« Worth Noting | Main | Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday »

The End of Faith

Stephen Colbert interviews Sam Harris the author of The End of Faith

Quicktime Video 6.59MB 6'41
Quicktime 7 required
There is a transcript here


Great book. Sam Harris is always fun to hear. Why was he just on the Colbert Report? Not that I'm complaining, I was just hoping for a new book announcement as well.

Thanks for putting the Amazon link to his clip Norm!

The Amazon reviews of his books are surprisingly insightful:


I almost felt bad for him [Sam Harris] in that interview. He's such a slow speaker and Colbert wouldn't even let him get a statement in until the end. It was still great to hear him talk though -- thanks for posting that.

Couple of things. The condoms killing Africans thing is a straw man argument. The Catholic church says no condoms, this is true, but it also says no sex except within a marraige. If all Africans followed Catholic teachings, they wouldn't have the problems with AIDS they have now.[1] Therefore saying the Catholic church is waging genocide is completely false.

Secondly most religions prohibit violence. He conflates what people do in religion's name with religion itself. Even the Quran has strict prohibitions against it. But as with evangelicals in the US, Muslim clerics tend to find the words they like to justify doing the things they always wanted to do.

It's also worth remembering that organised religion was responsible for setting up most of the schools, hospitals, orphanages[2] and soup-kitchens in the world. It's not all just about killing people, it has been a force for good.

Personally I don't necessarily think religion is bad, so long as it is subject to the normal rules of society, including free-speech.

[1] Incidentally, I'm not saying African's are promiscuous here. A lot of the sex out of marraige is caused by roving rape gangs who are immune to prosecution due to being members of militias, armies or police-forces. As with a lot of Africa's problems, the AIDS epidemic stems from its incessent violence, both civil and bilateral

[2] I'm sure someone will mention the abuse suffered. It's terrible, but it should not detract from the fact that the majority of children were not abused and benefited from what was provided for them.

I hear pretty offten now the phrase "Nation founded by christians" Well, whenever I here this I wonder what the folks must think, that occupied the land before the mayflower arrived.

It wasn't a christian nation then. What about these roots of your country and kultur. Why is it denied or at least is of no importance in the debate about faith?

I hardly think the African-No Condom-Lotsa Death thing is a StrawMan argument. Abstinence is not a very good answer. The Catholic Church can't even handle that.

Religions might prohibit violence, but so does society. Religion does offer many reasons for people to become violent, as Sam Harris pointed out with the 72 virgin thing.

Religion is dangerous because it teaches that crazy notion that says "Death is just the start of a great ride."

People need to understand that death IS the end, and the only way we are going to get past this stage in our evolution is through cooperation, dialog, and discussion.

bryan, why is violence merely people using religion to do something they would do anyways, but opening up soup kitchens etc isnt?

and by the way, i have heard that the aids epidemic in africa is partially caused by differences in culture as to promiscuousness. promiscuousness isnt the right word, but im not sure what is. maybe ill find a link.

let's start by catholic priesters not molesting children. When the church can handle that for say a 100 yrs, then we talk about abstinence.

If you look at the basic tenants of major religions, killing other people to get virgins or molesting children because it still counts as celibacy are not included. If these were the sort of things religions preched, it would be different. These types of behaviors are not the fault of religion, but rather the fault of people.

People of faith don't run around in traffic thinking, "If I get hit by a car and die it's ok because I'll go to a better place." It's irresponsible to use that as an argument against religion. People don't rob banks because they don't fear death. They do it because they want money. Should we denounce capitalism because it leads to this desire for wealth? Should we denounce natural selection because it tells us that people who die don't have what it takes and therefore it's ok that they died and ok for someone to kill them? These are simplistic ways of promoting violence through these systems, and I think we can all agree that they aren't valid. So potshot, here are some ways that society and science promotes violence, should we throw out the entire system because of it?

The problem is ignorance and hypocracy, and these are problems that can plague anyone, regardless of their views on religion, politics, etc.

There are plenty of instances in the Old Testament, New Testament and Koran where violence is not only condoned, but encouraged any time sinners break "God's" laws.

The condom thing in Africa is hardly a straw man. The Catholic church, after 2000 years must clearly realize that it's human nature to have sex. To simply say "no condoms, just abstain" is tantamount to murder because it refuses to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Condoms don't promote sex, they promote living.

One of the problems with Africa and AIDS, and it counts for a number of 3rd world contries as well, is that men go out anc cheat on thier wives and get diseases, and then bring those diseases back home to their wives. So the women have to suffer for the sins of their husbands, sounds reasonable to me.

Zakdegrassi is right. For 2,000 years Christians have denied human nature by saying that sex (and the entire human body for the matter) is evil.

I thought this country was founded by a bunch of deists? Also, wasn't "In God We Trust" added to the money during the commie witch hunts of the fifties? It's too bad Harris didn't have more time to address these issues.

This video partially redefined my views. Amazing. And this debate is quite interesting, as to whether religion itself is an evil force, or whether it is just the people who do bad stuff within the faith. Obviously, religion sometimes does good things, such as setting up soup kitchens and whatnot, as well as bad things, like having conservative preachers on television ordering the deaths of foreign leaders (I still think "WTF?!") and denouncing birth control. I think now that maybe religion is another way for the dangerous to get in power, and that the good done by religion is coincidental with what people would have felt morally obligated to do anyways. But then again, it is organized, and thus provides for more good and bad to come of it. I think that perhaps as with any organization it provides for both abuse and benefaction. I believe that organized religion is no worse than government is, in that it can be a force for good or evil depending on those who control it. Similarly to government, there are different religions that are volatile to each other. So my view is that religion is a neutral organization that's force is determined specifically by the people leading the religion, or whatever denominations thereof.

If you haven't read Sam Harris' book, you absolutely should. Christianity is not a neutral and benign entity. The Christian Church is actively doing things to harm others, just because of their beliefs. Take stem cell research. Even though this medical field is full of promise, Christians are actively opposing it because of their archaic view that 150 cells in a petri dish has a "soul", and that the rights of this "soul" supercede the rights of the millions of people inflicted with diseases that stem cell research might one day find a treatment for. Also, Christians want to deny homosexuals rights just because it says its wrong in their ancient texts. If Christians want to have their own beliefs, that's fine, but as soon as they start imposing them on society and trying to make them law, that's when it gets dangerous.


sorry. im on the lunatic fringe now having asserted no answer to evolution. ladies and gentlemen .. i now believe the process of evolution is valid.

hows that norm? a convert.

is it just me or was that not a brilliant interview? colbert in mocking a fundamentalist stance completely dominated proceedings. harris had no. answer.

its unceasingly insightful to watch colbert at work. did anyone see a recent clip (thanks norm) where he couldnt suppress a grin at one point?

i love watching him and one can almost see the process hes forcing himself through toward truth.

im not making much sense i know.. im posting in a euphoric state due to a recent paradigm shift. receive the truth and the truth shall set you free...



right .. im sober now. im going to have a pot shot at potshot:

"Abstinence is not a very good answer."

how can you possibly make that statement without qualifying it? of COURSE abstinence is a good answer.

Abstinence might work, but thats like telling morbidly obese people to stop eating...

I think the better answer is a monogamous relationship, and yes, lots and lots of condoms.

You don't have to go to "divine" scripture to come to the understanding that, if you steal something, you will gain something.

However, while it is possible to come to the 72 virgins thing on your own, it doesn't help when you have been fed the notion by authority your whole life.

Should we denounce natural selection...

The thing about natural selection is that we are reasoning thinking creatures. The best parts of religion, and any belief systems, is the concept of defending the poor, weak, and tired.

Of course you don't need religion to defend those who would otherwise be weeded out by natural selection.

You do, however, need some sort of whacky belief system to do things like fly planes into buildings, or blow yourself up in public places.

Ignorance and hypocracy are problems anywhere they are found, this is true. It is still no reason to respect religious beliefs just because some good comes out of them, or because they are cherished and long-standing.

Another thing that Sam Harris is strongly supportive of is the investigation of Stem Cells.

The only barrier to this exciting new potential cure for many horrible diseases is, unsurprisingly, religious thought. Religious thought with its crazy notion of the "soul", and even more crazier notion that God injects the soul-stuff at the moment of conception.

How can a small collection of cells have more importance than a living thinking human being suffering from some horrible disease?

I could keep going, but flawed religious thought has always been a impedement to progress; progress that could help decrease human suffering more than any religion has done in the past.

(PS: In response to the Colbert grinning thing; it looked like he was getting very close to a all-out smile when he was saying something along the lines of "The Bible is true because it says its true... what don't you like about my reasoning and its loopiness"... I don't have quicktime on this computer or the time to download it, so I don't know the exact wording, but you guys get the drift.)

WAHOO indeed.

There is nothing more difficult than shedding long held beliefs.

stipe receives this months onegoodmove's Good Reason Award

Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha is Stephen Colbert and his fake right-wing douchebag schtick ever tiresome. All that I see of him are the clips here at OGM. Is his entire show that tedious?

Something about the whole 'everyone is an athiest with regards to poseidon' meme strikes me as misleading. Try this on for size...

Everyone is celibate with regards to betty boop, therefore everyone is celibate.

Atheism isn't a statement that 'I do not believe in THIS god/goddess/etc'. It is a universal statement that 'I do not believe in ANY god/goddess/etc'. Right? I guess ultimately it's just a word and people can use it however they want, but this argument comes up around here every so often and it just doesn't sit right

[i]The Christian Church is actively doing things to harm others, just because of their beliefs.[/i]
What Christian Church? You do realize that there isn't a single Christian church, but many with different beliefs, right? Can we please avoid lumping everyone together like that? Not every Christian is opposed to stem cell research. Not every Christian wants to deny rights to homosexuals (or any people, for that matter). Sweeping generalizations like those are just as ignorant as any that Christians make of scientists using evolution to deny the existence of God.

[i]You do, however, need some sort of whacky belief system to do things like fly planes into buildings, or blow yourself up in public places.[/i] What were the religious beliefs of the two Columbine shooters? I don't bring this up as an attack on anyone, but just to demonstrate that it doesn't take religion for a person to do things like that.

snak attack- "Something about the whole 'everyone is an athiest with regards to poseidon' meme strikes me as misleading. "

i think his point was that nobody believes in poseidon, but belief in poseidon is just as rational as belief in jehovah. personally, i think it leads into my biggest problem with religion, that people believe only their gods are true gods, but they have no reason to choose theirs over others'. if two people from different religions were both trying to convert me, i wouldnt know which one to choose, especially if both said "there are no true gods but my own, and you're going to hell (or wherever) if you believe that they are". this leads me to believe that either there is no god, or there is, but it doesnt matter which religion you are. you're point about betty boop is a good one though, and probably he shouldnt have used the word atheist.

chewbacca- "Not every Christian wants to deny rights to homosexuals (or any people, for that matter). Sweeping generalizations like those are just as ignorant as any that Christians make of scientists using evolution to deny the existence of God."

is it safe to say that every christian believes in the bible? i suppose not all of them believe the bible is literal, but i dunno what kind of metaphorical meaning "any man who lays with another man must die" (or whatever it says, i forget) could have. of course, there's probably plenty of stuff in the bible that almost no christians believe (like a lot of leviticus)

All of the examples Harris cites in the interview of real-world effects of religious faith are already fairly openly ridiculed in American society, whether there's some sort of background respect for religious faith or not.

Does the book have better examples?

I can't believe how annoying Colbert is... just let the guy talk for fuck sakes! I know it's an act, but he's doing a disservice to the rational, or "non-religious" movement as well as his ratings by constantly interupting an articulate guy like Harris(whose book was great btw) and trying to make stupid jokes.. i was hoping for a semi-serious interview this time.. but i guess that's too much to ask

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Support This Site