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Andrew Sullivan debates Sam Harris: “I do not believe in a spaghetti flying monster.”

I’ve mentioned before that the debate on religion (faith) versus reason is “heating up,” and like the elections of 2008, the outcome of the debate promises to be a pivotal turning point in human history.

One glimpse into the dialog between a mystic and a rationalist can be read in the letters exchanged between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan – two highly literate men, who decided to engage in this battle of ideas for all the world to read. Their debate has been bandied about the blogosphere for months, but I found the most complete report of it here. http://www.beliefnet.com/story/209/story_20904_1.html.

If you haven’t read their letters, you’re missing out, no matter which side you’re on. You’re missing out on profundities like this one from Andrew Sullivan (the mystic): “I do not believe in the spaghetti flying monster. I believe in Jesus of Nazareth.”

Or, Harris’ politely restrained responses:

If God loves the world, he has a terribly noncommittal way of showing it. Why rig a silly game in which only the poorly educated and mentally unbalanced are perfectly tuned to glimpse the truth of your existence, while smart, well-adjusted, and well-educated people (like yourself) must wrestle with doubt, barricade themselves behind euphemism, and cling to spurious “mysteries” to keep from tumbling into unbelief?

I personally doubt whether any person of faith can be convinced to let go of religion through such a debate, and I doubt that any person lacking faith can be convinced to abandon logic and embrace deities.

It seems to me that most people wrestle with these questions at early ages and, as with all questions of morality, must determine the outcome for themselves. In the end, as Ayn Rand reminded us, reality is the final arbiter.

Still, I think it’s a debate worth entering, if only because so many people of faith are rarely asked to defend their positions intellectually. The faithful have long asserted that their inner dialog is enough to “prove” the existence of an invisible, inexplicable “higher power.” Andrew Sullivan’s points are no exception. In the end, he believes because he believes.

Such blatant subjectivism is what ultimately leads thugs to force their own religious beliefs at the point of a gun, but this fact does not deter the faithful “moderates,” who assure us that their versions of faith could peacefully co-exist with reason and science, if only…if only what?

If only those pesky fundamentalists would stop insisting on a consistent adherence to the religious texts? If only they would use the right religious text? If only the moderates could have their Bible (or the Qur’an) and logic…if only there was a spaghetti flying monster — (or Zeus or Allah or Jehovah)…if only wishful thinking could make it so…

Or, my own wishful thinking — if only people could see the beauty in the world without needing supernatural revelation…


1 comment to Andrew Sullivan debates Sam Harris: “I do not believe in a spaghetti flying monster.”

  • “reality is the final arbiter”

    and thank goodness for that. it’s just so sad – and disgusting, at times – to see religionists cling to tightly to their nonsensical “faith.”

    very good entry. thank you.