Friday, December 29, 2006

Atheism and Sam Harris

I've not been a big fan of Sam Harris, never read any of his books. What can he tell me that I don't already know about atheism or the fallacies of theism? And most likely I can write it better than he did. Still, he did write the books and I didn't and I'm glad to see a public figure who is unabashedly atheistic in public and has sparked public interest in it.

However, a recent article of his really impressed me. He actually did say a few things in a way I hadn't thought of, it can be found here:

Sam Harris Article

Below is an excerpt I especially liked. At the end of the article he mentions another article he did that answers 10 myths & truths about atheism. I was less impressed with that one and will write my own answers to it when I have the time and post them here.

*1. /Religion is true/:* There are two problems with arguing that any one of the world’s religions is true. First, as Bertrand Russell pointed out a century ago, the major religions make incompatible claims about God and about what human beings must believe in order to escape the fires of hell. Given the sheer diversity of these claims, every believer should expect damnation on mere, probabilistic grounds. The second problem with arguing for the truth of religion is that the evidence for the most common religious doctrines is terrible or nonexistent—and this subsumes all claims about the existence of a personal God, the divine origin of certain books, the virgin birth of certain people, the veracity of ancient miracles, etc. For thousands of years, religion has been a haven for dogmatism and false certainty, and it remains so. There is not a person on this earth who has sufficient reason to be certain that Jesus rose from the dead or that Muhammad spoke to the angel Gabriel in his cave. And yet, billions of people profess such certainty. This is embarrassing. It is also dangerous—and we should stop making apologies for it.


Village Green said...

I think he's right about calling expressions of religious faith "embarrassing." I'm reading "The God Delusion" at the moment and in the early going, Dawkins covers similar ground. Why do we give all these delusions a free pass? There is no Santa, there is no Tooth Fairy and there are no gods and goddesses.

KevinBBG said...

Yes, that's probably the most important thing both Harris and Dawkins are doing - making it OK to question the validity of faith. It's become something too sacred to even talk about in public and we need to change that.