I came across a recent and ongoing online debate between gay blogger Andrew Sullivan and author Sam Harris by accident, but I was hooked instantly. I didn’t move from the computer until I’d read all there was in the debate so far, and not once did the dialogue lose any of it’s resonance or power. It is without a doubt the finest example I’ve ever seen of debate on the topic of God and religion.
Sam Harris is an atheist and best selling author of The End Of Faith & Letter To A Christian Nation. Both books address “mankind’s willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs”. Andrew Sullivan is the highly visible gay author of many books, including The Conservative Soul, and has a successful blog . Sullivan was raised Catholic and remains dedicated to it, if not the specific policies of the church, at least to a faith and belief in God and the bible. As both a homosexual and an atheist, I’ve consistently debated faith and religion throughout my life with those who were willing, as well as an occasional “not so willing” opponent. Religion and adherence to “God’s word” is the reason gay people still don’t have equal civil rights in this country and around the world, and as such, we must confront those who use it against us. We should absolutely respect anyone’s belief system, but until that belief system becomes a private matter, and is not used to endorse violence, prejudice and hatred, it cannot be without debate.
The arguments put forth in this debate apply not only to matters of faith, but to wide variety of other groups in America who have chosen to live by the rule of belief, rather than fact, not the least of which is the current Republican party. Every day there’s another scandal in the current administration followed by an almost joyful denial or at least dodge, from GW and his “friends”. Despite abysmal poll ratings of late, much of the American public has made the choice to stand with GW and the false reality he has created, instead of standing on the truly American platform of truth and equality, and of course, reason. The American public’s ironic ease at legislating their private beliefs rather than respecting the differences among us has a long history, from racism to misogyny to bigotry. Pieces of this debate about faith can be applied to so many lapses of reality by Americans and others.
The debate is carried by Belief Net, a website dedicated to providing resources to all people and all forms of religion and spirituality. As their mission states, they are “independent and not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement.” Their only agenda is to “help you meet your spiritual needs”. To say the site is refreshing is an understatement. If more faith based organizations were as non-judgmental and open as this site, there would be a lot less conflict regarding religion and spirituality.
I cannot recommend the reading of this debate enough. I was glued to it from start to finish. Do yourself a favor, turn off the television, record American Idol, and read this debate…If you can’t read it now, or plan to read it later, at least take a couple of minutes now, grab a ruler, and look at the drawing of the two tables and the text just below it about a third of the way down this page. It’s fascinating, and used by Harris to illustrate that “intuitions are not always a reliable guide to the truth”. In other words, just because you have a feeling something is a certain way, it doesn’t make it true, and therefore how can judgment be passed through it?