Jordan Peterson has just uploaded a fantastic (and frustrating) discussion between him and Sam Harris with Douglas Murray as a “guest” or part-moderator.
I say frustrating because Sam Harris flatly refuses to drop his straw-man of religious people, no matter how many times they debate. It’s getting tiring.
So I wanted to record two points I wish Jordan would make to Sam that I hope might hamper his relentless straw-manning.
1. Many (perhaps most) Christians don’t believe the Bible was literally dictated by God.
I wish Jordan would point this out to Sam.
Maybe it’s different in America, but here in the UK, at least, Christians consider the Bible to be “God-breathed” which means divinely inspired, but still a collection of writings cobbled together from fallible humans.
Yes, it is also called the Word of God, so this is a paradox but a useful one.
It allows people the authority to update the interpretation of the text, negotiated amongst other Christians, while maintaining the authority of the original text.
I loved that about it, back when I considered myself a devout Christian. It might be the most important difference between Christianity and Islam. It allows believers to put aside passages about stoning, for example, and consider them a stage in humanity’s development, not a doctrine we must still follow today.
A lot of Sam’s vitriol against religion should be aimed at Islam, not Christianity. He fails to see this distinction that makes Christianity, in some way, far more liberal than Islam.
2. Believing in God does not necessarily mean believing in some “magical” separate being
Sam continually falls back on the claim that religion needs to be done away with because it requires belief in something that is obviously false.
Jordan, I think, is making the case that we need to upgrade our religious sophistication.
You could easily define God, for example, as the fabric of reality. “Allness”. Everything that exists, when put together, is what God “literally” is.
But that’s not very useful. Personifying God as the Father, for example, may allow us to “communicate” with the most valuable part of the fabric of reality. Maybe we don’t need to believe that the Father exists in literally factual way, as the desk I’m working from does. Maybe we simply need to act as if the Father exists. Maybe not, though. There’s room for debate on that.
Sam’s mistake is to assume you can use any form of fiction to do the same thing.
He makes the same mistake that the fundamentalists make. He assumes that religious scripture needs to be dictated by a magical separate being in order to have any more value than a Spiderman comic.
Jordan is trying to help people increase the sophistication of their conceptualisation of God. Sam seems too angry at religion to allow for that. He would rather do away with it all, and Douglas made a fantastic point about halfway through this discussion, that in the void left by atheistic negation, dogma of a much more unstable sort has flooded in to fill it. (i.e. SJWs).
There’s so much in this talk that I could do into. Perhaps I’ll do a thorough response to it at some point.