Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Great Uselsss Argument for or against God(s)

Hat tip to the Goose on this one:

Dennis Prager (defender of so-called Judeo-Christian values) versus Sam Harris (the great atheist) in a series of back/forth emails on the question of God. Read here.

Basically the same arguments trotted out pro/con that people have been using since about 1700 or so. If you read through the set, you see that neither one of them answers the main criticisms of the other. Guilty Harris, guilty Prager.

I'm just so tired of these contracted, ignorant debates--on both sides. But anyway, this rant will at least give me some venting room.

Harris quotes the famous argument against God from Bertrand Russell (another great atheist himself) which goes something like:

If I said there was a flying teapot between earth and the moon which was too small to ever be detected by the best telescopes, nobody could disprove it. The argument for God is like that. The burden of proof isn't on the skeptic/atheist but on the theist to prove there is such a thing.

However, notice the point. The analogy is useless. The teapot is a material object. Which thereofre falls within the purview of material-objective truth seeking/discovering science.

God by definition, if there were to be such a reality, is im-material. Formless.

The real question then relevant to Russell is why the assumption that only material things are real? Why are things that can only be discovered through scientific measurement real? So Prager is right to bring up questions of beauty, love, any emotional experience. Where is the truth in those?

If you study James Fowler's Stages of Faith development when he reaches the equivalent to "orange", it branches in mulitiple directions: atheism, theism, deism, and agnosticism.

That is, atheism is a form of belief. It is a development and a good one over traditional mythic belief systems. That is why Harris is so good and so unafraid of despising them. But so is an orange theism if you like. As represented in varying forms by Dennis Prager and Francis Collins (whom Prager quotes as support).

The reason neither Harris nor Prager wins and why this whole (non)debate is just another version of an argument that has been going on for 300 years, is that they are arguing from the same horizontal plane (roughly equal vertical depth), just interpret that plane very differently.

But both are completely unaware of the ground from which their interpretations arise (integral qua system of systems).

Both of them would get deconstructed by a postmodernist (green) who would argue something like all belief systems are social constructions and that objective proof (for or against God) is a non-starter. Hence Prager and Harris both are against multiculturalism.

There is no proof for or against God. What is interesting to note however is that Harris has himself writing eloquently (religiously) of his own mystical experiences. He just happened to interpret those states through a worldcentric stage of consciousness (atheist orange). That is why Harris is deeply, almost prophetically enraged, against authoritarian, anti-modernist forms of religion, particularly Christianity and Islam.

Bertrand Russell--it is no surprise Harris resontaes with him--another avowed atheist who had many mystical experiences in his life. So belief in God has nothing to do with mystical experience.

And get this, Harris (surprise surprise) actually advocates people having mystical experiences and being taught (indoctrinated?) to interpret those experiences to promote universal (read: worldcentric) love and human communion.

Sound like a religion anyone? What happens when people take him up on that offer and want their children raised similiarly? What happens when they will go through their own version of a mythic Harris-like atheistic faith?

Prager can't admit that Harris' development is a mature though limited and often arrogant (although that may just be Sam's persona) system. Harris of course, living in a horizontal frame where everything is right/wrong, can't deal with post-mythic believers.

You see this for example when Harris states that Prager must prove that Chrsitianity is the only right religion and that all the Hindus in the world (and every other non-Chrsitian are going to hell). Well that would be true of a mythic faith, but a developed Chrsitian faith, read Vatican II Sam?, does not teach that all non-Christians are going to hell.

Nor can Harris account for the mystical traditions within Christianity, Islam, Judaism, nor even the liberal/progressive elements within those traditions. Harris, like all atheist evangelizers, has to lump any such relgious believer in with the fundamentalists. He calls folks like me, "enablers."

So be it, let those modernist fools babble on from here to the end of the world. It's that pathetic on both sides.


At 12:55 PM, Anonymous md said...

Hey Chris,

Honestly, why does everything have to be about "development"?

Prager can't admit that Harris' development is a mature though limited and often arrogant (although that may just be Sam's persona) system.

Seems like an unfair reading of Prager. Maybe it is due to the fact that I more than occasionally listen to his radio show broadcast over the internet, and thus I can hear the actual sound of his voice, but I don't see anything to point you reasonably towards that conclusion. To be honest, your conclusion sounds like boilerplate Wilberspeak.

And, reading your post, you seem to criticize Harris far more than Prager. Personally, I agree with that. Prager, by his own admission at the end, was never out to "win" an argument, but to clarify the two positions. (And, he's not lying, he actually does say that on his radio show, all the friggin time).

Let me end here -- what criticism by Harris did Prager not answer?

all best,

At 6:03 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

i respnoded in a separate blog post. merry advent and christmas bro.


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