Vermont Bard has yet to post his take of the latest Andrew Sullivan reply. My take is that I nearly vommited reading it, and that Andrew Sullivan needs a month straight of harsh zen training replete with regular very stiff canings.
Sam Harris, like Barry Bonds standing in front of a pinata without a blind-fold hits one outta the park. Sam never ceases to one-up himself, digging out better and clearer replies to age-old arguments. It just seems to me anyways, to be extraordinary that religious people can feel comfortable in the light of such clear and reasonable observation. It is merely the cultural taboo of not criticizing religion which has allowed these moderates to wallow in their wishy-washy senseless modernistic interpretation of bronze age tales. Being a moderate Christian in today's world is like stepping into a shop selling fine wines and being content with a glass of Julio Gallo from a box.
Some of my favorite excerpts:
"And yet, in many respects, Muhammad's career as a prophet was more impressive than Jesus' was. At the very least, he escaped crucifixion. Of course, Christians have managed to make even the crucifixion of their Savior into a success story. It would seem that faith can rationalize anything."
And here's an argument especially near and dear to me, as I've made it many times on message boards. I think Christians by and large take Jesus' miracles as their prime piece of faith building. In my experience, having believed in what I see now as preposterous teachings from India's gurus and having personally been taken in (I would like to say "in my youth" but in reality it wasn't very long ago) by these delusional charlatans, I have come to see how easy it ins, how incredibly easy it is to make throngs of people believers in miracles. Imagine how much easier still it must have been in the days before science and video cameras. IF ONLY Christians could see the evidence of their miracles through my eyes.
"First-hand reports of miracles are a dime a dozen, even in the 21st century. Many spiritual seekers in India testify to miracles performed by their gurus on a daily basis. These miracles are every bit as outlandish as the miracles attributed to Jesus. I have met literally hundreds of western educated men and women who are convinced that their favorite yogi has magic powers. I remain open to evidence of such powers (and my openness has exposed me to a fair amount of abuse in the atheist community). But as far as I can tell, all of these stories are promulgated by people who desperately want to believe them; all (to my knowledge) lack the kind of corroborating evidence one should require to actually believe that Nature's laws have been abrogated in this way; and most people who report these events demonstrate an utter disinclination to look for non-miraculous explanations. In any case, stories about mystics (and charlatans) walking on water, raising the dead, flying without the aid of technology, materializing objects, reading minds, foretelling the future are being told now. Indeed, all of these powers have been attributed to the South Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba by an uncountable number of eyewitnesses-and the man claims to have been born of a virgin to boot! He has literally millions of followers, many of them educated westerners. You can watch some of his "miracles" on YouTube, performed before credulous throngs of spiritually hungry souls. Prepare to be underwhelmed. And yet, you are suggesting that tales of similar events emerging from the pre-scientific religious milieu of the 1st century Roman Empire (decades after their supposed occurrence) are especially credible. "
"When the Scientologist says, "We have offices in 175 cities," this does nothing to redeem his claims upon my credulity. Scientologists can build as many offices as they like, enjoy as much fellowship as they like, and smile as widely as they are able-none of this will render the writings of L. Ron Hubbard profound. None of this will lend intellectual credibility to a belief system that can be best summarized in a episode of South Park."
This whole reply is priceless, one of the best.