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This has the advantage of at least being quite comprehensive. Abbas Raza, over at 3Quarks, "found both sides to be remarkably honest, sincere, and free of glibness and antipathy for the other. Some of what Sullivan writes is surprisingly touching in a personal way ... It is worth reading in its entirety": "Best-selling atheist Sam Harris and pro-religion blogger Andrew Sullivan debate God, faith, and fundamentalism."

Readers Comments

  1. I find both Harris & Sullivan generally tiresome in the extreme, so I'm wary, but I'll take a look at it. (Harris' definition of reason in the first email is problematic, right off, I think.)

    Mark, have you read Harris' book The End of Faith? I have not, and I have specific reasons for deciding not to torture myself with it (which I may go into at The Existence Machine), though I have read certain passages. I'm just curious what you thought of it if you have.

  2. Hi Richard, I pointed to this because of how much detail both sides go into to justify themselves. Comprehension does bleed into tediousness, here, however! Regardless, it is a useful expression of a debate which is raging and yet oddly sterile and, as you say, tiresome. Have I read Harris's book? God, no! Dawkins' bored me rigid. That was enough. As an atheist, I don't need to read dull atheist propaganda. Indeed, I'd rather read some esoteric theology! best markx

  3. Who's God? Never heard of him!

    Lee Rourke.

  4. Hi Lee,

    . . . and here's me thinking only ships were labelled "her/she" ;-)

    But, seriously, as an atheist myself there is no need trying to prove that God doesn't exist because, like, er, God doesn't exist! Right?

    Lee Rourke

  5. "Harris' definition of reason in the first email is problematic, right off, I think."

    ?

    There isn't a definition of reason in the first email, though the definition of faith offered there (which I presume is what you mean) seems perfectly adequate to me. I'd tend to prefer Harris, though I can't say I feel especially drawn in either case. Though 'disturbing' rather than 'touching' seems a better description of Sullivan's contribution.

  6. Harris says: "I think that faith is, in principle, in conflict with reason (and, therefore, that religion is necessarily in conflict with science), while you do not. Perhaps I should acknowledge at the outset that people use the term "faith" in a variety of ways. My use of the word is meant to capture belief in specific religious propositions without sufficient evidence". Implicit in this is a definition of reason. Since many would take issue with his narrow use of faith in the sense he prefers, it should come as no surprise that his placement of it in opposition to "reason" (which he clearly equates with science) is just as problematic. As an atheist I take issue with the equation of reason with science, for starters.

  7. "Implicit in this is a definition of reason. "

    Actually, that's an assumption on your part and probably not a correct one, given that the later emails suggest that Harris tends to define reason and scientific thinking in actually very broad and inclusive terms (i.e. including history, fiction and mathematics) as 'reasonable claims to knowledge about ourselves and the world.' Many might take issue (and doubtless invoke ad populem arguments in so doing) with that but I'm afraid the exact thing I found disturbing about Sullivan's argument was that he essentially said that his beliefs existed independently of any form of evidence or argument. It's a mentality I know too well from conversations with various believers and one I never cease to find horrifying.

  8. (This is the Richard responsible for the first and third Richard-comments above...)

    OK, I suffered through that whole thing. Instead of further clogging up Mark's comment box, I posted about it at my own blog, if you're interested:

    http://yolacrary.blogspot.com/2007/04/sam-harris-v-andrew-sullivan.html

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