Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why religious claims are unbelievable

This is a brief excerpt from the May, 2007 Truthdig debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges. The full debate is here.

I really like Sam Harris here, but the funny thing about the entire debate, to my mind, is that Chris Hedges, who's defending religion, seems to be about as far from religion as it's possible to get and still claim to be religious (which he does, but only reluctantly).

I have to wonder what Christians think about this debate, when Hedges is supposed to be the guy on their side. Hedges seems to be the kind of believer who's backed up about as far as he can get without becoming an atheist, himself. He's given up everything but the will to believe, apparently. But he really doesn't want to take that final step.

When it comes to politics, I probably agree with Hedges more than with Harris. (And, to be sure, the topic of this debate was "Religion, Politics, and the End of the World.") But when it comes to religion, the question is whether or not its claims are true. Like most people, Hedges rejects everything he doesn't want to believe, but why can't he see that that's the fundamental problem with faith?

You can have ethics without religion. I do. You can have morality without religion. I do. You don't have to believe in magic to be a good person. So why believe in magic if there's no good evidence for it? This always astonishes me about liberal believers like Hedges.

But what really struck me here, as I said before, is that he's not even slightly representative of religious believers in America. I don't mean just the fundamentalists, but even the mainstream Christians. What do they think about Chris Hedges debating their side here, when he freely gives up just about everything they actually believe?

"In some vague way, I still consider myself religious"? "The childish notion of an anthropomorphic god"? Heh, heh. This is the guy who's defending religion - or, at least, faith-based thinking, because Hedges doesn't even want to call it "religion." It's just "faith." Could you get any further from actual religious belief as widely practiced in America and elsewhere in the world?

Well, as I said, I thought it was interesting. Some people - liberals, usually - just cannot give up the last tattered remnants of what they were taught to believe from infancy. They can go such a long way, but that final step is just too much for them.

But I'll leave you with another brief clip of Harris:

No comments: