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AbortGod's Avatar Comment 1 by AbortGod

Warren ends this polemic with Pascal's wager!?!?!

"We're both betting. He's betting his life that he's right. I'm betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he's right, I've lost nothing. If I'm right, he's lost everything. I'm not willing to make that gamble."

We need to do a lot more "PR" because if this is the best they can do, we have a fighting chance.


Sun, 01 Apr 2007 11:28:00 UTC | #26722

eggplantbren's Avatar Comment 2 by eggplantbren

Rick Warren is *huge* in the evangelical Christian world. Pretty much all of them have read "A Purpose Driven Life". If this article can get a few of them to have heard of Sam Harris, it's a good thing.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 11:33:00 UTC | #26723

devilsplaything's Avatar Comment 3 by devilsplaything

The only reason I hesitate to argue with religious people: they're the only people to whom "because I said so" is a valid argument.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 11:36:00 UTC | #26724

Yorker's Avatar Comment 4 by Yorker

I've said it before and although tiresome, I'll say it again. The irrationality of "debate" with a committed religite is a waste of time. How can debate take place between two parties, one of whom flatly refuses to admit the slightest possibility of being wrong? I'm fed up with hearing the weak response that "well, something useful may come from it".

Bollocks! Nothing useful ever comes out of such exchanges, religites spout the same tired old shit over and over and some of us atheists are still not bored by by it. Why are they doing this? Money from the media possibly?

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:03:00 UTC | #26729

JJoe's Avatar Comment 5 by JJoe

You guys should really read the whole exchange.

Oh man, the referee should've stepped in and called that fight after the first 3 questions. Warren had nothing but his fuzzy headed faith to offer. Sam wiped, and I mean wiped, the floor with him.

I'll give this to Warren though, he didn't beat around the bush and equivocate as badly as Andrew Sullivan did. At least he stood there and took his beating like a man. Even if he didn't (couldn't?) recognize how badly he came off.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:04:00 UTC | #26730

yeahok's Avatar Comment 6 by yeahok

HARRIS: Then God also likes smallpox and tuberculosis.

WARREN: I would attribute a lot of the sins in the world to myself.

HARRIS: Are you responsible for smallpox?


Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:04:00 UTC | #26731

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 7 by Zaphod

Rick Warren is an idiot. He doesn't believe in evolution. He thinks he has a responsibility to get rid of small pox "which has been eradicated" and he used Pascal's Wager at the end.

"I'm betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he's right, I've lost nothing. If I'm right, he's lost everything. I'm not willing to make that gamble"

What a douche.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:17:00 UTC | #26734

DavidJGrossman's Avatar Comment 8 by DavidJGrossman

"WARREN: ... If death is the end, shoot, I'm not going to waste another minute being altruistic."

A person who is only good because of fear of punishment or in favor of reward is not a good person. Someone who is good because they feel it in there heart is far superior, morally, than some religious nutjob who only is good because of their religious aspirations and fears

- Dave

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:19:00 UTC | #26735

Druid's Avatar Comment 9 by Druid

"When we die, if he's right, I've lost nothing. If I'm right, he's lost everything. I'm not willing to make that gamble."

Assume that a personal god exists, would he really be satistfied with a faith nourished by such a terribly self-seeking and political reason? It is a completely useless and non-intellectual approach.

And about prayers, he is just deluding himself, his own mind.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:25:00 UTC | #26736

Canuck#1's Avatar Comment 10 by Canuck#1

I so agree with Yorker - it's apples and oranges and a lucid and rational debate is impossible...a complete waste of time. Faith and rationality are incompatable.... and the fact is the bet is still worth taking on the side of rationality. You will not waste hours and days listening to sermons berating you to have more trust, to change your life, to....... It never ends. I've been there.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:33:00 UTC | #26737

Planeswalker's Avatar Comment 11 by Planeswalker

Rick is using a lot of good ol' religious arguments:

The argument for the complex beauty of the world
The argument for answered prayer
The argument for the evilness of atheism (Stalin, Mao...)
The argument for morality without god
The argument for atheism as a faith
The argument for democracy (96% believers)
The argument for Pascal's Wager

...and many others... None of them really impresses me.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:55:00 UTC | #26741

roach's Avatar Comment 12 by roach

I disagree that these debates are a waste of time. Of course it's fair to say that Sam Harris (or Richard Dawkins, or Atkins, or whoever)will probably never convert the fundamentalist or the moderate he is debating. But I think these debates (just like the books) address a broad spectrum of people who can and do change their minds as a result. Why do I think this? Well I it would be fair to say that I was a secular liberal apologist for a good long while before I read The God Delusion and The End of Faith. It was political correctness run amok. I simply didn't want to offend anyone. After reading some books and listening to Sam Harris speak, I stopped apologizing for religious belief. I think the debates can start a snowball effect. For example, an open-minded moderate hears/reads a debate between an atheist and a believer, the debate piques his/her interest, he/she goes out and reads The God Delusion or The End of Faith or some other book, she changes her mind about religious faith.

Perhaps that's overly optimistic. But it's not the only possible outcome. Even if the hypothetical moderate is unconvinced by the books, perhaps she will be interested to read other books/articles about evolution/cosmology/neurology. So yeah, I don't think the debates are a waste of time.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 13:10:00 UTC | #26743

Ole's Avatar Comment 13 by Ole

Warren said: "When we die, if he's right, I've lost nothing. If I'm right, he's lost everything. I'm not willing to make that gamble."

What part of the brain is Warren using when he is predicting the future (after his death)? The frontal lobe.

Let me quote something Daniel Gilbert said:
We are the only animals that can peer deeply into our futures — the only animal that can travel mentally through time, preview a variety of futures, and choose the one that will bring us the greatest pleasure and/or the least pain. This is a remarkable adaptation—which, incidentally, is directly tied to the evolution of the frontal lobe


Sun, 01 Apr 2007 13:12:00 UTC | #26744

ksskidude's Avatar Comment 14 by ksskidude

Warren is a fool, and lost me as soon as he said he didn't believe in evolution. Harris as always continues to impress with his restraint. Hopefully a few of the Chrsitains will read this debate. Getting them to understand it, well that's another thing all together.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 13:14:00 UTC | #26745

NJS's Avatar Comment 15 by NJS

"A person who is only good because of fear of punishment or in favor of reward is not a good person. Someone who is good because they feel it in there heart is far superior, morally, than some religious nutjob who only is good because of their religious aspirations and fears"

Ive been using that argument for the past couple of years since I really got "involved" with this debate. I think its an argument which should be shouted from the rooftops by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris et al everytime the same point is raised.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 13:23:00 UTC | #26747

Seti's Avatar Comment 16 by Seti

"You could prove to the satisfaction of every scientist that intercessory prayer works if you set up a simple experiment. Get a billion Christians to pray for a single amputee. Get them to pray that God regrow that missing limb. This happens to salamanders every day, presumably without prayer; this is within the capacity of God. [Warren is laughing.] I find it interesting that people of faith only tend to pray for conditions that are self-limiting."

When I was a kid I used to pray for a bike. Then I realised God doesn't work like that. So I stole a bike, and prayed for forgiveness. (Not my joke - don't know whose it is!)

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 13:31:00 UTC | #26749

AbortGod's Avatar Comment 17 by AbortGod


"When I was a kid I used to pray for a bike. Then I realised God doesn't work like that. So I stole a bike, and prayed for forgiveness."

(Not my joke - don't know whose it is!)

It's an Emo Phillip's joke.


Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:04:00 UTC | #26752

NormanDoering's Avatar Comment 18 by NormanDoering

Did Rick Warren control the editing on that or did Harris just leave his best arguments behind?

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:06:00 UTC | #26753

StephenH's Avatar Comment 19 by StephenH

Struggling with the audio link

All i get is "hi, i'm standing in an elevator being filled with snakes... and i'm updating a word document"

Hopefully, he won't be let out anytime soon

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:14:00 UTC | #26756

Quine's Avatar Comment 20 by Quine

I believe the value of these debates should not be judged on some kind of win/loose basis. The value is that the arguments against religion are being made in a forum that is accessible to the population in general. When possible, the religions use their substantial political power to keep people from hearing any dissent. Part of the reason so few people admit to pollsters that they do not believe is that they do not know where the line is. People often say they do not believe in the conventional personal deity, but do not consider themselves to be atheists.

As time goes on, and Sam does more of these, I am looking forward to more and more sticky questions. I would have liked to ask Warren, "when Jesus was preaching, why didn't he say 'Blessed are those who absent themselves from rats, for the fleas of rats may carry plague.'" Just think of how much death and suffering of the innocent would have been avoided in future generations by these simple words. Or how about, "Energy is mass times the speed of light, times again, the speed of light, but thee shall make no weapon of this." Were these words written in scripture, although it may have taken a while, there would be no religious doubt today.

Warren talks about the arrogance of Sam's position on evolution. I would like him to put himself in the position of someone who goes before a great religious council stating that he has found that the sun does not go around the earth, as described in their scripture, but rather the earth both spins and goes around the sun. In this situation, Warren would be told he is arrogant. How could he deny what is written, and anyone can see happen every morning? Had he gone up into the heavens and seen it himself? What about all the art and poetry about the sunrise and sunset? Isn't it worth believing so we can have such creativity? Does he really want to live in a world where the living god Amun-Ra does not exist? I suspect Warren would consider himself just the way Sam considers himself, not arrogant, just wondering if it really is worth his time to talk to these closed minds (ie idiots).

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:20:00 UTC | #26757

Stephen J.'s Avatar Comment 21 by Stephen J.

A fair enough job by Sam Harris. I think a dispassionate reader would have no question as to who came out on top. The one criticism I have, which I have mentioned previously in this forum, is the response to the question about morality. Some remarks that Harris makes ("the golden rule is not unique to the Bible or to Jesus; you see it in many, many cultures—and you see some form of it among nonhuman primates" and "Empathy and compassion are our most basic moral impulses") seem inconsistent with his stated belief in an abosolute moral code. As I have argued previously, these moral intutions are shaped by biological forces, and thus are inappropriate as statements of what ought to be. I understand the need for a quick answer to this question in a debate, and I also understand that the argument against morality may lie forever beyond the comprehension of some people, but still I feel that here Harris and other atheists commit themselves to a gross untruth.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:21:00 UTC | #26758

Donald's Avatar Comment 22 by Donald

HARRIS: Any scientist must concede that we don't fully understand the universe. But neither the Bible nor the Qur'an represents our best understanding of the universe. That is exquisitely clear.
WARREN: To you.

I think this illustrates a common problem with atheists debating religites. The atheist may well have a much more detailed and knowledgeable view than the religite, but the religite merely dismisses the extensive scientific knowledge.
(Typically, the religite combines this dismissal with weight of numbers: Billions of people can't be wrong. Actually they are. Are you calling billions of people stupid? - you're arrogant!)

I'm slightly troubled by something here though. Theologians have constructed elaborate "knowledge" structures and literature about religious belief. I've read some of it and conclude it's junk and not worth reading. But how do I objectively justify my dismissal of theology, while objectively condemning the religite's dismissal of science.

Ah, simply writing the question, has prompted me to realise an answer - science makes predictions, and they can be tested and result in useful technology, whereas theology is only rhetoric. So, when I read theology and find no predictions, nothing to test, no new facts, only dubious interpretations, after a while I judge the subject to be worthless. In contrast, in science I find discovery after discovery, verification by testing, new technologies resulting from it, and so I judge it worthwhile to read and continue reading.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:42:00 UTC | #26761

MIND_REBEL's Avatar Comment 23 by MIND_REBEL

Harris owned him. Total intellectual domination. Only someone with no understanding of evolution or science could think Warren didn't get destroyed.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:43:00 UTC | #26762

Veronique's Avatar Comment 24 by Veronique

I am so tired of being told that because I am an atheist, my life has no meaning.

I also agree with Yorker that these 'debates' are a waste of everyone's time. Having said that, I suppose the debate with Hitchens, Dawkins and Grayling against the three religites did have some seachange factor. The audience response jumped from 44% in favour of the world being better without religion (before the debate) to 57% (after the debate).

There is no way a proper debate can be held between religious, dogmatic faith and rationality. The two stances are light years apart.

I take my hat off to the rationalists who attempt over and over again to intellectually engage religites. They do it with calm reason despite having to reiterate intellectual honesty with dreary repetition.

Why don't they get sick of it? I feel that a new dark age is on the horizon. Maybe they want to help stem the tide as much as they can. I wouldn't have the patience or the calm to take it on.

North Korea is supposed to be where we should all go! Warren is insulting in the extreme. Harris never is. What a divide!


Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:47:00 UTC | #26764

Fishpeddler's Avatar Comment 25 by Fishpeddler

"WARREN: Can you have spirituality without a spirit?"

This is the one area where I think SH regularly sounds a bit awkward. The problem is with the terms 'spiritual' and 'spirituality'. Non-religious people love these terms to express their sense of awe, wonder, beauty, and a diminished sense of self. Religious people, however, will invariably interpret these terms more strictly in terms of a human spirit or soul.

My impression is that SH doesn't really believe in a human spirit as something distinct from our biological selves (or maybe I'm just projecting my own beliefs onto him). I think he should abandon these problematic terms altogether, because whenever he uses them his Christian opposition treats it as a confession of a budding religiosity.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 14:50:00 UTC | #26765

phiwilli's Avatar Comment 26 by phiwilli

Stephen J: ". . .these moral intutions are shaped by biological forces, and thus are inappropriate as statements of what ought to be."

What would you say about this revised version of your statement: "These ideas (of science, mathematics, morality, . . . whatever) has been shaped by biological forces, and thus are inappropriate as statements about what is true."

Seems to me that whether intuitions, ideas, etc. are shaped (influenced?) by biological forces is irrelevant to the issue of whether they are correct.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 15:01:00 UTC | #26770

johntfiorito's Avatar Comment 27 by johntfiorito

I agree that based upon the excerpts provided in newsweek that Harris owned Warren and that ending a debate on well...we'll see who was right when we die is the last ditch effort by a man desparate to prove his point...similar to William Lane Craig's comment on the resurection...well...if I can't prove it to is the messenger and my inability to convince you with my doesn't take away from the fact that I am right.,.....weak indeed.

I have one observation....if this conversation took place over 4 hours...they hardly published any of the transcript...the editing job on what to publish clearly indicates that Harris owned Warren...which I have no doubt that he did even if we had the full transcript to only beef is that some people apologetic to Christianity might say that newsweek didn't publish all of Warren's rebuttles to Harris' comments and thus didn't give his view a fair shake....I don't think Warren has much to stand on that any of us here would agree with..but I guess I would have expected more than the simpleton, trite responses he is quoted above as using...though, if any of you read a Purpose Driven Life...that is the way he writes...maybe he speaks the same way...

He seems to be a smug man in this interview, perturbed that he's there defending what he knows is right to someone he has contempt for....

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 15:08:00 UTC | #26772

Stephen J.'s Avatar Comment 28 by Stephen J.

"What would you say about this revised version of your statement: "These ideas (of science, mathematics, morality, . . . whatever) has been shaped by biological forces, and thus are inappropriate as statements about what is true.""

Since the analogy between epistemology and moral philosophy is rather tenuous, I don't think this really succeeds as a reductio ad absurdum. Nevertheless, you may be correct in objecting. I think a better way of putting my position is to say that our moral judgments are fundamentally based on evolved biological instincts, and since one cannot derive an "ought" from an "is", it would then be inappropriate to say that our moral judgments are valid. As I asked previously, is there any reason that pain is morally bad and pleasure is morally good? Why not the opposite? Why not say that orange is good and the smell of roses is bad? I doubt that there are rational answers to these questions. Instead, I would say that they are instinctive judgments and morality insofar as it relies on them is invalid.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 16:10:00 UTC | #26779

icouldbewrongbut's Avatar Comment 29 by icouldbewrongbut

Good point Stephen J.

It seems that notions of absolute morality derive from our arbitrary biological emotional wiring and are thus subjective rather than absolute. IE, Our urge to commit to fairness and our experience of empathy are only human subjective universals (which we may want to think of as de-facto absolute universals for purposes of how to live). I don't hear Harris or Dawkins explain morality this way enough when attacked about where morals come from without god. I'd like to hear them explain that we have intrinsic moral compasses that result from our biological wiring / genetics, and that possible actions seem good or evil to us because our emotional triggers are biologically wired that way, and that is the foundation of morality - because I think that concept doesn't occur to the masses of religionists nor do they come across it.

Another thing that I don't hear often enough in these debates is the following. Upon being charged as a closed-minded atheist (to the possiblity of being wrong and God existing), and the atheist saying indeed that he is open given sufficient evidence (frequently confounding the believer), I'd like to hear the atheist loudly respond, "Are you open to the possibility of God Not Existing"? turning the table to force the believer to acknowledge his close-mindedness. It seems effective when I've heard it used.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 16:12:00 UTC | #26780

Stephen J.'s Avatar Comment 30 by Stephen J.

Another thing I've wondered about, though, is what would constitute sufficient evidence for an atheist to believe in God, since people like Dawkins tend to define God in such a way that it is less probable than any natural phenomenon. Consider the fine-tuning argument. It seems inconceivably improbable that the universe arose by chance--but surely God is even more improbable/complex. Now, all observable phenomena can be explained in naturalistic terms, if only with recourse to a brain in a vat scenario. So if you follow Hume's ideas on the testimony of miracles, you could never find, or even conceive of, a piece of empirical evidence that would convince an atheist to believe in God. (I suppose the opposite would hold for someone who believes all atheistic explanations to be less probable than all theistic explanations.) Thus you have to wonder if people are right when they call Dawkins a fundamentalist.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 16:27:00 UTC | #26781