Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
May 22, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Czeslaw Milosz: A Life

Truthdig Bazaar
Fit to Serve

Fit to Serve

By James C. Hormel and Erin Martin

more items

Email this item Print this item

Sam Harris: The Truthdig Interview

Posted on Apr 3, 2006
Sam Harris
Illustration by Karen Spector

By Blair Golson

(Page 4)

One of the most persistent criticisms of your theory is that the two largest genocides of the 20th century, the Holocaust and the Stalinist purges, were explicitly irreligious. How do you respond to that?

The problem that I am confronting is the problem of dogma. What you have just done is to point to political dogmatism, instead of religious dogmatism. The argument against religious dogma is not an argument for atheist dogma. We should be fundamentally hostile to claims to certainty that are not backed up by evidence and argument. And what we find with Nazism is a kind of political religion. We find this with Stalinism as well—where claims about racial purity and the march of history and the dangers of intellectualism, are made in a fanatical and rigid and indefensible way. The people at the top of these hierarchies—Hitler, Stalin, and Kim Il Sung in North Korea—these were not the kings of reason. These were highly peculiar individuals who had all kinds of strange convictions. The upper echelons of the Third Reich were filled with people who believed crazy things, like that the Aryans had been preserved in ice since the beginning of the world. Heinrich Himmler created a meteorological division of the Reich to test this ice theory. This is not what people do when they reason too carefully, or become too unwilling to accept mythology as fact. It’s another kind of mythology, and one that is no less dangerous than religious mythology.

How do you define the differences between an atheist and an agnostic?

“Agnosticism” is a word that was brought into use by T.H. Huxley. I don’t think it’s a particularly useful word. It tends to be defined as the belief that one can’t know whether or not there is a god. An agnostic is someone who thinks we don’t know and can’t know the truth of a position. So it’s a non-committal attitude.


Square, Site wide
But it’s not an intellectually honest position, because everyone is walking around presuming to know that there isn’t a Zeus, there isn’t a Poseidon, and there isn’t a Thor. Can you prove that Thor with his hammer isn’t sending down lightning bolts? No, you can’t prove it. But that’s not the right question. The right question is, “Is there any reason whatsoever to think there’s a god named Thor?” And of course there isn’t. There are many good reasons to think that he was a fictional character. The Batman of Scandinavia.

The problem for religious people is that the god of the Bible is on no firmer footing, epistemologically, than these dead gods. Which is to say that nobody ever discovered that Thor doesn’t exist, but that the biblical god really does. So we have learned to talk and use the word ‘god’ in a way so as not to notice that we’re using a very strange word and evoking a very vacuous concept, like the concept of Thor.

And therefore the definition of an atheist is?

And atheist is not someone who can prove that there is no Thor. An atheist is simply someone who says, “show me the evidence,” and who is unconvinced by evidence like:

“Here’s a book that was dictated by the creator of the universe, and in it, it describes all kinds of miracles that people claim they witnessed, but these people have been dead for 2,000 years, and in fact none of the authors of the book are the people who claim to have witnessed these events, and they wrote the book a hundred years after the events in question.”

This is not a story that anyone would find plausible except for the fact that it was drummed into them by previous generations of people who were taught not to think critically about it.

The thing to reiterate is that every Christian knows exactly what it’s like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims, for instance. Muslims have the same reasons for being Muslim as Christians have for being Christian. They have a book they’re sure was written or dictated by the creator of the universe-because the book says that it was written or dictated by the creator of the universe. Christians look at Muslim discourse and find it fundamentally unpersuasive. Christians aren’t lying awake at night worrying about whether they should convert to Islam. Why not? Because Muslims can’t really back up their claims. They are clearly engaged in a style of discourse that is just not intellectually honest. It’s not purposed to genuine inquiry into the nature of the world. It is a reiteration of dogma, and they are clearly committed to a massive program of self-deception. Every Christian recognizes this about every religion other than Christianity. So every Christian knows exactly what it is like to be atheist. They just don’t turn the same candor and intellectual honesty on to their own faith.

Liberals started calling themselves progressives when the term ‘liberal’ accumulated too much baggage and negative connotations. Is there an analog for the term atheist?

I’m not a big fan of the term atheist. In my Atheist Manifesto, the first thing I argue is that we really don’t need the word and probably shouldn’t use it. It has the stigma of a term like “child molester” in the culture, for reasons that are not good, but nevertheless worth taking into consideration.  The term simply has a massive P.R. problem.

But the word is also conceptually unnecessary. We don’t have words for people who are not astrologers or alchemists; we don’t have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive. It is sufficient to talk about reason and commonsense in these circumstances.

You write passionately in your book about the spirituality of Buddhism. How do you describe yourself in terms of your spirituality?

I don’t call myself a Buddhist. I recently wrote an article in the Shambhala Sun, which is one of the more widely read Buddhist magazines, entitled “Killing the Buddha.” I essentially argued that that the wisdom of the Buddha is trapped in the religion of Buddhism. The teachings of the Buddha, taken as a whole, probably represent the richest source of contemplative wisdom that we have, but anyone who values these teachings should get out of the religion business. It’s the wrong message. And, in any case, 99 percent of Buddhists practice Buddhism as a religion, and therefore are part of the same egregious discourse.

I think there really is something worth extracting from our contemplative traditions in general, and from Buddhism in particular. It’s a phenomenology of meditative experience—what people do and realize when they go into a cave for a year or 10 years and practice meditation. There really is a landscape there that has been brilliantly articulated in Buddhism, and not so brilliantly articulated in some of our other contemplative traditions. And so I think all of this is worth talking about and studying.

But I don’t call myself a Buddhist.  and yet, if you asked me how you should learn to meditate, what books you should read, etc., I’d point you in the direction of Buddhist techniques of meditation, and to the Buddhist literature on the subject.

So you don’t need any recourse to the supernatural in Buddhism?

The core truths of Buddhism, the truth of selflessness, for instance.  It’s simply a fact that it is possible to realize that the ego, as you presently feel it and conceive of it, is an illusion. You can experience the continuum of consciousness without the sense of self.  This experience can be had without believing anything on insufficient evidence. You can simply be taught to look closely enough at your experience, to de-construct the sense of self, and then discover what the consequences are of that happening. And the consequences turn out to be very positive. There’s a whole discourse in Buddhism about the relief of psychological suffering, the transcendence of self, and the nature of positive human emotions like compassion and loving kindness. These phenomena have been mapped out with incredible rigor in Buddhism, and one doesn’t need to swallow any mumbo jumbo to find this discourse useful.

And yet, much that people believe under the guise of Buddhism is dubious: certainties about re-birth, the idea that one’s teacher in the Tibetan tradition is absolutely the reincarnation of some previous historical personality—all of this stuff is held rather dogmatically by most Buddhists, and I think we should be skeptical of it. If people present evidence of it,—and there’s certainly been some interesting studies on the subject of rebirth—we should look at the evidence.  As someone once said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Next Page: “I don’t understand why we’re living in a society where 83 percent of people believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead, while the Swedes are living in a society where basically that same percentage of people are atheists.”

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments

By WesternWorld, September 22, 2006 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


First and foremost, I dont consider it logical to believe in a God. Faith is not logic. They are diameterically opposed. They are antithetical because one requires belief without evidence and the other requires critical thinking. The latter requires building supportable empirical knowledge for making a case.

And do you really believe in a God, who is unknowable, unseeable, unsmellable and unhearable yet “it” requires the same beings it gave a prefrontal cortex to leave all that behind to believe and if they dont, they will suffer for eternity?

Oh pullease.

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 22, 2006 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

These facts remain:

Because the Muslims and the Christians have no other tool but demanding blind illogical faith, when failing, they attempt to instill fear and terror with their promise of hellfire. Bogus reports of miracles and threats of damnation lay at the heart of the rise of Imperial Christianity. The church and the state worked hand in hand; imperial decrees and church councils; to lay a foundation for over 15 centuries of violence and religious intolerance.

The rise of the church-state machine:

Pass the bad mayonaisse!

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 22, 2006 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


God is love but he created the Lake of Fire before the foundations of the world?

And he lives in ALL TIME.

And he knows all, including the end result of his “plan”

What is wrong with you Christians and Muslims? Both of you this perverse, schizophrenic diety that is supposedly mericiful yet has created the lake of fire from the beginning. Before Creation!

I am supposing that your holy books considers “gone mayonaise” as the foundation of interstitial (intercellular) fluid and neural glia.

Report this

By GETIP, September 22, 2006 at 11:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To Jay Wilson:

If you are an atheist but you live a good and ethical life than you will not be doomed, because God is a compassionate God and remember…He is the one who created the amazing scientific minds that are so intelligent that they are able to realistically question His own existence.  That is an amazing paradox!  He made us intelligent enough to question His own existence, so that must be part of His master plan.  But I just think devoting your whole life to condemning christians (as Sam Harris has done) crosses the line. I just think that is foolhardy.

To Aaron:

Yes, you are right, believeing for the wrong reasons is not the answer.  You must really BELIEVE.  But that is what I have a problem with.  I myself was lucky enough to be brought up in a Christian household so I really do BELIEVE.  But what about children who are not.  They are not given the same opportunity to BELIEVE.  It is to those people that I am addressing my “hedge your bet” theory to.  If they don’t believe now, maybe trying to appeal to the logical side (i.e. play the averages) will at least get them thinking about the possibility (and probability) of God.  Once that door is open, true belief should be the next step.  Praise the Lord.

Report this

By Aaron Ruby, September 22, 2006 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well darnet..I am sure that I will have to discontinue this discussion at some point because I’m just us frustrated as Aiding the Human is.  He (or she) wants to write me off as just another deranged soul but if most of us believers and non believers can agree on anything, it would be that goofball comments like that have no place in constructive debates.  I have several comments to make on postings since my last:

1.)  To Jay Wilson:  I believe that God is love.  He created us to express it.  Just as Sting says, if you love someone, set them free.  God gives us the ability to choose love and acceptance or hate and intolerance.  I choose the former, the idiots that flew planes into buildings obviously choose the latter.  Thank GOD those kinds of believers are in the overwhelming minority.  On your other point, I don’t disagree that had I been born in different circumstances, I just might be one of those idiots on the plane.  To that all I can say is that I am VERY fortunate and blessed to have been born in this country that gives me so much.

2.)  Bizby, you help me in expressing my point.  However, if you can only grant me that God MAY exist on the basis that indeed there are things that cannot be explained or understood by the human mind, then that would make you agnostic, not athiest…correct?  You admit you have faith in things for which there is little evidence, just as I do.  So why write off God? 

I can tell you that if we were to meet face of face, I could almost guarantee you that you and I would get along just fine and I would not “secretly” dislike you.  I don’t agree with homosexuality, but I don’t secretly mistrust the gay persons I know today.  As far as I’m concerned, they are as human as me and loved by God the same as me.  My God commands me to love them too and I do.  To be totally honest with you, I am one of the friendlest people I know.  I always have been.  I don’t have any enemies that have actually met me (that I know of).

You’re not a bad guy. You’re searching for truth just like the rest of us…and be careful with polls.  If there is anything I distrust, it’s polling.  Now THAT is unscientific!

3.)  To GETIP:  Yikes!  I understand what you’re arguing here but be careful.  You are dangerously close to saying you believe in God because you have nothing to lose.  That really isn’t faith at all.  I am sure that is not how you really feel but it sure comes across that way.  Faith is exactly what is required.

All, no doubt we are debating here believing vs. understanding.  This is our disagreement at it’s core.  Which is more basic?  St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109), is usually ranked among the major philosophical thinkers of history.  He said:  “For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.  For this also I believe,—that unless I believed, I should not understand”

Report this

By jay wilson, September 22, 2006 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


I would not want to live in a world where a god held it against me that I did not “believe” in him. And by the way, which god are you talking about? Faking it to hedge my bets is the shallowest of motivations. If living a good and ethical life is not enough, then I guess I’m doomed to an eternity of torment.
Oh well…

Report this

By Pal, September 22, 2006 at 10:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Rid of your prejudices, biases, rules, assumptions, assertions and etc…

Now imagine this:  You and your consciousness, the thing you’ve known since your birth, and all your senses, BOOM GONE, no more, you do not see black, your consciousness has ceased, you are nothing, you never existed, everything you lived for never existed, the universe never existed and you never stepped foot in life.

This is death, this is what humans succomb to, this is what every organism succombs to.

The wonder is how scrupulous our account of such a reality is, and how we can go into depths no organism before us on Earth has.

This is why religion exists Aaron, this is why you are part of the cycle, of people who cannot BELIEVE that Death is nothing more than ceasing consciousness and all that comes with it.

You are breathing, you are eating you are surviving, quite lavishly I am sure, but you will die and now that we can scan a human brain and know when it thinks and doesn’t we know that when you die you no longer think, there is no more activity.  Your life of senses ends.

Once your imagination goes, so do you and so does your heaven and god.

Bizby, don’t group atheists, I don’t think human beings who are free thinkers need to be grouped, the humans that are free are the natural humans, existing in uneventful and unnatural times.

Report this

By GETIP, September 22, 2006 at 9:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I believe in God and I do so because it is the most rational decision for my own self-being.  Think about it. If I am wrong and there is no God, what have I lost?  I will die and rot in the ground, end of story.  But if I am foolish enough to commit my life to attacking Christianity, as Sam Harris has done, and I am wrong and there IS a God, now what happens?  Who knows…but I would not want to take the chance of finding out.  I feel quite comfortable knowing that if there is a God then I am on record as believing.  Anyone who claims to KNOW there is no God is an utter fool, no matter how “smart” they are or how many degrees from prestigious universities they hold.  The bottom line is NO ONE knows what happens when you die, so you should best prepare for all possible outcomes.  There is empirical evidence that someone named Jesus was followed by many people.  Why?  There must have been some reason.  There is also empirical evidence that his body disappeared from his tomb.  Where did it go?  You can proffer any explanation you like, but this is enough for me to know that it is very possible that Jesus did rise from the dead and if he did, then it would be in your best interest to believe in him. 
  To me atheism is the height of arrogance.  This man Sam Harris has been blessed with a very intelligent mind and whatever else he has to be thankful for in his life, yet he (and all other atheists) have the audacity to think they are so smart that they have figured out the universe and the reason why it exists.  This makes me laugh, and I believe that when I do get to heaven there will be a special place for the atheists where we can go laugh at them while they suffer in agony for daring to think that they are higher than the being who brought them into creation.  Since you really don’t know who made you and why you are here, you atheists could be making a BIG mistake (and you know it).  You better hope you are right.

Report this

By Bizby, September 22, 2006 at 7:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


You don’t quite have it right.  Yes, I (and perhaps Westernworld, I can’t necessarily speak for him) do not believe in the physical existence of ghosts, Santa Clause, the tooth fairy, Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, or the Hebrew God whom you have taken on as your own, or for that matter, the invisible pink unicorn.

But I am intrigued by the fact that the human mind cannot grasp the conundrum that the universe is infinite, yet, as my son says, “it has to come to an end somewhere.”  For the life of me, at almost 50 years old, I have no answer for this conundrum that troubles my precocious 6 year old.

So, of course I believe that things may exist that we cannot know.  Our minds, as amazing as we think they are, have obvious limits. 

But to say that those things that we cannot know exist, do exist, and are, furthermore, necessarily good or benevolent, is simply fantasy.  Simply believing what you want to believe.  Which is why it is called “faith.”  I have my faith; you have yours.  Mine is faith—despite a lack of evidence—that the human race will continue to grow more intelligent, more human towards each other, and less superstitisous, all without obliterating itself. 

The more important point, however, is that I suspect that were you and I to meet face to face, you would secretly not like me.  And you would not like me because I don’t believe in your faith based story. 

Indeed, one recent study stated that atheists are more mistrusted by the average American than Muslims, recent immigrants, or gays.  And it makes me wonder, what is it about religious people that because they cannot prove their irrational belief to us, that makes us the bad guys.  I think it is because we challenge the very basic story that forms the context of a faith-based person’s every waking minute, and they simply cannot refute the challenge?  What do you think?

Report this

By jay wilson, September 22, 2006 at 7:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time”
Friedrich Nietzsche

Aaron, if Bixby said he believed in a God named Allah, would that satisfy you? How about Zeus? Can you imagine that if you were born in the Middle East, or in a different time, you would be promoting a completely different story? What most people believe as “faith” has more to do with a circumstance of birth that any kind of (wished for) reality.

At least is seems that your heart is in the right place, and I don’t think any of us have a problem with any belief that promotes the brotherhood of man. It’s the kind of god that gets its adherents to fly planes into buildings that worries me.

And on that last note, if Allah is a supernatural omnipotent being, can’t he take care of himself? Does he really have to get his faithful to sacrifice their children to protect Him?

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 22, 2006 at 1:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Utter nonsense!That is pure irrationality. One special pleads when one avers that Christinsanity has witnesses of a resurrection when all we can see is mass hallucination[ which does happen-Fatima.]To aver that there is more about the Universe than science delivers is just an unfounded absurdity.

Report this

By Aiding the Human, September 22, 2006 at 12:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dearest Aaron,

I apologize to you, that you have missed out on Life.

I apologize that you took your time on Earth for granted.

I apologize you took your mind for granted.

I apologize you were not surrounded by truth.

I apologize you cannot understand.

I apologize you are apart of the pattern that plagues humanity. 

I apologize for you.

To the others who understand:

Forgive my style of writing for I cannot fathom anyway to breakthrough to such a person.  It’s like teaching a robot sarcasm, or humor, or empathy.

Time is the only element that gives these people life.

Report this

By Aaron Ruby, September 21, 2006 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, I can see very easily that I won’t be able to carry on the conversation.  Y’all’s obsession with logic and proof of everything is a huge barrier.  Clearly you have no desire to think just for a second that some things DO exist that cannot EVER be understood by us (or even discovered).  This is not meant to be a put-down, but honestly I can’t imagine living a life where you choose not to believe in anything that you can’t put your arms around.

If you’re looking for a challenge WesternWorld, READ that book cover to cover….doubt it, but with an open mind, like you said.

Actually, you have it backwards, faith in God beats thinking…it beats everything.

Report this

By Bizby, September 21, 2006 at 3:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Westernworld had it right when he used the concept of a “default.”  In my arguments with the faithful, their argument has been that if you cannot prove, say evolution, then by default, God created everything.

I analogize it as a floor that says GOD, building blocks which are evidence, and a ceiling that says EVOLUTION.  If I stack the blocks to the ceiling, but one of the faithful can find one block (piece of evidence) that is in doubt, then all the blocks tumble down to GOD.  That is their default.

But as a matter of logic, the floor should say WE DON’T KNOW.  And there should be blocks for me to prove god does not exist and blocks for you to prove that he does.  If either of us find a hole in the other’s stack of blocks, then the blocks tumble down to the logical defaut: WE DON’T KNOW.

So, in sum, you ask: “How can you disbelieve in God if you cannot disprove him.”  And yet, you do not believe that a flying spaghetti monster created the earth and everything in it 40 years ago, complete with tree rings looking like that earth is older than that, false memories in your head of events 40+ years ago, etc., yet you cannot disprove it. 

The ultimate answer, however, is that there is no evidence for any of it.  Hence, at least I for one, do not believe in things for which there is no evidence.

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 21, 2006 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Firstly, see comment #22553

I am at work in my headwear business and am against the clock this weekend. So I insist you look at my respose to others that have posed similar challenges.

Your “proving a negative” is typical of religious zealots, Christian or Muslim.

We can go from there. If you can actually give me a quote by Lewis that makes the least sense, then please pose it before me.

Pick a Lewis quote that is riveting to you and think it should effect others.

I am always willing to take a challenge. If I was not, I would not be where I am. It may be luck but I have only used my reasoning.

Thinking beats blind faith.


Report this

By Aaron Ruby, September 21, 2006 at 11:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


I gather by your response that you havent actually READ Mere Christiantiy, you’ve just been turned off by what bits of information you’ve heard about it.  Well if logic is the basic rule for you, it seems to me it would be against your own belief system to dismiss this important book w/o reading.  I am in complete disagreement with you about whether or not Lewis is logical.  I just don’t see how anyone can be MORE logical than he in this book on answering the question of God’s existence. 

Also, whether you like it or not, our “default” position is how we were born and raised.  I am by default a white, Christian American.  I can’t make myself a brown, Muslim Egyptian just because I will it nor can I call myself an athiest.  You had to work at your faith just like everyone else because of your background.

I also totally disagree with your assessment that the brains we receive at birth are programmed to know only what we learn through logic or science.  You should know there’s much more to our being than just 1+1=2. 

With regards to your comment about a deep flaw in faith being free of scientifc explanation, your belief system has the same exact flaw:  Just as people of faith cannot PROVE the existence of God (which if you think about it, if I could actually PROVE that He existed, it would DISPROVE him at the same time because then I would be on His level), you cannot PROVE or even similarly explain certain unexpainables such as medical mysteries, miracles or cases where even the most educated doctors or scientists cannot explain events or conditions.  In other words, just as it is impossible for me to prove God to you, it is equally impossible for you to prove a lack of God.  So, how can your own logic be satisfied?  How can you disbelieve in God if you can’t disprove him?

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 21, 2006 at 10:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


I have read so many CS Lewis quotes I cant bear another. Every time I ask a Christian to give me a logical or scientific argument for the existence of God they give me the apologetics of CS Lewis.

I dont see Lewis as logical. To me atheistic doubt is a logical “default position”. In other words, people should start out with doubting yet open minds and ask for evidence for any claim of any positive existence, This holds true whether it be claims of x-rays, atoms, microbes, demons or gods.

This afterall, is the kind of brain we have obtained in our species. Why should the rules change when we consider the supernatural. It is a deeply flawed argument to claim that “faith” is free from the rules of logic and the philosophy of science.

I was also raised Christian and have experiences in Catholicism, Baptists and “full gospel” churches and prayer meetings. I was younger then and it taught me a great deal about myself and other’s excuses for belief and faith.

As far as love abnd hate go, I couldnt agree with you more and that is one of the reasons why I found Christianity, like Islam, to be morally bankrupt on issues of justice, compassion and tolerance.

Report this

By Aaron Ruby, September 20, 2006 at 9:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am a Christian.  I am similar to athiests though in that I too am human, and wonder sometimes about what is really REAL.  I can only find truth I think in myself because only I know (and I believe only my God knows) my heart.  I say to you that I believe in my heart that there is a God and He wanted to show us the true meaning of love by sacrificing his only Son to die a horrible death so that we might be saved. 

So, I believe hate and love are very real.  We must choose one or the other. 

To the poster “WesternWorld”:  have you ever read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity?

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 20, 2006 at 11:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Wow, another right winger with a one another potent and exhaustive thesis!

I see you have not read Sam’s latest LA Times editorial on how Liberals have their heads in the sand in regards to Islamic extremists. Like Sam, I too am a Hawk on terrorism and nations that pose serious threats. In fact, he followed it up with an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show on MSNBC. Said the same true things about the far left.

As far as intelligence goes, I have never met a religious person that ever could support their theist beliefs with any logical arguments.

That certainly includes your ilk who live in a world of strict labels. Black and white. No greys, No colors. No critical thinking skills.

As Mark Twain said, “Faith is believing in things you know ain’t so”.


What is your excuse?

Report this

By juandos, September 18, 2006 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No doubt about it, Sam Harris is one very stupid liberal and seemingly takes pride in that fact…

Report this

By Russell Miles, September 17, 2006 at 4:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Excellent interview with Mr. Harris. He is a brave man, and that in itself is a sad commentary.. the very fact that it requires so much bravery in this country to simply challenge the prevailing consensus that ancient myths of the supernatural are still to be believed and propagated as fact. I am the co-creator of a website that questions Christian fundamentalism (, and I have received a surprising number of emails from people who do not believe in gods (I guess you would call them agnostics and atheists), but are afraid to let others in their community know it. They nod and smile and remain silent when the people all around them blather on endlessly about Jesus this, prayer that, Bible this, faith that, etc etc ad nauseam. These good “non-believers” are actually hiding their reason and rationality (which in a saner time would be considered virtues) in the closet, lest they be persecuted in some way by the believing majority. That is a terrifying thing to ponder. Frankly, I don’t share Mr. Harris’s hope that our country, or the world, can recover from the waking dream (or rather, nightmare) of “Faith”. I think a rational, reasonable civilization can only be born from the ashes of this one.

Report this

By Bizby, September 13, 2006 at 8:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well now you guys are going way down a side road.  But, given that no one else seems to be paying attention, and you’ve gone down this road already, I have a question for you.

Why is it taken as gospel that if U.S. forces are withdrawn from Iraq, all hell will break loose.  The first problem I have with this dogma (hereinafter “the foregone conclusion”) is that it is being offered by the same people who said Iraq would be a cake-walk, that we would be welcomed as liberators, that our troops would certainly not need to say in Iraq more than 6 months.  In other words, the people parroting this line have been nothing but wrong, wrong, wrong.  Why believe they have any better crystal ball now than before?

The second problem I have with the foregone conclusion is that I have seen NOTHING in the way of sophisticated analysis by people with expertise in Iraqi history, culture, sociology, etc., predicting such a donnybrook if US forces leave. 

It seems clear to me that the Bush administration—which was wrong, wrong, wrong, before as I have said—never consulted with the sort of people who had a basis for predicting what would happen after the invasion.  And they got it all wrong.  So other than pundits—whose powers of prognostication are rarely better than a coin toss—no one with credentials is behind the foregone conclusion.

The third problem I have with the foregone conclusion is that the opposite view is getting no coverage.  I have heard people predict that because the foriegn terrorist contingent (by foriegn I mean non-Iraqi) in Iraq makes up, at best, no more than 15% of the insurgency, and that much of the incentive to join the insurgency comes from anger over the US occupation of their country, that without US forces as the focal point of anger and terror tactics, the entire social calculus of the region will change.  Sure, there were still be sectarian violence, but Iraq is badly plagued by that now.  Are a mere 135,000 troops in a country the size of Texas, with a population of 26 million really stopping much violence? 

Finally, a report this morning said that the generals on the ground in Iraq all agree that our troops cannot achieve the goal (I assume, of putting a stop to sectarian violence, the goal was not stated) unless their numbers are tripled.  I don’t see how that will happen—there simply is not enough public support for such an increase here at home.  So the alternatives seem to me to be: 1) keep insufficient troops in Iraq indefinitely, or 2) bring our boys (and girls) home.

Westernworld, you certainly engage in sophisticated analysis.  What am I missing?

Report this

By Pal, September 13, 2006 at 3:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Joseph Biden has my vote, the most respectable Democrat I’ve seen so far.

Also, after Peal Harbor we landed two nukes, never heard from them again, thousands of innocents died but the terrorism was erradicated.

The same applies to Afghan and the Suni triangle.

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 12, 2006 at 8:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Western World , pretty right.I am with such as Hillary and Biden. By the way , I see where I have given substantive arguments on theism versus atheism to which     no one has objected.I am the anti-Christ here !

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 12, 2006 at 12:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sometines we have to invade a nation and put things right. The Milosevic situation was one.

With regard to Iraq, it was the wrong war at the wrong time. It had nothing to do with 9-11 and I said this from the beginning no matter how many times I was called a traitor.

It simply was not a priority. If we are going to develop a foreign policy that overturns every tin-horn dictator, at least lets be hoinest aout it, George.

But its the wrong policy. Wars have to be strategicly or morally necessary. They have to be a priority. Afghaistan, the Taliban an Al Qaeda were priorities. Destroying terror training camps around the world no matter wha country they’re in is a priority. And Iran and N. Korea posed a far greater threat than Iraq but Georgie had to clean up his daddy’s mess.

Now we have created a much larger nest of hornets than Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were at any time.

It is a terrible mess but now that we have created this new dimension of terrorist-spawning we have to deal with it. We cant leave after we have made the world less safe from Islamic terrorists. We are now responsible for creating a horrible situation regarding Islamists, sectarian violence and Pan-Arab ultra-nationalism.

Report this

By Paul (Netherlands), September 11, 2006 at 1:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree completely with Sam where religion is concerned. On that score you might call him a very untypical American. But in his opinion on Iraq he is really is typical of you lot. For God’s (!) sake when are you going to learn you got no fucking right to invade other countries “to put things right”. And of course you do NOT go in with the best of intentions but in pursuit of your interests.

Report this

By Mad As Hell, September 10, 2006 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Think about it this way, in 20 years, how many of your textbooks will need to be changed? “

Jordan, that’s a meaningless argument.  Some textbooks will change, others won’t.

One textbook hasn’t changed in 2,500 years—yeah, two THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED Years.  It’s called Euclid’s Geometry and it hasn’t changed.  Proofs are still assembled the same way that Euclid taught us.

You need to understand that there are two types of atheists.  Some have a created a faith out of atheism. The Soviets and the Chinese practice this form. The other does NOT. They are closer to Agnostics: The concept of FAITH is what you want to abandon.  You don’t have faith there is no god, you simply have no evidence, therefore you don’t believe in a deity.

Report this

By morgan lamberth, September 9, 2006 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I do not have a religious-like attitude in presenting my arguments. I give reasons in a firm way .

Report this

By Pal, September 9, 2006 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The God and the Allah is there so we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions.  As hard as life is, it’s easy to blame our mistakes on our imagination.

The thing that gets me about the Bible, the Koran, is that you cannot question it.  As a species, we by nature, and the reason it has evolved to where we are now, question it’s reality, how can one live a life without doubt, without question, to accept the gospel truth as if nothing else matters?  I cannot understand this concept.

It is questioning that has lead us and will lead us to great things, why would one be so ignorant as to accept a teaching hundreds of years minus in evolution in this day?

I feel atheism is a natural evolution of the mind, where more and more man rejects a gospel truth and learns for himself, reasons and questions his existence.  Rather than give it a name we should just say we believe in the natural state of the human mind.

I absolutely agree with Einstein, that any man that believes he can survive death is on an ego trip higher than LSD and PCP.

While the Muslims pray five times a day, they waste their precious time, of enlightenment of striving towards a new truth.

We cannot possibly believe everything there is to know and ever needs to be known was written hundreds of years ago and we cannot question it.

Religion was built for control.  And that is what it has done, as all the people now are under control of people are deceased.

Report this

By Jordan Byrd, September 9, 2006 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m not saying that the majority of atheists have turned it into a religion, I was saying that many of the previous posters were acting like Atheism was a religion.

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 9, 2006 at 10:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


In the world of science, we dont ask for proofs of negatives; we ask for proofs of claims made by people. In philosophy, art and religion we can fantasize. In science there are strict rules based on logical steps in learning and growing a body of knowledge.

For instance, you me and Jerry falwell cant prove unicorns dont exist. Proving a negative is impossible and that is why religious zealots try that trick and avoid trying to evidence their claims for the existence of their diety.

The lesson of the scientific method is that those making claims for somethings existence whether it be virii, bacteria, z-rays or a supernatural realm, have to provide the evidence for their claim.

Therefore, doubt, skepticism and unbelief are logical default positions. It is logical not to believe anything until evidence is provided. To do otherwise is to be gullible and irrational. Hope is not logic. Wishing doesnt make something so.

So I remain an unbeliever in every god-concept I have ever looked at because there is no verifiable empirical evidence for any of them. Just because we dont understand how things (life, etc) work doesnt mean it is logical to invent a supernatural realm and say God says so, God did it and The Bible tells me so.

Throughout history we have called a myriad of things miracles of God or the supernatural. We did it with thunder and lightning. We did it with disease. We did it with mental illness. We did it with infertility. We did it with volcanoes and earthquakes. We did it with floods and droughts. We did it with pestilence and plagues.

But in every case, we found out that there were natural causes. I suspect, even though we are like the lightning myth crownd of yesteryears, we shall find natural foundations for the universe, life, evolution, the humans mind and much much more that we now continue to relegate to the supernatural.

Using the logic of Occham’s razor means we have to deal with likelihoods and trends in nature and society. Since every so-csalled supernatural phenomenon has ended up being natural, it is more likely that we will find the answers to the deepest mysteries of the universe in the natural, not the supernatural. After all, not one thing we have discovered has ever been shown to be of supernatural origin. Not one.

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 9, 2006 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Scientific American did a study on scientists and religion back in the late 90’s. What they pointed out was that all the studies count nurses, doctors and technicians scientists. They decroibed a pyramid of belief. At the bottom where people are the least educated in science is the general population and high percentage of belief in the supernatural. In the middle was all the scientists including those mentioned above. 60% disbelieved or doubted. When they got to the top of the pyramid where scientific specialists like the top scientists of the National Academy of Science and leading educators were, the level of disbelief and doubt hovers around 90%.

Back in 1987, Newsweek did a study on scientists and creationism. When they asked Natural scientists of life and Earth
sciences, 99.14% rejected creationism. ( The study can be found at )

So when studies say they asked sacientists its good to know who they mean.

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 9, 2006 at 10:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Western World ,I call faith the I just say so. Faith is a circular argument . The god notion justs says a god wills what it wants and that is no real explanation whereas science gives the why and the how .It won’t do to say the god notion is metaphysical ,for that says nothing . To see no meaning in the god notion makes one an ignositc.I help myself without a god and do fine. So the god helps those who help themselves means that they help themselves but give credit to a god. Miracles turn out to be ordinary events or hoaxes. Prayer just makes people feel better. Religion is just a superstitious placebo. One can get the socialization from other groups and the frenzy from a concert. One can get counseling from other than pastors . Science explains matters . So religion is just a superstitious placebo.

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 9, 2006 at 9:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jordan writes:

>I cannot help but feel as though you
>have turned atheism into a religion.

That is a common misconception.

Atheism is a belief

Theism is a belief.

Atheism is a belief about religious belief, not actually one.

Theism is a religious belief

The confusion also arises in that religious and non-religious belief can be accompanied by the same level of passion and confidence.

We often use “religious” in a metaphorical way. Like, “I am religious about excercise”, etc.  That doesnt make excercise a religion.

Atheism isnt a religion, its a belief about religious belief.

Another way to view it is that there are religious philosophies and non-religious philosophies. Both are philosophies but only the monotheists and polytheists embrace a religious philosophy. The atheists have a philosophy about God and religion.

Ah, semantics!

The “atheism is a religion” argument is one of ways religious conservatives and the right wing try to get around the separation of church and state. They shout that a religion-neutral secularism is a religion so they want prayers and creationism in the public schools. They think that not mentioning or promnoting a religious belief has to be countered with prayers and Bible studies.  They just dont get it. They just dont understand that religion neutral is also atheism neutral.

The problem lies with the fanatical nature of evangelism. The evangelist, Muslim and Christian, is gripped in a obsessive compulsion to make everyone believe the way they do. In the past, they had a hand in government and look where it got us: Continuous religious wars, violent intolerance and tens of millions dead due to religious fervor.

But they have not learned anything because of the compulsive nature of religious evangelism. It doesnt matter that mixing religion and government has always been a failure. Evangelize, evangelize and evangelize! Use the state and the public square as a pulpit because it has the force of law. never mind that mixing the two has always led to the suppression or death of freedom of conscience.

As one poster noted, the most important task is to keep religion and government separated. Keeping supernatural speculations out of the natural world of governing is the most important task.

A religion-neutral government is best. Secular governance is the foundation of religious liberty because it favors none so it persecutes and diminishes the standing none.

Contrarian can believe anything he wishes in his person life. As long as his liberty doesnt violate the liberties of others, we can all co-exist. having religion and government mixed has always violated the principles of liberty.

Thomas Jefferson noted to the Virginia Baptists in 1808 that unbelief was equal to belief under the constitution and that the separation of church and state insured this equality of all.

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 9, 2006 at 8:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


You need a lesson in the rules of debate. It is not up to the detractors to prove a negative. It is up to the claimant to provide evidence.

Stories written decades and centuries after “said event” are not evidence that can be corroborated.

Hearsay is generally not admitted in a court of law for apparent reliability reasons.

Muslims can ask you to refute that Mohamet ascended to heaven and you can say its bullshit mythology.

And you are right, just as I am right about your resurrection fantasy.

Christianity and Islam are virtually identical in most of their stories. There is more hellfire and “the day of resurrection in the Koran than there is on the Bible.

The Bible and the Koran: A scriptural comparison

Both groups scream that they are the only way and you’ll taste hell if you dont believe. They are so full f themselves one cant help mock them. You mock or strongly disagree with Islam’s claim thatthy are th only true religion, dont you? I feelthe same way about Christianity for the same reasons you do about Islam.

Now YOU dont believe in Islam for the mnost part for the same reasons I dont believe in any religious text as being anything more than human invention based on arguments from ignorance and powermongering.

So the Muslim can call YOU a fooll for rejectintg Islam just as you call us fools for rejecting Christianity.

There is no logic iin your arguments whether you be Hindu. Jew, Christian or Muslim.

As Thomas Edison said, “religion is bunk”.

As Mark Twain said, “Faith is believing in something you know ain’t so”

As Einstein said about people who believe we survive death they are “feeble minds who do so through fear and ridiculous egotisms”. Einstein said that about people who believe we survive death

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 9, 2006 at 7:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In re: Science without religion and religion without science.

That Einstein quote by itself is misleading. One has to know what Einstein called “his” religion before understanding it.

Because I ran into these isolated quotes on Newsgroups I created a page that analyzed Einsteins’s statements on religion.

First and foremost is that Einstein denied the existence of a “personal god” and considered it a manifestation of human frailty and willfullness. Secondly, he thought that those that believed that the body survived death were “feeble minds” that did so “through fear or ridiculous egotism”. Thirdly, in a pantheistic metaphor, he said that God had no intellect but had big muscles

Report this

By morgan lamberth, September 8, 2006 at 10:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In the attached article ,Stannard just gave the nonsense how come something instead of nothing. I ask rather: how could there be nothing? Stannard is one those whom I find assert the profundity of stupidity. He also dwells elsewhere on the two category classification which is question begging .He should stick to physics ; his philosophical points here are ridculous. He , Collins and Mc Grath know more science than I,but their faith keeps them shallow!

Report this

By guitarsandmore, September 8, 2006 at 8:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter),13026,1034872,00.html

Paradoxically, this is not how many scientists see it. In the US, according to a survey published in Nature in 1997, four out of 10 scientists believe in God. Just over 45% said they did not believe, and 14.5% described themselves as doubters or agnostics. This ratio of believers to non-believers had not changed in 80 years. Should anybody be surprised?

Evolution and Religion Can Coexist, Scientists Say
Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
October 18, 2004
“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” —Albert Einstein

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 8, 2006 at 3:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Folks, I am a 58 year old man . I have a personality disorder and subcortical defects . I am a liberal Democrat, a free trader ,globalist. separationist of church and state.

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 8, 2006 at 2:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Bizby for making my day.Western World, thanks for the history lesson.It puts into detail what I have stated . Why should we follow the whims of those men of yore in their commandments, not a god’s? Even Fallwell does not follow those commandments as Joshi shows in his book"God’s Defender’s.” If Yeshua had been a real moralist ,he would have denounced stoning and slavery .His mention of love is no better than that of the pagans: love should include no slavery and wars of conquest. Thanks all other skeptics .I must acknowledge there are good passages in the Tanakh and the Testament as Walter Kaufmann did ,but one can see good in Aesop’s Fables also . One sees an anthromorphic pattern - paradelia- to suggest a god whereas I see the results of natural causation that science shows. I also must say that I have a high regard for many believers,but do eschew their beliefs.

Report this

By Jordan Byrd, September 7, 2006 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

haha…Bizby, I attend Liberty University and agree with you 100% on the Falwell thing…he’s a pompous windbag

Report this

By Aidingthehuman, September 7, 2006 at 6:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well said Jay Wilson.

To add,

I believe people now more than ever, are starting to understand that how our civilization has advanced, and how it will advance, is all attributed to people who decided to explore the world, critically, logically and rationally. 

All our advancements come from people who decided to stay in reality and philosophize and predict what could manifest on Earth, not in a place they cannot see such as Heaven or Hell.

So people now are more inclined to explore their minds, explore other peoples minds and most of all wonder what is out there beyond Earth.

With everything aside, no man or woman can honestly say they know what a supreme being looks like, they’ve read his book and they know everything about the afterlife by the age of ten.

The more you examine yourselves and you examine life you have to realize how precious your time really is, and no one wants to believe, “Well when I die nothing happens, my blood flow ends, my consciousness ends and I begin to decay rapidly.”

We’re too empathetic and imaginative to settle on such elementary premises.  I understand why people choose faith and why they do not want to believe the contrary, but really, this doesn’t benefit the human species and doesn’t encourage progress amongst every new human being that enters our species.

This hindrance is slowly dissipating and I have hope that one day, every human being will be one that contributes to the knowledge and to the progress of civilization rather than living for themselves and adopting archaic literature that has you focus on the end rather than the now.

So rather than spend a lifetime mastering scripture that bears no relevance to what you must do at this time for this life, spend a lifetime expressing a unique viewpoint, a fresh perspective on being a human being and helping human beings live.

Report this

By jay wilson, September 6, 2006 at 10:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true”
Friedrich Nietzsche

Very interesting thoughts in this thread. Over the past few years I have become increasingly fascinated by the apparent increase of “faith” of all types and persuasions while living in the 21st century.  I have many simple questions that have plagued me from an early age. Yes, I guess they are all old arguments but I have yet to hear an answer that is compelling. These are but a few:

Creationists fervently cling to a belief that defies the entire world view of every scientist on Earth. The evidence is overwhelming yet…faith persists.

So if evolution is “just a theory” and god created man and woman as Adam and Eve, just how did that work? How did civilization advance from two people? Isn’t that inbreeding?

As Harris said: we are all atheists with respect to other religions or gods.  Doesn’t it follow that what we believe, our faith, is mostly a circumstance of birth, of where you were born and what you were taught from before the time you could even think?

They can’t all be right. In the bible it’s: “I am the way, the truth and the light and no man passes unto the father but by me.” And the Koran it’s: “there is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet” and it’s pretty much pick a side-one lane on the road to heaven.

Why doesn’t religion bind humanity into a common brotherhood instead of fostering hate? Isn’t somebody in charge here?

Would a just and all-loving god create billions of people (you know, the other religions) knowing that they were doomed from birth to burn in hell for eternity?

It seems to me that man created god and not the other way around. You can see it very clearly as evolution of thought based on associations and patterns.  But science has explained much of what once was defined by the church. Epilepsy is not demonic possession. Thunder is not god bowling.

God, for a perfect being, seems to have all the faults and foibles of man. Hmmm…..

What is heaven really like? I have a good life now and it’s hard to imagine it being too much better. And don’t tell me it’s where you reunite with your relatives. That the last thing I want to see. Is heaven physical? The 19 highjackers definitely thought so. If you’re old on Earth with, say Alzheimer’s, what physical form do you take in heaven?

Many people profess to believe in god but I have my doubts about the polls. They wouldn’t conduct themselves the way they do if they really believed that an invisible deity was watching their every move and would hold it against them on judgment day. Take the 5,000-some Catholic child-molesting priests for example.

I really think the percentage of atheists and agnostics is higher than the polls show. A lot of people really haven’t examined their faith critically, don’t want to appear “godless”, and just kind of go with the flow believing that there must be some higher power and meaning behind all this but in their heart of hearts have major doubts. But what does it hurt to hedge your bets?

Report this

By Guitarsandmore, September 6, 2006 at 9:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Does God exist?

Well, it just doesn’t matter for the purpose of this discussion. Religion should not be focused on mass exterminations of humanity else, you may as well worship the devil if that’s what you’re going to do.

Government should be focused on building roads, schools, hospitals, etc., and stay out of the world of religion. Schools should teach science with reference to other theories. 

Religion should be focused on helping people get through life and teach compassion, empathy, love, and forgiveness.  Those are usefull traits to cultivate.

I am reminded of the Gulivers Travels book where Guliver meets the liliputians.  One tribe wanted to cook the egg three minutes and the other tribe wanted to cook the egg four minutes.  Something like that.  And for that they went to war for years to see who was right.

This is what all the noise out there sounds like to me; People argueing about how to cook the egg.  And should it matter?  I don’t really think so and I don’t think it is anybody’s business how I cook my egg and anyway why should anyone care.?  Just go cook your eggs however you want to. Geez louize.  It just doesn’t matter.

Report this

By Bizby, September 6, 2006 at 9:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To Morgan-Lynn—thanks for the interesting links. I always find something to research in your posts. 

To Jordan Byrd and Contrarian:

One more though in light of the following claim made by Contrarian in an earlier post:

“The New Testament has far better textual support than do the works of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, or Tacitus, whose contents no one seriously questions.”

This statement illustrates a point in Harris’ book.  Even those who make the leap of faith that I mentioned earlier, from that which is evidence based to that which is not, are basically persuaded in all other aspects of their life by the existence of evidence.  So, while Morgan-Lynn may have put it less than delicately in saying about religious people that “they are rational in daily life but come Sunday they need no evidence but whim,” she (I assume gender here based upon the name) has highligted the point where we who are atheists—or as I like to characterize myself, agnostic—part from those who make the leap.  There comes a point where you believe what you want to believe.

And by the way, I find little pause in your doing that, Jordan.  Based upon your posts, it seems to me that you and I have thought this all through with great seriousness and have, at the last step, simply going different directions.  You find it inconceivable, despite a lack of hard evidence, to believe that it could have happened absent a God.  I simply don’t find that last step compelling—perhaps it could have, I don’t know.

To follow Guitarsandmore’s point, that should allow you and me to live side by side in a State were religions is separated from politics quite comfortably. 

What irks so many us is that someone like Jerry Falwell will take the leap and use it, first, to argue that all sorts of dogmagic magical beliefs are perfectly true, and then to demonize others who question the absolute lake of evidence behind Falwell’s fantasmagorica.  Atheists, you may know, are more distrusted by the majority of Americans that just about any other identifiable group, and only for demanding the same sort of evidence based rationality in ALL of religious belief that Contrarian boasts of in biblical history and archeology.

Report this

By Pal, September 6, 2006 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wouldn’t the bible be a perfect document if it was written by such a being, a document that would not need updating?

Aye, this startled me, as I could not quite understand what could prompt people such as Jordan to make such a claim.

The supposed “Gospel Truth”, the “The Holy of all Holyness” needs an addendum?  And you still believe that a mighty being wrote it? 

It seems to me, when people carry this childish imagination into adult hood, only now they can articulate it with more words, intcingly more brain washing and take much more drastic action in propigating it to others, i.e. war?

I guess the solution is, teach your children to use reason and logic as their faith system, rely on finding the truth and not blatantly accepting a fairy tale, myth, as your solution to everything.

Teach your children this before their mind hardens and we have more generations of wasted minds. 

The reason why we’ve advanced, slowly, yet advanced, is because more and more people look to science and logic to explore their nature, their Earth. 

It’s all in the upbringing, I can tell you that for sure, being a byproduct of a secular upbringing.

One more thing to note, people like Jordan, you do realize what you believe, people with far inferior minds believed as well? For thousands of years? You are one of billions on Earth right now that follows the same old pattern.

Do you believe the majority is correct?  Does the majority contribute to our breakthroughs in human civilization?

Just something to ponder, and also please stop degrading other posters based on their grammar and what not, or based on their “orgnization” of thoughts, honestly it seems people backing religion and/or faith do is attack and attack and attack, any opposing view points.

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 6, 2006 at 9:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gary and Guitars and more, so right. We can work with the many theists who are for that separation and with those who combat special creationism. I do have subcortical defects that might intrude on my writing . Anyway, for me it is exercising the mind to post. I really ahve to proof check as you just saw , for my fingers think I have dislexia. One tries!

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 6, 2006 at 7:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Check out my other posts to see that I have posts of value.Sky Pixie denotes that I don’t think a god is anything of value. My posts reflect what philosophers have found wrong with theisic arguments . I value solid criticism . Argue the philosophical points . The Bible is antiquated . Its morality is irrational as I and others here have pointd out. Sure , one can read into it what ones wants -exegesis is eisogesis .Bizby, keep up the good work! [ I am not as mean as I might come across as.] I value those Christians who combat special creationist s although I have a problem with their own creationism . Check out my posts @ Theology Web and Philosophy Now to see that I give plenty of meat for theists to digest. There they respond fineto my comments .

Report this

By Gary, September 6, 2006 at 7:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

re: comment by Jordan Byrd

Jordan, no disrespect intended by my post.  But I do have a couple of questions regarding your post. 
I have done a lot of reading on the subject of god and religion over the past 10 years, the bible included.  My first question to you is:  How can the bible be from god?  If god is this omniscent being, one smart enough and powerful enough to create this planet, this universe, all the other millions of universes out there, human beings, plants and animals;  how can he take credit for, or be given credit for the bible?  Wouldn’t the bible be a perfect document if it was written by such a being, a document that would not need updating?  If it was perfect for man 2000 years ago, a perfect being would have known that man would improve his situation in life yet the document would transcend his changes.

Second, you stated that “even outside christianity, it is quite evident that god exists”.  Really?  How has that been proven?  Where has that been shown to be incontrovertible fact?  Where is the evidence? 

My opinion on two factors will never change:  If god really exists, (absent of course what is stated in the bible that you just have to believe), then he needs to show himself.  Second, that the atheist has no burden of proof, there is no need for him/her to prove the non-existence of god, it is up to the believer to provide the verifiable proof of existence.

Report this

By Guitarsandmore, September 5, 2006 at 11:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To Sam Harris,

You are not going to end religion overnight or for a long time I expect.  We do have a much better chance of insisting on separation of church and state.  Work for that.

Report this

By Jordan Byrd, September 5, 2006 at 8:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bizby, thank you for being mature, your insight was appreciated. Morgan, as far as I’m concerned, you didn’t put forth anything of value. I’m going to be friendly and assume that English is your second language because you are putting words together in ways that they were not meant to be used. Secondly, calling God a sky-pixie without providing any supporting argument simply damages your position. You don’t look any smarter by ranting against something that you obviously don’t understand. In response to Pal’s comments; these things are left out of the Bible. It’s not that incorrect scientific ideas are referenced, it’s simply that these things weren’t inserted into the Bible. If the Bible isn’t from God, it suprisingly insightful foresight that everybody who wrote the individual books didn’t incorporate any of the outdated scientific knowledge of the day. Think about it this way, in 20 years, how many of your textbooks will need to be changed?

Report this

By Pal, September 5, 2006 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I just wonder why in the Bible everything that was alluded to was with the present knowledge of the Universe(as Earth being the center), no science, no knowledge of astronomy, no knowledge of physics, nothing even way into the future beyond us, it was all simple language, and simple knowledge.

I mean honestly, when can people ever think to themselves, “Well maybe these people created God in their image to 1. Control others and 2. Offer answers Science could not.

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 5, 2006 at 4:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bizby, people find what they will in things : it is called pareidolia as I have just learned from the web site live science -a great source of debunking . Some people feel there just has to be higher power by projecting anthropomorphism on to the world .I prefer the results of science which shows no mind but mindless natural selection in charge .I need no Sky Pixie or Ground of Being to be my shepherd - no master . Most people compartementalize alright: they are rational in daily life but come Sunday they need no evidence but whim . Then again, many rely on astrology or some quack like Sylvia Browne . Bizby, check out Theology Web , Philosophy Today and Skeptics Society for fellow rationalists. If you like rough handling there is Raving Atheists . Thanks to you and all other rationalists here !

Report this

By Bizby, September 5, 2006 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Reply to :

Comment #21790 by Jordan Byrd on 9/04 at 10:08 pm

First, if you have read all 190+ posts you are a better man than I Gunga Din. 

Second, as for thinking you are stupid, I, for one, do not see it that way.  But I do see a distinction in how—not just what, but how—you and I believe.

The leap of faith that people take to believe in what you call a higher being is a leap from that which is evidence based to that for which there is no demonstrable evidence. 

I believe that sodium nitrate will retard spoilage in meat.  Why, because of the evidence.  I also believe that consuming sodium nitrate in large quantities can lead to cancer.  Why?  Again the evidence, although I am aware that the link to cancer is not as strong as the link to spoilage redardation.  But there are demonstrable scientific studies to support my belief.

But I don’t believe in ghosts.  There is no demonstrable evidence for their existance.  That does not mean that they are not floating around me as I type.  They may be.  But I have no way of knowing.  By the same token, I don’t think you have any way of knowing that God exists.  But you make that leap anyway.

A critical point to Harris’ book (IMO) is that once one makes that leap of faith—a leap of believing in that for which there is no evidence—then all leaps of faith must be given equal deference.  So, moderate muslims defer to radical muslims because who is to say who is wrong and who is right where there is no evidece one way or the other.  But as we have seen, deference to radical muslims has been deadly of late—and perhaps throughout history, not my area. 

And that (IMO again) is the underlying point of Harris’ book.  All of us want the violence of radicalism in Islam to stop.  Do to so we have to confront their irrational beliefs (that Allah will reward marters for killing innocents, even children; the 17 virgins nonsense; etc.) but how do we have the moral authority to do so if we treat equally unverifiable beliefs (albeit less violent ones) as sacred?  The answer: humanistic values.  And that is a whole other kettle of fish to explore later. 

On another point: two people have now stated that I failed to refute the idea that certain biblical characters died rather than deny Jesus, and their denials stand as proof of Jesus’ resurrection.  (Because I am not familiar with the Bible, who are the people who claimed to have seen Jesus after death and were then killed for refusing to deny what they saw?  Citations to scripture will help.  I am curious.)

That being said, I still don’t believe that because people were willing to die rather than deny a vision means the vision was necessarily real.  We have been over the fact that the information is double and triple heresay at best, that it was related long after the event, that it was related by those prone to embellishiment—all things that in a court of law would keep that information away from a jury because such information is notoriously unreliable.  But you don’t buy that, got it.

So, lets try this.  I know people who are sure they have seen ghosts.  They believe it, heart and soul.  I’ll bet you know people like that, too.  I know someone who truly believes that he was abducted by aliens in his sleep.  Truly believes it, and is happy to know that “fact” because it explains for him much of what was unexplainable about his life.  He would not deny his alleged abduction.

Humans believe all kinds of physically impossible things all the time.  Your point, I understand, is even if they believed it, wouldn’t they deny it to save their own life, even though they would secretly still believe whatever the impossible thing is?  Chances are that my abducted friend would deny being abducted with a gun to his head, yes, but then, if he truly believed not that he had been abducted, but that Jesus had come to him in his sleep promising him a fabulous afterlife, maybe he’d say “shoot away.”  Why not?  A whole house of people drank poision to follow a space ship hidden in the tail of some comet.

One last point, I seem to recall that the choices given to people 2000 years ago when the authorities did not like you were Hobson’s choices.  In other words, “If you do not deny your saviour, we will kill you; if you do deny him, well, we’ll kill you anyway, but it won’t hurt as much.”  You’re going to die anyway, which means your are about to come face to fact with Jesus no matter what you do.  Would you deny him at that point?

Report this

By Jordan Byrd, September 4, 2006 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There have been 6 people defending religion. 2 of them used rational arguments. To the other 4, I’m politely asking you to work on your critical thinking skills so that you will be able to present a rational, consistent discourse. To the angry 13 year old who pounded out the anti-evolution argument: I admire your fervor and faith, I merely request that you use a more coherent and rational thought pattern next time. I’m not trying to make you feel bad, just read what you are really saying before you’ve said it.

To the rest of you, I don’t even know where to start. After reading all 190+ comments, I cannot help but feel as though you have turned atheism into a religion. You have even gone so far as to create different sects, argue over simple grammatical errors, argue over meaning of already defined words, and congratulate your new priest (Harris) on his discovery of this wonderful new “truth”. I have news for all of you. These ideas have been floating around for thousands of years. You are not special, your ideas are no more unique than mine. The fact that you may be in the minority at the moment does not give you the right to assume that I am irrational, stupid, or otherwise mentally incapable of thinking critically. The vast majority of the comments here somehow impugn the intelligence of people who decide, of their own volition, to believe that there is something greater than themselves. Almost everybody has simply called me stupid without giving me a solid explanation as to why what I believe is worth anything less than what you do.

Another thing I find humorous is the fact that everytime you say something like “Thanks Sam, you are so right!” you are damaging your argument. Follow me here. If there is nothing higher than humanity, who decides what is right? Sam’s arguments are not new, sorry to burst anyones bubble. Theologians and atheists have been debating for longer than any of us have been alive, and it’s always going to come down to a sort of “prove it’s real” vs. “prove it’s not”.

I am in agreement with Contrarian about Christianity’s primary sources. Nobody has refuted his central arguement that eyewitnesses of the resurrection allowed themselves to be killed for Christianity. Instead all of you are choosing to bring up Muslim martyrs. The reason that there were muslim martyrs while Muhammed was still alive is that they believed that Muhammed was the only living individual to whom God revealed himself. The very earliest Christians, who died for a supposed “hoax”, have had their deaths documented in SECULAR history texts over and over again. The martyrdom of most of the original apostles has been documented multiple times. It is simply illogical to ignore the fact that so many people would choose to die for a hoax. The difference between the original Christian martyr and the original Muslim martyr is the rational, materialistic verification of their beliefs throught their contact with a living Jesus after seeing him die. The original Muslim martyr cannot claim to have seen Allah giving his revelation to Muhammed.

Even outside of Christianity, it is quite evident that a God exists. My forthcoming statement will not give credence to the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, or even transcendant God, right now I am merely making an observation that rationalizes the idea that a higher being exsists. Humans believe in God. Plain and simple. You can argue as much as you want, but a person left alone from birth, will automatically create some “higher being” to focus upon. We are wired to want something more. People instinctually know that there has to be something more than what we have. Call it an afterlife, heaven, whatever you want to, belief in God is a natural human construction.

Unfortunately, I believe that religion is wrong. Religion has always been a designed construct designed to work towards a higher being or exsistence. Jesus fought against religion. Jesus reached out to the people who where hurting from religion. Jesus came and showed us how we should live, making religion obsolete. We took that and slowly turned it into an organization that was capable of terrible things. I am willing to personally apologize for the Crusades. I’m sorry that Christianity lost sight of Jesus. What happened was a terrible thing, BUT we should not blame God. True Christianity is not a religion, nor is it a set of rules, codes, and restrictions. It’s not about how much you tithe. It’s not about how often you go to church. It’s about honestly trying to act like Jesus. It’s about self sacrifice, determination, and love.

I’m not expecting anybody to be swayed by my post, and I’m not trying to proselytize anybody. I simply want to talk about some things that have been said here about this interview and attempt to convince some of you that just becuase somebody believes in something above or beyond themselves doesn’t mean that they have an inferior intelligence. I’m sorry if you disagree with me, and I hope you’ll bring it to my attention, but I’m sick and tired of being insulted, so please keep it civil.

Report this

By Aidingthehuman, September 4, 2006 at 5:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Religion was made to answer questions philosophy didn’t have answers to.

It was there to aid the mourning, to soothe the widows.

You believe you are apart of a higher purpose. Let me try to offer this reasoning:

You are the higher purpose, as a human being, on Earth, with an imagination, with an organic phenomenon known as a brain, existing today, in this Universe, YOU are a miracle, we all are, we all are the highest purpose there is. 

If it wasn’t for our minds we wouldn’t have the imagination to create a deity in our image.

Religion gives the excuse to perish, and with death you lose the most important and divine substance; the human being.

Figure out what you can do to fully express your mind, in this world, right now.  Not how you can get somewhere else, or how you communicate with mediums that don’t exist.

Please realize how much more there is to beng a human being and breathing than we give credit.

It’s a shame so many people don’t gain sight on what is real and what is most important.

Report this

By Contrarian, September 4, 2006 at 8:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What Ehrman “discovered”, described in Misquoting Jesus, wasn’t new at all, but has been well known to scholars and serious students of the Bible for generations. As his “new discoveries” support the enlightened viewpoint, many were quick to accept them as some sort of revelation. 

I did not intend to be puerile (impressive vocabulary!). My initial post, which I doubt you read, was a sincere effort to express what underlies what I believe and I have yet to get a thoughtful response. Your initial response was just a flow of consciousness of sorts (essentially blew me off) and your second just anger.

Many on this site seem to get angry if some of us don’t see it your way, instead of helping provide insight. It seems beneath your dignity to have a thoughtful discussion. Instead of addressing the issues, discredit the opposition. Not helpful.

On the other hand, Jay Wilson is refreshing. I don’t agree with him, but he is engaging, interesting and doesn’t seem defensive. He is expressing what he believes and why.

MLL - We do agree on one thing though - the part about the pigs. Are you an educator by chance?

Report this

By jay wilson, September 3, 2006 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would love to believe in a creator and an afterlife. I think it would give my life meaning and a comfort that there is something beyond ourselves. But my mind is wired as a rationalist and I see no evidence that there is anything other than our own deeds and chance guiding this clockwork. And if there is a god, I think he has some explaining to do and should be held accountable for all the misery in the world. And I don’t want to hear the copout argument that “he has a plan, you just don’t know what it is.” If this is His plan I want to speak to his supervisor.

And no I don’t feel lonely in my heresy. I feel liberated knowing that I have but one life and it’s on this beautiful planet. I am in awe of nature and the universe but as to its origin I guess I have to say “I don’t know.” Making up stories of mythical beings is just too first century for me.

Let’s say, just for argument, that (a) god did create the world and all that’s in it.  Why create all this and then disappear without even a calling card, leaving dissident factions fighting over what name to call Him? Is this the grand plan? Create humans capable of rational thought and then sit back and let them fight it out like some kind of video game for His amusement?

It’s getting scarier and scarier to live in a world where a significant percentage of the population organizes their lives around getting to heaven or thinking the world is about to end. If enough people believe this it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Many of those currently in power believe in End Times. Nuclear war in the Middle East? That’s good news to the Rapture set. Jesus is coming!

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 3, 2006 at 11:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Man, this one should look in the mirror to see who won’t respond to questions and statements .I am not going to redo my comments, so find them and respond to them, not whine. But whining is what I expect from this crowd and they want answers to their puerile comments . It is no fun trying to get a pig to sing! So, other skeptics respond if you would .

Report this

By Contrarian, September 3, 2006 at 4:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Again, no direct response to my central premise. Lamberth’s mind is made up and my keystrokes were wasted. Appears anything that differs with your view is merely “ranting”.

This blog is not an opportunity for insigthful debate; it is a backslapping site for athiests. I expected more intellectual honesty from the “enlightened” ones. See you.

Report this

By enter airport or city, September 3, 2006 at 4:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We have to belive in something. Lets all belive in Sam Harris. Im starting a new church, SIOG, Sam Is Our God. It meets every week in my pants.
Give me my freedom not what I should and should not think and feel.
Sammy boy, if you don’t belive in anything you must be a lonely fella.

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, September 2, 2006 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As Bart Ehrman shows in ‘Misquoting Jesus”, scribes changed passages of the Christian Testament,based on flawed oral testimony. No miracles have ever taken place.Many people die for false beliefs; do you think the suicide-bombers do not fit your description of bellievers or do you special plead? The Tanakh and the Testament are not more attested than others: they are shown to be factually lacking in history and other matters. Christinsanity is no more valid than the other religions . Here I have posted reasons against religion .Answer them and other posts that question religion here. I have salvation from faith- the I just say so of gullibility. “I don’t have enough Faith to be an Atheist” and Josh McDowell’s and Lee Strobel’s rantings just show how faith distorts reality. Check out the rational wrtiing @ Talk Reason if you want to learn why religion has no answers for us naturalists/rationalists/humanists/non-theists. How can a rational person believe in a talking snake or donkey ?  That without trickery one can turn water into wine? Your e-sources just are rantings, I daresay ! I would expect far fetch explanations for discrepancies in your Fables.  Logic is the bane of theists.

Report this

By Contrarian, September 2, 2006 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bizby and Western World,

Neither of you have directly refuted my central premise - that the so called witnesses to Christ in the resurrected state died as martyrs and never recanted their stories, so I must assume you can’t. I’ve never seen anything written that indicated either (1) that those who claimed to be witnesses were not real people or (2) that what they were quoted as saying were inaccurate transcriptions of what they stated to the authors of the books.

WW seems to be saying something like “it was a long time ago and has been changed by others so it is not an accurate”. After accusing me of obfuscation (Harris’ fanaticism being like that of of an ex-smoker and and receiving WWs rebuke - “In order to counter an argument, one must address the argument’s points”), WW comes back with the fallibility of the bible being like a game of telephone tag. Are you for real? Talk about simplicity.

Whether one believes what the bible claims or not, I am not aware of there being serious debate among Christians or non-Christians regarding whether the content of the bible is an accurate representation of the writings of the authors. In other words, we can debate whether what Paul wrote is true (that we must believe in Christ to be saved for example), but don’t we agree that what is contained in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as contained in the bible really is what Paul wrote during his life?  You may not but most scholars do. I offer a couple links that might provide insight as to why I believe the accuracy of the bible as a historical document.
says among other things:
“The New Testament has far better textual support than do the works of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, or Tacitus, whose contents no one seriously questions. In addition, the New Testament documents have always been both public, and widely-disseminated. Thus it would be impossible for any party to have materially changed their contents, just as the Declaration of Independence, for example, as a public document, could not have been privately altered without raising notice and creating public furor. Sir Frederic Kenyon, former Director of the British Museum, comments:
“The interval between the dates of the original composition and the earliest extant evidence [i.e. our oldest manuscripts] becomes so small as to be negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.”

Two additional, though much more technical links are:

Regarding other claims of ascension and afterlife - Mithras, Muhammad, Krishna – do you know if there exist historical writings made by witnesses to these events (ascension of Muhammad) and whether the witnesses suffered for their claims? My understanding of the supernatural claims of these three are that Mithras is a mythological character with no historical mooring whatever, that Muhammad’s ascension refers to a mystical event during his life that he alone attests to (Muhammad’s remains are entombed in Medina and there are no witnesses to his ascension) and that other than the fact that Krishna lived, there is no historical evidence about his life. The claims of his virgin birth – which are suspect among many Hindus – are mythological in the best sense of the word.

If you can point to accepted historical documents of the quality of the biblical texts that refute my understanding, I would like to read them. You seem to have concluded that all beliefs are equal in their irrationality and that the fact that they have some similar claims disproves the reliability of all. That is simple minded thinking at its best. There are differences you have glossed over that are significant.

I was raised in a home with what I would call a somewhat passive Christian faith. I think it is true that we generally adopt our parents’ myths. As I have grown up, I have continued to examine the things I believe to be true and some things I believed to be true weren’t on further examination. Harris’ book has been helpful in my examination of Christianity as it is causing me to dig a little deeper. However, through all of my life I have never found anything more rational - historically and experientially. In addition, nothing I have heard explains my own nature and the nature of others I encounter more realistically, sensibly and meaningfully than the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. It has been misused in despicable ways, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is untrue. Islam is being used in hateful ways right now, but that in itself doesn’t prove it is untrue.

While admittedly preposterous sounding, I am convinced there is a being greater than me with purposes and understanding beyond my own, that created this world and us. Some intellectuals can’t accept the concept that there could be anything more important in the universe than themselves. There are plenty of things I don’t understand, but I find my faith system to make more sense than Harris’, which seems to be a system that believes in random action, response, synthesis, repeat. My faith motivates me to a higher purpose and to service, but doesn’t make me feel guilty all the time. I expect to do wrong things, sometimes I do them on purpose even when I know better. Harris’ faith doesn’t seem to recognize anything unique in us as humans. I think we are unique, have enormous capacity for good and have purpose beyond being an insignificant link in the evolutionary process.

If you have made up your mind not to believe in Christianity (and that only idiots do), the included links and what I have written will be of little interest to you. Some people have a disdain for Christians because such a faith seems “unenlightened” or “simplistic” (WW is clearly in this camp and believes the faithful are ignorant at best-and more ignorant if from the South) and because of some of the terrible and stupid things said and done in the name of Christ. Others don’t like it because they see us as hypocrites (which is largely true – we don’t live up to our standards and never will be able to - but we do have a compass) or because of bad experiences in the past.

If you are on an objective, lifelong quest for truth, perhaps you’ll give the Christian faith a fairer shot. WW seems to be more centered on pointing out the stupidity of the rest of us, southern or otherwise.

Report this

By WesternWorld, September 1, 2006 at 5:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ah, education!

Rasmussen just came out with a survey on Bible belief. Predictably, the highest rate of the belief the Bible is literally true is to be found in the Bible belt. Polls/August 2006/bibleLiterallyTrue.htm

So I checked the US Census stats on high school graduation. It turns out that 11 of the 12 lowest rates of graduation/GED are Bible belt states.

Highest rate of belief and lowest levels of education. Figures.

As far as our children and our children’s children go, our fight is not so much against religion so much as it is against ignorance. By addressing scientific and historical ignorance; by addressing critical thinking education, we can address the irrationality of religion at its foundation.

75% of people in Alabama and Arkansas are Biblical literalists. West Virginia and Tennessee were close behind at 70% and 68%.

Republicans believe over democrats more than 2 to 1. Interestingly, in Massachusetts, unbelieving conservatives outnumber believing conservatives. And in Arkansas, bucking universal human generational trends, young people believe more than 50-64 year olds.

Massachusetts and Vermont had the lowest rate of belief at 22%. It is ironic that freedom expands the fastest in states that think the Bible is mostly allegory or fiction. Massachusetts was the first state to outlaw slavery. It was the second state to strike down laws against interracial marriage (MD was first). It is the first state to give gays marriage rights. Vermont was the first to give gays civil union rights. Massachusetts has the second lowest divorce rate, too. So much for protecting marriage by persecuting gays and lesbians.

The Bible belt people have no clue regarding the principles of liberty because the Bible is antithetical to the basic tenets of the constitution.

In the past, those states in the south that are so biog on the Bible supported slavery, miscegeny laws, segregation, keeping women homemakers forever.
More on the Bible belt

Report this

By Lars Olavson, August 30, 2006 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Eric Hoffer analyzed and predicted these problems more than 40 years ago in a book called “The True Believer”.

Report this

By Myron, August 30, 2006 at 9:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The comments made by #20412 may well be the most logical and thought provoking of any to-date. I have wondered for the past 55-years (since high-school) how the human race could be traveling down a path of what is certainly eventual destruction. Religion has the capacity to prevent normal thought process.

The “stupefying” of the US by religious zealots is leading all of us on a path of certain destruction. The practitioner of any religion which is based on a god and an after-life, expends most of their intellectual capacity on worrying about how to prepare for “life-after-death” and how to comply with the rules set down by their religion. Think about how much could be done to clean-up the environment if all the time, energy and money now devoted to religion were expended on the environment. Most people die having done absolutely nothing to make the life on earth better for mankind, or contributing to the preservation of the plants and creatures that inhabit this earth. Future generations (if there are any) will not “look-kindly” at the mess (ecological and financial) their ancestors have bequeathed in the name of religion.

Report this

By Aidingthehuman, August 29, 2006 at 2:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I believe one thing is for certain, a constant if you will within this debate.

On this Earth, speaking primarily about Human Beings.

When you analyze in depth the human mind, the science and the mysterious complexity behind it, you begin to realize one thing.(Sorry for not going into detail but I’ll spare the fledglings)

Given the small margin of astute minds existing today versus the opposite of the spectrum. This spectrum is based on intelligence and the ability to adapt to the nature of the mind.  That is, always learning, always adapting never halting, and what faith does is halt the mind, it cages it and throws away the key.

Therefore, you have immense polarization between the free minded and the absent minded(given they cannot learn any longer).  With the majority of minds imprisoned in their own faith penitentiary, it is difficult to move the human race forward by sheer will of intelligence.  We cannot evolve when people do not understand what it means to evolve, so there are set backs.

If we were all on the same level of brain function, in terms of gathering knowledge things would be a bit different.  But imagine trying to explain the jailed mind with reason, “You are one of millions trapped, continuing the pattern of the people trapped before you and the millions that will be trapped after you, what have you say to this?” 
Ear-Brain-Ear and it doesn’t even register.

We must be inclined to find a different means of propagating the freedom of our species, and if basic communication has failed us let us find other means to tap into the tormented mind and free it before its too late.  For people are spending their lives on a delusion, a bout of schizophrenia that always leads to the same place, the grave.

We do have the power, those of us who understand.

Anyhow, a tentative rant which probably doesn’t explain concisely what I planned on. =/

Report this

By WesternWorld, August 28, 2006 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Here is a page I wrote on why “Intelligent Design” is not a scientific hypothesis. An hypothesis, yes, but not a scientific one because it can’t adhere to the methods of science. Before you read my short article click on the link regarding “Ring Species”. Ring Species are ‘evolution right before us’. Right in front of us. Under our noses. Right now!

Microevolution times a Zillion is macroevolution, Goodman.

Report this

By WesternWorld, August 28, 2006 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Your statements show us that you’re like most religious fundamentalists, Muslim and Christian, on the subject of evolution. You have not read a scientific book or article on evolution. You have read what other fundamentalists have written.

If you are going to debate scientific subjects you should study them first.

An example of your lack of kbnowledge is the statement that we think people evolved from monkeys. Nobody claims that. In fact, the claim is that all primates have a “common ancestor”. The question why there are still monkeys also reveals your lack of knowledge because the majority of animals have evolved during the same period we evolved. The monkeys now did not exist when humanity emerged. If you have ever seen shows on fossils, you can see that ancient fossils rarely look like the species of now. That is because there is one thing that never changes in nature: There is always change. life is dynamic, not static like religions make it out to be. It is ever changing on a myriad of levels. Today’s animals have changed over time due to environmental pressures, (both social and natural) and random mutations that only survive if they increase the survivability of the species.

Here is a site with which you can study your butt off if you have the energy and learn why the vast majority of scientists reject creationist fantasies and fables. In fact in the natural sciences, 99% reject creationism. You should do some studying and see why the consensus is so overwhelming. I know that I read a lot of my opponents views and that makes them easier to refute.

The site is funded by the government and private funds and has many educated people, scientists and laymen alike. There is an archive of articles and a good search engine if you want to do a search on any of the relevant subjects revolving around evolutionary science.

Knowledge is strength.

Aside from the great store of articles, there is also a discussion group where people debate these things @

You have to realize that the position religious fundamentalists take on evolution is like the one they took against Galileo and the Copernican Revolution of the 1600s: An argument from a foundation of ignorance.

So arguing with fundamentalist over evolution is like arguing with Medieval Catholics regarding the place of the Earth in the universe. Not very interesting to say the least.


Report this

By jay wilson, August 27, 2006 at 2:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Carl Sagan has a very eloquent quote:

“One of science’s alleged crimes is revealing that our favorite, most reassuring stories about our place in the universe, and how we came to be, are delusional. Instead, what science reveals is a universe much older and much vaster than the tidy, anthropocentric proscenium of our ancestors. We have found from modern astronomy that we live on a tiny hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star in the obscure outskirts of an ordinary galaxy, which contains some four hundred billion other stars, which is one of about a hundred billion other galaxies that make up the universe, and according to some current views, a universe that is one among an immense number, perhaps an infinite number, of other universes. In this perspective, the idea that our planet is at the center of the universe, much less that human purpose is central to the existence of the universe, is pathetic.”

Report this

By morgan lamberth, August 27, 2006 at 2:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Broiler, that is the great point! We get little attention on blogs,whereas theists hog television with their own programming or elsewhere.How many people know of our devasting arguments? Of course, we still could not expect many to see the light ,for their purveyors of superstition do not.Who has advice on how to get out message on television? Bizby, I hope you fathomed my last message.

Report this

By Tony Wicher, August 26, 2006 at 11:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You atheists are OK by me - some of my best friends are atheists - but you have a tendency to have the same problems of intolerance as other religions.

Report this

By Bizby, August 26, 2006 at 4:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Reply to: Comment #20097 by brent goodman


Cute.  A parody of a question-begging argument (or two) from a true believer.  Ya had me going there for a moment with with the ol’ monkeys argument.  But who knows.  Maybe someone will take the bait.

Report this

By Tim McDonnell, August 26, 2006 at 10:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Goodman,

Ignorance is relative, thanks for sharing yours. This has been a pretty thoughtful thread overall, your post merely attempts to bog it down under the weight of your simplistic story. Gosh, how could we all have missed it? A book of STORIES written years after events supposedly witnessed, altered for political motives, to control people, full of human errors from transcriptions, “improvements” by the scribes themselves to “help” the stories be more convenient for all to follow. What a crock!

Then you say>>> “humans are too weak, judgemental, insecure, deceitful, and selfish to control our own destinies.”

Speak for yourself! Now if this is the very best you can bring to the discussion, I suggest that you now return to the smug little self-satisfied blogs you came from. Tell them all how well you did in the arena of public opinion. [laughter]

Report this

By brent goodman, August 26, 2006 at 6:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

so, you idiots think we evolved from monkeys, eh? well let me ask you this question. if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys? should’nt they have evolved into humans by now? what is the purpose of life on this planet then? is it to live an inconsequential existence, and then just simply die? I don’t think so. shame on you people for being so easily duped! the reason I know there is a power higher, is because humans are too weak, judgemental, insecure, deceitful, and selfish to control our own destinies.

Report this

By morgan lamberth, August 25, 2006 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bizby and Westen World, exactly.The stories did change from one writer to the next and people generally follow their parents’ superstition alright.Some change to some other superstition .Few see the light!

Report this

By Bizby, August 25, 2006 at 8:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE:  Comment #19886 by Contrarian

Oh Contrarian:

Interesting point, but I find the resurection story to be like the kids game of telephone.  In other words—following your reliance upon human nature (not in our nature to withhold the truth)—it is also in our nature to exaggerate, often wildly.

When my wife and I were dating, I heard lots of stories, from both her and her parents, about her genius cousin, who had several college and post-graduate degrees, one in computers I believe, but liked working in housing construction anyway.  Couldn’t wait to meet the fellow. 

When I met him, he seemed thoughtful and interesting.  I liked him.  But what a surprise when I asked him about all his degrees.  He said he didn’t have any.  He’d taken several college classes, he liked trying to figure out computers, but no college degrees.

I’ll bet if you look you can find a good oral myth like this in your own family.  The exaggeration makes the story better, more fun to tell.  And the more times the story gets told, the better it gets.

So, the resurrection story comes to us first through several people who claimed to have seen it (this by people who belived the world was flat), who told someone else (we don’t know how many times removed), who then wrote it down at a minimum 30 some years after the event (remember, everyone thought he was coming back right back, so it did not occur to anyone that they needed to write this stuff down for anywhere from 30 to 100 years later), and it was first wrote it down in Greek (or maybe Hebrew, I forget), was then translated into Latin (or mayby vice versa), then translated into English, and even then edited I don’t know how many times.  And those early translators, could well have been inclined to imbellish matters themselves.

And by the way, Sun Myung Moon claims that he is the returning lord and Saviour.  And David Koresh did the same, didn’t he? 

Point is, Jesus may have been the son of God.  Can’t prove it or disprove it.  But the Bible as historical sourse is way too full of holes to offer a foundation to believe that he was.

I agree that over-the-top language does not help at all, so I hope you don’t find this either short or snide.

Report this

By WesternWorld, August 25, 2006 at 7:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Three more things, Contrarian:

1) There are no “primary” historical sources for the Jesus of the Bible. Only secondary which is hearsay. The Gospels were written several decades after the “supposed” life of Jesus. Possibly decades after the fall of Jerusalem in fact. It is all “hearsay” and legend and just like the Captivity, Exodus, and Conquest, not supported by any hard facts (see: )

2) Resurrections dont happen in “real” life. They happen in religious stories, fantasy stories and science fiction stories. Hinging your entire life on something that exists nowhere else seems illogical to me. And from a 1900 year old story from a civilization steeped in ignorance and superstition?? Tales such as these abound in religious history. Mithras was also born of a virgin, said he was the way - the life - the truth - the light, told people they had to drink his blood and eat his flesh for salvation, died, went to hades to intercede for the righteous and rose again. Krishna was also born of a virgin and rose to heaven on his last day. Mohammed also rose to heaven. By what criteria do you chose from such fantastic stories? With what logic do we override what natural science has shown us for hundreds of years? People dont rise from the dead except in fictional stories. How can one say Jesus arose and Mithras did not? I think its cultural and parental. Some lucky ones escape the programming of their culture and/or their parents.

The point being -

People growing up in a Christian community believe Jesus was born of a virgin and rose from the dead

People growing up Mithraic believe Mithras was born of a virgin and rose from the dead

People growing up in a Muslim community believe God talked to Mohammed and he rose to heaven

People growing in a Hindu community believe Krishna was born of a voirgin and rose to heaven

People growing up Catholic believe the “Virgin Mary”, too, rose to heaven.

These are all common threads of religious myth. 

3) A century after the supposed life of Jesus, Christianity was not an empire wide phenomena beyond being a growing new religion that unlike the others, condemned the rest. Roman public order rested on religious diversity. The gods did not fight each other under the Roman public order. Christians were vastly outnumbered by pagans right into the 6th centuries. It was the force of the church-state alliance that enthroned Christianity as the law of the land. In fact, Arianist Christians outnumbered Nicene Christians in many areas for a long time. It was - again - the force of the church-state alliace that wiped out Arianist Christianity. The same thing happened with Monophysite Christianity. As usual, as it did with pagans, the church and the imperial court worked together to outlaw a religion with the combination of imperial decrees, church councils and the use of troops. Thousands of temples, shrines and sacred groives were destroyed by Christians with the support of the church and the state. Christianity did not arise on its own merit.

I show all the church council canons and the imperial decrees in these writings to prove my points:










Report this

By WesternWorld, August 25, 2006 at 6:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Attributing ex-fundamentalism (or ex-smoking) as an argument against someone is obfuscation. In order to counter an argument, one must address the argument’s points. What someone “sounds like” is near to irrelevant as far as debating an idea. The importance of their reasons for saying something are down the list. Someone can be madder than a hatter but be right about something.

I am mostly an ex-Catholic and have experienced some fundy churches but I see Islam as the most dangerous of all religions. But Christianity has 15 centuries of very similar attributes previous to the Enlightenment. It is the State that tamed Christianity and without it, it would not be much different than Islam. The powers of Christianity fought long and hard not to be separated from the powers of the government where they wielded their judicial savagery just as Islam does with its Mosque-Starte alliances. Islam and many secular dictatorships have much on common with the Bible and Christian history. Both the Bible and the Koran are remarkably similar on issues of sexism, homophobia, secularism, diproportionate punishments, hell and doom for unbelievers and the issues of religious liberty. (see “Annotated Quran” on the web) I have written on how Christianity arose because people have been lied to as to the roots of the alliance of church and state that existed for 15 centuries and contributed to or directly caused tens of millions of deaths. I have written on Christianity because it’s ethics and sense of justice have been misrepresented by its voices. Although ex-Catholic, I see Protestant fundamentalism as the most dangerous religion in America. With the exception of the violence, it is not that much different than the basic philosophy of islamic fundamentalism. They are both militant and intolerant and they wish to unite government with their religious views.

Religious Liberty Issues and the Rise of Christian church & state alliances: 306-565:


The Constitution and the Commandments:

Without the tyranny that erected and maintained Christianity as a force, Christianity would have never become what it did. This can be said of Roman, Byzantine and Reformation church foundations. 

Like Sam, I see no logic in any religion that humanity has invented, embraced or perpetuated. Pantheism makes more sense to me and I reject that, too. Its been 30 years since I was saved “from” Christianity.

In honesty, I dont care what people believe as long it is absolutely divorced from the functions of the state. But religious people are too narrow in focus to see where the line is. So Christianity as an ideology should be dealt with unrelentingly in the marketplace of ideas where ideas just as Islam is. In this place we can’t be censored by church or state as we were for over 15 centuries.

And so you know, I never entertained writing about these things until I saw in the 1990s what the religious right was doing to the nation. Like radical Islam, Christian fundamentalism has an evil face.

Report this

By morgan lamberth, August 25, 2006 at 3:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No serious investigation of those witnesses was taken . We merely have the assertions of mythologists. As no miracle can take place, no reusrurrecton took place!One credits this resurrection on faith[ gullibility].And why would any rational being demand worship and would send one who didn’t worship him even to the errantists’ hell ? That is why I call this religion Christinsanity!

Report this

By Contrarian, August 24, 2006 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am a Christian and have read Harris’ book, some of these posts and some of Harris’ other writings. He states that after reading his logic we should all be either atheists or we should point out his fatal flaw in reasoning. I think he sets up a false set of alternatives. I simply want to suggest some information that might encourage more thought and at least raise the possibility for doubt in Harris’ thesis. He seems so sure of himself that he sounds a bit like a fundamentalist or an ex-smoker.
If Jesus is who he said he is, the son of God, I should pay attention to what he had to say. Probably no debate here. If he is not, then he was a deceitful liar.  If Muhammad was truly God’s messenger, it is he I should listen to.

My belief that Christ is God’s son is rooted primarily in the resurrection. There are a multitude of other things that support my belief, but the resurrection is certainly central. Jesus is the only central figure of any faith who claimed to be resurrected.

So was Jesus resurrected? There were many witnesses who stated they saw Jesus after his death in resurrected form, some claiming to have touched him and seen his wounds. This is written about in the bible. Admittedly this does sound preposterous and those who wrote the first handful of books of the new testament could have made it all up I suppose. However, what has always struck me was the fact that none of the people who claimed to have seen Jesus in the resurrected state ever reversed their story. This is not inconsequential because many of them died horrific deaths simply because of what they believed and told to others about what they believed. They could have been saved if they had simply told what was “the truth” according to Harris (that the resurrection was a hoax and they had simply imagined or created the story of seeing a resurrected Christ in their own minds). 

Some argue that the biblical record is weak.  Within 100 years of the events described, Christianity was a empire-wide phenomena.  That such a movement could spring out of the myth-making of a handful of delusional characters in the remote regions of the empire is unlikely in my mind.
Best I can tell, the witnesses never recanted their stories and nearly all died martyrs (resurrections, beheading, skinning, put in boiling oil, run through with a spear – you get the picture).

On the other hand, Nixon’s conspiratorial crowd couldn’t keep a relatively simple secret for more than a few days before John Dean confessed. Then it was every man for himself. It is not man’s nature to withhold the truth (that which he knows to be true) if it will save him. We routinely withhold the truth to protect ourselves but not the other way around.

I think if the resurrection were a hoax, those who supposedly witnessed it would have caved under the threat or carrying out of torture and death. Why would any of them die for what they knew personally to be a lie?  This is different than the man who straps a bomb to his chest because of his faith. He truly believes in what he is doing, but he believes in something unexamined and he has no way of knowing that what he believes IS false. With no way to prove his belief false, he assumes it to be true because it has been drilled into him for years. The witnesses to the resurrection of Christ KNEW the truth. Why would they have chosen not to reveal Harris’ “real truth” (the resurrection as a hoax) if doing so would have saved them ?

I could be wrong; so could Harris - though he seems pretty sure he is not. I also think Harris is fooling himself when he argues for the end of faith. He is instead arguing to substitute what he sees as a better faith for a lesser faith. Harris’ faith, something like “material rationalism”, ultimately must be managed entirely within his own mind with very few (and moving) points of reference. He does however have enough material at this point to form his own faith movement and, as evidenced by this blog, he already has a large number of the faithful.

A couple suggestions also. You guys might want to lighten the vocabulary on your blog a little. Simple, plain spoken, logic will help more people grasp what you are saying and help the debate. The other thing is just a comment - some of what I read on this site sounds like you find those of us with faith to be almost too much to tolerate. Doesn’t sound very inclusive.

Thanks for considering a contrary view.

Report this

By BBJ, August 21, 2006 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


I was dismayed by your previous statement that “you don’t know how to change the world”.  Now, I am excited that you are working on building this foundation. It is a great first step to change the world. Good for you. I wish your foundation a resounding success. Perhaps you can call this foundation “coalition of non-religious americans”.

You might want to try to enlist wealthy individuals with similar ideology as yours to provide startup fund for your foundation, people like George Soros. Once the foundation is started, you won’t find trouble collecting membership fees to keep the foundation growing exponentially, because there are a lot of people like me who are fed up with the Christian foundamentalists and their hosting party (the Republican party). We must take the fight to them! We will win because truth is on our side.

Report this

By jon, August 18, 2006 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Since when god has appoint some middlemen to credit whatever and speak on his behalf if there is an almighty god?

Don’t you think god, if there is one, would become sick and tire of hearing repetitive praises day in and day out, every day for the last couple thousands of years?

During stone age, god appeared daily, angels flying all over the sky and supernatural events occured quite often. Where are they now? It’s hard to imagine so many are still living in stone age.

“seeing is believing” - anon

Report this

By Bryan, August 18, 2006 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your logic is something that I have been searching for my entire life. For about the past 25 years (I’m 38 now) I have been looking religion as a world wide brainwash. I asked myself, how could so many people buy into, and I do mean BUY into, such and absurd fairytale? Could you imagine if instead of the Bible they chose to lives their lives by the writing of Hunter S. Thompson? What kind of would would that be? Could you imagine seeing President Bush up on the podium quoting from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
My biggest mistake in life seems to be that I started a web solutions business as an atheist in Georgia. When you meet a new client here the first thing they ask you is “What church do you go to?” I am stuck with 2 choices; lie or be shown the door. Unfortunately, I have not reached a level of success that allows me to thumb my nose at these folks and the lie option is usually played out. Oh, how I need to move back north.
Anyway, keep spreading the truth and thank you for putting some login back in this world that we live in.


Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 11, 2006 at 11:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bizby, the old Omphalos argument states that a god made it look like fossils were in the order they are in to deceive us into thinking that there was an evolutionary process. So, I figured that evolitionistic creationists were using a new form to say that their god just deceived us into thinking that natural selection did the job,when really this god did the job. Both groups just cannot acknowledge that natural selection does its job. I use the term evolutionistc creationist instead of theistic evolutionist to show that whatever kind of creationist one is, one is using the god notion for no reason, but of faith. There is no creation. Thanks for the comment!

Report this

By Bizby, August 11, 2006 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Response to:

Comment #17572 by morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy on 8/09 at 3:04 pm

Dear Morgan-lynn(what an interesting name).

I have always thought that the proper smart-ass response to the old watch argument is that if I find a watch on the ground, I know it was created because it tells me so right there where is says “Timex” (or “Rolex” if I got really lucky).  That is, essentially, the same as the argument you make that evolution does what a designer cannot. 

But what is Omphalos?

Report this

By WesternWorld, August 10, 2006 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

From article on beliefs of the public and beliefs of scientists on creationism:

“According to Newsweek in 1987, “By one count there are some 700 scientists with respectable academic credentials (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science…” That would make the support for creation science among those branches of science who deal with the earth and its life forms at about 0.14%”


I have to ask: Do you think belief has risen since the 1980s?

Of course it hasn’t!

Report this

By WesternWorld, August 10, 2006 at 7:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was amused by a certain study of supposed “scientists’” belief in God. Probably the best part was that “political scientists” were considered scientists. We all know that political scientists are just plain political. They are by no means “scientists”.

The second most amusing part of this study was that the person conducting the study thought that “social” scientists would have a higher level of unbelief compared to natural scientists. Who IS this guy?

Naturalists, not social social “scientists”, have always been the trouble-makers of the religion vs science battles. It was naturalists that paved the way in geology, genetics, biology and physics that led to the rejecting of religious GENESIS dogma.  Where has this guy been? Pluto?

Here is an interesting article from NATURE.

Leading scientists still reject God

Nature, Vol. 394, No. 6691, p. 313 (1998) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Sir — The question of religious belief among US scientists has been debated since early in the century. Our latest survey finds that, among the top natural scientists, disbelief is greater than ever — almost total.

Research on this topic began with the eminent US psychologist James H. Leuba and his landmark survey of 1914. He found that 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God, and that this figure rose to near 70% among the 400 “greater” scientists within his sample [1]. Leuba repeated his survey in somewhat different form 20 years later, and found that these percentages had increased to 67 and 85, respectively [2].

In 1996, we repeated Leuba’s 1914 survey and reported our results in Nature [3]. We found little change from 1914 for American scientists generally, with 60.7% expressing disbelief or doubt. This year, we closely imitated the second phase of Leuba’s 1914 survey to gauge belief among “greater” scientists, and find the rate of belief lower than ever — a mere 7% of respondents.
Leuba attributed the higher level of disbelief and doubt among “greater” scientists to their “superior knowledge, understanding, and experience” [3]. Similarly, Oxford University scientist Peter Atkins commented on our 1996 survey, “You clearly can be a scientist and have religious beliefs. But I don’t think you can be a real scientist in the deepest sense of the word because they are such alien categories of knowledge.” [4] Such comments led us to repeat the second phase of Leuba’s study for an up-to-date comparison of the religious beliefs of “greater” and “lesser” scientists.
Our chosen group of “greater” scientists were members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Our survey found near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. We found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality). Overall comparison figures for the 1914, 1933 and 1998 surveys appear in Table 1.


Repeating Leuba’s methods presented challenges. For his general surveys, he randomly polled scientists listed in the standard reference work, American Men of Science (AMS). We used the current edition. In Leuba’s day, AMS editors designated the “great scientists” among their entries, and Leuba used these to identify his “greater” scientists [1,2]. The AMS no longer makes these designations, so we chose as our “greater” scientists members of the NAS, a status that once assured designation as “great scientists” in the early AMS. Our method surely generated a more elite sample than Leuba’s method, which (if the quoted comments by Leuba and Atkins are correct) may explain the extremely low level of belief among our respondents.

For the 1914 survey, Leuba mailed his brief questionnaire to a random sample of 400 AMS “great scientists”. It asked about the respondent’s belief in “a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind” and in “personal immortality”. Respondents had the options of affirming belief, disbelief or agnosticism on each question [1]. Our survey contained precisely the same questions and also asked for anonymous responses.

Leuba sent the 1914 survey to 400 “biological and physical scientists”, with the latter group including mathematicians as well as physicists and astronomers [1]. Because of the relatively small size of NAS membership, we sent our survey to all 517 NAS members in those core disciplines. Leuba obtained a return rate of about 70% in 1914 and more than 75% in 1933 whereas our returns stood at about 60% for the 1996 survey and slightly over 50% from NAS members [1,2].

As we compiled our findings, the NAS issued a booklet encouraging the teaching of evolution in public schools, an ongoing source of friction between the scientific community and some conservative Christians in the United States. The booklet assures readers, “Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral”[5]. NAS president Bruce Alberts said: “There are many very outstanding members of this academy who are very religious people, people who believe in evolution, many of them biologists.” Our survey suggests otherwise.

Edward J. Larson
Department of History, University of Georgia,
Athens, Georgia 30602-6012, USA

Report this

By paul kibble, August 9, 2006 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re Comment #15558 by Christopher Livers

Your coda is a near-perfect example of circular reasoning:

1. “My problem with Harris is that he spends too much time with the faults of religious dogma.” A major part of Harris’s thesis is precisely that these “faults [nice euphemism] of dogma” are historically responsible for so much misery in the world. And what exactly is “too much time”? Harris’s lonely voice in the wilderness of fanaticism is still a minority position. Thousands of books have been wasted, in Milton’s phrase, “to justify the ways of God to Man.” Do we really need one more? Besides, if you don’t like the book Harris wrote, write one of your own.

2. “Of course people want to have some kind of structure and form to their beliefs in God, who is an incomprehensible being to the intellect.” Of course they do—and there’s the rub. (By the way, what’s the difference between ‘structure’ and ‘form’?)

You fail to distinguish among different kinds of “form.” Rituallistic? Verbal/Docrinal? As to the latter, in religion, any time a cozy,  free-floating sense of the ineffable becomes, as it were, effable, you’ve taken a step toward doctrinal ossification, i.e., dogma. Dogma means you have an exclusive patent on The One True Word, The Higher Truth—-and are therefore entitled to exclude or punish those who don’t share that privilege.

In any case, if God really is an “incomprehensible being to the intellect,” you’re stuck with the fact that the poor, cramped intellect tends to rely on the woefully inadequate medium of language to articulate the truth and truths of that being. 

A more honest approach to these transcendental/“transverbal” experiences is suggested by the long tradition of poetical/mystical writing (Bohme, St. John of the Cross, some Buddhist writings), or better, Wittgenstein, who said: “Whereof one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence.” (Blog posts are perhaps not the ideal vehicle for expressing the inexpressible.)

But (except for meditation) the faithful tend to become restless in the presence of such silences, anxiously awaiting for the Voice of God to tell them which passage in Leviticus will sanction their shooting of an abortion doctor or what verse in the Koran commands them to kill the nearest available infidel.

3. “Instead of worrying about the moral evils of fundamentalist sects, Christian and Muslim, he ought to write about the inner life of believers, and try to make his atheistic claims against those invisible aspects which cannot be argued against because they exist not in words but in feelings.”

Yes, Sam, don’t worry—-be happy! But why “write about” such a phenomenon when by definition such a phenom can’t be captured in the crude nets of language? I can’t possibly know what someone’s “inner life” is like unless he or she tries to tell me in words or deeds.

But since the core experience here is incommunicable, words are irrelevant and deeds could lend themselves to any number of interpretations. (An atheist is capable of living a good life and doing good works, too.)

Of course Harris can’t “argue against” these “invisible aspects” and “feelings” since, apart from actions—-facial expressions, kneeling at the altar, beheading someone in the name of Allah—-“feelings” are normally expressed in words. I can’t “argue against” a depresed patient’s “feelings,” although I might try to understand what “invisible aspects” caused them. His or her feelings are what they are.

Anyway,  this complaint is so vague that I’m not sure what response you’d expect. Perhaps you’d prefer that Harris write an anthropological monograph—-a neutral report on the belief systems of the Tribe of God. (Been done.)

Anyway, how convenient that these “invisible aspects” cannot be “argued against,” any more than an ancient Greek’s “feeling” that invisble Zeus was hurling thunderbolts at erring mortals or my neighbor’s “feeling” that Martians are communicating him through his dental fillings can be “argued against.” If he “feels” it, it must be “real.”

So if someone “feels” that God has vouchsafed him an epiphany that includes, oh, I dunno, killing a bunch of people who were denied that epiphany, who am I to use poor, hobbled intellect to argue against his Blesed Assurance?

I recognize that these intuitions of a Higher Force are “real” all right, in the sense that William James meant when he said, “As long as people continue to believe in ghosts, there will be ghosts.”

All this goes back to what Nietzsche famously called “the illusion of the real world behind the scenes.”  Harris has done a great service in helping once again to dispel that illusion, and protests that he shouldn’t throw out the baby Jesus or Buddha or whoever with the tainted bathwater should be duly ignored. So Sam,in our if not God’s name, please continue “arguing with God.” Amen.

Report this

By WesternWorld, August 9, 2006 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


>>ANTI-THEIST is the word I prefer;

Proper is all I can say about that statement.

Religion is not about explaning. It is about declaring and demanding and demanding ruthlessly.

It has no facts.

Report this

By WesternWorld, August 9, 2006 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

VERITY I say!!

Verity the leftist and hate Israel at any cost!

As a social libertarian and a hawk I find the far left totally morally bankrupt. (jUST LIKE THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT!)

They attack the AMERICAN religious right as I do, but suck up to RELIGIOUS RIGHT Islam like a bunch of Jew hating sheep!

Are these people ON DRUGS?

Have they even thought out their political positions?


Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth griggsy, August 9, 2006 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bizby,creationists of all stripes love that fallacious argument. They should know that a watch is designed ,but that natural selection does the job a designer cannot do.AsI stated above it is the new Omphalos argument.The making of a baby is not designed : genes and the enviornment determine its being. Natural selection, the anti-chance agency, has no need of a supervisor! We are not the products of a design .It was not pre-ordainded that we would come about.So, there is no godly purpose for us. We are own purposes.All is not for nought as the pessimistic creationists would have one to believe.Evolutionistic s,early earth and old earth creationists at bottoom are the same : denial of natural forces as the prime movers.Toophat, I should have written.Sorry.

Report this

By Bizby, August 9, 2006 at 9:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In response to: <Comment #17184 by David Derush on 8/07 at 11:24 am>


  You state:

  “I find it amazing that people can look at a flower, or a sunset, or the structure of the atom….and against all common sense, deny that they are “designed objects.”

  Common sense does not seem to me to be a very good bases for a belief system–particularly in the face of scientific evidence.  Common sense tells me, for example, that the world is flat and that the sun revolves around it.  I can see the truth of this quite plainly every day.  But it’s wrong.

  So, more to that point, lets address your art analogy, not the painting argument (which is just William Paley’s age-old watchmaker analogy redone) but your comparison of Micheangelo’s David with a living, breathing David.  The living breathing David is, I concede, a far more amazing construction.  And, while we know how the statue was made (a man with a hammer, a chisel, and incredible talent), we also know, thanks to science, how the real David was made: the combination of two split DNA strands, followed by a DNA induced cell division on a geometric scale.  And, we know who the creator of that particular recombination of DNA was as well: David’s biological parents–no intervention by your God-the-creator there.

  So, at best, your argument for God as a creator, like your argument for the incredibly complex David, is the old Deist argument: Just as David’s parents had sex, and everything else that resulted in the extremely intricate David followed from a single cell without divine intervention, the Deist’s God set the universe spinning and stepped back, and everything that you find so incredible and beautiful followed from that single creative act (the Big Bang maybe), without any further intervention.

  I could take on the Deist argument as well, but I imagine this has put you off a bit already.  If you want to have fun debating these sorts of points, I recommend that you visit the debate forums at internet infidels: <>. 

  Oh, and one last point before you go there to take on the Godless.  You claim that the hallmark of logic is that it brings clarity.  I counter that logic simply offers a way to make debate sequential.  You may recall the old syllogism offered as a correct form of logic:  All men are fish.  Socrates is a man.  Therefore, Socrates is a fish.  The logic here is fine, it is the first premise that is flawed.

Report this

By ed_tru_lib, August 8, 2006 at 1:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gosh when I posted here just a few days ago, just wanting to express appreciation for Sam’s courage and common sense, I noticed that no one had posted in at least the previous 24 hours, and that most of the posts were refreshingly courteous and onpoint with the original blog/article.
Imagine my surprise to come back in here, and find some rather virulent ones that, certainly are not, particularly from a poster called “verity” who is most likely one of those shrieking, pseudo-lefty anti-Israel-all-the-time-for-any-or-no-reason freaks or trolls, or worse, a Gibson’s-father-crazy flat-out anti-semite. “A martyr blowing up innocents” is “not as bad as”.....WHO verity???
In a different Truthdig blog Verity accused any true progressives or liberals, however well-aware of Israel’s mistakes in the current, or previous conflicts, who indicated they were of course, by definition of being true progressives, committed to Israel’s ultimate freedom and security, of OBVIOUSLY being on the aipac payroll. I responded that yep, she had busted me. I was, and am, posting from the grassy knoll, having just cashed my aipac paycheck at the convenience store a much-slimmed-down Elvis manages, and was then on my way to bury some evidence of the Juice’s innocence and Sirhan’s co-conspirators. Too bad a fine blog, and especially worthy set of posts, particularly by the standards of Truthdig, (sure anyone can post here, but it helps if your papa was a commie and your mom raised your sisters to be virgins for the 911/hezbollah martyrs) had to be corrupted by another pro-terrorist naderite troll. And to call Sam a racist!!??-too bad he isn’t color-blind, like hezbollah or the 911 hijackers.

Report this

By Tim McDonnell, August 8, 2006 at 10:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a great post! I was convinced that this insightful thread had finally gone inciteful, then this post brought it back around and shed entirely new light on the entire matter.

I’ve been a fan of the book since reading it six months ago; the posts have only recently heated up here.

Perhaps my attraction to the book stems from the examination of contentious and incongruent religious forces and it was something that could be AVOIDED. I found it reasoned enough to tell others to walk away from the madness.

I cannot get my hands around the Fatal Flaw that is the larger threat, but I can recognize vacant religious obsessions that only cause destruction and try to minimize that.

True, people are easily hijacked to negative actions with or without religion; nationalism is an ideal vehicle and our fascist acts of late reflect this reality.

Once again, great post that causes me to step back and think about it. Thanks for the link.

Report this

By David Derush, August 8, 2006 at 7:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Verity said,
“It’s been popular since 9/11 to blame religious extremists for much of the violence towards humanity, but in recent history, its been the “moderates” who’ve done the really efficient, large-scale slaughtering.”

That is really true.  You don’t have to be a religous extremist to kill people; all you have to be is selfish, and want to protect your own interest at the expense of others.  Writ small, a couple who once loved each other tear each other to pieces in a divorce because their mutual selfishness no longer finds each other useful…and they both want what they want out of the division of the bones of the marriage and their desires conflict.  Writ large, we kill millions as a nation for no other reason than we think it is “in the national interest”.

The whole world lives this way, pretty much…with an occassional flash of sanity and decency thrown in the mix.

Anyone who thinks Stalin killed millions because he had a true passion for the “dictatorship of the proletariat” or because he was an atheist, is missing the point.  He didn’t care one bit about the “proletariat” and his character was essentially the same as John Calvin’s; he was perfectly willing to kill all who disagreed with him.  John Calvin was the same way.  Stalin was an atheist and Calvin was a theist, but for all practical purposes in terms of their hearts and character and the effect they had on other human beings…they were twin brothers.

Stalin killed millions because he could; and because he was an egocentric, selfish and power hungry man…and that found expression, for him, in his atheism and Marxist dogma.  But they were just the cloak his Fatally Flawed character wore.  The Fatal Flaw is the thing, not the cloak it wears.  People are selfish, that’s the problem.  As Rodney King asked, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Well, no, Rodney, we can’t.  Selfish people cannot get along together in peace.  Wake up and smell the coffee.  What cloak they use to disguise and justify their selfishness is really almost beside the point.

We didn’t kill a million children in Iraq during our economic boycott during the 90’s because Clinton was a Baptist and George Bush is a ...whatever he is…we did it because we want to keep our foot on the neck of the Middle East and its oil in order to preserve the American Way of Life.

And pretty much everyone, atheist, Christian, or whatever….had no problem with it as long as gas stayed cheap.

People are killed by the millions all the time for non-religious reasons…because human beings are selfish and twisted…they have a Fatal Flaw that comes out in all sorts of ways, religious and non-religious.

The Hutus in Rwanda hacked a million Tutsi’s to death with machetes…people who in most cases were their very neighbors…for no particular reason other than they were Tutsi’s.  In many cases this was done IN SPITE of their religion rather than because of it…Hutu Seventh Day Adventists hacking their Tutsi Seventh Day Adventist neighbors to death, totally contrary to everything they professed to believe in a religious sense.  Their “tribal hatred” of Tutsi’s, completely non-religious, overrode everything else.

It’s a crazy world.  For sure, Christianity and Islam have no answers.  Neither do atheists, except to blame it all on the theists.  As I explain above, there is no integrity in just blaming it all on the religionists, either.

No atheism or theism the world has yet seen are truly able to explain or cure the Fatal Flaw that is at the heart of the human condition.  Call us insane, but my friends and I think that we do have an explanation.  Even more amazing, we are actually living the solution.  It’s encouraging.


Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, August 7, 2006 at 11:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Top Hat , righht and to explain why ,but now science explains the why and the how,so the notion is redundant .McGrath wonders why he shouldn’t believe in the redundancy ,but Dawkins would tell him that the redundancy means that the notion is vacuous ,unusable.For that Mc Grath thinkd Dawkins is shallow ,but McGrath shows here his own shallowness.Then McGrath avers that the other should not use faith for blind faith, but if McGrath’s use of the redundancy shows himself as following blind faith.Next McGrath faults him for allowing that the mind of any god would have to be complexed and accounted for; to whichDawkins would reply that as our minds are more complex than that of any worm and can be accounted for, so can the mind of a god which would be even so much more complex as it would be omniscient have to be accounted for. McGrath shows here his logicide! Gee, the evolutionist creationist claims she is in the middle between the extremes of the fundamentalist and the non-theist, only to show her deep afffinity with the fundamentalist when it comes to faith. Creationists of all stripes,fundamentally the same as far as faith goes. That is why Harriss is so right!

Report this

By toophat, August 7, 2006 at 10:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Lets not forget,  god was created to bring fear of god in earliest societies.  We are slightly more sophicated now for that line of thinking.  Or is it we need a way out?

Report this

By Verity, August 7, 2006 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s been popular since 9/11 to blame religious extremists for much of the violence towards humanity, but in recent history, its been the “moderates” who’ve done the really efficient, large-scale slaughtering.

A Muslim martyr who explodes himself among the innocent makes for an arousing front page story, but the more enduring damage to humanity is being done by those who justify war for lofty secular concepts - such as “bringing democracy” and “developing a new Middle East.”

Though it’s interesting to read Mr. Harris’ interview, I find it narrowly focused and somewhat racist. I’m sure his book, which I fully intend to read, does a better job of explaining his ideas.

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth, August 7, 2006 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So my points stand!  It is absurd to compare a naturalist giving arguments with a Calvinist who shouts faith. One is inured to such shalowness as Harriss surely is .No self-righteousness on my part , just an argument based on what philosophers state that I hammered out.What dogmatism to hurl against me. So my points stand.Bless Sam Harriss,Richard Dawkins, William Provine , Daniel Dennett and Mr. Humanist, Paul Kurtz for valiantly challenging Calvinism and all faith systems ,including the paranorma and political.Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humlbe naturalism .

Report this

Page 2 of 4 pages  <  1 2 3 4 >

Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide