Sam Harris vs. Andrew Sullivan on Religion

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, and Andrew Sullivan, Atlantic editor and prolific blogger, duel online in this Beliefnet debate. Both are articulate and forceful. One’s a staunch atheist, the other is a "moderate" Christian (Harris believes moderates are perhaps more to blame than fundamentalists).

I printed out all 32 pages and read it slowly and carefully. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the Questions of Life such as, "Can religion and science co-exist? What to say to moderates? Could and should children be raised from a ‘clean glass’ totally devoid of religion?"

3 Responses to Sam Harris vs. Andrew Sullivan on Religion

  1. This debate is far too much to read.

    I remember the furor the atheist crusader Madalyn Murray caused in 1963 (even though I was only 8 then, it made a strong impression on me), when her lawsuit against coercive prayer and Bible reading in public schools reached the United States Supreme Court.

    In 1964, Life Magazine called her “the most hated woman in America”.

    My mother was a Bible-hugging Christian fundamentalist, my father was a staunch atheist. I used to listen to their arguments about the existence of God and the divine inspiration of the Bible–I always thought my father had the better case.

    As my own thinking on these matters matured, I decided that agnosticism was the only defensible position for a rationalist. After all, everyone is free to believe or disbelieve in a deity, but the existence of one or more than one god can never be ‘proved’.

    I admired Madalyn Murray O’Hair because she had the guts to stand up to religiosos and especially to fundamentalist ignoramuses, whose approach to science and to literature was oppressive for a kid forced to listen to their dreary, dispiriting sermons three times a week. Even at the age of 10, I knew they were full of shite, and that they were enemies of free scientific inquiry.

    Like O’Hair, I delighted in demonstrating that I knew the Bible better than most of these reductionist ‘Christians’, and never let pass an opportunity to do so. As you can imagine, the adult ignos despised me, but my fellows in spiritual bondage cheered me on.

    O’Hair was vulgar and combative, and alienated many of her friends and allies, but it took real courage then to describe nuns as:

    “…poor, dried-up women lying there on their solitary pallets yearning for Christ to come to them in a vision some night and take their maidenheads. By the time they realize he’s not coming, it’s no longer a maidenhead; it’s a poor, sorry tent that nobody would be able to pierce–even Jesus with his wooden staff. It’s such a waste.”

    I feel those words apply even more poignantly to the minds of fundamentalists.

    [Full disclosure: I see myself now as a Bono-style ‘good man, bad boy’ Christian.]

    Sources: 1) Wikipedia article on Madalyn Murray O’Hair

    2) “The Murder of Madalyn Murray O’Hair: America’s Most Hated Woman” by Lona Manning in Crime Magazine, 6/11/01

  2. Jason Wood says:

    Ben,

    You may be interested in reading Harris’ other online debate with Dennis Prager. It’s decidedly less cordial and I think makes a great counterpoint for how quickly these kinds of discussions can devolve even when both parties are intelligent and articulate.

    link to jewcy.com

    Best,

    Jason

  3. Jason Wood says:

    That URL was too long for the captcha box it seems, here is a TinyURL of the Harris vs. Prager debate…

    link to tinyurl.com

    Jason

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