Show Entries

Great Debate
Entered on: January 23, 2007 8:05 AM by Ross

You guys have heard me talk up Sam Harris before, but this debate with a conservative, pro-religion (and gay - how does he do it?) columnist is a real treat to read, and had me laughing out loud several times. 

Some of my favorite choice quotes:

Forty-four percent of Americans believe that Jesus will return to earth to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years. This idea is extreme in almost every sense—extremely silly, extremely dangerous, extremely worthy of denigration—but it is not extreme in the sense of being rare.


The fact that the current pope freely uses terms like “reason” and “truth” does not at all guarantee that he is on good terms with the former, or would recognize the latter if it bit him.


But take a look good look at commandment #2. No graven images? Doesn’t this seem like something less than the-second-most-important-point-upon-which-to- admonish-all-future-generations-of-human-beings? Remember those Muslims who recently rioted by the hundreds of thousands over cartoons? Many people wondered just what got them so riled up. Well, here it is. Was all that pious mayhem nothing more than egregious, medieval stupidity? Yes, come to think of it, it was nothing more than egregious, medieval stupidity.


NEWS 396 - 18 Comments
From: Swerb Entered on: January 22, 2007 9:46 PM

I love this one:

"The more fully one grants credence to these books, the more fully one will be committed to the view that infidels, heretics, and apostates are destined to be ground up in God’s loving machinery of justice."

Andrew Sullivan makes some interesting points (albeit often devoid of terrestrial logic - really, what does "glows with the power of faith" mean?), and he isn't an intellectual maladroit. Sam Harris is, of course, awesome. This is a great debate. I think Harris is attacking the fundamentals of Christianity, and not necessarily the fundamentalists. Sullivan seems to be missing that point. I can't wait to see where else this goes.

And yes, Harris is probably cherrypicking somewhat, but dammit, he's both entertaining and right.

From: Ross Entered on: January 27, 2007 3:10 PM

Serba reminded me that the debate is still going.  From Sam's latest volley, we get this gem:

You and I both know that it would take us five minutes to produce a book that offers a more coherent and compassionate morality than the Bible does. Did I say five minutes? Five seconds--just tear out Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Exodus, and 2 Samuel from the Old Testament, and 2 Thessalonians and Revelation from the New Testament. The book would be mightily improved.


From: Swerb Entered on: January 28, 2007 10:44 AM
Good satire here...
From: Ross Entered on: January 28, 2007 3:50 PM
"If you're a fag, he hates you too!" - priceless.
From: Ross Entered on: January 29, 2007 5:00 PM
Also, be careful about which bands you listen to, as many can turn you gay.
From: Swerb Entered on: February 11, 2007 10:04 PM

This quote from the latest Harris post in this debate is fucking sweet (regarding Sullivan's simultaneous homosexuality and Christianity):

But your experience does not transform a two-thousand-year pandemic of needless and crushing sexual neurosis in the name of Christ into some kind of spiritual sacrament. Generally speaking, the Church has promulgated views about human sexuality that are unconscionably stupid and utterly lacking in empathy. Full stop. The fact that you have navigated this labyrinth of sacred prejudice and kept your sanity is no point in favor of religion. The glory is very much your own.

From: Ross Entered on: February 21, 2007 4:59 PM

Sam Harris is an ass-whupping debate machine.  The latest volley is full of Sullivan's idiocy, and Harris's uncompromising analysis.  I love this part from Harris:

And yet, in many respects, Muhammad's career as a prophet was more impressive than Jesus' was. At the very least, he escaped crucifixion. Of course, Christians have managed to make even the crucifixion of their Savior into a success story. It would seem that faith can rationalize anything.

Also I'm glad that Harris takes Sullivan to task for the historical claims he makes of Jesus and his alleged divinity.  This kind of thing gets parroted  by Christians all the time and they think they can say this shit and get away with it, just like their spurious claims of America being a Christian Nation and so forth:

As you know, there is no contemporaneous description of the ministry of Jesus in the Bible or anywhere else. And even if the historical record offered multiple, first-hand accounts of his miracles, this would not constitute sufficient support for the basic claims of Christianity. First-hand reports of miracles are a dime a dozen, even in the 21st century.

Finally, I love Harris's spiel about science, which invariably is shat upon by religionists.  He very eloquently sums up how I feel on the topic:

Hope is easy; knowledge is hard. Science is the one domain in which we human beings make a truly heroic effort to counter our innate biases and wishful thinking. Science is the one endeavor in which we have developed a refined methodology for separating what a person hopes is true from what he has good reason to believe. The methodology isn't perfect, and the history of science is riddled with abject failures of scientific objectivity. But that is just the point-these have been failures of science, discovered and corrected by-what, religion? No, by good science.

From: Swerb Entered on: February 21, 2007 8:01 PM

I check this debate constantly for the latest posting. This is awesome. My favorite bit was right at the beginning: 

Consequently, much of your last essay targeted terrain that I have never thought to occupy. I did hear some bomb-blasts in the distance. They were magnificent.

No prisoners, man - no prisoners.

And you're right, Ross - "The End of Faith" is an absolute joy to read. I prefer Harris to Dawkins because I have difficulty following the more technical stuff. I can't remember what you've said about "The God Delusion" - should I pick it up? 

From: Ross Entered on: February 22, 2007 8:36 AM
I do recommend it generally, though honestly I found End of Faith to be more satisfying.  Both occupy more or less the same territory so I'd say pick it up sometime maybe after End of Faith becomes less fresh in your memory.
From: Ross Entered on: February 22, 2007 8:51 AM

You know, something I was listening to on NPR this morning had me thinking about the complete and total intellectual bankruptcy that inflicts most religious people.  They are running an ongoing story about a guy who is going around saying that we need to stop worry so much about preventing every possible act of terror, because it's impossible, and start worrying about how to cope with the effects after it's happened.  Sound advice, in my opinion.  But of course he doesn't limit his investigation to terrorist strikes, he's also looking at how we cope with any emergency, such as hurricanes or flu pandemics.  He summed it up as whether they be due to "acts of god, or acts of man."

Which got me to thinking: how can it be that when terrorists hijack a few planes and kill 3,000 people, the country goes fucking nuts and decides to spend billions upon billions of dollars ostensibly to root out those responsible, and sacrifice even more American lives on a war for unrelated reasons but feeding off of this idea that you can punish people for doing this, when something like the tsunami or hurricane Katrina can come along and wreak every bit as much havok if not more, and people chalk it up to "act of god," and don't even get angry at him?  Many (stupid) people found a way to target their anger over 9/11 at Saddam Hussein mostly because he was already a known baddy and an easy target.  But when you ask the average American who is responsible for Hurricane Katrina, what do they say?  God, most likely.  Where is the fucking outrage?  What is the difference? 

If you're going to get mad at the people who kill you in the name of their religion, why aren't you getting mad when the god of your own does the same damn thing?  

From: Swerb Entered on: February 22, 2007 1:22 PM

I think you've hit upon a key logical inconsistency of modern society.

That being said, terrorists have a reason for doing what they do - they hate us, they're following a religious mandate, whatever. You have to remember, however, that "God works in mysterious ways," and most people are content with that explanation - which, of course, is fucking retarded.

From: The Bone Entered on: March 6, 2007 9:30 PM
Ross - what's the law on having to listen to prayer piped over the 1MC every night before you go to sleep on a US Government owned Navy Warship?
From: Ross Entered on: March 7, 2007 7:58 AM
The government usually gets around the First Amendment in cases like that by either making the prayer fairly non-sectarian, or rotating the types of clerics who deliver them (bring in Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, etc) thereby theoretically not favoring one particular religion.  If they have the same chaplain read one about Jesus every night, though, that's illegal, especially if you're a captive audience and can't turn it off.
From: Ross Entered on: March 9, 2007 1:41 PM

In the spirit of this thread, I found this to be quite hilarious:


Sphereicated or Flaticular!  I love it!

From: Ross Entered on: March 21, 2007 8:28 AM

There's more debatey goodness, now continuing at another URL.  

This is perhaps my favorite bit, and it is so profound (to me) being that I never thought of it this way.  Next time someone starts saying that the Bible is true and the word of God, throw this nugget at them:

What is the intellectual justification for considering the Bible to be the inspired word of God, given how much bad stuff (like slavery) is in there, and how much good stuff (like all of science) isn't?

The idea that the Bible was written by an all-powerful creator who loves us, yet failed to mention one fucking thing that  wasn't already obvious at the time about the way the world worked is a big clue that it was written by a group of men who didn't know shit about shit.

From: Ross Entered on: April 1, 2007 8:26 PM
'Ol Sam Harris is at it again, this time debating with douchebag Rick Warren, author of the "The Purpose Driven Life".  (I actually have a book written as a response to that called "The Reason Driven Life") Anyway, I haven't read it yet, but I'll be back to comment before long.  Just wanted to post the link before I forgot.
From: Ross Entered on: April 22, 2007 2:09 PM

Well, the debate is over, and Sam concludes it with a fucking sweet quote:

I am not the first to notice that it is a strange sort of loving God who would make salvation depend upon a person's ability to believe in him on bad evidence.

If I was a believer, I'd say "God bless Sam Harris!" 


From: The Bone Entered on: May 4, 2007 11:20 PM
Holy shit Joe Rogan lambasts the Noah's Ark story. I was laughing my ass off. You have to watch this.

[Log In to Add Comment]

a division of

© 2003 Ross Johnson
RSS Feed