3.29.2007

God still undefeated in minds of fans

Dennis Prager used as floor mop in debate with Sam Harris; declares victory.

This thing is pretty hilarious. I long ago stopped debating religion with people despite my hardcore atheism, because there's no percentage in it and the two sides are rarely even arguing the same question (which is evident in abundance in the article above), but Prager is the perfect punching bag this time around: he completely fails to respond to any substantial point made by Harris, exhumes the old "arrogant disbeliever" trope again and again, and makes a fool of himself to anyone who's paying attention.

At some point, Prager makes this ridiculous wager:

I bet you whatever sum we each can afford that the vast majority of murderers and rapists in this country were not religiously active during the time they committed their violent crimes. I would make a second bet that you won’t take that bet.


Harris rightly jumps all over this, saying that if you define "religiously active" as "believing in God and the basic tenets of the fath", he'd take this bet in a second and win -- as would I, and Dennis can afford a lot more than I can. Since a very substantial majority of Americans self-identify as Christian (and a tiny minority as atheist), it's a sure thing that a majority of any given subset of Americans -- say, murderers and rapists -- are also Christian. Even leaving aside the stupendous implication that without belief in the Jewish sky-god, you are far more likely to be a murdering rapist (so, then, what accounts for the lower rate of murder and rape in Japan?), this bet betrays a total ignorance of statistics and demographics.

Then there's this gem of false certainty. Dennis:

You are right that this moral clarity and courage among the predominantly religious does not prove the existence of the biblical God. Nothing can prove God’s existence. But it sure is a powerful argument. If society cannot survive without x, there is a good chance x exists.


Let's ignore the fact that all sorts of things could prove God's existence in a heartbeat, if he really existed and wasn't determined to stay as invisible as D.B. Cooper. Let's instead focus, as Sam Harris does, on the utterly botched syllogism. Harris:

No, Dennis, this moral clarity is not a “powerful argument,” or even an argument at all; please keep your x’s straight. If humanity can’t survive without a belief in God, this would only mean that a belief in God exists. It wouldn’t, even remotely, suggest that God exists.


Finally running out of ideas, Dennis resorts to yakking up his 'Jews and Christians invented every good thing that humanity has ever done' argument even though it is patent nonsense. I mean, just look at this:

Suffice it to that Judeo-Christian values alone gave humanity the notion of the sacredness of human life


No. That would be the Greeks.

linear history and therefore the idea of moral and scientific progress


No. Greeks again.

universal standards of good and evil


This is nonsense on many, many levels. Does he mean "universally applicable"? If so, why doesn't everyone adopt them? Or does he mean the Christians/Jews were the first people to come up with standards they believed should be universally applied? If so, that's obviously not true.

the scientific method


Which, of course, allowed many of them to reject Christianity.

the development of democracy


Nope. Greeks.

the greatest music ever composed and the greatest art ever drawn


Well! Nothing to argue against there.

the greatest experiment in non-ethnicity-based society (America)


Even if you argue that the founding of America had nothing to do with ethnos (a contention some black people and Indians might want to explore a bit more thoroughly), many of the Founding Fathers remain obnoxiously non-Christian.

equality of the sexes


Oh, we have equality of the sexes now?

Dennis is utterly full of shit here, deliberately conflating Westerners -- that is, products of a more or less Judeo-Christian society -- with actual believing, faithful Jews and Christians. He knows full well that the progressive developments that he cites like democracy, scientific method, feminism, plurality, etc., all tend to come from nonreligious Westerners who, while raised in Judeo-Christian cultures, are the ones who bristle most against religious teaching. And he also knows full well that in those parts of society where Judeo-Christian belief is strongest, things like women's rights, democracy, plurality and respect for science are at their lowest. Knowing these things but acting as if he doesn't makes him what? That's right: a liar. And lying is what? That's right: a sin. For which he will burn in Hell for all eternity, unless I'm right and there is no God. So there's something atheism can take credit for: saving Dennis Prager's lying ass.

2 comments:

ShagBoon said...

Thanks for writing that. I, too, read the Harris/Prager debate some time ago and with increasing amusement - until I got to the passage you describe in which Prager ceases to skip and dance along the edge of the abyss of self-delusion and at last hurls himself completely into it with his awful and ludicrous claims about historical Judeo-Christian triumphs. It actually made me gape at my computer screen.

I often sift through the web looking for references to Harris - either articles by him or comments about him - and I've recently given in to temptation to offer comments of my own (such as this one). I was drawn into a debate, albeit a pleasantly civil one, on one blog about Harris' recent "God's Dupes" article, and I can now see the wisdom of your policy of not debating the subject of religion... it is generally an exercise in pointlessness and, ultimately, frustration to have a discussion on the topic with someone who does not seem to know (or care) what critical thinking is. Anyway - thanks again.

tritium said...

You know, nothing can prove God's existence, because the arguments that God exists have been thoroughly discredited ages ago, but here's an argument that God exists that was discredited ages ago.