Feed on Posts or Comments 25 October 2014

Christianity Admin on 27 Nov 2006 01:47 am

A fascinating debate between Sam Harris and Dennis Prager

This debate was carried out in email, so there is a complete transcript. It’s fascinating:

Read the debate

Which points seem most important to you?

[Thanks to emodude for the link]

21 Responses to “A fascinating debate between Sam Harris and Dennis Prager”

  1. on 29 Nov 2006 at 11:48 pm 1.Jimson said …

    Prager says this:

    “Is it really reason and common sense that lead atheists to their certitude that everything, all existence, came about by sheer chance? That there is therefore no God, no creator, no designer? Unlikely.”

    This is the part that atheists refuse to admit.

  2. on 01 Dec 2006 at 10:44 am 2.Steve said …

    Jimson’s subtext is that it is because atheists are BAD that they disbelieve in God.

    What exactly are we being asked to admit?

  3. on 01 Dec 2006 at 2:03 pm 3.Olly said …

    I am not sure of Jimson’s unstated subtext but would also like to know what exactly are we being asked to admit? If atheists are bad then surely that disproves their bible. According to them their god created us and knows no evil so…
    Please tell us what you meant Jimson.

  4. on 01 Dec 2006 at 2:45 pm 4.TwistofCain said …

    Is it common sense that leads believers to their certitude that everything, all existence, came about by the will of some magical sky man who can’t even be shown to exist? Unlikely. This is what Christians are afraid to admit.

  5. on 03 Dec 2006 at 2:03 pm 5.MWStover said …

    Sadly, Harris’s argument is founded on a straw man — and an inaccurate one, too.

    I believe in Zeus (though I don’t worship him; I’m just respectful). One of my best friends is Asatru — that is, a worshipper of the Norse gods (specifically, Thor).

    His assertion that “everyone is an atheist in regard to Zeus and Thor” is simply flat wrong. Further, he exhibits a profound lack of understanding about non-Christian religious experience. We don’t look to some metaphysical superhero to solve our problems; we use our spirituality as a metaphor to structure our understanding of the universe and our place in it.

    The biggest con in the history of Western civilization is the false choice of “Yahweh or Nothing At All.”

  6. on 05 Dec 2006 at 3:15 am 6.Steve said …

    MWStover

    Harris is saying that we mostly don’t need to argue against believers in Zeus et al. You are clearly an exception. If you assert that Zeus exists show us some evidence, the onus of proof is on you.

  7. on 05 Dec 2006 at 10:19 pm 7.Jesse Santoyo said …

    It is amazing to see how far someone will go to do this. it makes me laugh at all the different scenerios. “YOU”, whoever you are, have gone the extra mile to make people believe that GOd doesn’t exist. You must feel really threatened by the existence of God and how it is so obvious in everything around us. From science to creation. How can God not exist? That is obsurd. I give it to you. it is far easier to not believe, serving God and believing is done in faith. God is real, God does answer prayers, and EVERYTHING works for good to those who love him. Ok, lets say God, heaven and Hell don’t exist, and you are right, its all a story made up, But what if it is ALL TRUE? You willing to take that chance? Don’t be silly. Seek the Lord and his righteousness while it still can be found. I give it to you though, to all of you. It takes alot of courage to not believe.
    much love in Him

  8. on 05 Dec 2006 at 10:19 pm 8.Peter said …

    MWStover:

    No problem! Go ahead with your Zeus thing. I assume that your “understanding of the universe” allows plenty of room for Zeus, Thor and their ilk. I’d love to see them. Can you point out to me where they are? Thanks.

    ps: or is that metaphor just a way of hiding the fact they exist only in your imagination? Still I’d love to be proven wrong.

  9. on 06 Dec 2006 at 6:03 am 9.Happy Evolute said …

    Jesse Santoyo

    “How can God not exist?”

    You have to

    a) say what “God” is
    b) show us the evidence that whatever-you-say-God-is exists.

    If you can’t do that then we can’t even start a conversation.

    If “God” can do anything then I suppose he must be capable of not existing.

    If you can show us that your God exists then we can start discussing whether he, she or it is worth paying any attention to.

    You have quite a lot of explaining to do.

  10. on 06 Dec 2006 at 9:24 pm 10.Lisa said …

    I can prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real but you have to be sincere in your search. In other words God will not respond to you unless you are sincerely seeking him with all your heart and mind. If you desire to have a peace of mind beyond anything you could ever imagine and you desire to have happiness beyond your wildest dreams then please be sincere and pray as I did. When I was a about 10 yrs old I had heard about God but wasn’t raised in church and wasn’t taught by my parents to believe in God as most christians are at an early age. One night I was playing outside under a beautiful sky filled with bright stars and I began to talk to the sky sincerely from my heart saying, “God if you are real then I want you to know you and everything about you.” That’s really all I said but I really did mean it and God knew that I meant it. I can honestly tell you that within that very year God had touched my heart beyond words. God will actually change your heart and mind. His spirit actually touhes you deep within your soul where no one else can reach. My joy is unexplainable and eventhough life is not perfect and I’ve been thru much stress in my latter days, I have peace beyond my problems. If you would read your Bible in depth you would understand the reason why God doesn’t instantly heal the whole world of all it’s problems at once. The Bible plainly tells us that it takes faith for miracles to occur and that kind of faith is only seen when people are fasting and praying on a regular basis. It’s called discipline and you don’t see very much of it these days. God is very real and he will prove this to you himself. I promise you he will change your mind and your heart and you will be a completely different person.

  11. on 07 Dec 2006 at 2:25 am 11.wesley said …

    Lisa: I know your experience but the people here need prayer more than anything. They’re so lost, they’re virtually unable to reason. Their thought processes seem to have failed them. They issue challenges and when their challenges are met, they respond with what is left to them: insults, name-calling, etc. They are unable to refute the content of the evidence which is virtual proof of God’s existence so they lash out. It’s ore than apparent, some of them have no interest in seeking truth. They have arrived at conclusions and seek evidence to support those conclusions instead of looking at evidence and then formulating conclusions. While faith is required for salvation, faith is not required to know that God exists or at the very least, that a non-physical being who had no beginning and who is above the first “law” of thermodynamics (it’s a law in all cases except the first as God created the physical realm by fiat). The Bible says: “The fool saith in his heart: ‘There is no God.’ ” and it says it, as you undoubtedly know, for good reason. (Please refer to the part of the blog titled ‘Listen to God Day’ to see my ‘debate’ with some of them.

  12. on 07 Dec 2006 at 2:26 am 12.wesley said …

    errata:

    “more than apparent”

  13. on 07 Dec 2006 at 2:27 am 13.wesley said …

    errata cont.

    faith is not required to know that God exists or at the very least, that a non-physical being who had no beginning and who is above the first “law” of thermodynamics exists; (it’s a law in all cases except the first as God created the physical realm by fiat.

  14. on 07 Dec 2006 at 5:08 am 14.Happy Evolute said …

    Wesley

    “a non-physical being who had no beginning and who is above the first “law” of thermodynamics”

    Is this your answer to part (a)?

    What does “non-physical” mean?

  15. on 08 Dec 2006 at 12:34 am 15.Rob said …

    Back on topic:

    I found the psychology of the debate a lot more interesting than the content.

    Sam and Dennis seemed to be talking right across each other. I wonder if that is an artifact of the e-mail medium. Or, perhaps, it’s simply the case that neither of them is a particularly cogent debator. If I was more industrious, I’d try to boil the arguments of the two down to analyzable propositions.

    I wholly side with Sam, by the way, at least positionally, if not in terms of debate tactics and argument substance. I’m an ex-Christian, former campus-crusader, and at one time was a personal acquaintance of William Craig. I was also a Scholar for Christ. This does not grant me any special authority. I mention it to demonstrate that one can have a deep and abiding interest in theological matters, have a 180 degree shift, and then maintain that interest. The answers have changed, for me, but the questions remain important.

    For me, nowadays, it comes down to this: God, if you’re there, it would be really nice to have greater confirmation than religious emotions. Lots of people the world over have religious emotions of all kinds, for all kinds of reasons, and so what?

    Allegedly, Moses got a burning bush, Noah got a flood, the fleeing Israelites got the flaming pillar. Even Dorothy got the tired old wizard.

    Eventually it dawned on me, “Hey, maybe he’s not showing himself because he’s not behind the curtain. Nobody’s back there, and you need to stop seeking the answers to ultimate questions in bronze-age books which explain the universe in suspiciously bronze-aged ways.”

    God is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain the existence of the physical universe, the existence of complex structure in that universe, the existence of life, nor the existence of ethical values.

    Hmm, I too seem to have strayed off the topic. Anyway, terrific to see these issues being engaged publically. The polite truce serves nobody. We insult religion by refusing to engage it forcefully and critically. If it’s true, it will stand. If it’s false, it’s time to sweep it away.

    Rob

  16. on 08 Dec 2006 at 5:15 am 16.wesley said …

    non-physical being: an entity who is not composed of matter, occupies no space, and so is necessarily outside of time; non-physical means not bounded by time yet able to perceive all of it at once (concomitant omniscience is necessary for this; non-physical being refers also to a spirit entity

    “outside of time” is an idea for which we lack the reference points for comprehension; a fact to which most people cannot admit; it is a condition known as eternity—currently beyond our comprehension for our perception of reality is limited to the continual unfolding series of events appurtenant to the physical realm (which also includes space & matter); we do not know what it is like to NOT be bounded by time because we are currently housed in physical vessels (human bodies) and we occupy space; therefore, we experience reality as a linear series of events as opposed to whatever reality is in eternity..

  17. on 08 Dec 2006 at 5:21 am 17.wesley said …

    with minor corrections:

    non-physical being: an entity who is not composed of matter, occupies no space, and so is necessarily outside of time; non-physical means not bounded by time yet able to perceive all of it at once (concomitant omniscience is necessary for this); non-physical being refers also to a spirit entity

    “outside of time” is an idea for which we lack the reference points for comprehension; a fact to which most people cannot admit; it is a condition known as eternity—currently beyond our comprehension for our perception of reality is limited to the continual unfolding series of events (i.e. time) appurtenant to the physical realm (which also includes space & matter); we do not know what it is like to NOT be bounded by time because we are currently housed in physical vessels (human bodies) and we occupy space; therefore, we experience reality as a linear series of events as opposed to however reality is experienced in eternity…

  18. on 08 Dec 2006 at 5:32 am 18.wesley said …

    really not too much explaining to do; please refer to post on “Listen to God Day”; i have yet to see any refutation to the syllogism—-plenty of name-calling and insults as “responses” over there but no answer that addresses the issue raised nor its answer i wrote (though i didn’t really expect a solid response anyway); if bertrand russell and carl sagan failed, it’s unlikely the atheists posting over there would have any success; it’s interesting to note that in all of their ranting about science, they never mention that Steven Hawking is a theist and is so primarily because of the facts relating to time upon which my syllogism is based; (the argument is not completely ‘mine’; i simply reworked an ancient argument; interesting that, even long ago, people willing to exert a higher degree of mental fortitude were able to deduce that God exists—-as i’d mentioned on the afore-referenced post: no faith is required to know that a non-physical being brought the physical realm into existence and put it in motion and necessarily from nothing.

  19. on 11 Dec 2006 at 8:23 am 19.Happy Evolute said …

    SHAMELESSLY OF TOPIC

    Wesley

    non-physical being: an entity who is not composed of matter, occupies no space, and so is necessarily outside of time; non-physical means not bounded by time yet able to perceive all of it at once (concomitant omniscience is necessary for this); non-physical being refers also to a spirit entity
    Given your definition we can begin to discuss reasons for believing such a thing exists. We are looking for a thing

    a) not made of matter (can I assume you include mass/energy/vacuum energy/electromagnetic field etc as “matter”?), which

    b) doesn’t occupy space (no boundaries) or time (no beginning or end), and is

    c) composed of a different sort of “matter”, which you call “spirit”.

    d) able to perceive( and affect?) the world-made-of-matter in its entirety.

    NB: A non-existent thing also satisfies a) and b), so you must admit that God shares some characteristics with non-existent things.

    As for c) and d) we must ask how the world would look if c) and d) were manifest in something and compare this with how the world would look if they were not. We would then compare these results with the world we perceive and draw a conclusion.

    If we can find no difference between how the world would look in either event then we should take the simplest option, which is that there is nothing that satisfies condition c) and d).

    The only candidate I can come up with would be “consciousness” which I have myself and which partially satisfies condition d). Since consciousness is not understood by anyone we cannot rule out the possibility that it is made of a different substance (which we could call “spirit”).

    I believe that other consciousnesses exist (in time and space) because, like you, when I talk to them they talk back. But I am not able to perceive all of time at once, only some of it for some of the time, and I assume that you are the same, so I am not “God” and neither are you. Where is the evidence that a thing that is able to do d) exists, in any form, physical or otherwise?

    Steve

    PS Why not join the Forum, this thread is difficult to find!

  20. on 15 Dec 2006 at 12:54 am 20.aaron said …

    dear sam,
    precisely what is the nature , the meaning, and the purpose of our collective existence? do you really offer any solutions to lifes most enduring mysteries? is it possible at all for you to imagine an existence or reality or force entirely beyond your tiny understanding?
    You stand so self-righteously and resolutely, condemning the humble hearts of the faithful, pretending that your puny intellect has “discovered the secrets that have laid hidden since the foundation of the earth” Are you yourself a prophet? do you offer thanks, honor and praise to anything beyond your own worthless little ego? may the holy spirit move you to truth rather than the condemnation of your lesser brothers and sisters. for truly your gift is in the mind, though your spirit is comatose. wake up , mortal, to the revelation of the deathless divine.

  21. on 15 Dec 2006 at 5:12 am 21.Sam said …

    You need to read chapters 31 and 32, which cover the meaning of life:

    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/god31.htm

    See also chapters 26, 27 and 28.

Trackback This Post | Subscribe to the comments through RSS Feed

Leave a Reply