Friday, January 12, 2007

From Sam Harris's "Letter to a Christian Nation"

In response to those who have made comments about atheists causing as much harm to humankind as religious folks:

" . . . Do members of the atheist organizations in the United States commit more than their fair share of violent crimes? Do members of the National Academy of Sciences, 93 percent of whom do not accept the idea of God, lie and cheat and steal with abandon? We can be reasonably confident that these groups are at least as well-behaved as the general population. And yet, atheists are the most reviled minority in the United States. Polls indicate that being an atheist is a perfect impediment to running for high office in our country (while being black, Muslim, or homosexual is not). Recently crowds of thousands gathered throughout the Muslim world -- burning European embassies, issuing threats, taking hostages, even killing people -- in protest over twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper. When was the last atheist riot? Is there a newspaper anywhere on this earth that would hesitate to print cartoons about atheism for fear that its editors would be kidnapped or killed in reprisal?

Christians like yourself invariably declare that monsters like Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Kim Li Sung spring from the womb of atheism. While it is true that such men are sometimes enemies of organized religion, they are never especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements are often delusional: on subjects such as diverse as race, economics, national identity, the march of history, and the moral dangers of intellectualism. The problem with such tyrants is not that they reject the dogma of religion, but that they embrace other life-destroying myths. Most become the center of a quasi-religious personality cult, requiring the continual use of propaganda for its maintenance. There is a difference between propaganda and the honest dissemination of information that we (generally) expect from a liberal democracy. Tyrants who orchestrate genocides, or who happily preside over the starvation of their own people, also tend to be profoundly idiosyncratic men, not champions of reason. Kim Il Sung, for instance, demanded that his beds at his various dwellings be situated precisely five hundred meters above sea level. His duvets had to be filled with the softest down imaginable. What is the softest down imaginable? It apparently comes from the chin of a sparrow. Seven hundred thousand sparrows were required to fill a single duvet. Given the profundity of his esoteric concerns, we might wonder how reasonable a man Kim Il actually was.

Consider the Holocaust: the anti-Semitism that built the Nazi death camps was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. For centuries, Christian Europeans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continuted presence among the faithful. While the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominantly secular way, its roots were religious, and the explicitly religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued throughout the period. The Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914. And both Catholic and Protestant churches have a shameful record of complicity with the Nazi genocide.

Auschwitz, the Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia are not examples of what happens to people when they become too reasonable. To the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of political and racial dogmatism. It is time that the Christians like yourself stop pretending that a rational rejection of your faith entails the blind embraceof atheism as a dogma. One need not accept anything on insufficient evidence to find the virgin birth of Jesus to be a preposterous idea.

The problem with religion -- as with Nazism, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology -- is the problem of dogma itself. I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became to desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.

24 comments:

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

I think your point of view could be useful here,
and here.

Stardust said...

bacon - holy crap, they are rabid over there! What kind of argument is a guy on a toilet and pics of star trek characters?

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Welcome to Moonbatland. At least some of them get it.

Stardust said...

bacon, I would have posted a comment, but there was that log-in thing to go through and didn't want to bother only to be called "stardust for brains" or something to that effect that I have been called other places in the past. I am sure they would come up with some diversion like that in place of a real argument.

Yes, I think some liberals are starting to see what we are saying about the whole middle east threat by muslim fundies like the Iranian theocracy who are eagerly waiting for the coming of the 12th Imam...it's in their damned constitution! They are religious loonies and their president is just a puppet for the theocrats who have the real control.

The point about Israel is, looking back is non-productive. The Israeli nation is there now. The Palestinians and Israelis need to come to a reasonable compromise to live together in peace now and in the future. It’s difficult because there will always be those who are never happy with the proposed settlement (on either side) and keep the embers burning.

Not many here in the U.S.A would be willing to leave and go someplace else if the Native Americans started demanding their land back. Few in Australia would be willing to leave if the Aborigines demanded they get out. New Zealanders would not politely vacate the country if the Maori started killing the citizens who took over their land. If people say it's not the same thing they are in denial because they want to justify staying put where they are.

Sable Chicken said...

I would like to see someone write a book called "A Letter to a fast and growing Atheist Nation."
too bad Christians can't spell

Just thought I would say "Hi"

Stardust said...

sable, there already have been such books written...millions of them. It's a free country, people can write whatever they want, and we are free to criticize it.

Have you read Harris' book, sable?

Sable Chicken said...

Have I read any of Sam Harris' books?

Because I am dyslexic it would be very hard for me to read his book even if it was a shorter book which I think that his Letter to a Christian nation is. I think that your real question is, do I understand what Sam Harris' message is?
I do believe I understand Sam Harris' message, even if I made a decission not to spend my money on his book in CD audio form, which most likely is not even available.
You see I really do want to understand what is going on with him. So I found one of his seminar videos...let that sink in and watched it again. I talked with an ex-Xian for quite awhile about Sam. Than I hounded down and read on the internet some of the really good letters at many Christians have written in responce back to Sam Harris personally about his Letter.

Sam Harris' message is that life has only as much importance as you want to put on it. In one interview I heard him tell Bill O'Rilley that if a person wanted to kill themselves...we should allow that. He was out promoting himself and his writings at the exspence of Terry S...(the feeding tubed woman).

Sam Harris thinks that people should be very intolance of tolances. He wants the fence sitters to get off the fence and choice a humanistic, naturalistic, secular frame of thinking and pronunce yourself an Atheist.
Sam Harris as some fancy title...something about Neuralscience, He wants people to meditate and have...religious ritual without a god, but more do stuff that makes us feel good, and less stressed.
He came off to me with a message of fear. Yet, I bet this guy sat up in bed on Sept. 11th 2001 and said, "I can make alot of money from this."
Now why I had to watch that video of his talk twice was, because I thought he said something that he didn't say...Richard Dawkins had said it instead.

What I was talking about with my comment about a letter to a growing Atheist Nation....is differant from that in a way.

Sorry for all the mis-spellings.

Stardust said...

He wants the fence sitters to get off the fence and choice a humanistic, naturalistic, secular frame of thinking and pronunce yourself an Atheist.

Sable, Which is exactly what we atheists should be able to do freely in this country without hesitation or repercussions.

He came off to me with a message of fear. Yet, I bet this guy sat up in bed on Sept. 11th 2001 and said, "I can make alot of money from this."

You, as a xian are not afraid of radical Islam? They want you to convert or die, also, just like an atheist and that is the religion that worries Harris the most.

If Harris is only out to make money, then the xian writers of books, the hindu writers of books, the islamic writers of books, the buddhist writers of books are ALL only in it to make money? That is an unfair assumption on your part. Just because that person's point of view isn't like your own doesn't necessarily mean that person isn't sincere.

Harris, to me, comes across as a very kind and sincere, and soft-spoken person.

As you can see from his biography on Wikipedia, Sam is more than one or two books to make money. As a philosophy graduate from Stanford University, Harris has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions. He lives in New York City, and is currently pursuing research into the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty, using the technique of fMRI. His second book, Letter to a Christian Nation, was published in September 2006, and he has announced that he intends to start a foundation to promote secular projects worldwide.

(I am not anal about misspellings. I forgot that you are dyslexic when I asked the question.)

Stardust said...

sable, this question is not meant to be mean, just want to know how it is that you say you cannot read a book because of your dyslexia, but you can spend hours reading atheist websites? (I have seen your comments on other blogs and that is equivalent to a few pages in a book a day. Many of your answers are quite lengthy also.) I think if you wanted to read Harris' book, you could. Words are words whether internet or book form.

Sable Chicken said...

I can put anything I want on the internet on "readplease" program. Once I get used to the voice I can speed it up really fast and still understand it. My brother who is more dyslexic than I am, turned me onto it. When I first heard him useing readplease, I couldn't believe that he could understand what was being read. But the reader high lights the words and your eyes can follow a long.
When I write it takes me a long LONG time. It is very challengeing for me.
I don't just comment without reason or great effort.
Readplease has really helped me, and the more I write I have seen some improvement in my spelling, but I am limited no matter how I look at it.
But there are some up sides to dyslexia and interesting things about having it.

Stardust said...

I can put anything I want on the internet on "readplease" program. Once I get used to the voice I can speed it up really fast and still understand it. My brother who is more dyslexic than I am, turned me onto it. When I first heard him useing readplease, I couldn't believe that he could understand what was being read.

Thanks for sharing that sable, that is interesting. I don't know much about dyslexia and give you a lot of credit for still being interested in discussion groups, etc. This makes me realize that before we make fun of people's spelling online, and assume that they are stupid or uneducated that we should stop and consider that the other person may be dyslexic. I apologize if I have hurt your feelings about spelling in the past.

Sable Chicken said...

"I apologize if I have hurt your feelings about spelling in the past."
"I am not anal about misspellings"

Hey thank you ;)
It kills me though when you use the power of the delete button...It's like a big "F" try again later. ;(

Some books are all about making money. Find out what the public wants and sell it to them. Some times there just happens to be some very good timing happening for an author. I'm not saying the guy doesn't believe in what he is doing. I may have been a little unfair about his monetary motives, but it looked a little bit opportunist from my angle.

Sam Harris wants the fence sitters to pronounce themselves an Atheist.

"Which is exactly what we atheists should be able to do freely in this country without hesitation or repercussions."

What hesitation...what repercussions? Really now....I understand that your WHOLE family are xians and are irritating but what are the reasons other people would have hesitation or feel that their would be some kind of fall out from saying that you don't believe. I understand that everybody's different but this is the way I see it.
Where I live in California, it feels pretty Godless or pagan. People live their life in any way they want too. Being spiritual is cool as long as it's not about Jesus Christ. Bush and Christians mean the same thing to the general public (or at least it my little artist community) Holy crap, when God opened my eyes getting off the fence on to the Christian side was not like I got a big welcome.
People don't talk about God it's a taboo topic. Bring God up and watch people get all upset...even leave! There is no more important topic...yet God's name is never brought up, unless it's in vain or to mock Him or his followers. Why in the name Jesus Christ.....Who swears by Buddha? Nobody does...people blasphame the name of the One True God all day long, because who will tell them not to? Fine turn the other check and they know it. People that are not out of the closet Atheist blaspheme with no malice ment to anyone....it's just a bad habit. xians (AKA Christians) What are we going to do about it ? Make it a Law?...oh yah thats already been removed.

Sam Harris comes off to me as very calm, and very much in control kind of person. He makes it sound very rational to take a strong stance on the belief that there is no God. People that believe it's ok to believe in God can be dangerous....look at "911"
Then we have young people that are rebellious and make it known that they are an Atheist, they are like 17 and a half years old and still live at home. And for hahas a giggles the want to prove that there is not God by degrading people of faith. Fine...but from my point of view when they wave a red flag under radical Islam long enough ...Yah that makes me worry. captnOawesome...worry some times where this is going.

"You, as a xian are not afraid of radical Islam?"

I had to rethink my life as a Christian. I live my life in fear of God. I know that doesn't sound good to you but if I read my Bible as the Word of God. Maybe I should be afraid of earthquakes or tornadoes, or failed crops or sick animals and people. Crazy nutty radical people that want to kill lots of people.
Is God on Islams side? NO! Is God on Americas side. NO! What is going to happen...I don't know and I put it in God's hands because it is too big for me to worry and be afraid. Today has enough worry of it's own.

Stardust said...

Sable, about your Bible and believing everything in it:

Would you be willing to stone your daughter to death for speaking back to you?

It says to do this in your bible.

Would you kill your brother for not believing?

It says to in your bible.

Shall we stone you for working on Sunday?

It says to do so in your bible.

It says in the bible that Jesus said ""Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17)."

So, if you say you believe that the bible is the exact word of god, then why do so many ignore the OT and focus on the Jesus and afterlife parts that benefit themselves, while ignoring the horrific stuff the old testament calls for people to do? The Xian god is as violent as the Muslim god. Think about it.

Here is a little video that contains some of these repulsive bible passages that people choose to ignore...thank human goodness!
Proving that the Bible is repulsive

Tommy said...

Sable, one could easily (and I would) make the same argument that the Kent Hovinds of the world sell their books and DVD's to bilk money out of people to justify their believing creationism over science. Face it, you are a market for people like him to tap, and there are probably more people in this country that think like you than there are people like Stardust and I. So if Sam Harris was really all about the money, he would rake in far more dough writing a book about how he went from deluded atheist to God fearing Christian. If he had written that book, I have no doubt that you would have gone right out to your local bookstore to purchase it.

Stardust said...

So if Sam Harris was really all about the money, he would rake in far more dough writing a book about how he went from deluded atheist to God fearing Christian. If he had written that book, I have no doubt that you would have gone right out to your local bookstore to purchase it.

good points, tommy

Sable Chicken said...

Well you do make a good point Tommy, but why is it, that what I am in to is not sitting on the shelf at my local bookstore? Because it's not secular enough.
Right now I just started listening to Nancy Pearcey's "Total Truth" ...I had to special order it.
Kent Hovind is not on some top sellers list. His videos can be seen for free and he encourages people to even make copies, there is no copy right on his videos.
But this is not about how much Sam Harris is making on his books it's about the content.

Stardust said...

but why is it, that what I am in to is not sitting on the shelf at my local bookstore? Because it's not secular enough.

sable - I thought you xians only "need" ONE book. That one book is sold in every single store I have been in.

As for xian books other than the bible, go to Barnes & Nobles or Borders or Waldenbooks and there are shelves upon shelves of xian books They also sell xian magazines in the magazine sections for every denomination of xianity sold in bookstores and online.

Besides being sold in regular bookstores, there are xian bookstores in every part of the nation FULL of the stuff you are looking for. When is the last time you have seen an "atheist" bookstore that sells strictly atheist books and items?

Stardust said...

I should also point out that there are many subjects that I have to special order that I cannot find in the bookstore...like many art books, astronomy books, freethought books and classics of literature that they may no longer carry.

Stardust said...

But this is not about how much Sam Harris is making on his books it's about the content.

Exactly...people are waking up. Hovind is a goofball, and even most xians know it.

Sable, how come you did not address what I wrote about Old Testament laws? Why do you choose to disobey those commands of gawd's?

Tommy said...

Why would a supreme being need to make us and then expect us to bow down to it with fear and slavish devotion? Such an entity must be narcissistic in the extreme.

As for Kent Hovind Sable, didn't you write on several occasions that you spent hundreds of bucks on his dvd's? Please correct me if I am wrong.

Sable Chicken said...

Some one who is narcissistic has a personality disorder, God is not like that. A god like that would not give people the freewill to make a decision to worship him or not.

Tommy your right, I have spent a couple hunderd bucks on Kent Hovinds videos. SO? I don't have to I could have seen most of his DVD's on the internet. I feel like I got my moneys worth.

Stardust said...

Some one who is narcissistic has a personality disorder, God is not like that. A god like that would not give people the freewill to make a decision to worship him or not.

Your god loves himself first and foremost and makes beings only to love and adore him. And that is not narcissistic? You do not know what narcissistic means then.

As for free will. We have discussed this with you before many times. It is not free will when there are only two choices...love god, or he kills you. That makes you choose out of fear, not love. Therefore, that free will choice stinks.

You believe because the "fear of the lord" is instilled in you. You are afraid of dying and no longer existing. We all are. Some of us need something to cope with that, some of us do not need to believe in a fantasy to say that life is worthwhile.

Tommy said...

Again, as I have pointed out before, true believers believe that qualities that are negative in people become a virtue when displayed by god in the Bible. The Bible specifically quotes its god telling Moses that it is a jealous god. Why would such an advanced intelligent suffer from jealousy. The god of the Bible behaves like a capricious monarch, bestowing and then withdrawing favors. After the flood, it makes a covenant with Noah and his descendants, but after the passage of time it makes a covenant with the descendants of just one of the descendants of Noah. Of course, the descendants of Abraham do not derive any benefit from being "chosen", if being put into slavery for centuries, then God in his role as omniscient real estate broker gives his "chosen" people a sliver of land with no natural geographic defenses to protect them from repeated invasion fron and conquest by their neighbors.

As George Carlin said, if this is the work of a supreme being, then I am not impressed. This is the kind of thing that I would expect from an office temp with a bad attitude.

Stardust said...

This is the kind of thing that I would expect from an office temp with a bad attitude.

LOL! Carlin is awesome.

sable, you need to study world mythologies and compare the gods of the many myths to your god and you will find that your god fits right in.