Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sam Harris says it all

In a Nightline "debate" (i.e., discussion), Does God have a future?, Sam Harris expressed what I feel about religion. Here is my transcript of what he said:

Well, I think as you've begun to hear, there are two very different kinds of conversations we could have here.

We can talk about religion as it is for most people, most of the time and we can talk about what religion could be or should be or perhaps what it is for the tiniest minority of people. And I just want you to be aware of the difference there because it could get lost.

It's true that some people define God as pure consciousness or as being synonymous with the laws of nature. But if we talk about consciousness and the laws of nature, we won't be talking about the God that most of our neighbors believe in, which is a personal God who hears our prayers and occasionally answers them.

So I just want you to be sensitive to this because if Michael or I say something derogatory about Islam or Christianity, which seems possible, the response from the other side shouldn't mention quantum mechanics and it shouldn't reference a notion of God that is so denuded of doctrine as to more or less be synonymous with pure mystery or pure information or pure energy or pure anything.

So I just wanted, I wanted to plant a flag there where you all can see it. Because the God that our neighbors believe in is essentially an invisible person. Is a creator deity who created the universe to have a relationship with one species of primate--lucky us. And he's got galaxy upon galaxy to attend to, but he's especially concerned with what we do. And he's especially concerned with what we do while naked. He almost certainly disapproves of homosexuality and he's created this cosmos as a vast laboratory in which to test our powers of credulity and the test is this: "Can you believe in this God on bad evidence?" which is to say, on faith. And if you can, you will win an eternity of happiness after you die. And it's precisely this sort of God and this sort of scheme that you must believe in if you're going to have any kind of future in politics in this country. No matter what your gifts. You could be an unprecedented genius, you could look like George Clooney, you could have a billion dollars, and you could have the social skills of Oprah, and you are going nowhere in politics in this country unless you believe in that sort of God. So we can talk about anything we want. I'm happy to talk about consciousness, but please notice that when we migrate away from the God that is really shaping human events, or the God talk that is really shaping human events in our world at this moment.

I was curious to watch this discussion in part because I've only encountered Deepak Chopra's writings at The Huffington Post (one of the many reasons I no longer subscribe to their full blog feed). I wanted to hear him speak. To have Michael Shermer and Sam Harris opposed by Deepak and Jean Houston seemed like a stacked deck against irrationality since Chopra and Houston were frequently incoherent. It might have been more interesting to see them debate a devout Christian, Jewish, or Islamic clergy.

Sam says that in the second video. All 12 parts of the "debate" are available at YouTube. Embedded below is the first video.

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