Harris and Warren debate on Newsweek

No, contrary to what you may believe, this isn’t Sam Harris day, although I will admit the man has been on a bit of a tear lately. Here’s his debate with Rick Warren on Newsweek. Warren does what most religious people do in debates: create an intangible metaphysical entity that defies both explanation and reason, and most notably, scrutiny.

Here’s an interesting back and forth that shows you the level of understanding that Warren has for the term debate:

(when asked if he’s open to the idea that Jesus was real)

WARREN: And what are you doing to study that?

HARRIS: I consider it such a low-probability event that I—

WARREN: A low probability? When there are 96 percent believers in the world? So is everybody else an idiot?

HARRIS: It is quite possible for most people to be wrong—as are most Americans who think that evolution didn’t occur.

WARREN: That’s an arrogant statement.

HARRIS: It’s an honest statement.

I love how some people think telling someone they are wrong is arrogant. If you believe the earth is flat, you are making a statement about the natural world which can be verified. That’s the danger about making claims about the universe; someone will test out your theories, and if they are proven wrong, don’t be surprised if everyone else considers you a fool for your continued belief.

The real meat of the argument is when both men begin discussing slavery. Here, Warren would have benefited from reading a history book or two:

WARREN: You’d much rather have somebody—an atheist—feeding the hungry than a person who believes in God? All of the great movements forward in Western civilization were by believers. It was pastors who led the abolition of slavery. It was pastors who led the woman’s right to vote. It was pastors who led the civil-rights movement. Not atheists.

HARRIS: You bring up slavery—I think it’s quite ironic. Slavery, on balance, is supported by the Bible, not condemned by it. It’s supported with exquisite precision in the Old Testament, as you know, and Paul in First Timothy and Ephesians and Colossians supports it, and Peter—

WARREN: No, he doesn’t. He allows it. He doesn’t support it.

HARRIS: OK, he allows it. I would argue that we got rid of slavery not because we read the Bible more closely. We got rid of slavery despite the profound inadequacies of the Bible. We got rid of slavery because we realized it was manifestly evil to treat human beings as farm equipment. As it is.

Honestly Rick, he allows it but doesn’t support it? What the fuck does that mean?

Comments (4)

  • avatar

    Joe Botelho

    I have nothing to say about this artile i just wanted to comment on the new look. Its been awhile since i visited and it looks awesome.

  • avatar


    This was awesome and painful at the same time. Sam Harris is, obviously extremely intelligent, and Rick Warren not very much. I noticed that Sam Harris didn’t use the usual rebutals of Warrens claims. It made it a whole lot more interesting.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Thanks joe!

  • avatar


    Warren sounds a pretty defensive on the whole slave angle. I think Harris put a few chinks in the christian anti-fact armour.

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