Category Archives: Harris

Sources of evil?

Since September 2001 we have become more aware of how religious belief can promote evil deeds. This is not new, however. The history of evil perpetrated in the name of religion has been discussed by authors such as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great), Sam Harris (The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation) and Michael Jordan (In the Name of God : Violence and Destruction in the World’s Religions).

One would have to be blind to disagree with these authors. However, I think the problem of their analyses is that it is restricted to considering only religion. This doesn’t help us understand the origins of evil in secular situations or evil activity carried out by mankind in general.

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Problems with atheism?

Sam HarrisSam Harris has created some controversy with his argument against the use of the term “atheist.” Harris, usually classified as one of the “New Atheists” (he is author of the books The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation), was speaking at the U. S. Atheist Alliance National Convention held in Virginia last week. An edited transcript of his speech was printed by The Washington Post (Sam Harris: The Problem with Atheism).

Harris said “I think this whole conversation about the conflict between faith and reason, and religion and science, has been, and will continue to be successfully marginalised under the banner of atheism.” This argument is not new and was rejected by some of the other speakers. See report in the Humanist Network News (Sam Harris: We Should Not Call Ourselves Atheists) for comments by Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett and Chrsitopher Hitchens.

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The “New Christians”

In my post Theology of the Emperor’s New Clothes I referred to the anger exhibited in many of the reviews of the recent atheist books. The best known of these books are The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins), The End of Faith (Sam Harris), Letter to a Christian Nation(Sam Harris), Breaking the Spell (Daniel C. Dennett) and God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens). These sort of reviews have been parodied by Adam Roberts in a “review” of a fictional book (The Fascism Delusion by Richard Dawkins). Clearly, many religious people are responding emotionally to the current discussion of religion and belief.

Dawkins, Dennett and others have pointed out that this sort of reaction is a specific character of religion. People see religion as something that needs protection from the scrutiny normally acceptable in other fields of human endeavour. This is a bit rich, of course, given the harsh criticism of atheism religious people have made over the years. If the current interest in atheism and religion resulted in the ability to discuss these issues in a calmer way that would be a very welcome outcome.

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The atheist wars?

There are surprisingly few conflicts between atheists. Certainly, nothing like the “clash of civilisations” currently raging amongst theists. Perhaps this is because non-theists seem to feel little need to organise into groups. As Richard Dawkins says, organising atheists is like herding cats!

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Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?

The first part of this series (Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?) stressed that the scientific credibility of any theory can be assessed by consulting the peer-reviewed scientific literature. If there isn’t any that is an immediate reason to be suspicious.

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