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Sam Harris: The Truthdig Interview

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

By Blair Golson

(Page 5)

Are there any historical parallels that suggest it would be possible for people en masse to abandon irrational faith?

There are societies that are profoundly irreligious by our standards. Australia, Canada, and Japan, along with basically all of Western Europe—these are places that have a very different relationship to religious faith. These are not societies where you have people running for Congress or the presidency on the basis of faith, and thanking god at every turn. These are not societies in which you would destroy any chance you have of holding political office by claiming to doubt the existence of god. It’s a completely different picture of what it is to be reasonable and qualified to hold a position of responsibility in these societies. We have a lot to learn from them.

Why do you think Western Europe in particular is so much more of a secular place than America?

It probably comes down to the difference between having a state religion and having this thriving marketplace of ignorance we have here in America, where so many sects and denominations compete for people’s attention. In Western Europe, the state religions seem to have grown more ossified, and they lost their subscribers.

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There’s also the fact that the Enlightenment was taken perhaps a little more seriously in Europe.  And it was taken in light of the fact that so much religious killing had occured on those very streets for centuries. I think the liability of religious thinking is a little more keenly felt in Europe. But this is probably not a full explanation. 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.

What is the most likely way that American society, if not the rest of the world, will eventually abandon irrational faith?

I think this is a war of ideas that has to be fought on a hundred fronts at once. There’s not one piece that is going to trump all others.

But I think we should not underestimate the power of embarrassment. The book Freakonomics briefly discusses the way the Ku Klux Klan lost its subscribers, and the example is instructive. A man named Stetson Kennedy, almost single-handedly it seems, eroded the prestige of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s by joining them and then leaking all of their secret passwords and goofy lingo to the people who were writing “The Adventures of Superman” radio show. Week after week, there were episodes of Superman fighting the Klan, and the real Klan’s mumbo jumbo was put out all over the airwaves for people to laugh at. Kids were playing Superman vs. the Klan on their front lawns. The Klan was humiliated by this, and was made to look foolish; and we went from a world in which the Klan was a legitimate organization with tens of millions of members—many of whom were senators, and even one president—to a world in which there are now something like 5,000 Klansmen. It’s basically a defunct organization.

So public embarrassment is one principle. Once you lift the taboo around criticizing faith and demand that people start talking sense, then the capacity for making religious certitude look stupid will be exploited, and we’ll start laughing at people who believe the things that the Tom DeLays, the Pat Robertsons of the world believe.  We’ll laugh at them in a way that will be synonymous with excluding them from our halls of power.

Are you interested in joining or leading organizations that push for this kind of revolution of belief?

I’m actually in the process of creating a foundation for this purpose. It is going to produce media events, documentaries, conferences, and other means of waging this war of ideas. It’s not something I’ve formally announced yet, but I’m going to look to bring in the most motivated and articulate scientists, journalists, entertainers, and business people around the issue of eroding the prestige of religious dogma in our world. We will be taking on specific projects: for example, empowering secularists in the Muslim world, or empowering the women of the Muslim world. To some degree the organization will take on projects of its own, but it will also find projects that other people are doing that are worth supporting. I think the time is right for it.

What stage are you at with that?

At the moment I’m just drawing up a prospectus, creating a 501c3, meeting with people, and putting out feelers for who will be on the advisory board. So it’s in the earliest stages. But I hope that by the end of the year,  I will be in a position to announce the birth of the organization.

What other projects are you working on?

I’ve got a book coming out around Thanksgiving, by Knopf, entitled “Letter to a Christian Nation.” It’s going to be a short broadside against fundamentalist Christianity. It’s a book that a person could simply hand to a member of the religious Right and say, “What’s your answer to this?” It will be my best effort to arm progressives and secularists against the religious certainties of Christian fundamentalists—in about a hundred pages.

How about your doctoral studies?

My day job as a heretic still takes up most of my time. But I still have one foot—or one toe—in the lab. I’m studying belief at the level of the brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging. There’s a point of contact between my academic research and my heresy, in that through neuroimaging, I’m trying to understand what it is to believe something to be true. As an aspect of this question, I’m looking at whether religious belief is different from ordinary belief.

Do you have any preliminary findings you can talk about?

I really can’t talk much about them because they haven’t been published, and to talk about them before they’re published in a scientific journal is considered—

Heresy?

Yeah. Some forms of heresy I endorse, and others I don’t, it seems.


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By Gordon, June 23, 2009 at 4:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Big fan, and I liked pretty much everything Sam was saying, but I want to quibble over his criticism of the term ‘agnostic’.  He says that the term is redundant because we don’t describe those who do not cleave to a particular view on the existence of Thor or Poseidon as agnostics, so we should not apply the term to those who have no firm conclusion either way about Abraham. 

This is not how I use the term ‘agnostic’.  For me it just means ‘I don’t know’.  It is analogous to ‘free-thinker’ because it implies intellectual honesty.  The term does not solely concern belief or nonbelief in Abraham.  I would say that I am agnostic about the existence of some form of cosmic super-entity, but at the same time a non-believer in the specific mythologies of the world religions. 

I suppose it may be the case that the origin of the term is as a position regarding the Christian god.  However, I suggest that it has mutated into a word for one’s position on the existence of any ‘god’ in the broadest sense.  Perhaps it is a word worth reappropriating.  Wasn’t it the case that there were some of the Enlightenment era who considered themselves passionate Agnostics, dedicated to the search for verifiable spiritual truth, much like Sam Harris?

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By zacherystaylor, July 22, 2008 at 7:47 am Link to this comment

If people understood more about how religions and other propagandist manipulate them they would be less likely to be drawn in which is why I made this list of tactics etc. for those who are interested:
http://www.geocities.com/zacherystaylor/culttactics.htm

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By chris raabe, June 28, 2008 at 2:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Most intelligent scientists simply do not want to devote the time that Sam Harris has to such an utterly rediculous state of affairs as religious postulates.  The claims of organized religion are so utterly far-fetched and infantile one cannot help but cringe as the impoverished and depraved minds which originially organized them.
We should all take at least one moment to thank Sam Harris for devoting these precious, conditional, and finite years of a short human life to attacking so vile a cancer in order to make us all a bit safer. 
Other people have their own ways of contributing such as advancing science and the space program in order to get us off of this planet before we kill ourselves from the monkey-brained-sex-fantasy of religion.  For people like Sam Harris who directly attack and see the nastiness for what it is, we should give a special thanks and particular support for all his future efforts.

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By a human being, February 27, 2008 at 11:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Forget the bible for now, just look at the facts:

1. GOD = love for yourself and the same exact love for your fellow man.

2. Atheist = Love of yourself

Just think about that for a little while. The goal of religion is so everyone can work together to take care of each other. That means no hate for your fellow man. What do you rather Friends of foes? If you don’t agree with the Bible that doesn’t mean it’s wrong…maybe you havent realized the obvious truth in it. It’s OK, just keep asking questions, but also open your jeart to love rather than hate. It’s really simple, don’t complicate things. Keep it simple stupid!!!

ONE LOVE

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By gareth, December 31, 2007 at 7:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i do not care to enter into debate with faithheads.
as the old maxim goes “when you argue with a fool it’s just two…....”
having once been a bible thumping cretin, i am eternally indebted to the likes of dawkins and harris for their brave and intellectually honest stand. as a teen i was removed from my christian youth group for being a “disruptive influence”. translated that means the self righteous moron, in a display of typical christian charity and tolerance, was unable to answer one too many questions i posed undermining his delusional mindset. i was branded an apostate while all the time the hypocrites that ousted me continued in classical christian fashion to have there cake and eat it( that’s another story altogether ).thankfully, as a bibliophile and naturally intelligent individual, i was, with the help of atheist role models able to embrace the iconoclast, ironically, i was deemed to be. i welcome the barely disguised loathing of christians. my contempt exceeds any pity i feel for them. they are tainted and evil.

born again atheist.

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By Christie, July 10, 2007 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment

However, this is not a philosophical work, so putting forth such a statement does not limit itself to the realm of the philosophical. Had he prefaced it with “philosophicaly speaking”, or somesuch, I would consider that a more valid point. Also, consider that this is Harris’ first major exposure. He was not known as a philospoher at the time of publishing.

Harris’ limiting things to “Tibetan Buddhists” would also carry more weight if he were also inclined to limit his painting of Murderous Muslims to Qutbists, who are far from the norm. One could well ask “Where are the Sufi Bombers?” He does not, however. In his equation, all Muslims have the inclinations of a certain wee sect which is, even within Muslim circles, looked askance.

Also, I remember the 1970’s and 1980’s quite clearly, when Palestinian Christians were committing suicide bombings pretty regularly in Israel/Palestine. Though Atran might have cited six particular suicide bombers, I doubt he meant to infer that those were the *only* six.

Let me be clear here- I do not discount Islamic terrorists, far from it, but I do object to Harris’ propensity for claiming that Islam is *particularly* terroristic. Plenty of religions and philosophies are taken to such extremes by extremeists within the movements. I think his reasons for doing this are not exactly pure, and that this line of argument could well serve as justification for the current, and wrong-headed,  “War on Terror”.

This book would have carried more weight in general had it been written as an excoriation of religious motives per se, rather than so focused on one (mis-represented) sort of religion. Religion has been, historically, very usefull for maintainaing the status quo, or for bringin in a new status quo. In any event, it has been very usefull. God or no (and I vote No), people have benefitted greatly from it. As an atheist, I would be very sorry to see atheism (which Harris is taken to be, and is making much of being the undeclared Spokesman of) used in the same manner.

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By MrEmpirical, July 10, 2007 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

Christie,

May I correct you on a few points:

First of all, Sam Harris was informed by Scott Atran that 6 Christian Palestinian suicide bombers have been reported. This information was communicated in response to Harris’ question “Where are the Christian Palestinian suicide bombers?”. While Harris conceded that he had not heard of any such bombers, it is clear that a mere six such bombers does not constitute a strong answer to the original question. Harris’ point is still valid, i.e. the chances of a Palestinian suicide bomber being a non-Muslim are incredibly slim (though not zero, as he admitted).

Secondly, Atran’s remarks about Zen Buddhist suicide bombers were misplaced. Harris had specifically singled out TIBETAN Buddhists, asking “Where are all the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers?”. Harris demonstrated his awareness of the existence of Zen Buddhist suicide bombers by citing the book “Zen at War” and a second book whose title I cannot recall. Again, Harris’ point stands: While despair and oppression are important factors, it matters what you believe in your despair. Despairing Jains aren’t going to go out and kill people. Despairing (and non-despairing!) Muslims have shown that they are all too often willing to kill and die for their beliefs.

And finally, I wouldn’t worry too much about Harris’ brief remarks concerning killing people who hold certain dangerous beliefs. Remember, Harris’ training was originally in philosophy, and philosophers specialise in dealing with the most abstract and extreme hypotheticals. Philosophy has given us all sorts of unrealistic situations in which to test our ethical beliefs, e.g. derailed train scenarios, kidnapped people and violinists, etc. I doubt that there are many real-life scenarios in which Harris would advocate the killing of people based purely on their beliefs.

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By Christie, June 24, 2007 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

Jon, had Harris said that it would be all right to kill someone for what they *did*, this would be a different story (without getting into a death penalty debate).  He says, however, that it may even be ethical for people to *believe* in some propositions. Indeed, his caveat that it might seem an extreme proposition is true, as stating that it might be ethically all right to kill someone for a thought or belief is itself extreme. And extremely dangerous. His attempt to warrant it with the argument that some people who believed something *did* something, therefore other people who believe that same something could be killed in good conscience -not having done anything except believe- is appalling at best.

Thought crime? I know *that* sounds extreme, but that is what he is proposing. How, I wonder, is this different that the Church of Old (and a few of New) killing heretics?

That he is saying, by implication, that it might be all right ethically to kill Muslims because of what they believe is, in my opinion, a politically motivated statement. His research on suicide bombers is surface at best, as shown at the Beyond Belief conference whereat he was informed that Christian Palestinian suicide bombers and Zen Buddhist (WWII kamikaze) suicide bombers exist(ed). Many believers in many faiths (including atheists) have committed suicide bombings. Why single out the 9/11 bombers as if they were the *only* ones?

Harris could make a better argument against faith qua faith if he spread the research and analysis evenly about. Any sort of imaginary thought when used as a guiding principle for life can be dangerous. But I do not- even still- think people should be killed solely for thinking or believeing something.

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By Jon, June 24, 2007 at 12:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Christie, you cite then categorically reject a claim you (understandably) find unpleasant, but you offer no critique of the reasoning underlying the claim, the few lines of which you omit from your quotation, and in which Sam both acknowledges the severity of his statement and provides a cogent argument supporting it:

“This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.  Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others.  There is, in fact, no talking to some people.  If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense.”  (The End of Faith, pp 53)

It is hardly a failure of reason to take those unfortunate actions to which the dangerously irrational compel us (which is certainly not to say that all of the “current administration’s policies” can be so categorized).  If you can offer a more reasonable alternative to killing those who cannot be captured nor swayed from beliefs that drive them to commit violence against the innocent, the world would be indebted to you.

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By morgan lynn lamberth, June 16, 2007 at 4:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Dave! We ignostics find no meaning to God. He is a mystery surrounded by others finding no support empirically, based on a series of guesses.Why assume an eternal god when a series of gods could be there?Why not a limited one as imperfections show no onmipotent one.Natural causes discount God from causes anyway. God is just the unimformative tautology that God wills what He wills. God did it is useless as an explanation.Contrary to Richard Swinburne, God cannot function as a personal explanation anymore than Thor, gremlins or demons.God is as useless as Lord Russell’s orbiting teapost! But, if granted meaning for the sake of debate, He is saddled with having to overcome Ockham’s razor. He requries ad hoc assumptions that are not forthcoming. He is teleological whereas natural selection is causal; the former proposes goals and purposes while the latter shows none whatsoever.Thus arises the clear contradiction between science and theology: one cannot add God to selection as it is a power unto itself, not an empty vehicle for God to put input into.And, Elizabeth, most Americans embrace creationism, not what you state!Now fundamentalists do vary: some embrace homosexuals without calling them names.Jim Wallis can try to get evangelicals to embrace our party, but I prefer Mr. Secularist Progressive himself Paul Kurtz to contribute to moral knowledge and to inform the party. Bishop Tutu is a great man,but he would be such were he not religious!Mother Theresa was a fraud as Hitchings and others show.Falwell sold the lying Clinton tapes. Graham advocates irrationalism. The Pope has good economic views but is reactionary socially. One should criticize religion just as one does politics. This is no longer taboo! Dawkins is engaging,non-threatening. Bizby and other fellow rationalists, thanks!

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By josselijn, June 11, 2007 at 5:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Unfortunately the Ku Klux Klan is often chosen at later age while the indoctrines of faith start very young. I agree that getting people to laugh at irrational beliefs take away the power of these. I also believe that where the education started so early and is part of everyday life, politics etc, it is more likely to unset aggression.

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By Dave Miller, June 6, 2007 at 3:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The post above by Guitarsandmore with the title “Scientists’ Belief in God Varies Starkly by Discipline” by Robert Roy Britt is an Internet hoax.

The claim that “About two-thirds of scientists believe in God, according to a new survey” is a lie.

For a truthful description of Prof. Ecklund’s research, written by her, go to http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Ecklund/

In her own words,
>When asked their beliefs about God, nearly 34 percent of academic scientists answer “I do not believe in God” and about 30 percent answer “I do not know if there is a God and there is no way to find out,” the classic agnostic response. This means that over 60 percent of professors in these natural and social science disciplines describe themselves as either atheist or religiously agnostic. In comparison, among those in the general U.S. population, about 3 percent claim to be atheists and about 5 percent are religiously agnostic.

I.e., about two-thirds of scientists do NOT believe in God.  The hoax by Britt and guitarsandmore has exactly inverted this, claiming that about two-thirds DO believe in God.

For an expose of the hoax by someone who actually bothered to speak with Ecklund, see   http://www.statenews.com/op_article.phtml?pk=35422  .

And for a Christian Website that had the courage to expose the hoax, see : http://christdot.org/modules.php?name=News&new_topic=35  (scroll down).

It’s shameful how some of the god-fakers will lie to advance their religion!

The god-fakers ought to be ashamed of themselves.

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By Christie, April 14, 2007 at 4:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Page 52/53 of the paperback of the End Of Faith:

“Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.” That’s Sam, not paraphrasing any religion, but spewing the same kind of reactionary tripe which leads to the killing of people who believe things differently than you.

I looked forward to this book when it first came out. Upon reading it, though, I was sorely disappointed. This is no call to reason. This is a call to reactionary killing and serves only to justify the current administration’s policies.

Sad. Still waiting for the call to reason.

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By Alpha Citizen, April 11, 2007 at 2:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The failure of religion is not found in its inability to offer verifiable proof of the existence of god, heaven, hell, paradise, messiahs, prophets, etc.
All religions are promoting fiction and offer fictionalized representations of the characters in their stories, along with the concepts and entities required to support that fiction.
Fiction, being the combination of the historical with fantasy, lies somewhere between the two in factuality and preponderance.
The true believers of religion will never succumb to the rules of evidence and will endeavor to fictionalize whatever is necessary from history and imagination as support to the veracity of their claims.

The Achilles Heel of religion is in the morality it professes to hold monopoly on.
This is glaringly apparent in the statement: “Thou shalt not kill”.
Judeo-Christians call this a Commandment, meaning a command from God not to be violated.
And in fact, it is taught to children as meaning: thou shalt not kill EVER, or you will be subject to eternal damnation.
However, it is obvious in practice by all adult adherents that the functional meaning is: thou shalt not kill, UNLESS OF COURSE IT’S NECESSARY, in which case you get a pass on the eternal damnation clause.

Religion would either have to stick to the moral high ground with Choice #1, profess: “Thou shalt not kill” and ACTUALLY stop with the killing… or Choice #2, lower the moral bar and change to: “Thou shalt kill as necessary”.
Either way the choice they make will erode their moral authority.
Avoiding following thru with Choice #1 and they wallow in their own hypocrisy.
Addressing the reality and going with Choice #2 and they lose their sanctification of purpose.

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By morgan - lynn lamberth, April 2, 2007 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fine,Paul! If one applied the scientific method as Victor Stenger does, one would find no god! See: “Has Science found God” and :God - the failed Hypothesie.”

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By Paul, April 2, 2007 at 12:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Part 2

I think the essence of what Sam Harris is saying is that if you really understand the scientific method, it is possible to define yourself simply as a person who reasons from tangible evidence, and when you do not have enough evidence, or have a reliable theory to guide you, you have no choice but to go with your feelings.  Some might call that faith;  some might call that going with your gut or your hunches.  It is all the same to me.

If someone wants to believe on faith that there is a god watching, or helping, or guiding their decisions, or that god is the essence of the ethics or morality of humanity as a whole, or anything of that sort, it must be recognized that any such belief system has the potential to create all of the negatives associated with religious dogma: from nitpicking over details, to thought crimes, to leaders with pipelines to god, to religious war, because who really knows what any of those things mean except the person thinking of them? What Sam is saying, if I read him right, and this is only part of what he argues, because he is against all dogma, is the only way to avoid that is to put the burden of proof on theists.  When and if theists accept that burden of proof, they certainly retain the option to continue to believe what they will in the privacy of their own minds and the confines of their churches, but in public, they must necessarily behave as functional atheists.  In fact, when critics of Sam say that they understand the scientific method and apply it already in practical matters, they are saying they are functional atheists, though they may be faith-based Christians in private.

Please refrain from referring to me as “another atheist”, because I do not believe in the label any more than Sam does.  I believe that I am a Christian in the sense that I have internalized many of the beliefs prevalent in the community I grew up in, having neither the time or inclination to question and prove every one scientifically.  However, when conflict arises concerning my beliefs, my approach is far more scientific than it is faith-based, and I do modify my beliefs with time, experience, and rational thought.

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By Paul, April 2, 2007 at 12:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I do not understand the criticisms of Sam Harris argument by some who say he sets up fundamentalist Christians as straw men and attacks all people of faith, people who include, according to his critics, a majority of Christians who do not take the Bible literally and are essentially scientific in practical matters.  I thought he was quite clear stating his objection to faith-based dogma in general, and his objection to moderate Chrisianity was that it gave cover to the fundamentalists.

The responses seemed typical of so many seen on forums like this.  People react to the fact that “their group” was criticized, and in their eagerness to fire back, they misstate or respond inappropriately to the original argument.

Regarding “faith-based” Christians, who it was claimed, believe in science and the scientific method, I do not doubt that a poll would place them in numbers ahead of fundamentalists according to some definition of belief, but I’m skeptical of the claim that they are in the majority by MY definition of what it means to believe in the scientific method.  I’ve met many well-educated people in universities and professional settings, most of whom are Christians, and the vast majority cannot state the scientific method correctly or even construct a logical argument in normal speech or writing, so why should I believe that vast numbers of faith-based Christians have a working knowledge of the scientific method? 

I think faith-based Christians believe in science the same way the general public believes in science.  That is, the reality of the results of modern science and technology cannot be denied, so they “believe”.  But their belief differs little from the average person who believes he knows how a radio works.  Whey you ask how, he says you turn the knob.  Belief without understanding is only a slight improvement over belief without evidence. Without understanding, it is, in fact, possible to believe in many things simultaneously that cannot all be true.  While it might be possible to believe in ethics, or people, or God on the basis of faith, I find it hard to accept that it means much to believe in the scientific method the same way.

Part 2 to follow.

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By morgan lamberth, March 8, 2007 at 9:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am a positive atheist: there probaly is no god. I do not interpret the Scriptures inerrantly; I recognize the good parts, but one finds them elsewhere also .Yes, the religious rationally cherry pick but then they use our humanist moralilty to do so , not we who live off theirs ! I recognize the goodness of many religious but find them disregarding so much of their morality. They are as good or bad as the rest of us .They even have sex before marriage! St. Paul had a peaean on love but did not condemned slavery or misogyny . Jesuine and Pauline love is limited .One could love ones slave! How limited!      . One uses the love notion with facts and reason ,leaving aside the nughty parts.I prefer Arthur Caplan , Paul Kurtz and Peter Singer to the Pope or Jim Wallis.Morality has truly evolved over the centuries from the subjective , whimsical morality of the Scriptures to the more objective one of what facts and reason and love find out about what is truly good or bad for humans , other animals and the enviornment !And it is silly to compare us with fundamentalists !

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By Alien, March 4, 2007 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In the end we all die..then no more christianity and no more atheisim.

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By David Grima, February 26, 2007 at 2:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have read both of the Harris books, and am in the position of one who agrees with an awful lot of the observations he makes, and who understands precisely why he has raised the question, but who cannot support the overall conclusion that he draws. In any even moderately intelligent approach to a serious proposal such as he makes, surely it is the nature of the synthesis which links the observations that are reported to the conclusions that are drawn that should be of most interest? My personal faith is not threatened at all by Harris’ central argument, in fact it is rather stimulated by it. I think he deserves as good an answer as he can get, and I am currently trying to write something to explain that answer, from my own point of view of course. I have no idea how I might be able to share that writng, however.

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By Rose, February 22, 2007 at 11:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A lot of anti-faith and anti-religion comments on here are from those who do not know the most basic things about religion.

Take the “12 Questions” post. The Holy Trinity is something that is considered a Holy Mystery; Catholics are not expected to fully understand why that is. It is something we accept with humility because we don’t have the answer to it. Many of the other claims on there can also be thrown out the window when actually speaking to someone who is more up-to-date with the theology of Roman Catholicism, as the 12 Questions apply mainly to that denomination.

I hear the whole “religion is bad! get rid of it!” argument all the time. This is somewhat true; there are things in the Bible and other holy books that are incompatible with life now and downright ridiculous. Does that change the message of love your neighbor as yourself, do good to the poor, do not murder, steal, etc.? No. Most of the Bible was written by humans, and to believe it blindly IS unintelligent. The main message should be the focus of what people believe, or what Harris calls “cherry-picking.” I don’t understand why cherry-picking is bad when it helps religion evolve, really, or at least allows religion and religious people to get out of the fundamental stage. It is also about interpretation. Fundamentalists and atheists will always interpret the holy books, especially the Bible, literally, because that is how they support their view of the world. (Atheists because they counter arguments of God with the literalness of the Bible, etc.) Religion does not necessarily equate or make bad people. If that were true, then the majority of the world would be horrible people. Yes, it is possible to have morals and ethics without religion, as it is possible to have it with religion. What I don’t like about Harris is that e has a very arrogant view towards anyone remotely religious - isn’t that the same as religious fanatics discriminating against others? Same feeling but different purpose, and that makes it okay?

Science and religion are also not as incompatible as people believe. Even in science, there are those who believe in a Supreme Being, as there are those who do not. Science is about experiments and theories and evidence, and it is changeable, and so there are those who can point at experiments and say that God exists while another can say the exact opposite. It is like “reality” - it’s there, but everyone’s interpretation of it is different. There is no one “reality.” That is absurd.

I’ll answer more later.

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By morgan -lynn lamberth skeptic grigssy, February 14, 2007 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment
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Sam Harris answers the silly fundamentalist atheist charge .It is not ,however, intolerant to state that some opinions are faulty as I try to show.Now to show faulty thinking: one does not ascribe to Thor weather conditions or to a mountain god the fact of isostasy, so why ascribe to God the entire cosmos when we have theories of bounce or the Harltle-Hawking theory ?Why make a mystery or the cosmos when science has these theories? It would be a violation of parsimony to add God to the equation. It won’t do to assume that He can sustain the cosmos when there in no need to posit that. There is no reason to think that there is any gound for assuming it would not just be without outside help .One can avoid this conclusion, but that does not make me intolerant !One should evaluate arguments. There probaly is no god,but others might not agree with me and that is fine. I do not envisage any opponents in a train wreck a la Atlas Shrugged ! I have found a flaw in one of my arguments ,by the way.Gee, but then I admit as a naturalist, fallibility .I cited books to encourage others to check out what the top people on both sides have to say.I am not unctous ,but fallible. So the conversation does indeed end .Father Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.[With Albert Ellis, I urge self- and other acceptance. No one has to prove herself to me and vice versa .Acceptance, acceptance of life’s challenges also. See his book on self -esteem to learn about acceptance in all three forms.Acceptance would prevent hatred of the different.<I have so many mental defects ! >]

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By Elizabeth Sholes, February 14, 2007 at 5:10 pm Link to this comment
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Fideism is entirely the bogus straw man for this discussion - it means accepting faith and rejecting logic.  That is precisely how you set it up.

Wallis and Falwell are much of the same stripe.  Yes, Jim is nicer - but he’s still theocratic and fundamentalist with respect to issues.  Haven’t a clue what he thinks about science and evolution, but he is anti-choice and homophobic.  Not good.

I told you, and I know as a sociologist, that the polls are flawed.  Numerically and attitudinally the mainstream, progressive people of faith outnumber the fundamentalists.  The polls seek to confirm the belief (they are in their own way fideistic) that the anti-logic fundamentalists are in ascendance, but it simply is not true.

I haven’t a clue how people envision God since the entire process is fraught with human limitation. How can you know the unknowable?  How do we envision a Black Hole when to someone there, it would not even be apparent?  There are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio…

But I do know that you are highly intolerant of that with which you disagree and therefore with those who see the world differently.  You adore bloviation to try to win your argument, and I do not see why - it’s perfectly obvious even to people of faith that no one can possibly KNOW anything about the ethereal world of faith and transcendence.  You are on solid ground in your disbelief - but you remain just as intolerant as the most blowhard fundamentalist.  And with that, I end this.  It’s dull and uninformative.  I have not read anyone on this interchange who isn’t an atheistic fundie, and that makes me sad.  After years of working comfortably with both the faith community and the Center for Inquiry, I am saddened that atheists are just as inarticulate as the rightwingers.  Onward and upward to more and better conversations.

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By morgan-lynn lamberth, February 13, 2007 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment
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Elizabeth , no, I do not set up a straw man.I find that if people use faith -fideism-  as their intial point they are all the the same in that regard= no facts and reason.Now theistic evolutionists do use facts and reason , though I find them to be oxymoronic, involved in a contradiction.They deserve credit for fighting fundamentalism over creation science. Now there are huge differences in the use of faith .Jim Wallis’s faith drives him to aid the poor .But when I decry faith is when it just means fideism at heart .When it means trust and hope , there is no problem .That is I find some mixing faith and reason- Aquinas and some just fideistic -Kierkegaard. Fundamentalists use more than faith- distort matters and rationalize .So, while I find fideism faulty as a way to God .I find faith even mixed with rational theology is suspect .As far as polls go , the majority seem to hold sway are fundamentalist, creationist ;others accept creationism in science classes as fairness as I gather matters.I would like to see a poll on how Americans see God, the man up there with a beard, the ground of being or being itself or a vague spirit or force. Anyway, I find beliefs wrong-headed but even fundamentalists can be quite nice . I support civil liberties groups . I praise those who fight fundamentalism at its extremes .I praise you! I decry the method of faith as a way to knowledge as a philosophical naturalist.  Yes , there is a vast difference between the Falwells and the Wallis’s .Now , I would unite with most anyone on public affairs when we agree . I find arguments for God faulty and say so ,but I find good people everywhere!This is enough.Bizby, what do you say? My last defense of my tone . Please respond to my argumensts anybody without thinking this liberal is intolerant of any but the intolerant !Peace!

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By Elizabeth Sholes, February 13, 2007 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment
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The wider faith community that welcomes science and logic is actually the majority.  Polls today cast the ‘faith community’ as ‘those attending church one per week’ or not at all, the latter being the non-believers.  It’s a false set of criteria. The result is that the Bible thumpers look like the mainstream - they are the only ones who get interviewed, and of course, as fundamentalists, they are a pretty scared lot.  They cannot cope with the world, so they disavow that they cannot understand.

Many of the mainstream faith community don’t attend church regularly but are possessed of a grounding in belief that spiritual goodness and decency ride alongside belief and reliance on logic and science.  They don’t have conceptions of heaven and hell, wouldn’t begin to anthropomorphize “God”, are not vested in Biblical literalism much less inerrancy.  We/they are the MAJORITY, and we actually agree entirely with you - if you’d only stop salivating long enough to pay attention. 

If you want to repudiate fundamentalism, fine.  If you try to ask people such as we to defend it, you’re polemical, not logical. We don’t believe ANY of the things you furiously disdain.  We disdain them as well. You’re setting up a straw man to knock down, and that’s where you resemble Jerry.  His argumentation is entirely the same. By creating mythic monsters to destroy, you are no different from the religious right.

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By morgan -lynn lamberth, February 13, 2007 at 10:51 am Link to this comment
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I do not presume to know your beliefs. So you share some of mine. I do not see any difference between you and me in tone .My declamations are to do with denying any supernaturalism .Whether fundamenatalist or not, some still pose natural theology and the scriptures as basic . Why class me with such invincible ignoramuses as Falwell ? You are the irrational one in so doing .Of course , I am aware of the wider faith groups but that is a minority. Harris answers such as you who wantonly misunderstand that we will take it no more! Answering others is not self-indulgence but setting the record straight . Don’t confuse passion with indulgence . If I criticize faith healing for children at risk , is that self-indulgence. I give argument, not verses or just so stories .

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By Elizabeth Sholes, February 12, 2007 at 8:05 pm Link to this comment
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Well you ask me to defend what I do not believe. That is your first error. That’s irrational on your part.  I don’t defend sending people to hell because I don’t believe in hell.  Or heaven as you conceive of it ( it may be the beauty of human collective acts for good however.) I have no idea if there’s an afterlife - who could know that?  I don’t believe in the Bible as fact, don’t believe any human thing is inerrant, and the Bible is a product of human writing and thought. 

You need to read more about the majority of us who are in the mainstream and progressive faith movements to even know who we are and what we think.  Otherwise you’re indulging in a form of bigotry that is scarecely indistinguishable from any other. 

Smugness and narcissism make all people the same even if their content is different.  Your writings offer precisely the same fundamentalist self-indulgent tone and screed that is proffered by Jerry Falwell and others.

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By morgan -lynn lamberth, February 9, 2007 at 11:14 pm Link to this comment
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Everyone , go to sam harris .com to read the debate between him and Andrew Sullivan on the former’s[ and mine] approach to religion and the latter’s defense of religion[moderate]. Gee, I once again cite authors.Fine me.

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By morgan -lynn lamberth, February 9, 2007 at 10:19 pm Link to this comment
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Show that.I think you do not have a case, so you say that.Bizby would certainly disagree with you. At other forums , others think like you, yet others find me engaging. I cite authors so one can fully see what they have to say about the subject. Fundamentalists do not use reason while I do.I do not rationalize away matters as they do.I send no one to Hell.Answer my points, not mischaracterize them,please! You cannot answer ,for you are so wrong! I give reason why the free will defense is faulty , theistic evolution is an oxymoron and more .I do not mischaractrize others no more than the authors I cite do. No. So , we disagree.Show, not bray!

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By Elizabeth Sholes, February 9, 2007 at 8:17 am Link to this comment
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Morgan-Lynn - you vomit ‘facts’ and authors’ names to prove - what?  You misrepresent a great deal of what you’re discussing, you provide no logical thought stream so it’s impossible to discuss anything.  You remind me entirely of the religious right in this respect.  “Overwhelm ‘em with diatribe!  That’ll learn ‘em!”  You share a lot more with religious zealots than you do with reflective, thoughtful people of any stripe. I can’t reply any longer because I don’t understand one word of what you’re trying to say.

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By Lisa, February 7, 2007 at 7:38 am Link to this comment
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I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with Sam Harris’ on the Australian ABC Radio National programme “The Religion Report” (24 January 2007; still available to download as a podcast).  For a while my sense of gnawing discontent with the “critical realist” position of John Hick, for example, was an itch I couldn’t scratch.  Although I admire Hick’s courage in calling for critical reflection and reform from within religious traditions I have had an inarticulate sense of something very wrong in accepting the tenets of dogmatic belief systems as “true myths”.  The logic of Harris’ critique of religious “progressives” - as complicit to dangerous self-delusion by their odd bedfellow fundamendalist brethren, in a world brimming with WMDs - is unassailable I think, and has helped me clarify my misgivings at last.

I am, however, mystified by Harris’ seeming ambivalence about the US invasion of Iraq.  Do I misread his position or is there a strain of missionary zeal to forcefully impose democracy at work here?  How can Iraq be viewed as anything but a dangerous and horrendously inhumane policy failure, regardless of the true nature of US motivations?

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By morgan-lynn lamberth, February 6, 2007 at 12:39 pm Link to this comment
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Read my other posts,Elizabeth to see that I do indeed give rational doubs about religious arguments.Ellis’s term mustabatory refers to having to have something when it is not necessary.Millions of us live quite well without needing God. Carl’s pean on faith just does not make it as it i s just verbiage .You would disavow ,rightfully, hideous portions of scripture according to facts and reason as we skeptics do .You cannot fathom that what is good in any religion ,one can find elsewhere.Notions of the golden and silver rule antedate Yeshua .They are rational for rational people.Some people have no moral sense and some of them , we have to lock up.Evolution passed on to us this sense from our forebears.We see it in the other apes .As Walter Kaufmann points out, one reads into scriptures ones own views. Yours ,rightfully, are above those of pass ages of faith .Faith does not as you probaly agree determine goodness. I hope that others will respond to errantists defense of scirptures .Anyway, defend errancy here please! Let’s have a fruitful discussion .I read two of   Bishop Spong ‘s books,finding them on par with skeptical ones in his denunciation of fundamentalism and the bad parts of scriptures. Kai Nielsen admonishes us naturalists to be humble.Kaufman would want me to more balance in my commentary on scriptures, but I let others do that .Althought a schizotypal,I abjure the supernatural and the paranormal unlike other schizotypals .Our background of information or ignorance leads us to opinions .Mine is naturalistic to the core. Read Swinburne ,Platinga and Hick on your side. Then read Oppy, LePoidevin, Sobel and others   on my side.Ponder.Bleesings!

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By Elizabeth Sholes, February 5, 2007 at 9:49 am Link to this comment
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Morgan-Lynn - read Dixie and Michael Carl.  They are far more thoughtful and reflective of the complexities of science, belief, faith, and religion than are you.

I disavow all ‘masturbatory’ principles - especially self-indulgent posturing.

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By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, February 4, 2007 at 5:42 am Link to this comment
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I asked what is the metaphor for the hideuous Deluge,implying an errantist version.If you disavow completely the passages about it with no metaphor, fine.You have not read my posts. One would see that I make a good case for anti-theism.Use your search engine for my name minus the griggsy[I use different names.] to see that elsewhere I deploy the same arguments and more to show no god and get various responses. I know quite well some people are errantists but they can claim no special claim for their scriptures. Not only do those scriptures show not how the heavens go, their way of going there has nothing to recommnend. No rational being would have sacrificed his son[himslef]. Jews long ago gave up animal sacrifice.We have no “mustabatory” need for a god. See Albert Ellis’s books on tolerance and self -esteem about the good and bad or religion and also on the objectivist cult.I know tu quoqe is not in order.Bizby, how are you? Maybe you can answer Elizabeth !

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By Michael R. Carl, February 3, 2007 at 5:51 am Link to this comment
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Faith, what a wonderful concept. How we use it and abuse it, yet it remains a flexible, durable and metamorphic phenonomena for all of us in some way.

We are not robots. We don’t respond to instant impetus of emotionally charged personal circumstances if someone ‘reprogammes our logic’ for one cause or another. We act irrationally, we act in emotional spontonaity.

But we do not shut down and become Athiests or Zealots in a wholly rationally committed manner unless we have a substantial body of life experience. We are a evolution of the homonid specie. Since mankind achieved the top of the Darwinian tree of life many many years ago, these primitive societies expressed a visible record of awe and interpretion of the force of life. Gradually these became refined with man’s intelligence in evolving complex societies to include forms of description of a presumed metaphysical connection to the unseen power of life, the organiser, the supreme Alpha Male of the reason why we are here, our advantage and our rights in nature. At the top of the animal kingdom, the peak of the food chain with time for thought, a cerebral function we are well equipped with, survival takes on a new more complex and cunning dimension.

From Neolitihic origins through out the world for 10,000 years from Egyptian to Hellenic to Assyrian, Hindu, Mayan, Aztec the message of kingdom and rule of divine law is irrefutably similar. Ignore the geography and the circumstances and implementation are indisputable evidence of absolute independent capacity of mankinds predisposition to utilise the concept of metaphysical forces from magic,shamic,and demonic threats to assist and coerce the popular acceptance of rule by a implied superior human king - God relationship. Good versus Evil.

We are all well versed in the muck raking of abuse of power. Popes, Kings, Sultans they are all well known. Religion as an organised expression of faith has been corrupted. Did the ancient Druids do it any different?

So, what is “faith”? My view is that is the human condition that binds us to a common value, a community of good.

It is the belief and applied expression of belief, from Shiites chain flogging bare backs, Catholics bleeding, Protestants starving to the other end of the spectrum - Mother Theresa, Gandhi, and innumerable peoples who simply care and give and share without notice and plea.


Faith and loyalty are deep within the human psyche. The IRA, the Mafia, the Nazis, El Quaida and your average football team are all very similar in anyones esteem. All thats different is the geography and socio-economic circumstances. Ignorance and the distortion of truth are as prevalent and as odious today as they were when Martin Luther pinned his declerations to the church door 600 years ago.  Damn that printing press thundered the Church!

Kings and Popes and Presidents and Preachers have exploited Religion to the detriment of Faith. So, who is God? Most of us in the Judeo-Christian-Islam conundrum see it as the One. The Hindus see millions of Gods, the Buddhists as a intangible form of enlightenment.

There is no God. There are many. God is of your making based upon your desire to express your thanks, your anxiety, your wishes, your grief and happiness in the manner that suits your culture, your background and your circumstances alone or in a community of like minded people who lend each other a moral compass.

That is Faith.

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By Dixie, January 31, 2007 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment
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Here is a Quote from Einstein:
“What humanity owes to Buddha, Moses & Jesus is of more value to me than all the achievements of the investigating & constructive mind.”
(1937)  Einstein was a complex man. You cannot simply place him in the “Dawinian Scientist” box. He was Romantic, fell in love more than once while in his marriage, adored music & enjoyed talking about G*d with many people, including Marilyn Monroe. I’ve read 5 biographies on Monroe & he was a large part of her life. I’ve read 3 biographies on Einstein & am persuaded that nobody can really define either of these two unusual people.  Personally, I love Jesus but cannot be defined as simply “Christian.” It is absolutely crucial that we live our lives in ways that do good toward other humans, animals, the earth & all the rest of this wild, chaotic reality. I think Time is Waves. Like the sea, it rolls, storms, gets calm & sometimes, some rare times, a person catches “the perfect wave” and can see into the future. H.G. Welles & other visionary people were time surfers. Jesus saw His own end but despite being holy, I much doubt He realized how truly amazing His final days would be, or His effect upon the world. Others who have contributed much toward the Good live/lived lives of Loud Inspiration (as opposed to Quite Desperation). ML King, Jr. was not a weakling, despite being on the side of peaceful protests. When I heard him speak in Washington DC, his voice carried for miles, like rolling waves (getting back to that sea imagery).  Groove On!  Dixie

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By Elizabeth Sholes, January 31, 2007 at 10:24 am Link to this comment
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I would not disagree with this last point by Respondon.  I think there’s a huge, huge difference in the ways people look at faith versus religion and within both.  Faith for most mainstream progressive adherents is not in ‘the finger writ large’ notions of a supreme being but in a very deep and thoughtful guide to a kind, peaceful, humanistic (yes - humanistic) life that honors all people.  Religion is really quite distinct and too often needs and imposes absolutes. 

The problems in this discussion come from a very narrow interpretation of faith that many non-believers have, largely based on the actions and statements of the self-proclaimed religious who dominate our airwaves today.  They have a handful of edicts by which they judge all the world - moral, scientific, and historical.  They are very simplistic and absolutist. 

We in the progressive faith (not religious) community are constantly searching to understand both the physical and metaphysical. The realm of the physical is the province of science which we honor, support, and try to understand when we are lay people.  All moral issues, all non-scientific issues such as philosophy, fall into the latter realm where we also deliberate, reflect, and try to understand.  Faith is a medium, not an end.  If we found there was no God absolutely and without question, it wouldn’t change a thing.  Morality and human decency exist with or without a One. 

Absolutism is anathema to all thinking people. ALL thinking people. 

One prayer even non-believers might wish to adopt (with irony) : “Lord, bring me into the presence of those searching for the truth.  And deliver me from those who have found it!”

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By Respondon, January 30, 2007 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment
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Some of this discussion misses the point.  It doesn’t matter if the influence of religion upon the world has been benign or malign—or should I say, it matters, but it doesn’t bear upon the matter at hand, which is the truth or falsity of religion.  For those of us who believe it’s false, because it’s a delusional account of the origins, everyday operation, and future disposition of the world, we would still believe that even if religion made our world a flourishing (for want of a better word) paradise.

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By Elizabeth Sholes, January 29, 2007 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment
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One line is not a ‘rant’. How silly of you!

You are vomiting out your own irrationality based on prejudice to no logical purpose.

If you have a thesis, lay it out, and then go back and read ALL I’ve written before you dump your prejudices on me or anyone else.  I have supreme respect for those who believe in no divine being but who are grounded in deep, moral principles and thorough scientific exploration.  I don’t believe in Noah’s flood, so right there your own rant departs from any sense I can make of it.  We don’t believe in Biblical inerrancy - it’s passages are metaphor and come from ancient ways of trying to explain the world prior to scientific understanding.  It’s often, not always, a good moral guide (Leviticus has good as well as stupid stuff; it’s designed to have people be honest with one another and show justice to the poor in all transactions) and it’s great literature in many places.  But we don’t believe it is literal truth. 

We in the mainstream,progressive faith community embrace science wholeheartedly and absolutely.  There is simply no way to understand the creation of the universe and the flow of evolution without science and scientists.

Now what do you have to say? 

You know nothing of faith, little of religion if you determine all people of faith are the same as Jerry Falwell and his ilk. That is illogical and rests on a massive failure of empirical analysis.

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By morgan-lynn lamberth, January 27, 2007 at 1:13 am Link to this comment
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I expected that rant from a faith-based person! Show you have a god in whom you can have faith.Faith itself begs the question! How can one get value from Biblical metaphors for the Deluge and such other than might makes right? So much of the Tanakh is tawdry and what good is found elsewhere and before it was written.It has no historical values and as a road to God , who cares? See” God : The Failed Hypothesis ” and ” Has Science found God?” for Victor Stenger’s take on science disproving the god notion, which is incomprehensible .Learn to read as Dr. Drange says!Inerrantists have no monopoly on nonsense as the previous writer shows!

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By Elizabeth Sholes, January 26, 2007 at 10:51 am Link to this comment
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Irrational rant clearly is not the sole province of aburdist religious fundamentalism.  This commentary by Morgan-Lynn makes NO sense at all.

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By morgan-lynn lamberth, January 26, 2007 at 12:43 am Link to this comment
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What is the metaphor for the evil Deluge and sending oneself-ones son to death as a sacifice when that is barbaric?Jews non longer even sacrifice other animals!No, the Tanakh and the Testament have much evil and all the good one can find elsewhere.Demonstrate that Yahweh-Yeshua exists! Even the metaphorical Hell is hellacious.Yeshua limited his notion of love: he did not denounce slavery; so, one could love ones enemy and enslave her!Rational people do not turn the other cheek! One reads onto that passage a good notin that is not there- try to avoid a bad situation.Yeshua advocated faith rather than the habit of reason .See Dr. Albert Ellis’s book on self-esteem for his ciriticism of Yeshua. One expects theists to compose nonsense.Faith is a demanding mistress or mastert hatforbids one to accept the fact that there is no ultimate purpopse , no divine love and no future state. No one should have to worship and no rational being wants worship!Yahweh was such an irrationalist. Demonstrate God.I’ve shown in my posts there probaly is no god.

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By Elizabeth Sholes, January 23, 2007 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
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Philip T makes great points.  Progressive people of faith would entirely agree. Surprised?  Perhaps it would be helpful if your only role models weren’t fundamentalists?  Jerry Falwell and company have very little to do with us - and hate us for agreeing with you. 

Literalists seek comfort in Biblical absolutes (some even in the flat earth) because it is a politically chaotic world in which they have no say and no control.  It’s scary out here in case you hadn’t noticed!  But the rest of us embrace science, see faith as a moral not material guide, and understand that much of the Bible comes from a very ancient time when nomadic people had need of rules because life was even more uncertain for them than it is for us.  Want and scarcity were ever present.

I laughed out loud at the ‘if I believed in cups would I read about them’ statement.  You obviously never encountered an obsessive china collector!  Artists read and study widely on the meaning of color.  What a perfectly silly thing to say.  I have NO idea what your point could possibly be here.

Science has need to be very wary of the believer who not only disdains but repudiates science or appropriates it to a dishonest use.  But you ought to know it means science is triumphant because now religious people are intent on ‘proof’ that God is all powerful! It’s an absurd quest but one that has even forced the National Park Service to posit Noah’s flood as the creation of the Grand Canyon.  (THAT is disgusting to the rest of us who believe in evolution and scientific inquiry.)  The desperation of the fundamentalist to prove the creation of the world on their own terms comes from the equal desperation to prove this is the End Times.  It all emanates from powerlessness and peripheralization in a global society.  From the Salem witch trials until today, Americans have often used religion when it can no longer use political will.  It is very sad, and it creates real problems, BUT it does NOT represent the mainstream values or processes of most faith people.

Hey Science Guys - we accept you!  We accept your world view, the scientific method, the findings. Get over it!  You want Jerry to kick around, be my guest, but you have to learn what the majority of us are like before you tar with the same brush.  We are among your ranks and among your strongest allies.

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By PhilipT, January 19, 2007 at 5:43 am Link to this comment
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There is nothing wrong with logical “faith”.
I have “faith” in the statement 2 + 2 = 4. But what does that actually mean? If I have two objects and another two objects, then I will have four objects when I put them together. This applies to ANY OBJECT, ie tennis balls or forks. Just because this is true today, does not mean to say its true tomorrow. In all likelihood, its most definitely true ALWAYS.

I “believe” in e=mc^2. Proven by experiments, theory and logic, this statement makes reasonable sense. It may be in need of modification as time evolves, but the idea is perfectly sound and logical. Matter and energy are interchangable. You “lose” a bit of stuff, and you convert it to energy. Example. Rocket fuel and propulsion.

Tell me, then, childishly religious people, why do you need someone else, namely a male God, to tell you what you have to do in order to get a ticket to see God? The way I see it, is selfish motivation. Christians only do it to please God, and not themselves. Paradoxically, it’s not selfish, but the end does not justify the means. The idea of a reward is selfish in itself.

Here are some points to make:
1) Why should God be male? Anthropomorphism is the idea here. As a guy, I would like to make the statement that females were the default sex. Maleness was a welcome mutation.

2) If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then God cannot have free will, because God cannot change what he already knows. Example: I know that tomorrow will rain. But I will make it snow. Here are two possibilities:
a) either God did not know it will snow, or
b) God knew He would make it snow, because God has no free will.

3) The Bible believe in a flat Earth and other erroneous statements. Galileo was tortured for his scientific discoveries, only to be tortured in the period called the Inquisition. The Vatican announced their mistakes in the year 1992.

4) Vegetarianism is linked with high IQ. Preliminary studies suggest people with high IQ tend to be vegetarians (British Medical Journal). Only God would allow/permit such barbaric acts of eating meat. Jesus ate lamb, did he not? Eating meat is unethical, but man is the top of the food chain. Either God is unethical, or that God is simply a manisfestation of human emotions that does not transcend human-ness.

5) The Bible is violent, untrustworthy and full on inconsistencies. The evidence is clear in the Bible and the Koran.

6)Suppose I believe in cups. Do I read books about it? NO. Suppose I believe in the immaterial idea of the word “green”. Do I read books about it? NO. Christians believe in God and yet they read books about God! It sounds like denial to me! The Bible is materialistic, old and has been mistranslated through Hebrew, Greek, Latin and other languages, that words have lost their meaning. The word “broiled” is in the American version, no? And yet “broiling” is exclusively American.

7) Praying is an illogical activity. It does absolutely nothing. Has anyone ever prayed for surviving a common cold? Suppose two Christians pray to the same God when playing a tennis tournament. Who should God choose? Isnt God biased?

8)The idea of Sin is perfectly rubbish. Who created Sin? If Sin was created by God, then God is responsible for ALL SIN. If Satan created Sin, then God has no control of it. Either way, Sin is inevitably out of control.

9)The term ‘necrophilia’ could be associated with the belief that Jesus may be resurrected. By this definition, isnt Jesus a zombie? And also, wanst Jesus
a) magical b) attracted to male attention c) Jewish d) selfish and demanding? The episode of the fish and honeycomb demonstrates the lack of generosity.

10) There is overwhelming evidence that the Earth is not 6000 years old. Its not even millions, but billions.

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By Elizabeth Sholes, January 15, 2007 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment
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Absolutes of all types presuppose total knowledge.  That’s arrogant.  For a large portion of the faith community (mainstream and progressive Protestants), the notion of God is ethereal, not absolute.  What if God is the collective intelligence and heart of humanity?  The fact that people can and do come together in altruistic ways to improve life may be what God is.  No one can be certain.  The value of faith lies simply in the recognition that there is something - SOME thing - bigger than ourselves.  And for that we are most grateful.  Is it a conscious being that knows all?  No one can say one way or the other.  Is it clear that decency trumps indecency as a mode of life?  One has only to look at the Holocaust and other human horrors to say yes.  Evil doesn’t need a devil - we can find that on our own and have proven it time and again.

It is equally arrogant to assert that all faith is stupid.  It is a powerful moral compass for many people with or without a anthropomorphic, omniscient entity.  The trouble with religion is the trouble with all self-satisfied knowledge - it’s just another form of ego superiority and disdain for thought, for reflection, for accepting other human beings as our equals.  Nazi Germany did not embrace god but science in its horrific quest to find a final solution and create a 1000-year Reich.  The neo-conservatives wishing for the same US domination of the world do the same.  It’s not faith but realpolitik that guides them.

People don’t need god to be absolutely wonderful human beings.  Michael Harrington, author of the transformational book, “The Other America” was an aetheist whose moral center and humanity were without peer.  Who cares what he believed about a Supreme Being???  Those who think God is essential as a ‘get out of jail free’ card probably do, but the majority of thoughtful people of faith do not.  Michael Harrington and many of his ilk do more good in the world than all the Jerry Falwells put together.  And all the people who use their faith to do the same equally make the world a better place to be.  That’s all it’s about.

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By Atheism a Mental Disorder, January 15, 2007 at 12:27 am Link to this comment
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For what it’s worth:

I find the attacks on FAITH absolutely mind-boggling and humorous at the same time. I can’t understand how so many self-proclaimed and self-promoting “intellectuals” can be so FOOLISH and so blatantly ARROGANT. How blind can you be? By attempting to disprove FAITH through your blind reliance on groundless Reason and Logic, you, in fact, validate it.

Look at the facts my friends! There is growing Scientic Evidence in many areas of Science that Support the idea of “FAITH” and “GOD”. Get your heads out of the sand and start accepting reality, instead of hanging on to outdated Darwinian and Freudian nonsense. You see and hear, but you don’t understand because you don’t want to. You write with such “eloquence”, but in the process you decieve yourselves. I never fully understood the meaning of the word “delusion”, until I considered the life of an Atheist. Now, I am convinced that I have discovered the full meaning of that word. 

Athiesm and Agnosticism will soon be discarded as relics of outdated philosophies. Why not escape your demise before it’s too late? Guess what? FAITH will deal the final blow to your foolish logic.

You don’t realize, but you too are people of faith. Your bibles are the writings of Darwin, Freud, Dawkins and others. Psuedoscience, faulty logic, and your arrogance are your gods, so spare me the humor of your diatribe.

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By morgan-lynn lamberth, January 14, 2007 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment
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Why would a rational person want to talk so much to a god when that god presumable already knows what the person has to say.God cannot be omniscient ,because He cannot know something before it happens. Natural selection causes new life forms, so God violates Occam’s razor and keeps Him from being omnipotent.Indeed, the use of God as an explainer violates Occam’s razor period! If God is not a god of the gaps, then what would be His role .The god notion is just “hid[ing] our ignorance behind a theological fig leaf.” One expects theists to maintain silly ideas! Francis Collins, against the evidence that evolution has given us moral values, prefers to invoke God as his sole argument for our sense of morality.  It is time for such as     Dr. Albert Ellis to help theists overcome their ” mustabatory ’ need for God ! Dr. Francisco Jose Ayala speaks wrongly that the believer needs God to overcome dread and to find meaning.We make our own- passions,purposes.

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By Michael R. Carl, January 11, 2007 at 11:35 pm Link to this comment
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“When one speaks to God, that is Faith. When God speaks back, that’s schizophrenia”

Freud.

Faith is good. It is inherent in the human condition to believe in something intangible that is our mortality and destiny. It is normal for human social grouping to share common values, religion as organised expression of faith is healthy.

What is not healthy is when political leadership manipulates and corrupts the ideal of faith as manifestly ordained as their right, a moral superiority incumbent with the their office to exert a non-accountable authority “God spoke to me..” an instrument to guide the soverign actions of the nation. You can’t impeach God.

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By R. T., January 9, 2007 at 7:09 pm Link to this comment
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“It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist. But now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian.” (“Introductory Remarks” Heretics)

“There is no bigot like the atheist.” (Magic)

“There are arguments for atheism, and they do not depend, and never did depend, upon science. They are arguable enough, as far as they go, upon a general survey of life; only it happens to be a superficial survey of life.” (ILN 1-3-31)

G.K. Chesterton

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By Elizabeth Sholes, January 5, 2007 at 11:12 am Link to this comment
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Today the US is the fount for the most troubling instance of Religion as a genuine motivator of oppression and war, as opposed to a cultural artifact of and rationalization for an otherwise utterly political act.  The incumbent President is a True Believer who appears, according to inside reports, to be motivated by a singular dedication to bringing about the ‘Second Coming’. 

Let it be said that the vast majority of the Christian community not only does not believe this but actively repudiates it.  The small minority who are wedded to creating the End Times in the here and now - for which the fall of Babylon (Iraq) is a key component - simply have the unlikely fortune to be in power at the helm of our nation.  That ought to be of concern to us far more than Islamic fundamentalism.  The latter is largely a reaction of people being stripped of their resources, political independence, and cultural integrity.  It’s why Mr. Harris’ analysis seems faulty - it’s not the perception of most historians who know the centuries-long battle between the Ottoman Empire and the West. 

What is accurate is that for the first time perhaps ever in our nation’s history, a True Believer has his finger on the nuclear button and believes, at least potentially, that blowing us all to Kingdom Come would be a good thing, a righteous thing, and his mandate from God. 

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  But know also that the progressive faith community shares the revulsion at this distorition of history, fact, and belief.  We who all believe in justice, logic, and democracy and all those other good things really ought to be allies instead of sniping at one another.  We in the progressive faith community don’t give a rip about the state of your immortal soul (should such a thing exist) - we would like to stand united with anyone who shares our opposition to theocracy, mystically-driven public policy, and grandiose visions of prophecy operating as fact.

United we stand - divided we’re all potential victims of this incredibly frightening view of history, the world, and the new ‘divine right of presidents.’

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By Michael R Carl, January 4, 2007 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment
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Sam Harris has given a strong and compelling insight into the conflict and confusion about the role of religion in Western and Eastern societies. Ms Scholes I feel has articulated a clear and firm picture of what the nasty business is behind the conflict and confusion.

In the tradition and legitimacy of Western constitutional government, we inherited and abide by the Westminister Principle of the Seperation of Powers. In reality, the Bush government is in breach of this compact with the nation. Eisenhower said to Kennedy at the time of his inaugaration, “Beware the military industrial complex”. That was the Cold War, the Cuban Crisis, the Domino Theory. The enemy was ideological - not specifically religious if at all.

The Cold War is gone, a new enemy is needed. A new stimulus to the voters. A new means to exploit the corporate colonies.

Gore Vidal has powerfully depicted the machinations inside the White House before, during and after 9/11. Economic imperatives and war hawk ambitions mixed together into a potent brew that muddled Bush’s simple mind and made him a easy puppet for the likes of Chaney and Rumsfled. But, you can’t rely on George W to articulate the false premises, reasons and justification in political terms. There is an easier way, less accountable, less tangible but powerful in the mood and sentiment of the public. Religion.

Mr Bush’s public statements, inept and clumsy as they are do not deny or retract in any way his reliance on spiritual guidance and thus implied
justification in enabling his War on Terror.

Bush is the supreme executive. How is it possible that the Congress of the United States permits its government to breach the fundamental principle of the Seperation Of Powers without drawing ridicule upon itself let alone prosecution for introducing a non-legitimate, non-accountable mechanism of executive decision making into the liabilities of sovereign action?

Because it appeals to the voter body that is cruelly deceived into the belief that it is ordained by God, their God, not the one the Muslims worship.

Bush has equalised and legitimised Bin Laden. How America is to cope with the aftermath of this monsterously conceived tragedy is yet to assessed let alone understood.

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By Elizabeth Sholes, January 4, 2007 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Carl may be right - but let’s not overlook the fusion of the religious right and the utterly areligious neoconservatives in the US.  The quest for riches, for hegemony and even outright empire is the first principle of these people.  The neocons use the ultra conservative faithful as shock troops in the steady march toward global domination by the US.  The partnership is profound: the neocons dominate the material world and happily leave the (false) spiritual world to those seeking the Rapture and Second Coming.  The rest of us, faithful or not, are to be sacrificed.  That particularly includes non-Christians. 

Eradicating Muslims and their control over oil and tactical land suits the goals of both the True Believers and the Transnational corporate leaders. 

Of course the reaction by Muslims is powerful and full of rage.  Why would we think otherwise?  The US is renewing the Crusades, and once again Muslims are refusing to roll over for purported Christian/imperial forces.  Who among us would do otherwise if we were the targets? 

If we want peace, we must promote political, economic, and cultural justice.  If Americans want to assure that we aren’t the target of extremism, we have to stop being extremist ourselves.  Religion has very little to do with it - immoral political goals remain immoral whether there is a religious pastiche on them or not.

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By Michael R Carl, January 3, 2007 at 8:45 pm Link to this comment
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Ms Scholes has painted a very real and disturbing picture of the cause and effect not only in Islamic society but in ours as well.

Let us consider fanatasicm in the politco-religious hysteria formulated by the Nazi party from 1925 to the bitter end in 1945. How did an cultured affluent nation become so convinced it was right and neccesary? Revenge, anger, retribution, ego, arrogance and sheer power lust ran through all strata of society. Spiritual and possibly moral justification was thematic in many aspects of Nazi German society. The belt buckles of Wehrmacht soldiers was inscribed - Gott Mit Uns.

There is definetly a covert desire for the remergence of an Islamic empire. Oil wealth,but lack of real control in their destiny in the advancing world has created a terrible shism in the psyche of the Islamic world. Osama Bin Laden has a Hitlerian belief and Al Qaida is the new Nazi party.

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By Elizabeth Sholes, January 3, 2007 at 10:06 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Carl makes excellent points.  Religion has been a medium of extremism historically - that’s indisputable.  But Western imperialism and its attendant rapacious extraction of resources from under- and undeveloped nations has contributed enormously to centuries of human misery and suffering as well.  The utterly amoral quest for personal and corporate riches, for power, and for global dominance - a quest quite without theology - has engendered much of the world’s reaction whether that reaction is couched in religious or secular terms. 

Much of the American extremist community purports to be ‘Christian’ - much of it could not care less about religion.  The White Aryan Resistance (WAR) is atheistic while other groups such as the Army of God promulgate terror in the name of religion.  Extremism and terror don’t need religion to operate, and when they do embrace a religious motivation, it is too often a massive corruption of the very principles behind which they hide.  Extremists are a poor test of any human philosophy.

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By Michael R Carl, January 3, 2007 at 1:33 am Link to this comment
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As a long term visitor to Islamic countries, I think it is important to add that it is not just blind belief in the Koran that motivates jihad and suicide bombers. Most of these countries are in abject poverty with appalling health standards, and lack any form of real broad based education hence their understanding of the world is very limited. On top of that, historical feudal society and its attendant oppression continues. There is not much to live for in day to day terms.

The well off part of Islamic society is very much in the minority and of those who participate in violent jihadist action are truly psychotic. The civilised democratic Western world has had its share of well educated murderous nut cases too.

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By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, January 2, 2007 at 7:27 pm Link to this comment
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No argument for God succeeds as some of us here have shown .Many just make nonsensical statements.Look at Aquinas: he proposed that there had to be a first cause and if one takes away that cause, then nothing happens. But that is just begging the question. The idea that some super mind had us in mind just also begs the question. What is perfection? To argue that to ask for the derivation of God as Sahakian is the fallacy of multiple questions itself begs the question and special pleads that God is different. If the Kalam argument against an eternal cosmost were valid , it would also work against the existence of God. One searches in vain in theistic literature for arguments that Graham Oppy, Michael Martin, George Smith, Quentin Smith. Howard Jordan Sobel, Jonathon Harrrison,and other atheists make compelling arguments for atheism.Fideists have no argument as arguments they themselves acknowledge against natural theology effect even their thought as it depends on those arguments after all! They want a first cause and a designer to worship .Fideist John Hick shows that those two things cannot be, yet depends on them as attributes of God. Yes, logic is the bane of theists!Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.[ I am so ignorant ,but do push what I find true.I am humble in realizing the                           provisional nature of truth. There is no Truth!]

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By Bill, January 2, 2007 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment
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I have just read Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” and “The End of Faith”. Some interesting thought in these books, as well as many of the posts on his site. I especially find Katherine’s 11-12-2006 comment # 37829 of interest.

I think for the most part what underlies religion problems is how we as individuals interpret our live experience and how we pass this experience forward to others.

Humanity has gone to any extent to bend and twist their spiritual and emotional experiences with motives to create power and control over others for personal gains. All reverts back to the old survival of the fittest, but it has gotten us to where we are at this present time. I like to set aside these frailties and shortfalls of humanity and look at what might be the essence behind these numerous religious stories and beliefs. Setting these frailties aside leaves us with humanity trying to explain and deal with personal experiences that are not easily explained in relation to the realities of the past or present world.

My experiences in relation to meditation have brought me to some rather unusual and unexplainable experiences by many western Christian standards. Over the years I have come to the point of accepting these rather different personal experiences and what they mean to me as a self-aware physical being. I will present it as you are the one with the experience. How would you accept this, interpret this experience into your life experience and beliefs?

You are sitting within the outer edge of a small beautiful natural forested area of 100 acres, a very private and safe location. You have your back against one of the many trees that are reaching upward for 100 to 120 ft. It is a clear warm sunny day, peaceful and quite. You rest your back against the tree and feel the early morning sun against your face as you allow yourself to settle into a relaxed state. You focus first on your breathing, followed by a count down from 10 through to 1, with a deeper sensation of relaxation with each receding number. You become very aware of the presents of the tree behind you, this follows immediately with a loving calming sensation, at the same time a sweeping motion of being pulled upwards. (Brings to mind the people we often see who jump from high points with the bungee cords, only in reverse). You become aware of the expanding, branched canopy of the treetop, it appears as a glowing white translucent canopy. Instantly you have the sensation of rolling out across the entire forested area, which can only described as resembling a deep piled canopy of perhaps 10-15 feet of depth, it to is a glowing, white translucent light. You continue floating, sweep across this canopy. Your awareness and emotional sensation is one of awe, unexplainable pure harmony and peace. You feel you are totally present in and of this translucent light; you are at one with that which is this canopy of harmony, that which is present. Eventually the sensation begins to fade and you once again become aware of your presents at the base of the tree. You bow your head for several minutes, completely swept away by this unexplainable experience.

What would be the impact of this type of experience on past lives, on your life?

I have for the most part accepted this as an awareness, a natural experience assessable to anyone who is willing to be still, let go of their physical worldly activities long enough to allow the essence behind this physical reality to shine through one way or another. Call it what you want, some tack a name to it and they are numerous, as we all well know. If I could fathom an image in words it would simply have to resemble that which is. That which is the none physical essence behind the smallest traces of matter in the atom collider, to that which is behind the reality sought in the string theory crossing millions of galaxies.

It may sound strange but I too am that which is.

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By san mateo, December 25, 2006 at 2:38 pm Link to this comment
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“Given that fact, I think our culpability is somewhat mitigated, because I think there was a very good argument for trying to create a model democracy in the heart of the Muslim world, and Iraq was a plausible place to do that. But none of what I just said should be construed as a denial of the fact that we have done it horribly, or that we’re paying a terrible price for our failures. We are likely to pay for these failures long into the future.”

I read this essay because Lawrence O’Donnell recommended this author, Sam Harris, on Mcglaughlin Group yesterday.  But this paragraph that I’ve quoted has caused me to lose interest immediately. No intelligent person could believe that we had to go into Iraq, that we had to impose democracy, that we had to do any of that; that Mr. Harris thinks so makes him part of the problem.

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By Elizabeth Sholes, December 19, 2006 at 10:00 am Link to this comment
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Huh?

Sorry Mr. Haney- what you’ve written is incoherent rant.  It’s hard to make a case for the superiority of non-belief when you can’t make a case at all.

Of course mind-numbing dogma is detrimental to thought and enlightenment.  At no point have I disagreed with that assertion.  Clearly, however, it’s not the province of faith people alone.  You’ve raised it to an art form.

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By Jim Hanley, December 16, 2006 at 7:07 pm Link to this comment
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WAKE UP ELIZABETH! Fairytales are MAKE BELIEVE! 
“Religion” is an evil that warps the mind and creates the type of ‘robot’ that can be directed or manipulated to perform or commit antisocial, or atrocious acts like voting for a criminal to be President; or committing a terrorist slaughter!  And, the charlatans who despoil the ‘pristine’ minds of innocents, and rob them of the mental acuity they were born with, are the lowest type of criminals, even lower than other types of child molesters! And, ‘They’ who do this to children, are either “devious liars” or indoctrinated “idiotic” religious” “fanatics”.  How else to describe them?  And they belong in jail! What sensible, intelligent person does not DESPISE those who ‘brand’ and indoctrinate innocent children and fools with mind altering lies for the purpose of maintaining some sort of control over them? They are clearly criminals!
THE WORST FORM OF CHILD ABUSE IS THE PLUNDERING   OF THEIR MIND!

A beginning can not be found but keep your ear to the ground accept the words of a friend there is no beginning or end Religions Theocracy is ending Democracy Religions polution has no solution to Darwins Evolution the origin of nature for instance is ceaselessness existance
            Jim Hanley

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By Elizabeth Sholes, December 15, 2006 at 10:26 pm Link to this comment
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Western World:

People of faith support stem cell research because of the science as well as the ethics.  People of faith are in the forefront on global warming because of the science as well as our commitment to the care for creation.  People of science are pro-choice because of their knowledge of embryonic development as well as their consideration of the value of the existing woman and her moral agency.

There are, indeed, far, far too many people - some of faith, some knee-jerk religious principle, and many no faith tradition at all - who indulge in prejudice, in blind obedience to dogma, and in sheer idiocy.  It’s not a factor of faith or no faith -it’s a factor in the diminishing capacity of Americans in particular to learn the inter-relationships that exist among ideas or to have any exposure to quality education on the different ways of thinking through problems.  We are a nation of TV people - instant answers, vague principles, and no understanding of process.  Americans who have some small idea about something posit, “I have a theory about that” substituting theory for hunch - and we’re off and running.  Those who believe something is ‘only a theory’ come at it from that point of view.  It makes absolutely no difference if the person is grounded in faith or none at all - that’s just ignorant!

Most people of faith within mainstream Protestant religions respect science and try to listen to its increasingly complex explanations of how the world works.  Yes, we bring moral discernment to some issues - just because you CAN build a bigger and better H-bomb doesn’t mean it’s a moral choice to do so.  That is not anti-science; that is a philosophical review of the consequences to the survival of the human species and of the world.  We look to science - to nuclear winter - and to genetic sciences that warn us of cellular damage - as much as we look to the Bible or Koran or Talmud to refelct on the damage such devices and their detonation can do.

There is nothing you can present ‘statistically’ that I cannot question concerning the ways questions are posed, the sample, the interpretation.  Most people of faith within the mainstream, Protestant communities respect and support science.  However, if what you think is essential is unbridled acceptance of each and every turn of technical APPLICATION, then think again.  Philosophers from time immemorial have taught us the issues of discernment - and science in and of itself holds no moral superiority just because it IS science.  There is very little in a capitalist world that cannot be applied badly - one has only to remember Mengele and the other inhuman manifestations of German WW II technology. 

Science will necessarily be part of the ongoing functioning world of discovery and question.  That is a part of the human intellectual growth that science in it turn ought to respect! That sort of philosophical reflection, grounded in scular or spiritual principles (which are usually the same) is a critical aspect of the essential inquiry for the growth of the human mind.

It is not wishful thinking on my part.  This comes from extensive knowledge of the people with whom I deal daily who number in the millions.  Perhaps it’s simply that I’m hanging out with a better crowd than you do.  Scientists in America are definitely under the gun from the religious right, and it’s truly frightening to see Americans desire a return to a kind of magical thinking.  But we in the mainstream world of faith have come to the support time and again of science, science teachers, and open inquiry.  Don’t dismiss us or tar us with the same brush as the fearful conservatives - we outnumber ‘em.  You might need us someday.

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By WesternWorld, December 13, 2006 at 7:22 am Link to this comment
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My MY Elizabeth!

As I said and I will repeat it: Your belief is based upon anecdotal experiences not facts. It is wishful thinking.

I have to do some things right now but I will post the statistics I cited, with sources

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By Elizabeth Sholes, November 30, 2006 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment
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Western World-

Nonsense - I work with an organization grounded in progressive faith principles that is pro-science.  It represents ALL the mainstream Protestant denominations whose members are supportive of science.

So people don’t understand the scientific method and see it as a process?  That couldn’t be a problem with ALL Americans, faith people or not, could it?  American scientific general education is horrid.  But I bet if I asked you about pre-industrial capital formations and the labor process you’d spew out all the 19th-Century gibberish you’d been taught about that, too. 

And absolutism - scientific theory turn solipcism - abounds among too many secular advocates.  Want absolutism?  Try Edward Teller.  Try William Shockley.  Try Samuel Huntington in the field of social analysis.  All purport to be ‘scientifically’ grounded, and all are utterly unmoveable.  We are a nation of absolutists for a whole lot of reasons, and conservative faith principles is just one.  Our principles of ownership and devotion to zero-sum economics infuses our ways of looking at everything.

It is as silly for a scientific person to think that most people of faith are anti-science as it is for people of religious absolutism to believe science is the devil’s spawn.  You don’t know most people. and I seriously doubt you have any scientific data upon which to base your observations.  We champion science as an essential part of being an ethical human being.  Hope you can champion being an ethical human being right back at us!

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By WesternWorld, November 29, 2006 at 7:53 am Link to this comment
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Elizabeth Shoales wrote:

>I know absolutely no one who
>is a person of faith who does
>not believe totally in science,
>or free inquiry, or any
>other issue requiring an open
>and excited mind. 

This speaks of your personal, anecdotal experiences, not the facts. It speaks of your subjectivity and personal perceptions

Most religious people dont even know what the fundamental principles of science are. They dont even know that some hypotheses are scientific and some are not. That is because they dont know the rules of the scientific method. 

As someone who has posted thousands of times on newsgroups (before I created my website http://www.stopthereligiousright.org ) I can say that even religious liberals are mostly clueless regarding the philosophy and principles of science. I have done research over and over and find that few know what science really is. They think of science as an established ‘thing’, not an ongoing PROCESS with strict rules for building knowledge. There are strict rules in the language, too. There is no such thing as a perfect explanation in science because all explanations are based on the level of evidence for an hypothesis. The level of evidence dictates the level of probability for any hypothesis. People dont know this and use the word “proof” alot. Science isnt about proof, its about evidence, probability and repeated hypothesis testing. People generally dont know that so you really cant say that you dont know of any faithful that totally believe in science. If they actually knew what science was, they would not totally believe in science. These same people actually think that religion and science are compatible. They can share the same world but they have almost nothing in common and have been at war with each other for ages.

Did you know that 40% of Americans think the earth is 10,000 years or younger? These are mostly religious fundamentalists, of course. But even more telling about society’s ignorance regarding science is that religious liberals (over 40% more) believe in the “Intelligent Design” hypothesis where God is directing evolution.

With science there is no evidence to suggest either points of view have any credence.

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By Greg Franklin, November 28, 2006 at 5:12 am Link to this comment
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As Nietzsche said….

Was man god’s mistake or was god man’s mistake?

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By Elizabeth Sholes, November 27, 2006 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment
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My only problem with Harris’ observations about religion is that he has created a straw man quite fit to knock down: religious fundamentalism.  I know absolutely no one who is a person of faith who does not believe totally in science, or free inquiry, or any other issue requiring an open and excited mind. 

By ignoring the vast majority of people of faith - religious mainstream and progressive folks all - he takes the easy way out.  His is a largely correct observation that narrow religious belief can put up walls against rational thought and discourse.  Progressives, however,  find religion a path toward moral and ethical human interaction, a guide post for kindness and compassion, and a call to social justice.  It is not a delimiting device that requires anyone to renounce rationalism. There is no necessary dichotomy between science and religion at any point over any issue. 

Faith isn’t about that, well learned and used.  If science disproves some of our assumptions, so be it.  It’s rather like the historian of the Iron Age who discovered upon recreating such a village that the depressions in front of doorways not only had no religious significance as he had thought - they were made by chickens taking dirt baths.  To his credit, he laughed the hardest. 

Progressives don’t need absolutes or certainties in faith - it’s a guide, a life line, and inspiration, a moral compass.  We are the last people to be offended by science and rationality, and we are also the last to feel the need to defend absolutes to the death.  Hope, joy, inspiration about how to be a functioning human being, how to become a moral actor within a complex world, and a joyful celebrator of life around us - that’s what faith gives us whether we are Abrahamic peoples, Buddhists, or anyone else.  The people Mr. Harris reviles are people whose acts on earth we also oppose and try to counter. 

So is it faith or fundamentalism that curtails our thought and advancement as human beings?  I think it’s the latter, and Mr. Harris makes an ecological fallacy by presuming you can reason from one to all.  As a scientist, he ought to know better.

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By Jim Hanley, November 24, 2006 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment
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The Origin of Nature
A beginning cannot be found but keep an ear to the ground
Accept the words of a friend there is no beginning or end
Religion’s Theocracy is ending Democracy
Religion’s polution has no solution to Dawin’s Evolution
The origin of nature for instance Is endlessness! existance
            J.H.8/29/06
Time is evaporating the opportunity to awaken
the masses from their fairyland nightmare

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By Jim Hanley, November 24, 2006 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment
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THE ORIGIN OF NATURE
Beginning cannot be found but keep your ear to   the ground
Accept the words of a friend theres no beginning or end
Religions Theocracy is killing Democracy
Religions polution is no solution for Darwins evolution
The origin of Nature for instance is ceaselessness existance
Jim Hanley

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By WesternWorld, November 16, 2006 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment
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It is near impossible for any religion based on “revelation” to evolve.

Compounding the lack of a cohesive argument for the existence of ‘God’, there is another huge wall. The ‘facts’ that both Islam and Christianity have are derived from revelations in their books. They are set in stone and can’t evolve. If you believe that a religious claim is unassailalble then there is not any way it can evolve.

An amusing claim of supernaturalists is that the revelations of the Bible are God’s revealing of natural law. Say what? It would seem to me that supernatural law is what has made knowledge of nature slow to come.

On the other hand, having only one handicap, liberal believers - religious humanists don’t take the Bible as divinely inspired. These believers have helped in the rights movements of the past, opposing the religious conservatives in matters of religious diversity, slavery, suffrage, family planning, segregation, and now GLBT rights.

Religious humanists are indespensible in the expansion of liberty and the never ending fight to keep church and state apart.

They may open the door for fanatics but their help over the centuries has been noteworthy. Of course, if it hadnt been for some of these theist beliefs in thre first place, we wouldnt have to much BS to undo. So, I guess its their job po fix what they have wrought over the centuries.  Irony.

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By morgan-lynn lamberth, November 14, 2006 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
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Theists believe ; we non-theists     accept reality. We accept evolution as the force on its own rather than an empty vessel ,guided by a super mind. That mind would have to so complex as Dawkins points out : it would have to respond to billions of people in thoudands of languages.

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By Mary Lou, November 13, 2006 at 8:20 pm Link to this comment
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Now if only the apocalypse could happen soon (tongue in cheek) and each Christian would take one Muslim with him/her, there might be more room on earth for people who will respect the earth, more room in the trout streams, and fewer people on the highways.  We’d like to invite Sam over for dinner so we can talk.  What kind of wine do you prefer, Sam?  You are welcome here anytime!  How should we atheists get together so we aren’t so isolated, weak, and unheard?  Truly, thank you, Sam, for speaking so straightforwardly and brilliantly.  Stay safe so we can hear from you for a long time.

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By Carol, November 13, 2006 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment
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Tony Wicher believes that atheists are intolerant of any religions….I don’t believe in religion because it’s patriarchal in origin and androcentric.

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By Katherine, November 13, 2006 at 12:10 am Link to this comment
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Religion is only dangerous because it has not evolved.  As a tool that mankind developed for its own understanding of human purpose, religion serves, but not when it clings to the past.  As an understanding of our human nature projected onto an all powerful being religion serves to define our own shadow. This is why we have the very “mean” God of the OT.  We were then offered a version of our benevolant and merciful nature, the “good” in humanity.  This clash between the two is no suprise, it represents the very struggle between the good/evil within human nature of each person.  For some, it is easy to choose a loving God, since it most reflects what they believe and know about themselves.  For others, they choose the vengeful God who can destroy enemies, since this reflects what they have experienced within their own nature. That in itself has a purpose for the evolution of the psyche. Until those who prescribe to a humanized diety realize this process though, religion is purely a tool to scapegoat their denial onto. 

Mankind has been struggling to understand its own divine purpose and destiny at the cost of understanding mankind itself.  In the process of discovering human psyche, the mysteries of God, the universe…spirit if you will…are darkened by the lower nature of mankind.  Mankind is both angel and devil.  Moral and Immoral.  Ethics and Morality do not come from religion, they are inherent in our nature.  When religion does not recognize the growth of consciousness and awareness that comes with evolution, it then begins to bind and oppress like a poor fitting girdle. When we seek to understand “God” and not our own self, we have no freedom to grow.  Do you not know those who have fear of leaving tradition as they will then not know who they are or what is expected of them?  They need the comfort of the confines of the definition that served others before them.  But this is not evolution or growth.  This is not expansion of awareness and wisdom.

There are more enlightened understandings of the “God” idea in the world than the ones offered by currently defined choices.  Even athiests are given a category that properly defines their belief set, but not all spiritual people have a form of faith that is statistically recognized.

You may have faith without religion. 

The more accurate statement then should be…

Religion, traditionally defined, is in the dark ages, but as with all other advances, there are those enlightened individuals who continue to push the awareness of the divine into greater wisdom and worth.  I respect science as a form of enlightenment, not as a proof of spiritual meaninglessness to life. 

The evidence of divine power, without need to ascribe human attributes to divinity, is found in the very miracles of life we are all given to experience.  We need not seek to define “God” as something separate or full of personality and human character, we need to seek to define ourselves in that manner.  God is undefinable as a source of ALL.  Just as you can not fathom beyond the grasp of your imagination the vastness of the universe, the creator of all that is divine, is beyond comprehension.

The word God is more appropriately assigned to the idea of an authority personality required for the human process of psychological and sociological development as a species. There are sciences which serve to give understanding of the needs of religion.  Psychology.  Sociology.  Politics.  These are human sciences. They deserve equal respect, and in these sciences many amazing truths are found pertaining to how religion has served humanity in its quest to define itself as creatures on the earth.

The folly of mankind is the need to put the idea of God into a form that fits into their frame of reference. 

Eventually, mankind will come to realize that the creative power that scientist’s use to gain knowledge upon earth is the creative power supplying the intelligence they need to comprehend what they discover. Where does our intelligence come from?

Mankind does evolve, enlightenment is inevitable.  There are already many highly enlightened humans on this planet. They are not categorized and labeled or out there making speeches and writing books.  IF you think that coming out as an Athiest is difficult, consider coming out as an enlightened being who can see the connection of ALL thoughts continuing on into one great direction…

The last time an enlightened Master was on the earth who demonstrated the power of the divine within each of us humans destroyed him for claiming to have this power from God. 

Yet, he taught also: It is the truth of the power within all of us. 

We are the “God” we seek…who can accept this truth or make this statement on earth?  It would hold too much weight and responsiblity to yell it from the rooftops! But there are those who know this truth. Those who have this knowledge are not out there making new religions with more prophets to follow, but are quietly using it to work toward changing the consciousness of mankind. In this way faith continues to evolve, just as does science.

Peace!

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By reinier hill, November 6, 2006 at 11:20 am Link to this comment
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An educated and gifted person such as Sam Harris are a pleasure to experience.
My view are not unlike his and I have promoted for the longest time the notion that God is just a three letter word given in ancient times to the process of nature. We are religious beings because there are a lot more questions in a lifetime than answers.It starts with Parential misinformation and slowly a truth fills a void in our minds that leads to this God conclusion.
To call myself an offpring of this process of nature is a fact and I always thought that Jezus may have come to the same conclusion.
This kind of truth slowly sinks in a persons’ mind with a healthy lifestyle and are blessed by this very process of nature.

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By Tony, November 5, 2006 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment
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Sams book is terrific and mirrors my feelings completely. Many of those on this board that disagree have never tried to imagine a life without God, and losing God is a difficult thing when one feels that the equation Inspiration = God is true. When one discovers that the equation Inspiration = Inspiration is true, and one finds a more truthful and less fragile path to inspiration, believe me-it is a true awakening. So to Brent Goodman and others on the board, give truth a try. I would personally start with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged as one can get a begginers view of the beauty of reason, and perhaps check other forms of philosophy out from there.

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By Jim Lee, November 2, 2006 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment
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I live in Australia and I’m 72 years old, an ex Christian now Atheist. After I left Christianity I decided to produce a web page where folk can read “My Testimony” as to how I escaped the addiction of faith belief. I also put together many essays of my experiences regarding Christianity and it’s fraudulent nature. It also contain many interesting links to other web sites.
http://www.geocities.com/inexileau/index.html

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By saul, November 1, 2006 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment
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As someone said , you may not be able to prove there is no God but unless you believe God is a stupid baby killing liar, the God of the Bible has nothing to do with God.
That God said a man that had sex with the wife of another shall die, yet allowed his Chosen King David to not only live, but keep the Kingdom and the loot from bis crime, Bathsheba proving crime pays if you have an in with the Judge. That God also said in Deuteronomy 24:16 that a son shall not die for the sins of the father and yet that God caused the death of King David’s son for just that reason and then the fool turned around and smiled on Solomon who built altars to other Gods showing what a complete utter ass this God is.

As for the stupid liar Jesus who said that one of the Lords in the saying ” My Lord said to My Lord” was him. That came from the Psalm 110
Psalm 110

1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.

3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.

4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. ( a Priest like Mel- not the fucking Messiah or greatest-  Jesus is a liar as was the God in the Bible)
And what could be prornographic then the saying that gives Christian a warm and fuzzy feeling ” God so loved his people that he sacrificed his only begotten (should be MIS)son” This means that the one who condemned all men because of the act of one could then only redeem these he so condemned by resorting to the sacrifice of his only son) an act like pagans sacrficing virgins.
I wonder how many Christians realize that somehow othe sons of God as it says in Genesis 6 came to Earth. And it was only after these sons of God mated with daughters of men did the idiot decide he was regretted his Craetion

http://www.religionquestioned.com

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By madelein o'hare, November 1, 2006 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment
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12 important questions to be asked by any rational person as a guide to the question of whether or not there is a God.

1.  If logic is the hallmark that separates man from beast, why is religion then a matter of “faith”, rather than rationality?
2.  If something cannot be proved, then why do people continue to believe in it?
3.  If there is a God, which is the real one and how come when a culture no longer exists neither do its gods?  Isis? Ra? Neptune? Zeus? Apollo? Shiva? Vishnu? Buddha? Mohammed? Yahweh? Jesus?
4.  If the Christian God is monotheistic how can it also be triune with Jesus & the Holy Spirit?
5.  If God was the father of Jesus via the “immaculate conception”, wasn’t Mary technically raped & impregnated against her will?
6.  If Jesus was born to a mother who was unwed doesn’t that make him a bastard?
7.  If “Christ died for your sins on the cross”, how much of a sacrifice was it really, considering he’s immortal?
8.  Why do people continue to believe in religion’s gods when promises made for thousands of years have yet to be delivered, whereas, science has shown us the earth is NOT flat, the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, medicine heals but prayers don’t, and although we can’t literally walk on water we can circumnavigate the globe underwater in a submarine and fly to the moon?
9.  If religions are so concerned with our spiritual welfare, then why do they amass material wealth, land, buildings, artwork, gold and riches?
10.  If God made the earth and then created a great flood to wipe it out, how could a perfect, infallible being make something needing to be destroyed and begun anew?
11.  If God “gave his only son” to save us from our sins, then why do we have to do anything?
12.  If marriage is such a great institution then why did Christ remain single and prefer the exclusive company of a group of all men?

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By Steve, October 31, 2006 at 10:17 pm Link to this comment
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Just want to say one thing.  As a child attending church surrounded by people who prayed in the morning and were soundly liquored up by kickoff time, beating their wives for being upset with them because they grabbed the babysitter’s ass on their way to check out the pile of Playboy’s under the bed they shared with that wife they “honored and cherished,” I found myself wondering about this whole religion thing.  Was it religion’s FAULT, or were most of these people under the impression they could somehow fool God by showing up once a week to worship?

Now that I’m older and have come to understand some of the purposes for religion, such as human’s desperate need to find meaning and salvation, or the perfect boy’s club, or an institution that makes sure men are the ‘owners’ of things (including their women), or a good hideout for those who feel guilty about their homosexuality and needing a cover, I’ve come to one clear understanding.  While some religious people are wonderful and truly believe and do no harm to others, many, many don’t really believe a damn thing and do a great deal of harm while hiding behind their ‘religiousness’ (our current president, for example), and I have no need for it.

My credo is simple:  Treat people well; be honest; and do nothing that is meant to harm another human being.  If there is a God, I’m sure he or she will be okay with how I’ve lived my life.

One more thing:  The notion that if one doesn’t accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior will burn in eternal hell is absolutely insanity.  There are some aboriginal people who still worship trees or rocks and have NEVER HEARD OF JESUS.  I asked this to a door-knocker for Jesus the other day and they believe this person would burn.  If the God some of you worship would allow a good person to burn in eternal hell (repeat that phrase a few times and actually imagine what you’re saying) for not acknowledging something they can’t possibly have knowledge of, or even if they do but chose not to, it’s not a God I would want even as an acquaintance - even if they were buying the beer.

Until there’s some rock solid proof of any of this, I’m good with just being a good guy and will spend my Sunday mornings building the self-esteem of my child.

Love and peace.

Steve

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By Jim Lee, October 28, 2006 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment
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I really admire what Sam Harris is trying to achieve. Leading Religions of the world including Christianised America, are in reality the Axis of Evil. As an Ex Christian now atheist, residing in Australia, I have discovered that all religions are frauds. Common sense and reasoning reveal to those who think for themselves, that Gods are a manufacture of religions to bring people under some form of control. Anyone with a serious open mind, and prepared to do some extensive research into Christian roots, will soon come the the conclusion that the New Testament Jesus is a myth of giant proportions. Atheists are not evil people as the church would try to have you believe but just ordinary everyday people. Kind regards to all.

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By liz, October 24, 2006 at 10:31 am Link to this comment
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....of those 97% of americans who profess believing in God i imagine half of them don’t DARE say they don’t out of fear of what?  outcast, losing a job or promotion, ignored, vandalized?  professing atheism or agnosticism in some people’s view is right up there with saying you are a child molester!  we are buried in hypocrisy with lots of it to go around. i personally, do not need a religion, much less a god. but yes, i do believe in the goodness of mankind and find the words of many prophets (not gods) worth heeding.  i have read and applaud harris’ book.

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By Dixie Elder, October 21, 2006 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment
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People cannot call themselves atheists, since that implies they can prove there is no god. Einstein, great Physicist, said “What humanity owes to Buddha, Moses & Jesus is of more value to me than all the achievements of the investigating & constructive mind.” (1937) 90% of human suffering has come from evil people who want power. Hitler & his “team” renounced Christianity & made up their own “religion” based on ancient Nordic beliefs. Humans want order, they seek to control nature, including other humans. We survived, in part, because we are violent hunting animals. Anthropoids developed superior mental capacities for survival. Religion evolved to control our capacity for killing others in order to keep lands. The Bible is full of stories about human nature: lust, murder, etc. but this isn’t the message. Whether Jew, Christian or Muslim, we are meant not to kill, if we follow the 10 commandments. Or, as all religions say in one way or another (as Medical practitioners allegedly believe): “First, do no harm,” or “love one another.” Medical personnel have done harm to millions via careless drug trials. Brilliant scientists created hideous weaponry, such as the A-Bomb. China is an allegedly godless nation, yet it cruelly tortures Tibetans, S. Koreans & others who defy it. Americans are not innocent by any means but to be a Christian is to follow Jesus. Many people who’ve never read the Bible call themselves Christians when they are really just conservatives. Jesus was no fool. He kicked thieves out of the temple. He exposed liars & died, not only for our sins but because He dared speak loudly in a land that was subject to Rome. This is a time when we Must speak freely or lose our freedom. My husband & I believe in God. Our best friend is an agnostic scientist who denounced his family’s Catholicism. We watch old 1950s movies & laugh our heads off at “Mad Scientists” and their creatures. There is no animosity between us, despite the vast difference in belief systems. He chose to believe in Science. We choose God. There is little difference, both are Vast & perhaps impossible to ever fully understand—-but try we must! Sincerely, Dixie Elder (my husband is Libertarian. I vote for no party but for whoever seems least insane in this very insane world).

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By Pal, October 19, 2006 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment
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Nadine,

He’s not offering a religion to follow, he’s not offering any faith.  The one element that has plagued man kind is faith and he is trying to rid of this element in our daily lives.

You are right when you say seperation is good, but ridding of religion all together is even better, this is our conquest, to achieve such a feat.

Religion is anti-man, anti-brain, anti-creativity, it is a plague, and without faith man would be extremely prosperous, instead now we are at a state of advancement, 10 years-20 years behind with a leader who lives off faith and refuses to seperate it from his job.

The executive branch is too powerful, America is in a dictatorship, thank goodness Bush is not Muslim.

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By Nadine, October 19, 2006 at 8:52 am Link to this comment
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Sam Harris stating the 9/11 events as theologically-inspired conflict, is very dangerous and reflects his one-track mind about religions as the source of every evil. I do not believe that he is so naieve and never heared of the political conflicts leading to the rise of fundametalism in the moslem world. Theological conflicts did not exist in the last few centuries. Logical thinking implies the question, why now??
please do not take this as justification or excuse, it is just an invitation to analytical thinking

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By Nadine, October 19, 2006 at 7:28 am Link to this comment
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I love the on going debat, it is helarious that again everybody including Harris is selling his opinion as the only truth and the rest should be eliminate!! nobody has the humility to see that he is falling into the same old trap which is causing all the damage to humanity along the history. Tolerance may be something to consider. Some need to believe in a God, not everybody on this earth have heared on Einstein or Nitsche, others in science. Why do not leaving that way and breach for more tolerance and for separation of religions and states. Does it really help going through all these bobo details in the old books to proove they are right or wrong? most people do not go that far even in their believe.

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By Jason, October 17, 2006 at 7:47 pm Link to this comment
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Gladys,

Based on your statement, yes, I’d be willing to bet you do have “dumb putz” written across your forehead.

Let’s ignore the fact that Harris is a professed ATHEIST. Do you not see the irony of your statement?

You, my dear, are a moron. This is not an opinion; it is provable by a simple equation. I would show you this equation, however I’m afraid you might start throwing stones or try to club me.

Instead, I’ll simply offer you a banana and hope you are hungry.

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By morgan-lynn lamberth, October 1, 2006 at 10:13 pm Link to this comment
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Don’t equate trust in science with faith in a god. The former is empirically base, the latter ,in nothing.  Trust and blind faith are not synonomous.

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By Gladys, October 1, 2006 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment
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I swear, the last person I am going to listen to about how evil my culture and religion are is a Jew. 

Gimme a break.  They have been going after us gentiles for being the Great Satan since they tried to exterminate us in Canaan because “God told them to”. Even now in Israel and other ultra-Orthodox regions they talk about us (in code) as the evil “Amalekites”. 

And I should listen to Sam Harris?  One of them? Do I have “DUMB PUTZ!” written across my forehead?  Sheesh.

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By Open Skeptic, September 26, 2006 at 8:45 pm Link to this comment
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It would be interesting to rank religion, as a direct cause of death, in relation to heart disease, cancer, stroke (cerebrovascular diseases), accidents (unintentional injuries), diabetes, alzheimer’s disease, influenza/pneumonia, nephritis/nephrotic syndrome/nephrosis, and septicemia.

According to the CDC these are the top 10 causes of death in the United States. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm)

Direct causes of death means murder for religious reasons. For example, 2819 people were killed on 9/11 as a direct result of religion. That’s a clear case, but some are not. I’m not sure how this is best defined. Should the deathtoll of Palestinian suicide bomber attacks be included? Those murders are also a form of revenge/resistance relating to secular land and political issues. What about Shia/Sunni killings in Iraq? Comments anyone?

It would also be interesting to see where religion ranks as an indirect cause of death. For example, Catholic opposition to the use of condoms has no doubt greatly contributed to the spread of STDs. Other indirect causes include smoking, drunk driving, and malnutrition.

I read “The End Of Faith” and I agree with its arguements about how religion is a sham. Many of those arguements I thought of on my own, but I didn’t see a lot of scientific or logical reasoning why religion is so dangerous, besides the idea that WMDs might be easy for anyone to obtain in the future. I’m not even convinced that is a good arguement because athiests are also quite willing to kill. There are other reasons besides faith to wipe out a major city.

For example, if a group had a nuke and could move it freely in the US they could destroy New York and then demand the US government turn over all its gold reserves (or insert other demand here) within 8 hours or 5 US cities with a popuation of over 3 million each will be attacked. Any attmept at mass evaucations will result in the detonation of all nukes. All air traffic in DC must be grounded within 30 minutes and any traffic in or out of any government building in DC and the nukes go off. So much as a janitor steps off the property and BOOM! Infact, this could be done when the president was on live TV giving the State of the Union address and the threat could be that he must put his hands behind his head, get on his knees and remain on live TV until the payment has been made. If broadcast is inturrupted for even 1 second everybody dies including him. Nearly the entire government and opposition would be lost. I’m sure you can all have lots of fun thinking of your own movie plot scenarios.

There is no need for religion to motovate such a crisis. It could be a desire for revenge for something that the government did 30 years before. It could be simple greed. Some deranged group might be angry that the TSA made them take their shoes off before they could board the plane. Simply put, if weapons of mass destruction become that easy to obtain we are not safe no matter what happens to religion. It is unreasonable to argue that even without these silly myths, all people on Earth are going to act in a rational way all the time. I do not see any evidence that religion is THE cause of human greed, intolerance, jealousy, or hated. Religion may evoke such emotions, but it did not create them.

So, how much death does religion actually cause per year? What percentage of annual death does that amount to? Is this figure going up or down? Is there any pattern to it? Sure, the faithful have mutilated and killed many people. But then so has farm equipment. We don’t automatically attack farming. We try to make it safer.

Is our time better spent fighting religion or heart disease? Lets use reason to put this problem of religion into perspective.

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By jay wilson, September 25, 2006 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment
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Aaron wrote: “I admit I am joyful in finding common ground among us.  I too wish we could experience another period of enlightenment.  Of course there were MANY great scholars, theologians, philosophers, reasoners, scientists, that went before us.  21st century discussion is fine, but let us build on the discussions that came before.  No doubt this debate has been going on for centuries, though the stakes are much higher now. “

There is no doubt of the greatness of past theologians and philosophers but they were limited by their time and had no idea how the world worked, yet many people today are still clinging to these ancient myths. Any enlightenment needs to shake up the status quo and, if history is any guide, it will not go down easy. Yet, as you say, the stakes are much higher now. It’s only a matter of time before religious intolerence leads to violence on a “biblical” scale.

By most polls over 50% of people in the US are creationists. They don’t believe that creationism explains evolution; they don’t believe evolution occurred at all!  They believe the earth is 6000 years old, Adam and Eve are our genetic forebears and the fossil record is some kind of ruse. The US is second to the bottom of a long list of countries to discount the agreement among 99% of scientists worldwide on evolution.

This is the kind of thinking, or lack of thinking, that faith propagates. This should be absolutely frightening to any critically thinking person. In any other domain you are held accountable for your beliefs and are required to produce evidence. Yet, in matters of faith all rules go out the window and it’s taboo to even question one’s beliefs.

At least in this forum, most of the threads are civil. That’s a start to a constructive dialogue to find common ground!

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By Aaron Ruby, September 25, 2006 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment
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You forget man—I am a Christian.  I believe everything is a gift!

What I was trying to get at, was asking you when you STARTED your business, you had no experience, nor empirical knowledge about whether your business would succeed—right?  In other words, what experience did you have with the manufacturing and selling of fleece?  I assume your answer is NONE.  You went “out on a limb” as they say.  Therefore, you made a very important decision in life based on very little (IF ANY) empirical knowlege.  So, you had FAITH that you would succeed.  You took a leap based on something inside of you that said hey you could do it. 

I took your advice, according to Webster’s:  Empirical- capable of being verified or being dis-PROVED by observation or experiment.  So, can you at least tell me when you started, was it a leap of faith or some thought process using empirical knowledge? 

Please be careful with the condensceding tone you take in your email.  It’s unbecoming of one so confident in knowledge.

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By WesternWorld, September 25, 2006 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment
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Aaron,

How is Faith a gift?

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By WesternWorld, September 25, 2006 at 10:13 am Link to this comment
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Aaron,

Empiricism is knowledge based on experience and observation. I have been in business since 1993. Thats exeprience and observation. I have faith that the business will continue based on the results of the past. Empirical knowledge regarding my business is this: I have a superior product because I know I cant compete with cheap imports. It has worked for 16 years. If you want the best winter fleece products, you buy from me. Any questions?....grin

Of course, strange or unexpected things happen that we dont plan on. That element of life we can have faith in, too - from general experiences - that there is a level of probability that things will not continue down a tested and tried track. 

If anything never changes, its that change always happens.

I think when you challenge someone, you should use the dictionary if you are not entirely sure what a word means. I always touch base with a dictionary when a word is not crystal clear to me. Many words have cultural attachments that are different from tha actual definition.  With you its “empirical” and “empiricism”.

I have seen the same problems with regards to many who attack science. They dont have a basic grasp as to what the philosophy or methodology of science are.

You can tell how much a person understands by how much they use the words “prove” and “proof”. “Fundies” also show their lack of knowledge when they demand “provoing a negative”.

The reason for this judgement is that science isnt about proof. It is about evidence for ideas and the degrees of probability that are associated with the degrees of evidence. Good hypotheses have high levels of evidence and verifiability which give them high levels of probability. Weak hypotheses like religious ones (Intelligent Design, veracity of ancient myths, etc) cant be verified, have a poverty stricken level of evidence and subsequently are given low or extremely low levels of probability.

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By Aaron Ruby, September 25, 2006 at 6:18 am Link to this comment
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Western World:  What about faith in your own ability to suceed with your company?  I recall your attaching a website link to Medusa Headware.  What is emperical about that venture, at least as far as it concerns you?  Are you not required to have faith in your own abilities to suceed everyday?  How would you go about proving to me that you will suceed?

Jay Wilson:  Faith is not someTHING that we give each other.  It is a gift inherent in each of us.  Again, it is very much a human trait much like love or hate.  We are born with the ability to have faith.  We probably exercise it more as adults than we do as kids (there’s irony for you).

I don’t believe those two statements are equal.  Each does not profess to be THE truth—only one does. 

I’d like for you both to consider this about truth and reasoning:

“Everyone who knows that he has doubts knows with certainty something that is true, namely, that he doubts.  He is certain, therefore, about A truth, Therefore, everyone who doubts whether there be such a thing as THE truth has at least A truth to set a limit to his doubt; and nothing can be true except truth be in it.  Accordingly, no one ought to have doubts about the existence of THE truth, even if doubts arise for him from every possibly quarter.  Wherever this is seen, there is light that transcends space and time and all phantasms that spring from spatial and temporal things.  Could this be in the least destroyed even if every reasoner should perish or grow old among inferior carnal things?  Reasoning does not create truth but discovers it.  Before it is discovered it abides in itself; and when it is discovered it renews us.”  St. Augustine, 354-430.

I admit I am joyful in finding common ground among us.  I too wish we could experience another period of enlightenment.  Of course there were MANY great scholars, theologians, philosophers, reasoners, scientists, that went before us.  21st century discussion is fine, but let us build on the discussions that came before.  No doubt this debate has been going on for centuries, though the stakes are much higher now.

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By WesternWorld, September 24, 2006 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment
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Aaron,

I have never said we live without faith.  Its the size of the leaps that we have to consider.

We have “faith” in things that are observable and experienced. This is empiricism. We have faith that people going the other way will stay on their side of the road.

But religious faith is not based on any empiricism based in observation or objectified data. It is 100% speculation and conjecture founded in subjective experience. (For thousands of years people heard voices; now we call it schizophrenia and it can be treated because it is a neurological disease)

While we leap a few feet in our leap of faith when we travel down the road, we jump lightyears with blind religious faith.

I have faith in things shown to be predictable. Driving. Payback from exercising. Faith in the methods of science, etc. Religious faith is not in any way based on anything empirical. Nothing can be tested. Nothing can be verified. Nothing can be observed in nature that cant be interpreted as nature and nothing else. Religious faith is a faith unlike the faith we have in everyday things we can expect because of experience and observation.

Blind faith isnt a result of seeing.

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By jay wilson, September 24, 2006 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
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I just saw you response to my question of the circumstance of birth:

Aaron: “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”

Do you not see the irony in that admission? Either one is the true way (I am the way, the truth, and the light and no man goes to the father but by me) or the other is the true way (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet)), at least according to their adherents.

Doesn’t that say something about faith and the objectivity of truth?

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By jay wilson, September 23, 2006 at 9:36 pm Link to this comment
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Aaron,

“Faith” is the license we give each other to go on believing despite the lack of evidence or even despite massive evidence to the contrary.

Faith is called “blind” because you can’t see. I would rather be empirically informed when it comes to making decisions about, or affecting, my life. But that’s me.

Given the number of potentially disasterous situations going on around the world, we need critical thinking now more than ever. Faith is not only not going to help, it has the potential to divert the resources we need to deal with real problems like global climate change, terrorism, and the like. Faith, on both sides, is the problem. The answer to Islamic jihad is not more faith, it’s thinking rationally with both feet on the ground.

It seems to me that we are overdue for another period of “enlightenment”. We need 21st century conversations about ethics, morality, and happiness, using all our best minds and available tools. There is no reason to continue to base our worldview on 1st century thinking saying things we can’t possibly know are true.

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By Aaron Ruby, September 23, 2006 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment
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Western World,

You act as if faith has no place whatsoever in the human experience.  Unless something can be proven to you, you cannot subscribe.  But whether you will acknowledge it or not, we live by faith every day, even you do.  From the words of Georgia Harkness, “If you were sick, you would not go to the doctor w/o faith that the doctor will help you.  You do not go to bed at night w/o faith that the bed will support and not suffocate you.  You do not eat w/o faith that the food you eat will nourish you and not poison you.”  We all live by faith.  The human condition requires it.  You are absolutely wrong by believing faith and reason are oppossed and cannot co-exist.

Trappist monk Thomas Merton, 1915-1968 said:

“This issue is generally misunderstood, because faith has so often been proposed as alien to reason and even as contrary to it…but if faith has no intellectual reference whatever, it is hardly possible to see how “having faith” can contribute much to your outlook on life or to your behavior.  It does not seem to be much more important than having red hair or a wooden leg.  It is just something that happened to you, but did not happen to your next-door neighbor.

This false idea of faith….barricades itself in the attic, and leaves the rest of the house to reason.  Actually, faith and reason are meant to get along happily together.  They were not meant to live alone, in divorce or in separation”.

To continue, H. Richard Niebuhr, 1894-1962 said it very well:

“Now it is evident, when we inquire into ourselves and into our common life, that without such active faith or such reliance and confidence of power we do not and cannot live.  Not only the just but also the unjust, insofar as they live, live by faith.  We live by knowledge also, it is true, but not by knowledge without faith.  In order to know, we must always rely on something we do not know;  in order to walk by sight, we need to rely on what we do not see.  The most evident example of that truth is to be found in science, which conducts its massive campaign against obscurity and error on the basis of a great faith in the intelligiblity of things; when it does not know and finds hindrances in the path of knowledge, it asserts with stubborn faith that knowledge nevertheless is possible, that there is a pattern and intelligibility in the things which are not yet intelligible.  Such faith is validated in practice, yet it more outruns practice.”

Do you see?  You must have faith in something to move forward!

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By WesternWorld, September 23, 2006 at 11:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Getip typed:

>There is also empirical evidence
>that his body disappeared from his tomb. 

Hearsay (storytelling) is not imperical evidence. As evidence goes hearsay isnt even allowed in a court of law. Hearsay is suspect. Stories change with every oral transmission.

Empirical means observation, experience and experiment can verify something.

There is nothing empirical about faith in ancient stories or supernatural realities.

Believing through faith in the hearsay and stories from ancient times has nothing to do with empiricism.

There are not even any primary historical sources for the life of this Jesus.

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By Pal, September 23, 2006 at 1:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

GETIP and Aaron,

Have you guys ever pondered that your beliefs come from a time when people didn’t have the science and technology we have today which absolutely refute any after death scenarios?

Those people you are following, had less developed cerebral hemispheres.  This religion is what it was like for a primitive civilization to create.

You are in the 21st century, why not evolve and contribute new beliefs?

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