Monday, September 08, 2008

Sam Harris on the Bible

Sam Harris answers the objection that atheists take the Bible too literally and then compares Biblical wisdom to secular wisdom.

27 comments:

TikunOlam said...

If I were a single woman. . .I'd want to marry him.

asher said...

I guess this is what passes for a cogent arguement.

What analysis!

He should argue what would have happened to mankind had the Bible never appeared. I love to hear that one.

Holy Hyrax said...

Ya, and his comment about it having no relevance to humanity in our day? See, this is I can't stand this dishonesty.

mOOm said...

Who is this guy?

dbackdad said...

There was a problem with the link. For this video and others by Sam Harris, look here.

Sam does a good job of exposing the hypocrisy of those that would only take the bible literally when it suits them. You've got to give it to fundamentalists ... at least they're consistent in their delusions.

CyberKitten said...

HH said: Ya, and his comment about it having no relevance to humanity in our day? See, this is I can't stand this dishonesty.

...and exactly what relevance does it have? None as far as I can see - except maybe that it helps to explain some of our cultural history in the West... But apart from that?

jewemp said...

Who ever said that the Bible would solve all of our problems? He's assuming that's its purpose...

jewish philosopher said...

I would like to make a few comments:

First of all, because some religion is bad, it does not prove that all religion is bad. Some doctors are bad, however not all doctors are bad.

Secondly, I don’t know of any modern science that contradicts Orthodox Judaism. Higher Biblical criticism merely confirms what the Talmudic rabbis always knew – God has two primary character traits – the trait of mercy and the trait of justice. Mercy is represented by the name YHVH while justice is represented by Elohim (see Midrash Braishis Rabbah 73:3). That’s pretty much what the Documentary Hypothesis is based on. Likewise, paleontology, the alleged basis for evolution, merely confirms what the Talmudic rabbis taught centuries ago in Midrash Braishis Rabbah 3:7 which states that many other worlds were created and destroyed previously to this one. Atheists have gleefully tried to make all this into some sort of big “gotcha”, which it really isn’t; it’s merely a proof of atheistic ignorance.

Thirdly, if Harris wants to critique Orthodox Jewish ethics then he must cite examples of currently relevant Talmudic laws that involve harming innocent people. Talking about stoning adulteresses doesn’t really cut it. Also, if he wants to promote atheism as a force for good, he must explain why an atheist, who believes in no afterlife, should not do anything that feels good, no matter how destructive, provided that he can get away unpunished by law enforcement. It’s noteworthy that stranger homicides are generally not solved and they seem to become more common as atheism becomes more common. Here is one notorious killer discussing his feelings.

Fourthly, the Torah does include remarkable wisdom. The Torah is the first book to advocate monotheism. The Torah is the first book to advocate altruism. The Torah is the first book to advocate one day of rest every seven days. The Torah is the first book to be written using an alphabet. Harris seems to deliberately ignore this. True, the Torah does not teach us how to build a space ship or a better mousetrap; God has has given us intelligence and left that to us to figure out. Rather the Torah reveals to us what our origins are and how we should live our lives and in that it does a superb job.

Finally, Orthodox Jews, including very Hasidic Jews, do visit psychiatrists and some are psychiatrists.

I think it’s pretty obvious that Harris is starting with a certain attitude, that he doesn’t want to be restricted by any supernatural or divine powers. Therefore he is fabricating all sorts of dishonest arguments to justify this lifestyle choice. This is called “denial”.

Holy Hyrax said...

>...and exactly what relevance does it have? None as far as I can see - except maybe that it helps to explain some of our cultural history in the West... But apart from that?

Do I really need to respond to this? Lets just say, that a wee bit number of about a billion people see relevance in it for their lives? Obviously, these are just a billion subjective opinions on its relevancy, but then again, so is Harris saying it has NO relevancy. The least I should do is apologize to Harris that the Bible does not contain anything about electricity. Maybe, in 200 years, when a brand new technology comes out, some atheist will mention the bible lacking that as well.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

I don't think Harris would deny that a billion people find the Bible relevant. I think he's just saying they're wrong.

Regarding the science point, imagine if the Torah had contained, instead of the idea of taharah, a rudimentary guide to germ theory and antiseptics. How many lives could have been saved just by instructing midwives to wash their hands? (Not ritually wash, antiseptically wash.)

But the authors of the Torah DID NOT KNOW about the existence of microorganisms. Because they were human beings living thousands of years ago, not some Omniscience, Omnibenevolent Creator.

jewish philosopher said...

"imagine if the Torah had contained, instead of the idea of taharah, a rudimentary guide to germ theory and antiseptics"

The Torah does command circumcision, which we now know prevents HIV. The Torah also prohibits homosexuality, which often spreads HIV. Modern science, right there in black and white.

How much medicine, physics, chemistry, engineering, carpentry, etc does the Torah have to include to make it believable? Are there some rules for this, or do we just keep raising the requirements so we never have to accept the Torah?

Holy Hyrax said...

JA

He obviously thinks they are wrong. Both parties are being subjective. And both are being dishonest when they don't admit to that.

Your comment regarding micro organisms is pointless. It would also have been keen for a billion other stuff to have been included. But all that is irrelevant cause as man progresses, we will keep finding more and more and more. The point is, for 2000 years man has found relevancy for their lives and continue to do so. That in a nutshell is all that matters. I don't say that there are other things that are NOT relevant, but for what the bible is, it has served its purpose to billions successfully.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

There are two main points here.

1) That there is nothing in the entire chumash which looks more like it was written by God than by people living thousands of years ago.

2) That whatever wisdom is contained in the Torah has mostly been surpassed since.

Holy Hyrax said...

>That there is nothing in the entire chumash which looks more like it was written by God than by people living thousands of years ago.

Irrelevant. That's not the point he is trying to make in the end.

>That whatever wisdom is contained in the Torah has mostly been surpassed since.

Perhaps, but still irrelevant because billions of people STILL find it relevant to their lives.

Jewish Atheist said...

Irrelevant. That's not the point he is trying to make in the end.

Huh? It's irrelevant because it was his first point instead of his last one?

Perhaps, but still irrelevant because billions of people STILL find it relevant to their lives.

Because they're brainwashed. Billions of people STILL find the Hindu scriptures relevant to their lives. What does that tell you?

Holy Hyrax said...

>Huh? It's irrelevant because it was his first point instead of his last one?

His whole point funnels down to his last. That the bible is worthless.

>Because they're brainwashed. Billions of people STILL find the Hindu scriptures relevant to their lives. What does that tell you?

All that tells me is that billions of people find another book relevant. So? Remember we aren't talking truth here, we are discussing relevancy. Relevancy is GOING to be subjective. The fact that a billion people find communism a worthwhile system does nothing to the fact that I think democracy is a worthwhile system.

Jewish Atheist said...

So why are we arguing? I agree the Bible is relevant for people. I just think that has more to do with brainwashing/tradition than with any intrinsic qualities of the Bible.

Holy Hyrax said...

I don't know.

You're the one arguing.

jewish philosopher said...

"1) That there is nothing in the entire chumash which looks more like it was written by God than by people living thousands of years ago."

You mean like predicting the future?

Orthoprax said...

"Sam Harris answers the objection that atheists take the Bible too literally"

How exactly does he do that? That fundamentalists also take the Bible too literally doesn't justify using that approach to lampoon religion generally.

That some evolution enthusiasts use the theory to promote social Darwinism and racism does not permit a dismissal of the theory generally.

Sam Harris defines religion as being opposed to modernity and he defines things like human rights, democracy and scientific progress as secular and then shows that a movement towards moderation is a strike against religion. But there's little reason to see these as really on opposing sides. Fundamentalism and secularism are on opposing sides, but he defines religion so narrowly only to serve his own position.

CyberKitten said...

H H said: Do I really need to respond to this? Lets just say, that a wee bit number of about a billion people see relevance in it for their lives?

Indeed.... and such a fact has always confounded & confused me. Any port in a storm I guess...

jewish philosopher said...

There is no conflict between Torah and science. Electricity and vaccines don't contradict the Torah. There is a conflict between Torah and Satanism, and I know which side I'm on.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Any port in a storm I guess...

Sure. whatever.

Moshe said...

This is really quite superficial and confused. He starts by saying that many people do take it literally and, before finishing making the point, waffles on about how many don't take it literally and then claims, without substantiation, that they must be taken literally. All in all, not much to take seriously here.

Anonymous said...

"Because they're brainwashed. Billions of people STILL find the Hindu scriptures relevant to their lives. What does that tell you?"

It tells me that it is also relevant. Lets not confuse things, maybe there is no (personal) god, and maybe there is no quantum physics in the torah, but it obviously provides meaning, community, and guidance to people in a way which makes it very relevant, for better or worse.

Anonymous said...

I've read Sam Harris. Suffice to say he has no clue as to what he is taking about.

Not christianity, but islam I would say.

His book "Letter to a Christian Nation" in its very first few pages begins with the outrageous lie when comparing muslim views on the after life, claiming that similar to christians we believe everybody else is going to Hell.

Its trully sad when atheists rant against theology they don't bother properly learning about in the first place. But that's just me.

Izgad said...

As someone training to be a historian I would point out that Harris does not understand early modern European history. The Scientific Revolution and everything we associate with the modern world came out of the religious movements of the period. For example you cannot take Isaac Newton out of his Arian Christianity.