the world would just worship and leave everone else alone, you would probably no see anyone complaining.

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By Russell P .Rasche, August 18, 2006 at 7:27 am Link to this comment
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Dear Renali

Congrats, you are a lying hypocrate!

Thank you for making my point so vividly - no intellect - just nasty.

You are a perfect example of todays liberal - a total lack of thought process.

How sad!

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By Howard Mandel, August 18, 2006 at 7:01 am Link to this comment
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As with all of Mr. Harris’s posts the debate gets off topic and devolves into a religion vs. aetheism debate. Regardless of what you believe I think the issue at hand is should a respected scientist exploit his credentials in one field of study to lend credence to another. His book offers no real scientific evidence about the existance of god. It just trades on his reputation.

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By mondo, August 18, 2006 at 6:45 am Link to this comment
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Thank you, Mr. Harris.

I know I should feel more anxiety and sadness about our slipping into another dark age, but this morning I just have to laugh at this kook’s syllogism:  frozen waterfall proves Jesus Christ.

At which point, I spit out my coffee and Amen! the spill looks eerily like Jesus (White Bread version).
Present tense because I’ll never ever wash my kitchen floor.  And never ever think for myself, for that matter.

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By johnnieCanuck, August 18, 2006 at 6:27 am Link to this comment
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re: #18514 by Sophia

Sorry, but it’s possible he did see such a frozen falls. Much more likely in January in most of the Cascades, mind you. I could guess that Crater Lake would be high enough, but it doesn’t spill over the lip, as i recall.

Shannon falls, near Squamish, BC, is famous for ice climbing. Not every winter is cold enough and with its base near sea level, I doubt it has been frozen in the autumn in living memory. The ice forms against the rock face in thick layers and melting and thawing produces huge icicles that have a sometimes fatal attraction. The Cascade Mountains begin less than a hundred or so miles south.

Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Park, BC flows through the winter and builds a huge ‘snow cone’. Some years it can be very high and more like a pillar. I went snow camping there one Easter just to see it, which is when it is near its maximum height. It dwarfed a nearby boulder big enough that a helicopter had landed on it. It was about 1980 and we were the only people in a million acre park.

Google images with ‘shannon falls ice’ or ‘helmcken falls winter’. Sorry, but there is evidence to contradict your hypothesis.

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By Ed W., August 18, 2006 at 6:12 am Link to this comment
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think hard about this one:

if there is no evidence that can be supplied to you for you to revise your beliefs, those very beliefs cannot be about our reality. 

the only way we humans can determine whether or not a belief is about this world is by being able to test and evaluate it.  when you present someone with a belief that is untestable, it should be understood that such a belief has no grounding in reality.


Sam Harris wrote:
“it appears that even the Holocaust did not lead most Jews to doubt the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent God.  if having half of your people systematically delivered to the furnace does not count as evidence against the notion that an all-powerful God is looking out for your interests, it seems reasonable to assume that NOTHING could.”

what is so hard about accepting the idea that if god is all-powerful, he can do what he wants. there is nothing interprative about this statement.  assuming god exists, either one of the following holds:

1) god wants to expel evil, but cant.  in which case he is not omnipotent.
2)god doesnt want to expel evil, but can.  in which case hes evil.
3) god wants to expel evil and can.  in which case there would be no evil.

isnt it more reasonable to assume that people have spent the last thousand or so years trying their best to make compatible the reality of nature and the concept of a supernatural being who actually does care about us (he just doesnt show it) rather than assume there actually exists such a being?

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By Ed W., August 18, 2006 at 5:53 am Link to this comment
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Comment #18852 by John Eitel on 8/17 at 1:55 pm

“its that simple - there is no need to speak of free will.  there is nothing illogical about preventing or stopping the suffering of a child trapped in a fire.” I’m sorry, but what did I say about God’s workings being illogical?  If God did stop a child from being burned up in a fire, would you believe?

—you didnt say anything about it being illogical.  thats what im arguing.  you are trying to say that there is a rationale for god to allow us all to suffer - when, if he is a benevolent being, he wouldnt.  its quite simple: if you were standing next to your mother as she was being mugged on the street, would you help her?  of course you would!  now, whats stopping an all-powerful god from doing the same?

and yes, if he stopped all suffering I would definitely believe.  but for reasons you probably contend “we dont understand” god likes us to suffer.

“also, you are equating suffering with evil here.  true, there are evil deeds done by men.  but there are plenty of examples i could give of suffering that has nothing to do with free will.  nobody willfully contracts cancer and suffers their final days in a hospital bed, idiot.” True enough, I did equate suffering with evil, and that was wrong.  Also true, no one chooses willfully to contract some dread disease.  Viewed with a longer lens, though, should it be a surprise that people are getting sick, since some other people consciously chose that making cheap food is easier than making safe food?  When we decide that it’s too much trouble to keep the mercury out of our power plants, and it ends up sickening us?  We are subject to the whims of other people, like it or not, and often those whims hurt us.


—im sorry, cancer is a naturally occurring disease.  though it can be developed from exposure to certain materials, it is otherwise a natural practice of cellular growth.  animals have been dying from cancer long before humans arrived. 

 

“and finally, given free-will a person is able to choose the “right” at any time… here we can see that there is nothing illogical about god (who can do anything, remember) creating humans with free will who “choose right” EVERY time - ridding the concept of manmade evil from the world…” Our positions don’t conflict here, except in one place.  We are able to choose the right at any time, but why don’t we?  I believe we have all had situations where we knew what the ‘right’ choice was, and took the other one.  And what if we disagree about what the ‘right’ choice is; what’s right in God’s eyes isn’t always right in our own.  Which ‘right’ do we choose?

—you are missing the point.  all im saying is that free will is not necessarily incompatible with lack-of-evil, as you tried to contend.

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By Renali, August 18, 2006 at 5:25 am Link to this comment
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“Personnally, I am tired of politcal diatribe an hunger for intellectual evaluation. “

But before this you wrote:”“Sadly, this is the state of the liberals in our society today.  They substitute animus and invective for rational thought.”

Congtrats, you’re a lying hypocrite.

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By Lya kahlo, August 18, 2006 at 5:20 am Link to this comment
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“Bottom line: people like Harris loathe and fear God.  The reason: God stands between them and the power to reduce us all to mere moving matter, susceptible to manipulation and extermination (in the name of “science” and “progress” of course.) He and Dr. Mengele are true soulmates. “

Well so much for the “only us poor christians are being flamed on this board”.  If you’r going to lie, try not to make it so obvious that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.  It does nothing to improve your image.

Exactly how can one “loathe and fear” a creature that doesn’t exist?  What’s to be afraid of - aside from this imaginary creatures derranged and arrogant followers?

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By JohnnieCanuck, August 18, 2006 at 5:17 am Link to this comment
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#18895 by Gloria

So the less effort to analyse belief vs. non-belief, the more credit you give? Wishful thinking is the easy way out.

It takes a lot of effort to be sure that one’s own explanation of a natural event is not actually self-deception. Thus the need for double blind tests and peer evaluation. That and the fear of an elegant one line disproof of a twenty page publication after years of work.

A subset of Christians interpret their Great Commision as authorisation to work hard at violating church/state separation. Some of these seek to teach every child in an American public school their latest version of creation while lying about their actions and motives. False witness is the means to the end of saving souls.

A large percentage of American Christians neither hinder nor help such activities. They seem willing to passively accept any resulting conversions as beneficial to themselves.

Some Christians and some atheists oppose these proselytisers. Why only complain about the atheists?

You may care less what religion someone else belongs to. That’s as it should be, but do you include having no religion?

Some people are making it their personal business to make sure as many people as possible are converted to their faith.

They are also intolerant of the public expression or respectful acknowledgment of other’s beliefs or non-beliefs. For example, they claim exclusive ownership of the winter solstice. It offends them to hear ‘Happy Holidays’.

If you can’t understand why others would say something, try putting yourself in their shoes. I can see why someone might want to have an afterlife and be reunited with loved ones after death, etc. Can you see why, in the absence of evidence, it seems like wishful thinking to me?

If wishes were cars, then squeegee people would drive.

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