Friday, April 8, 2011

What Harris Said

Having just listened to the Sam Harris/William Lane Craig debate, I want to just illuminate one portion of the debate that really made me giddy. It was Sam Harris’ twelve minute rebuttal that began with the statistics that 9 million children die each year under the age of five. It was as if Harris was saying EXACTLY what I feel about the Christian religion. I was so excited about it that I ran around the house to look for my wife because I wanted her to hear this. She continues to wonder why I’m an atheist, and I can tell her in plain terms but Sam Harris says it with such clarity and poignancy that anything I said would be an injustice. Unfortunately, she wasn’t around at the time.

This speech that he gives is something that I wish every Christian would listen to. If they just shrug their shoulders at the end and say, “well, god is mysterious” than I think a justifiable homicide is in order. And yet, I know that many Christians will do exactly that. They can live with the idea that what god says goes and that he is our authority figure who never falters from being 100% correct in every command. He would be right to tell you to sacrifice your child or kill a group of children but you would be wrong to do the same thing without his authority. How can something be objectively right or wrong solely on who is giving the orders? It has to be right or wrong all of the time and regardless of what the orders are to be an objective standard. As Harris points out in the Q/A section, even children know that it is wrong to punch another child in the face even when an authority figure like a teacher tells you to do so.

As stated earlier, Harris points out that 9 million children die each year under the age of five. It would be analogous to the 2004 Japan tsunami occurring every ten days and only killing children less than five all year around. He goes on to illustrate the agony that the bereaved parents are going through who very likely prayed wholeheartedly for their child to survive. Tragically, the children die and it renders us with the conclusion that either god is incapable of helping them, or he simply doesn’t care. Some might say that this is all part of god’s plan.

Harris rightly states that there is no evidence for the existence of hell. However, if hell does exist, then the majority of people who live in India are doomed for their Hindu faith. Yet, god engineers the circumstances of their birth place and death thus rendering them essentially unaccountable. Conversely, the run of the mill serial killer here in America need only come to Jesus on death row and end up spending eternity in heaven. Hindu’s, on the other hand, perish in an eternal state of torment because of their cultural and physical circumstances. “This vision of life has absolutely nothing to do with moral accountability,” says Harris. God is loving, kind and just but when we point out the horrible things that occur he suddenly becomes mysterious and the tired mantra “who can understand god’s will” plays as a seeming remedy to the travesty. We are told that god is good when something favorable happens, but we are told that god is mysterious in events like the 2004 tsunami where children were torn from their parent’s arms and cast out to drown. “This is how you play tennis without the net” says Harris.

This kind of faith is the epitome of narcissism. The Christian claims that god healed them of eczema but, meanwhile, millions of children go on dying. Harris states that this actually prevents us from caring about the suffering of other human beings. We trivialize their dire situation but magnify the fact that we have a corn on our big toe that god just supposedly healed.

Harris goes on to ask, “why give us a book that supports slavery or to kill those who practice witchcraft?” These are poor principles by which to live, and they fail to support the well-being of humanity. Whatever god commands is good only because he commands it, such as when he orders the Israelites to slaughter the Amalekites. It is easy to rationalize the slaughtering of children when god tells you to do so and that's what makes religion so scary. The “horror of religion” is that it allows perfectly rationale and sane people to believe by the billions what only a few psychopaths would normally believe.

Harris states, “Salvation depends on believing in him on bad evidence”. God got tired of being helpful and hasn’t performed any miracles nor shown his face in 2,000 years. Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice, and Christians celebrate a single human sacrifice as though it was effective. Jesus suffered the crucifixion so none have to suffer hell. This is of course excluding the billions who live in India or the billions throughout history who haven’t received the message.

Anyway, it was some of the best stuff I’ve heard that summarizes exactly how I feel in such a poetic and articulate manner. I don’t necessarily want to get in to who won or lost, but I think that Harris brought up a brilliant point with great poignancy that the god of the O.T. is seriously lacking as an example of objective morality. You can listen to the audio debate here.


  1. Awesome post Harry. I concur completely. The appeal the God is mysterious is essentially admitting that God's perfect divine plan is indiscernible from random events – so it's a blind appeal to believe even when evidence is knowingly absent.

    p.s. - There's a typo in the fourth paragraph. I think you meant "perish".

    p.p.s. - I still haven't read The Moral Landscape. I need to get with the times man.

  2. Thanks a bunch! I think I got that typo fixed, good eyes. Yeah, the Moral Landscape was a double read for me, not because it was necessarily real colors but just cause it was a fun, engaging read. Sam is probably my favorite to read out of the so called "four horsemen". I think mainly because his criticisms of religion remind me so much of my own.

  3. In the following thread I have written comments under the name “Patrick” that address some of the issues raised here from a Christian point of view.

  4. Thanks for posting. I listened to most of the debate. Most of Sam's points are essentially unassailable.

  5. I used the "9 million children under the age of 5" bit on a Christian one time and she said, "If that is what you believe of my God then you are with all right to. God gave each and every one of us the choice to believe or not to believe. Goodbye and God Bless you."
    Getting through to these people is like getting through a brick wall with a needle. They just refuse to let their ego dissolve and accept reality.

  6. remember, they can always say the children go to heaven. not a good excuse, but one that would keep their delusion.