Sam Harris and believing because of evidence


Sam Harris
Sam Harris, photo by Sara Allan from One of the people on my life list of people I’d love to meet. And he has a sense of humour!

It seems one of my more philosophical posts from March last year is still stirring up controversy. I commented on a BBC report that stated religious people are happier than the non-religious, then proceeded to pontificate on the reasons why our brains crave faith without evidence, and how wishing something to be true isn’t evidence in it’s favour.

A comment posted this afternoon to my moderation queue from Mari Thomas got the grey matter pumping again:

I commend you for realizing that holding to a belief simply because of comfort or pleasant results is not necessarily worthwhile. For our beliefs about life to be worthwhile, those beliefs must be based upon truth– evidence. Faith without a knowledge of the evidence behind it is, indeed, lacking in value.

Various religions and beliefs about God abound around the world. Beware of the weighty assumption that there is no God. This assumption permeates the mind similar to the blind acceptance of religion.

If you desire to be open-minded, I challenge you to research the records of history to see if the evidence reveals that there is or is not a God.

I am a Christian, but not simply because of what I have been taught. I believe that the historical evidence of Christ points to the truth of His claim “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I recommend the book Evidence for Christianity by Josh McDowell. It portrays some of the evidence found by the man who set out to disprove Christianity and was against religion in general. Interesting and worthwhile material.

Sam Harris' End of FaithRather than specifically defending my position and launching into a debate as to the authenticity of the Bible which would unravel any subsequent arguments, I thought I’d try a fresh approach:

I appreciate your comment Mari, but I would say that if you are to challenge me to look into the evidence for your particular God and faith, I would challenge you to do the same. As the author of "The End of Faith" Sam Harris said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and the evidence provided in defence of any religion so far is either insufficient or (for want of a better word)… terrible!

I admire that you have the conviction to not believe something unless it’s true. As I do, you clearly don’t believe in any other religions because there’s insufficient or terrible evidence for them, so I know it’s possible for you to visualise how others view yours.

I don’t try to convert people, but for many of those who’ve tried to call me out on my atheism before have at least conceded this point. By all means be a Christian, but I’d advise against using the reason that there’s evidence for it to justify it.

I do approve of hearty philosophical discussions, but I’m starting to think I may need another blog or avenue to do it… at some point on a software blog I should talk about software ^_^. I’m not Bill Kurtis.

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