Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren

Sam Harris is a contemporary philosopher and neuroscientist. Rick Warren is the evangelical leader of a 25,000 member megachurch. Newsweek brought the two of them together the other day to debate the value of religion, especially Christianity.

It turned out a congenial debate, with Harris and Warren finding common ground in some of their moral ideals while respectfully disagreeing about most everything else. You can find the debate here.

Neither Warren nor Harris introduced any unheard of new moves in the classic "Does God Exist" game, but I still found the debate interesting for concisely revealing how evangelicals typically characterize non-believers and their arguments these days.

At one point, Warren says to Harris, "You're more spiritual than you think. You just don't want a boss. You don't want a God who tells you what to do." And at another point, he says, " If death is the end, shoot, I'm not going to waste another minute being altruistic." Seems to me those are pretty common characterizations of non-believers. Many evangelical preachers have long put words in the mouths of non-believers, and Rick Warren continued that tradition in his debate with Sam Harris.

Yet, it was a pretty good thing to see both Harris and Warren agree that individuals should take an active interest in fighting such world problems as hunger, AIDS, Malaria, and so forth. There might be practical grounds on which the sides in the so-called "Culture Wars" can meet and work to accomplish the same goals.

I'm reluctant to recommend reading the debate, for it really doesn't cover much new ground; but if you are not already familiar with that ground, then the debate is a concise introduction to it.

(Thanks to my friend Becky for passing along the article.)

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