My final post on Sam Harris’ finest moments before re-examining his 2011 debate on morality against Christian apologist William Lane Craig is quite simply the best put-down I have ever heard in response to religious pseudo-mysticism about personal experience being an argument for God’s existence. Harris debated Jewish apologist David Wolpe at the American Jewish University, Los Angeles on 6 November 2007 on the topic “Does God Exist?” which in reality turned into a discussion on whether religion was good for the World.
Partway through the debate, Wolpe, to atone for the rather awkward fact that he does not have any evidence for God’s existence, starts harping on about “deepities” such metaphysical reality and everyone having something more in them than they realise. Harris delivers like Bertrand Russell doing stand-up:
People do this all the time. You can broadcast this. This is constrained by our common sense in every other domain of discourse.
Just take, for example, the people who think Elvis is still alive. What’s wrong with this claim? Why is this claim not vitiating our academic departments and corporations?
I’ll tell you why, and it’s very simple. We have not passed laws against believing Elvis is still alive. It’s just the problem that when anyone seriously represents his belief that Elvis is still alive in a conversation, on a first date, at a lecture, at a job interview, he immediately pays a price [Audience laughs]. He pays a price in ill-concealed laughter. [Audience laughs louder].
That is a good thing. Then he could rattle on about, “This is not a scientific claim. This is a matter of faith. You know, when I look at you. I see you. You might be Elvis.” He could do this! [Audience laughs uproariously]
Tags: American Jewish University, David Wolpe, Elvis Presley, free will, How Science Can Determine Human Values, letter to a christian nation, Lying, personal experience, Religion, Religion Terror and the Future of Reason, sam harris, the end of faith, The Moral Landscape