Questions for atheists cont’d. (part 7 of 7)
|August 2, 2011||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
79. In The End of Faith, Harris stated that “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them” (pp. 52-53). This raised so many eyebrows, even among atheists, that Harris felt obliged to issue some clarification on the internet. Attempting to dispel criticisms, Harris first gives the relevant passage from The End of Faith. Then he concedes that he did not express himself as well as he might have—“Granted, I made the job of misinterpreting me easier than it might have been”—and goes on to claim that saying he wants to kill people for their ideas “remains a frank distortion of my views.” He explains:
“When one asks why it would be ethical to drop a bomb on Osama bin Laden or Ayman Al Zawahiri, the answer cannot be, ‘because they have killed so many people in the past.’ These men haven’t, to my knowledge, killed anyone personally. However, they are likely to get a lot of innocent people killed because of what they and their followers believe about jihad, martyrdom, the ascendancy of Islam, etc.” Sam Harris, “Response to Controversy,”
http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2/; accessed September 2008.
This gives rise to some questions for atheists:
(a) Do you think Sam Harris is out to lunch? If your answer is “Yes,” go on to question #82. If your answer is “No,” I would like to ask:
(b) Millions of people share Osama bin Laden’s ideas. Should they be killed? If you say “Yes,” then you want to slaughter millions of people not because they have done anything wrong, but because they might do something wrong someday. That was Lenin the atheist’s reasoning in a nutshell. It’s easy for people who deny the immortal soul to advocate—and do—such things. If, on the other hand, you say millions of people should not be killed for their ideas, but should only be killed if they put their ideas into practice, or if they enable and cause others to put those ideas into practice, then you think Harris is mistaken here – or perhaps he only expressed himself poorly.
(c) Secondly, Harris identifies not only Islamic extremists, but also Christians as threats to the survival of humanity. Accordingly, Christians, not just Osama bin Laden, might be included among those whose dangerous ideas require their elimination. Do you think Christians should be killed? If you answer “No,” how do we know this is a truthful answer? Didn’t the atheist Lenin act out the natural human tendency to lie, to say one thing and later do another? Note I say this is a human fault, not an atheist one. Atheists do tend to feel threatened by people who disagree with them.
80. Sam “The-sky-is-falling” Harris wants to save the human race from religion—and what might not be done if the fate of humanity is at stake? Wouldn’t it be justified to kill some people to save humanity—especially if they have no immortal souls and are nothing but matter? This leads to two related questions:
(a) Is Harris a demagogue who appeals not to reason and logic, but to fear, hatred, and ignorance?
(b) Doesn’t considering people to be nothing but matter with no immortal souls make it easier to justify killing them?
81. Harris does not just want to save humanity—he wants to “create the world anew.” This requires “the building of strong communities” where everyone will think like Sam Harris (End of Faith, pp. 24, 21). Adolf Hitler, in a speech of 1937, stated that “Its [the National Socialist Party’s] aim is to set up a strong community, to rule wisely and sensibly, to the end that it may thus make life possible for all its fellow citizens” [May 1937, Hitler Speeches and Quotes (London 2008), p. 63]. So, two questions:
(a) Life would be so much easier in a “unified” community where everyone marched to the beat of the same drum – but is that what life is all about?
(b) Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Castro also had (like Harris) the dream of a humanity organized according to their abstract intellectual ideal. Isn’t the Christian belief that we cannot have complete harmony in this life much more realistic?
82. If some atheist or secularist wants nothing to do with me, the Bible-believing Christian, while I am willing to reach out to and communicate with him (which has happened to me more than once), which of us is the most intolerant?
83. If there were a God, would he be obligated to prove his existence to people who mocked and despised him?
84. If you should come to believe in God, what changes would this require in your life?
85. Isn’t fear of change a natural human tendency?
86. What would it be like to live forever and never die?
87. If atheism is correct, are all of our deepest aspirations for meaning, love, significance, purpose, and hope futile and vain?
88. Is atheism a depressing view of life?
89. If you ever have the thought “There must be something more,” will you stifle it, or pursue it to the end?
90. Do you ever feel that there is something missing in your life?
91. Pascal says that people disbelieve in God not because of their reason, but because of their passions. What personal reasons might you have for not wanting to believe in God?
92. Who decided that your belief in the non-existence of God should be the default position?
93. Who laid down the law that atheists don’t have to prove their position “because you don’t have to prove a negative”? If I am accused of a crime, and I present a solid alibi, isn’t that proving a negative (“I did not commit the crime”)?
94. What scientific evidence do you have to prove God does not exist – not inferences or arguments, but evidence?
95. If God whispers to you and asks you to change your mind, will you listen?