1 of 2
1
A Truthdig debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges
Posted: 25 April 2007 01:40 PM   [ Ignore ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  43
Joined  2007-03-29

I just saw this on TruthDig. Figured I would post it here. I really hope it gets taped so we can see it.
 

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 May 2007 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2007-05-16

is Chris Hedges really a believer though? it sounds like Chris is almost anti America, and i don’t think that the debate will get really heated. i bet Chris and Sam agree on a lot of issues?

or am i completely wrong?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 May 2007 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2007-04-13

[quote author=“craig1”]is Chris Hedges really a believer though? it sounds like Chris is almost anti America, and i don’t think that the debate will get really heated. i bet Chris and Sam agree on a lot of issues?

or am i completely wrong?

I haven’t read Hedges’ book, but I’ve heard him talk about it on Book TV, and he asserted that the Christofascist agenda is not biblically defensible. Couple that with the description of the Truthdig debate, and it seems pretty clear that he’s a liberal Christian. He’s not a creationist, opposes theocracy, etc.

I think the Aslan event set a template for all Sam’s debates with liberal religionists, and this one will follow that template pretty regularly. First Sam and Chris will make some generally friendly remarks about how much they agree on the danger posed by religious fascists. Then Chris will say something like “But Sam, I take issue with your overly simplistic portrayal of religion. You’re just like the fundamentalists in your reading of the texts and you don’t understand faith either.” Y’know, the regular “silly unsophisticated atheist” spiel. There might also be some Wittgensteinian twaddle about religious claims not really being propositions, as Atran argued after the Beyond Belief conference.

Sam’s response: “Well, one of the things I argue is that the fundamentalists are in fact right about what the books say. If you read the Bible, God really does want you to kill homosexuals and Amalekites. Liberal religion like yours, Chris, is certainly preferable to fundamentalism, and is necessary in the short term, but it involves a certain level of intellectually dishonest cherry-picking. In addition, liberals give cover to fundamentalists by legitimizing faith as a way of thinking. The only viable long term solution is to marginalize faith-based reasoning in our social discourse.” (Something I was hoping Sam would ask Reza Aslan was whether he really believed that the Koran is the word of God dictated by Jibril to Muhammad, and if not, what right he had to call himself Muslim. A similar trick could be pulled with Hedges: Sam could quote Jesus saying in pretty plain language that only those who believe will be saved (Mark 16:16 should do the trick), and then ask Chris if he thinks that unbelievers will suffer eternally after death, or if he thinks that Jesus was not, strictly speaking, telling the truth. This should demonstrate rather clearly that liberal theists are not on sound theological ground, which is one of Sam’s main arguments.)

I imagine the disagreements will be about whether fundamentalism is theologically superior and whether religion itself is the big problem. Doing a cursory glance at Hedges’ work (by which I mean skimming the Wikipedia articles on him and his book), it appears he subscribes to the left-wing school that holds that “real” religion is universally benign and that if only people had the proper economic security they wouldn’t resort to fundamentalism.

Also, from what the debate site says about Hedges’ belief that “the loss of the spiritual” has hurt our society, I reckon that there might be some discussion of ethics and spirituality without God. Sam, obviously, will argue that both are fully possible.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 May 2007 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2007-04-13

An update:

On Truthdig , Hedges has left a hint as to what sort of position he’ll be taking:

A preview of Chris Hedges’ upcoming column:

“I Don’t Believe in Atheists” is a critique of all those, such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, who attempt to demonize religion as a source of evil.

This demonization is the back door into self-exaltation and self-worship—what the Bible condemns as idolatry. It allows those who place exclusive faith in their own powers of deduction and thought to ignore or deny the darkness that lurks in all human hearts—including their own.  It places a blind faith in the irrational belief that human beings can lead lives of pure rationality, devoid of the Freudian undercurrents that always make a mockery of the god of human reason.

This is tooth-and-nail stuff, a lot more aggressive than what I expected from Hedges. The religious overtone also makes it seem that he may be more overtly religious than anticipated. I expect sparks to fly tomorrow. I can’t wait. smile

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2007 03:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3208
Joined  2007-04-26

[quote author=“AmericanHumanist”]Sam’s response: “Well, one of the things I argue is that the fundamentalists are in fact right about what the books say. If you read the Bible, God really does want you to kill homosexuals and Amalekites. Liberal religion like yours, Chris, is certainly preferable to fundamentalism, and is necessary in the short term, but it involves a certain level of intellectually dishonest cherry-picking. In addition, liberals give cover to fundamentalists by legitimizing faith as a way of thinking. The only viable long term solution is to marginalize faith-based reasoning in our social discourse.”

While I agree with Sam in principle, I have qualms about that stance as a political and social strategy. My first responsibility is to protect my children from the theocratic agenda promoted by the fundamentalists. I wonder if Sam’s stance will alienate the liberal religionists and convince them to ally not with us but with the fundamentalists. I see the liberal religionists as in a delicate balance - one step away from joining the forces of reason, and simultaneously one national crisis away from joining the forces of theocracy. Do you see my concerns as valid?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2007 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3208
Joined  2007-04-26

It allows those who place exclusive faith in their own powers of deduction and thought to ignore or deny the darkness that lurks in all human hearts—including their own.  It places a blind faith in the irrational belief that human beings can lead lives of pure rationality, devoid of the Freudian undercurrents that always make a mockery of the god of human reason.

One of my college professors defined the liberal/conservative split this way: liberals see human nature as inherently good, and conservatives see it as inherently bad. It’s clear where Hedges stands. I take his stance personally. I will let no one define me as inherently bad.

Instead, I agree with Harlan Ellison - humans are capable of Dachau and My Lay, we are also capable of painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling and putting a man on the moon. We are capable of both tremendous harm and tremendous good. Hedges doesn’t seem to recognize the latter. In my view, if one believes that humans aren’t capable of tremendous good, that inevitably leads to the idea that humans don’t deserve to exist. I wonder if that’s the basis for the fundamentalist Christian fascination with Armageddon.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2007 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3208
Joined  2007-04-26

It allows those who place exclusive faith in their own powers of deduction and thought

When someone tells me I shouldn’t use my own powers of deduction, I suspect that the person has an agenda to control me. I cannot imagine any other motive for promoting such an idea.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2007 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2007-04-13

[quote author=“Carstonio”]While I agree with Sam in principle, I have qualms about that stance as a political and social strategy. My first responsibility is to protect my children from the theocratic agenda promoted by the fundamentalists. I wonder if Sam’s stance will alienate the liberal religionists and convince them to ally not with us but with the fundamentalists. I see the liberal religionists as in a delicate balance - one step away from joining the forces of reason, and simultaneously one national crisis away from joining the forces of theocracy. Do you see my concerns as valid?

I can certainly see where you’re coming from, and this is a reasonable objection to the Harris/Dawkins line. Still, all things considered, I think some aggressiveness is necessary and that Sam is on to the right track.

On this point I’m going to defer to PZ Myers, who argues for uppity atheism better than I could:

Every social movement — and I’d add the labor movement and the struggle for civil rights as equally strong examples — that tries to break the bonds of mindless convention and tradition and that defies established privilege gets accused of being rude and worse, much worse, and there are always weak apologists for the status quo who use that pathetic etiquette excuse to try and silence the revolutionaries. Successful revolutionaries ignore the admonitions about which fork to use for their salad because they care only to grab the steak knife as they launch themselves over the table.

Atheists are calm and mild-mannered, even leaders of the New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris and Dennett — no doubt because our oppression is minor compared to that of women, racial minorities, and labor — but we’re still getting these ridiculous claims that we’re too “rude”. They won’t stop until we’re completely silent, and there’s no point in compromise, so these faint-hearted enablers of superstition are going to have to excuse us if we ever so politely request that they go fuck themselves, beg pardon, and please, use a rolled-up copy of the Republican party platform to do it, if you don’t mind, thank you in advance.

I highly recommend you give the whole post a look-over.

I’d also argue that your worries miss an important point of Sam’s critique: namely, that religious moderation is not a vehicle particularly suited to defeating fundamentalism, because moderates buy into the idea of faith and tend to portray their holy books as repositories of wisdom. But once faith is allowed as a valid epistemology, and once the Bible is admitted to be the great book of wisdom, religious totalitarianism cannot be far away. Essentially, moderates have lost the game to fundamentalists simply by agreeing to the rules.

For an example, let’s look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which, for all the bad pres it gets, is much more liberal than the American evangelical right) says about the scriptures and especially the Old Testament

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.“69

“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.“70

106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.“71

107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.“72

108 Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”. Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living”.73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures.“74

...

121 The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked.

122 Indeed, “the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately SO oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men.“93 “Even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional,94 The books of the OldTestament bear witness to the whole divine pedagogy of God’s saving love: these writings “are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way.“95

123 Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. the Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism).

These tenets, especially the parts I have emphasized, really leave the back door open to theocratic fascism. It would take a vast amount of cognitive dissonance to believe all the above and not take Leviticus and Deuteronomy seriously in all their “moral” teachings.

Finally, I think it’s too pessimistic to think that Harris and Dawkins are alienating the masses with their belligerence. I recall Sam saying multiple times that he receives emails from people who have deconverted or become more aggressive in their advocacy for reason since reading his books, and if nothing else the recent wave of uppity atheism has put freethought in the spotlight. So let’s not jump to conclusions.

People often forget, as well, that Sam also has written quite a lot to make atheism emotionally viable as well as intellectually viable, with his positions on ethics and spirituality. The approach of aggressive atheists consists of more than just tearing down religion.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2007 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3208
Joined  2007-04-26

[quote author=“AmericanHumanist”]I’d also argue that your worries miss an important point of Sam’s critique: namely, that religious moderation is not a vehicle particularly suited to defeating fundamentalism, because moderates buy into the idea of faith and tend to portray their holy books as repositories of wisdom. But once faith is allowed as a valid epistemology, and once the Bible is admitted to be the great book of wisdom, religious totalitarianism cannot be far away. Essentially, moderates have lost the game to fundamentalists simply by agreeing to the rules.

If I understand you and Sam correctly, religious faith is believing in the supernatural not just without evidence but also without any possibility of evidence. So it appears that moderates and fundamentalists disagree only on interpretation. Would that be accurate? I’ve wondered what would religion look like if it had no claims about the supernatural, including no claims that natural events had supernatural causes.

As an aside, if there is any wisdom in any scripture’s teachings, those teachings should be evaluated separately from any claims about the supernatural. The Sermon on the Mount is often cited as an example of such wisdom, and if that sermon has any merit, it shouldn’t make a difference if Jesus was mortal and not divine, or even if Jesus never existed. I hasten to add, however, that much of the Bible would flunk such an evaluation for wisdom, especially the Old Testament. I’m thinking particularly of the genocide at Jericho and the Sacrifice of Isaac.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2007 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2007-04-13

If I understand you and Sam correctly, religious faith is believing in the supernatural not just without evidence but also without any possibility of evidence.

The “without any possibility of evidence” clause seems to me to be going too far. As Victor Stenger points out in God: The Failed Hypothesis, we can imagine evidence that would strongly support certain religious claims. If the prayers of Catholics were met with 100% efficacy, for instance, that would lend strong empirical support to Catholicism.

I’d say that religious faith is something more along the lines of the license to believe in the supernatural whether or not there exists evidence to support the beliefs in question.

So it appears that moderates and fundamentalists disagree only on interpretation. Would that be accurate?

It’s pretty near the mark. A moderate Christian and a fundie both accept the Bible as divine revelation (leaving aside for one moment some definitions of “moderate Christians” that would include those so open minded that their brains have fallen out, and continue to call themselves Christian without actually subscribing to any of the main tenets of Christianity), and that constrains the dialogue considerably.

I’ve wondered what would religion look like if it had no claims about the supernatural, including no claims that natural events had supernatural causes.

There’s a conceptual problem in asking a question like this in that the definition of “religion” is up in the air. The term is used to link together a variety of widely different systems. Islam, Taoism, and Scientology have pretty major structural differences between them.

Still, Unitarian Universalism might be pretty close to what you’re talking about.

As an aside, if there is any wisdom in any scripture’s teachings, those teachings should be evaluated separately from any claims about the supernatural. The Sermon on the Mount is often cited as an example of such wisdom, and if that sermon has any merit, it shouldn’t make a difference if Jesus was mortal and not divine, or even if Jesus never existed. I hasten to add, however, that much of the Bible would flunk such an evaluation for wisdom, especially the Old Testament. I’m thinking particularly of the genocide at Jericho and the Sacrifice of Isaac.

You are absolutely right.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2007 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3208
Joined  2007-04-26

[quote author=“AmericanHumanist”]I’d say that religious faith is something more along the lines of the license to believe in the supernatural whether or not there exists evidence to support the beliefs in question.

Good definition. That encapsulates my objection to “because God said so” and “because it’s written.”

[quote author=“AmericanHumanist”]Still, Unitarian Universalism might be pretty close to what you’re talking about.

My wife and I attended UU services for a couple of years, and we liked the lack of doctrine. Years later, someone told me about a claim that UU was a front for something else, but wouldn’t go into details. It sounded like the person had confused UU with Rev. Moon’s church. In any case, the claim didn’t match up with what we had experienced in UU.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2007 07:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2007-05-22

I just got back from this. A good debate if I may say so, regardless of the moderator’s seemingly taking sides. I hope to talk about it on a forum here.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 May 2007 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2007-05-02

PeekItUp,

Do you know if a transcript or podcast will be available? 

It’s hard to talk about it here or anywhere else when those who couldn’t attend have no idea what Hedges or Harris said. 

Here are a couple of books people here might like:
http://www.harvardmagazine.com/2007/05/twin-passions.html
I read the article online and may read the books.

Does anyone know if there are any great scientists in the Buddhist tradition?  Harris has little good to say about Western theologians or philosophers, yet lavishes praise on those who are masters of contemplative practices of the East.  I wonder if he attends the Dalai Lama’s science conferences.

I believe there is an ultimate reality that humans have very limited understanding of, but I am not a member of any organized religion.  I think this might mean that I’m a cherry-picking, or eclectic, moderate, according to criteria I’ve read here. 

Hope

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 May 2007 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  262
Joined  2007-05-22

Hope writes to PeekitUp: 
“Do you know if a transcript or podcast will be available?”


Unfortunately, I emailed the lecture agent to find out the answer to this exact same question…

To Whom It May Concern:
I’m very interested in the debate Sam had last night at UCLA.  Living in the North East, I wasn’t able to attend, however, I’m wondering if you will have a video of the debate that could be accessed through your website sometime soon.  Any information on how or when I’ll be able to see it would be greatly appreciated.
Thank You,
J Turnbull
P.S. I did contact the UCLA box office to see if it would be webcasted, and
was very willing to pay for the privlege.  Perhaps in the future you could
consider some type of live broadcast.

And the response I got from: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) was…

“Sorry, no recording available.”

I sure hope he’s wrong.  If anyone knows otherwise, please let us know. Thanks in advance,
JT

 Signature 


Something’s Moving.

      ~Albert Einstein

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 May 2007 09:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  61
Joined  2006-09-28

From the Truthdig site:

Chris Hedges: I Don’t Believe in Atheists.

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday night, Chris Hedges and Sam Harris debated “Religion, Politics and the End of the World.” The following is Hedges’ opening statement, in which he argues that Harris and other critics of faith have mistakenly blamed religion for the ills of the world, when the true danger lies in the human heart and its capacity for evil. We will a recording of the debate soon.

Rest of the article here.

(I read about half way, til he got to the Stalin, Hitler Pol Pot blah blah).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 May 2007 02:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3255
Joined  2004-12-24

[quote author=“AmericanHumanist”]I’d say that religious faith is something more along the lines of the license to believe in the supernatural whether or not there exists evidence to support the beliefs in question.


I’d insert ” ... the pretense of the license to believe ... as long as the alleged belief in question agrees with the existing dogma of the faithful who are present.”

Faith is never accepted as validation for “unapproved” beliefs, which exposes the fact that it’s not what it’s alleged to be at all. It’s nothing but a very thin veneer of feigned validation for a specific set of special presumptions, yet it’s one of the strongest affirmations available to believers.

Byron

 Signature 

“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 2
1
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed