Sam Harris: Of Meaning

manicstreetpreacher shares an all time classic from one of the Four Horseman.

Lately I have been referring rather to a lot to this effing genius put-down by “New Atheist” Sam Harris (Homepage / The Reason Project) in reply to the argument from religious moderates that while their faith may be unproven and potentially false, it still provides great meaning and purpose in the lives of ordinary people.

The passage is from Harris’ first book, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason, but for a quick point n click reference, here is Harris’ essay, “An Atheist Manifesto”:

It is perfectly absurd for religious moderates to suggest that a rational human being can believe in God simply because this belief makes him happy, relieves his fear of death or gives his life meaning.  The absurdity becomes obvious the moment we swap the notion of God for some other consoling proposition: Imagine, for instance, that a man wants to believe that there is a diamond buried somewhere in his yard that is the size of a refrigerator.  No doubt it would feel uncommonly good to believe this.  Just imagine what would happen if he then followed the example of religious moderates and maintained this belief along pragmatic lines: When asked why he thinks that there is a diamond in his yard that is thousands of times larger than any yet discovered, he says things like, “This belief gives my life meaning,” or “My family and I enjoy digging for it on Sundays,” or “I wouldn’t want to live in a universe where there wasn’t a diamond buried in my backyard that is the size of a refrigerator.”  Clearly these responses are inadequate. But they are worse than that. They are the responses of a madman or an idiot.

The full lecture, entitled “The View from the End of the World”, given for The Long Now Foundation, 9 December 2005 can be heard below

or viewed below.

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One Response to “Sam Harris: Of Meaning”

  1. The burden of proof in absolute/objective religious morals | manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] Maybe it would be wonderful for us to refer all our ethical problems to a supernatural agency for ultimate answers, but just because a certain concept may give us comfort, this does not mean for one moment that it exists…. […]

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