The Christian vs The Atheist

Newsweek Magazine published an intresting interview between famous Christian pastor Rick Warren and famous Atheist Sam Harris. The the entire article can be found here. I have put

some excerpts below.

God Debate: Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren
At the Summit: On a cloudy California day, the atheist Sam Harris sat down with the Christian pastor Rick Warren to hash out Life’s Biggest Question—Is God real? A NEWSWEEK exclusive.

Newsweek April 9, 2007 issue – Rick Warren is as big as a bear, with a booming voice and easygoing charm. Sam Harris is compact, reserved and, despite the polemical tone of his books, friendly and mild. Warren, one of the best-known pastors in the world, started Saddleback in 1980; now 25,000 people attend the church each Sunday. Harris is softer-spoken; paragraphs pour out of him, complex and fact-filled—as befits a Ph.D. student in neuroscience. At NEWSWEEK’s invitation, they met in Warren’s office recently and chatted, mostly amiably, for four hours. Jon Meacham moderated. Excerpts follow.

JON MEACHAM: Rick, since you’re the home team, we’ll start with Sam. Sam, is there a God in the sense that most Americans think of him?

SAM HARRIS: There’s no evidence for such a God, and it’s instructive to notice that we’re all atheists with respect to Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom now nobody worships.
Rick, what is the evidence of the existence of the God of Abraham?

RICK WARREN: I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. I see them in culture. I see them in law. I see them in literature. I see them in nature. I see them in my own life. Trying to understand where God came from is like an ant trying to understand the Internet. Even the most brilliant scientist would agree that we only know a fraction of a percent of the knowledge of the universe.

HARRIS: Any scientist must concede that we don’t fully understand the universe. But neither the Bible nor the Qur’an represents our best understanding of the universe. That is exquisitely clear.

WARREN: To you.

HARRIS: There is so much about us that is not in the Bible. Every specific science from cosmology to psychology to economics has surpassed and superseded what the Bible tells us is true about our world.

Sam, does the Christian you address in your books have to believe that God wrote the Bible and that it is literally true?

HARRIS: Well, there’s clearly a spectrum of confidence in the text. I mean, there’s the “This is literally true, nothing even gets figuratively interpreted,” and then there’s the “This is just the best book we have, written by the smartest people who have ever lived, and it’s still legitimate to organize our lives around it to the exclusion of other books.” Anywhere on that spectrum I have a problem, because in my mind the Bible and the Qur’an are just books, written by human beings. There are sections of the Bible that I think are absolutely brilliant and poetically unrivaled, and there are sections of the Bible which are the sheerest barbarism, yet profess to prescribe a divinely mandated morality—where do I start? Books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Exodus and First and Second Kings and Second Samuel—half of the kings and prophets of Israel would be taken to The Hague and prosecuted for crimes against humanity if these events took place in our own time.

[To Warren] Is the Bible inerrant?

WARREN: I believe it’s inerrant in what it claims to be. The Bible does not claim to be a scientific book in many areas.

Do you believe Creation happened in the way Genesis describes it?

WARREN: If you’re asking me do I believe in evolution, the answer is no, I don’t. I believe that God, at a moment, created man. I do believe Genesis is literal, but I do also know metaphorical terms are used. Did God come down and blow in man’s nose? If you believe in God, you don’t have a problem accepting miracles. So if God wants to do it that way, it’s fine with me.

HARRIS: I’m doing my Ph.D. in neuroscience; I’m very close to the literature on evolutionary biology. And the basic point is that evolution by natural selection is random genetic mutation over millions of years in the context of environmental pressure that selects for fitness.

WARREN: …A lot of atheists hide behind rationalism; when you start probing, you find their reactions are quite emotional. In fact, I’ve never met an atheist who wasn’t angry.

HARRIS: Let me be the first.

WARREN: I think your books are quite angry.

HARRIS: I would put it at impatient rather than angry…

Read the rest here.

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