This is an example (via AL Daily)of the irritating kind of atheist. He at once combines snobbishness, condescension and hostility and dispenses it with a dismissive and patronising tone. His arguments against faith are childish and weak and his apparent inability to argue from his opponent’s viewpoint will cripple him anytime he tries to convince. Perhaps his books are more formidable; he would have more space to develop his arguments than in a brief editorial, but I doubt it on the face of what I read there.
He makes reference to “Dominionist Christians, who openly call for homosexuals and blasphemers to be put to death.” And how many such people are there? Apparently, “men and women … by the millions, are quietly working to turn our country into a totalitarian theocracy reminiscent of John Calvin’s Geneva.” Wow. Millions. And being only a step away from that in Mr Harris’ formulation, as a “fundamentalist Christian” you’d think I’d have met a few of these people. But I don’t know anyone who is agitating for the overthrow of our democracy and institution of a religious state.
And consider this section:
People of all faiths — and none — regularly change their lives for the better, for good and bad reasons. And yet such transformations are regularly put forward as evidence in support of a specific religious creed. President Bush has cited his own sobriety as suggestive of the divinity of Jesus. No doubt Christians do get sober from time to time — but Hindus (polytheists) and atheists do as well. How, therefore, can any thinking person imagine that his experience of sobriety lends credence to the idea that a supreme being is watching over our world and that Jesus is his son?
This falls into a very basic logical fallacy. Simply because people of different, and no faith, accomplish something, or have something done to them depending on the formulation you prefer, doesn’t mean that it must be the same cause in each case. Infection can be eradicated by the action of the body alone, but the use of antibiotics, or by surgery. Saying that a person can sometimes achieves sobriety through their own will-power does not mean that all people achieve sobriety through their own will-power. Some people go to rehab, some have friends and family help them, and some rely on God.
And Mr Harris winds up with the most nonsensical bits of all:
Every one of the world’s “great” religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong. Every scientific domain — from cosmology to psychology to economics — has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of Scripture.
Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music.
His conclusion only holds if one has already decided that religion is not true. And if one is only willing to argue from that presupposition, then his whole effort to convince has merely been an exercise in question-begging.