“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1a).
The April 9th issue of Newsweek devoted nine pages to the discussion of whether there is a cosmic designer. Most of the material involved a discussion between Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County and atheist author Sam Harris. This bit of commentary has been prompted by the reading of their exchange.
Superstitions and creeds evolved over the centuries based on misguided approaches to the revelation of God’s word. By the time Copernicus shared the “heretical” concept in the 16th century that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe, science had made inroads. The knee-jerk reaction to various scientific discoveries sort of spawned an anti-religious mindset among many who saw science and faith in conflict, rather than mutually inclusive.
Blaise Pascal held the notion that it is much wiser to believe in God because if it turns out there is a God you have everything to gain, and if there isn’t a God you have nothing to lose. This has become known as Pascal’s Wager. Even Charles Darwin acknowledged that nobody can know how everything got started in the beginning of our universe. Apparently Sam Harris disagrees with Pascal and Darwin–presenting various arguments for a case against God. Consider some of his notions.
Harris’ first salvo was that there is no evidence for God. He must not have looked at many sunsets or witnessed the birth of a baby. Warren answered Harris more than adequately in my view. Harris admitted that there were parts of the Bible that “are absolutely brilliant and poetically unrivaled” but added that it contains barbarisms that are simply outrageous. When Warren asked Harris what kind of moral compass he used, Harris admitted there is absolute right and wrong. But he was unable to express just what it was. Warren pointed out that God was the author of right.
Harris suggested that many atheists are altruistic. Warren asked how that could be with no particular rule for what is and is not altruistic. The atheist pointed out the threadbare argument that atrocities have been done in the name of God over the centuries. Warren reminded Harris that far more souls were slaughtered at the hands of atheists like Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler and Sadam Hussein than during the Inquisitions. It was enlightening reading the exchanges; sort of like dueling banjos.
Amazingly Harris arrogantly asserted that disbelief in the superstition of gods, or a God, was intellectually superior to the alternative. In a burst of brilliance Warren pointed out that this would mean that believers, 96% of the world’s population, were mentally stunted. Warren admitted he was open to the possibility of being mistaken but that Harris was posturing that the evidence against God was overwhelming.
Life is meaningless without an eternal purpose. If this is all there is, then we are no better off than ants. Harris suggested that if God existed there would be no starvation and infant mortality. Harris appealed to slavery and smallpox in an effort to disprove God. “Why doesn’t he do something about these horrible conditions.” Warren pointed out that he has asked us to do something about them.
In his book The End of Faith Harris calls those who take their children to church people engaged in “ludicrous obscenity.” The arguments against God are legion by those who desire no accountability for their actions. How many hospitals can you think of built by atheists? Or orphanages? Faith isn’t unreasonable. I agree with Warren’s summation: When we die, if atheists are right, we’ve lost nothing. If believers are right, then Harris and his ilk have lost everything.
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