Debate/discussion between Sam Harris and Rick Warren
Posted: 13 April 2007 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]
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It’s a sort of informal debate about religion. See it HERE. (From the April 9, 2007 issue of Newsweek).

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Posted: 14 April 2007 04:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The Harris-Warren debate does not seem to advance the discussion. The good news is that atheists are getting more coverage which may make freethought and non-belief more acceptable.

It is probably old news in this forum, but Bill Moyers interviewed Daniel Dennett a year ago:   - I found it moving and that it complemented Breaking the Spell. Dennett is open to religious practice while insisting that religious claims be open to discussion and investigation.

He says, toward the end of the interview, that he does not know of a thoughtful religious whose faith was swayed by an argument disproving god; nor an atheist who was converted to faith by a logical proof (how was Flew converted?). I think I know what he means.

To me there is nothing really new in the arguments for or against god. Sometimes they are better expressed or better organized (Sam’s impressive posting as an example).

Dennett’s urging of dialogue rather than debate is to me a better strategy for living in a world where religion is so prevalent. I also agree with his suggestion that mandatory education in the beliefs, practices and history of all religions is needed in our schools.

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Robert Burdick

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Posted: 15 April 2007 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, but as usual, Sam Harris is impressive.  Anyone who says the Bible is inerrant, even on the basis it does not claim to be scientific, is not one I would want to listen to because there is more wrong with the Bible than just it’s scientific errors. It has contradictions and gets some other things wrong too- like the idea of a worldwide flood, there is no record that Xerxes I had a Jewish queen named Esther or was married to Vashti, not to mention some other historical problems.  It is not even a very good means to solve social problems we have today.

So as usual, the opponent is losing badly IMO, just with saying, “I believe it is inerrant in what it claims to be.”  That is a very bad start IMHO.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 16 April 2007 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A cleaner version on one page without the ads can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17889148/site/newsweek/print/1/displaymode/1098/  (cancel the print request)

I found this article very interesting. While I agree with Acher that the discussion hasn’t advanced much, the fact that such a detailed debate is in Newsweek gives me hope for the atheism PR campaign.

One point that I’m surprised Harris didn’t jump at was Warren’s mention of pastor’s leading Western Movements:

“WARREN: You’d much rather have somebody—an atheist—feeding the hungry than a person who believes in God? All of the great movements forward in Western civilization were by believers. It was pastors who led the abolition of slavery. It was pastors who led the woman’s right to vote. It was pastors who led the civil-rights movement. Not atheists. “

I need a history lession from you intellectuals, but isn’t true that the people opposing those movements were believers as well?

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Posted: 16 April 2007 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[quote author=“Jaik”]I need a history lession from you intellectuals, but isn’t true that the people opposing those movements were believers as well?

Absolutely. Harris caught him on the existence of slavery in the Bible, and certainly the Bible was used to justify slavery for centuries in the US and indeed around the world.

As for women’s rights and the civil rights movement, one good place to start is Susan Jacoby’s great book Freethinkers. It was generally hard to find believers in the forefront of these issues, at least as compared with those who were in opposition.

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Posted: 16 April 2007 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m no intellectual, but….

See   for a timeline about Christianity and slavery in the 19th century.

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Robert Burdick

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Posted: 16 April 2007 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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[quote author=“Jaik”]I need a history lession from you intellectuals, but isn’t true that the people opposing those movements were believers as well?

Here is a good example:

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.
- Frederick Douglass; 
  The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro
  July 5th, 1852

Frederick Douglass was a Christian. Christians today can claim that Frederick Douglass is an example of how Christianity was used to fight against slavery, because Douglass also gave speeches about God and Jesus in opposition to slavery stating that we are all God’s creatures and equal under the eyes of God, etc.

The problem here is obvious. Claiming that “Christianity was a force of opposition to slavery” does not address the fact that Christianity was also the primary force of support for slavery. It was only through the use of powerful Christian backing that it remained in practice as long as it did.

Meanwhile, in Europe, where there was a larger anti-Christian and pro-humanist attitude, slavery was outlawed far sooner than in the US. Likewise, people such as Thomas Paine and many of the French atheists we leaders in the movements for opposition to slavery over 100 years before the end of slavery in the US, and at a time when the overwhelming majority of Christians supported it or failed to actively oppose it.

It’s really no different than talking about an issue like global warming or sex education in public schools today.

Yes, there are liberal Christians groups who acknowledge that global warming is a problem and support measures to address it, and there are liberal Christian groups who support the rights of homosexuals, but on the whole, opposition to addressing global warming is primarily supported by Christian conservatives and opposition to homosexual rights and equality is dominated by Christians.

Given this same pattern, we can bet that 30 years from now Christians will look back on the few Christian churches that elected gay priests and claim that “Christianity” was the leader in fighting for gay rights.

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Posted: 18 April 2007 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Given this same pattern, we can bet that 30 years from now Christians will look back on the few Christian churches that elected gay priests and claim that “Christianity” was the leader in fighting for gay rights.

I think Mark Twain said pretty much the same thing.  Every time the human race has progressed socially, the priests were always fighting it every step of the way.  But the moment the movement succeeds and becomes considered normal, they suddenly claim that they were leading the whole thing from the start.

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