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Day 2 (Prager): Why Are Atheists So Angry?

From: Dennis Prager To: Sam Harris Subject: Straw Men, Teapots, and Moral Confusion Dear Sam: I may have erred in assuming that you, like myself and nearly all other mortals, could not match Dr. Francis Collins—the head of the human … Read More

By / November 17, 2006

From: Dennis Prager To: Sam Harris Subject: Straw Men, Teapots, and Moral Confusion

Dear Sam:

I may have erred in assuming that you, like myself and nearly all other mortals, could not match Dr. Francis Collins—the head of the human genome project— in his knowledge of human genetics. So if, as a graduate student in neuroscience, you have already approached Collins’s level of expertise, I salute you and exclude you from the vast majority of atheists or theists who could not debate him about the science that leads him to belief in God.

My point remains valid, as you graciously concede. Scientific knowledge hardly invalidates belief that there is a God. On the contrary, there are more believers in God in the natural sciences than in the social sciences. This suggests that it is the virtual absence of God in education, not knowledge of science, that likely accounts for the atheism of academics.

I note that you did not respond to my dismissal of your comparison of Zeus-belief with God-belief. You were wise to avoid it. That argument is intellectually silly, and unworthy of serious atheist.

You write that “the atheist you have conjured—so chock-full of false certainty—is an utter straw man.” “Straw man?” Sam, there is not one honest reader of your first letter who could assume anything but certitude on your part. Your dismissal of belief in God as intellectually identical to belief in Zeus proves my point, because both you and I are utterly certain that Zeus is not God.

And if you really aren’t certain that there is no God, level with us about your doubts as I did about mine.

The teapot argument is entirely inapplicable to me. I never wrote that atheism fails because it cannot disprove God. Are you responding to what I wrote, or just assuming that I fall into your caricature of believers?

I am, however, grateful for your bringing Bertrand Russell into the discussion. Russell is a fine example of one major reason I reject atheism. In the West, people and societies who reject the God of Judeo-Christian religions are more likely to become morally confused and foolish than believing Jews and Christians are.

Bertrand Russell, the great atheist, was, to put it gently, a very morally confused man. Among his many confused ideas was to wage pre-emptive war (including, if necessary, using nuclear bombs) on the Soviet Union after World War II, and then, after the Soviet Union gained nuclear weapons, advocated that America and the West disarm.

Secularism usually produces moral and intellectual foolishness in people and institutions. My prime evidence is the contemporary American university, which is a place of intellectual and moral confusion so deep that one must look very hard to find religious Christian or Jewish equivalents.

That is why I wrote a column years ago titled “How I found God at Columbia University.” Professors where I did my graduate work, at the Columbia University School of International Affairs, were wrong on virtually every important issue.

To give but one example of the foolishness that pervades your godless, religionless, secular world, the president of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, was forced from office by the Harvard faculty largely because he had the audacity to say that brain differences between men and women might help account for their different predilections for the sciences and math. As the Psalms put it thousands of years ago, “Wisdom begins with awe of God.” The lack of wisdom at the secular temple, the university—where America is the world’s villain, where women and men are regarded as essentially the same, and where Marxism was taken seriously for generations—verifies the Psalmist’s view.

So thanks for raising Bertrand Russell. Though his china teapot argument is irrelevant to anything I have written or believe, his morally confused outlook on the world helped me to understand how indispensable God is to morality and wisdom, about which (especially in light of your characterization of this country as “benighted”) I'll write more in my next letter.

Take care,

Dennis

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