Please help answers these two criticisms about Letter to a Christian Nation
Posted: 02 March 2011 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Hi, I’m a huge fan of Harris and am currently arguing about his book (Letter to a Christian Nation) with some Christian friends of mine.  I would appreciate your help with the following two criticisms:

1)

On p. 20, Harris writes (regarding the ten commandments), “The first four of these ... have nothing to do…with morality.”  Although the first four commandments do not concern our relationship with other human beings, they do concern our relationship with ourselves and god. But certainly our relationship with ourselves (and God, if you already believe Christianity) will impact our relationships with others. 

2)

On p. 76, Harris writes/quotes, “If there is a God, he has an inordinate fondness for Beetles [as there are now 350,000 known species of beetles].  One would have hope that an observation this devastating would have closed the book on creationism for all time.”  Could someone please make his argument much more explicit for my sake.  My Christian friends aren’t buying it, and I’m not selling it well smile

I really appreciate any help you might give me.

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Posted: 02 March 2011 05:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Hello, Ben Harper 31415:
If we define morality as how we treat other people, then the first four commandments (the first three if you’re Catholic) do not touch on morality.  And I don’t see how rules governing the Hebrews’ relationship with their tribal deity can be construed to be about our “relationship with ourselves.” 

For most of their 2000-year history, Christians have been violating the (3rd/4th?) rule about the Sabbath.  They clearly picked “the first day of the week” for their gatherings because they believed it was the day their leader overcame death and the grave.  Also, there have been so many upheavals in Jewish history that it is hard to imagine that the 21st Century Western European/North American Saturday is actually the real Sabbath.  Yes, I am suggesting that Yahweh himself might have a problem with how Christians are not following this particular demand.

About not having strange gods, unless you equate idols with gods, most of us atheists are OK on the other gods question.  There are many modern ideas about how people bow down to idols by really liking this or that earthly delight, but what we think and what was meant 2500 years ago or more are worlds apart. 
Can anyone really tell us what the other god rule means?  Is “taking God’s name in vain” when you pray and he does not answer you and you keep praying?

If your friends choose to misunderstand Dr. Harris’s sarcastic remark about the proliferation of beetles species as casting doubt on God’s benevolence and anthro-centrism in creating the world, I suggest they are being willfully obtuse.  One of the most common tactics used by the believers in their discussions with non-believers is the unanswerable objection.  They lay awake nights thinking these up.  If there is one tiny part of your argument (a word which here means “logical progression of reasoning process”) which they think you can’t explain, they seize on it and demand an explanation which satisfies them.  If you can’t give one, then you must be wrong on this one point and for want of a nail, the horseshoe falls off, your horse rolls over and you are crushed.  And they think they have won the day.

But be forewarned:  They will never concede defeat.  If they win they would presure you to make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior on the spot.  And most of them admit that even should they be convinced that the opposing argument was true, they would continue to believe as they always have.

Yours for rational thought and civil discourse,  Starfire

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Posted: 02 March 2011 07:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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benharper31415 - 02 March 2011 04:55 PM

Hi, I’m a huge fan of Harris and am currently arguing about his book (Letter to a Christian Nation) with some Christian friends of mine.  I would appreciate your help with the following two criticisms:


I recommend you post this on the Project Reason Forum ... much more traffic over there.

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Posted: 03 August 2011 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Dear Newbie,

I cannot speak for Mr. Harris, and frankly I don’t think it brings much to any debate simply because the 10 commandments are of no intrinsic value. They are pueril, antequated and obsolete hogwash, with all due respect.

To the risk of being lengthy, here is an essay on the subject. Hope it will be of use to you.

If god has dictated the commandments (rules for short), just how much can we bend these ‘rules’ if we can at all? What can possibly be the punishment for not following these commandments?


  Most Judeo-Christian churches will tell you that these commandments are the pillars of the faith and that breaking them is punishable by eternal damnation (capital punishment of sorts), unless, say some Christians, we accept Jesus as our savior, in which case we may be entitled to some probation.


  On a more serious note however, there is an obvious absolutism of the commandments.


  Let us for the purpose of the discussion consider the seventh rule. Let us imagine for a moment that a person is destitute, has lost his job, his home, everything, and that he is literally dying of hunger. He decides to steal something to eat. Is this individual condemned to hell forever because of this? If not, then we can bend the rules, at least a little bit. If so, this seems somewhat cruel and unjust. Perhaps, in the marvelous plan of the ‘Designer’, no one will ever have to steal because no one will ever go hungry. This is only the first quagmire of the rules.


  By comparison, let us consider the first rule. There seems to be no doubt as to the absolutism of this rule. Either one worships this ‘Lord’ or one does not. If one does not and if this Lord is the unique, the one and only Lord, then we are in for it if we do not follow this rule. There is obviously no room here for pardon, no attenuating circumstances.


  If one rule is absolute, then all of them must be, just like in a creed, it’s orthodoxy or nothing. Therefore, stealing or coveting someone else’s goods, what ever the reason, is punishable to the maximum. If but one rule becomes disputable, then they all become disputable.

  Let us finish with rule number 5. Now this one says, ‘thou shalt not kill’, just what does it mean? Kill what, kill who? Because the biblical ’Lord’ delights in the smell of burning entrails and animal sacrifices, (all through the Old Testament) it most certainly does not mean killing animals. Therefore, it means killing other human beings.


  Is there any circumstance where one could kill a person and not break the rule? By virtue of the absolutism of the rules, the answer is ‘no’. This means that if you kill someone in the attempt to protect your own life, you are condemned. This also means that every soldier that ever killed another human, regardless of the side he was on, or the circumstances, is condemned; quite the quagmire here also.


  Surely, an all Intelligent-Designer-God would know better than to dictate rules of this nature knowing full well that they could only be absolute and therefore easily broken. Surely, a loving god would not create quagmires to trap innocent people. Does this mean that we should live without rules, of course not.
 

We are gregarious beings and in order to live in harmony together we need rules of conduct; that is why we have invented Laws. The difference between secular laws and divine commandments is that secular laws are lenient at times and seldom if ever absolute.

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Posted: 13 April 2012 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I want to know more about the Christians. Would you please help me out by providing more info about the fact?!! Thanks you!!..... smile

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Posted: 13 April 2012 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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(1) - Saying that our relationship with God will impact our relationship with others does not imply that worshipping God is a moral act. My relationship with my garden plants also affects my relationship with others, but that does not imply that I am morally obligated to worship my plants.

(2) - The argument certainly doesn’t argue against a vague ‘God’, per se, but it does make an argument against a human-centric created universe. If all animals on earth were created strictly for human use/consumption/entertainment, then what possible benefit could 20,000 separate species of beetle be? One can always assume that God somehow intends for each of these 20,000 species to benefit humanity in some particular way, but it seems more reasonable to simply say that these were NOT created strictly for humans.

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Posted: 11 October 2012 10:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Posted: 11 October 2012 10:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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benharper31415 - 02 March 2011 11:55 AM

On p. 20, Harris writes (regarding the ten commandments), “The first four of these ... have nothing to do…with morality.”  Although the first four commandments do not concern our relationship with other human beings, they do concern our relationship with ourselves and god. But certainly our relationship with ourselves (and God, if you already believe Christianity) will impact our relationships with others. 

They have no moral underpinnings.  They are orders without explanation.  There is no moral lesson.  Only blind obedience to an entity that explicitly exhibits all the traits of an abusive spouse.

However, the connection between following these 4 and the (im)moral approach to others is worth noting.

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