Sam Harris on Morality and the Christian God

I came across couple audio tracks from Sam Harris on how Christian morality not only makes no sense, but can be regarded as positively despicable.

I realize that a large majority of the American population subscribes to this morality (and reflexively despises anyone who does not), and can only think that they have not completely thought this morality through, but just accepted it because everyone else in their community accepts it. This has to be a prime example of the way human intelligence of too often subsumed to groupthink and tribal identity. We could do so much better. (And we will, eventually. But it will take so much longer than it might.)

The text below is from the second reading “of a similar text”. This whole audio is about 6 minutes. Here’s just the opening, and the last bit. (Yes, his point here is about the ancient “problem of evil”, but there has never been a satisfactory answer to this question, to nonbelievers. Only to believers who seem to be able to explain anything away.)

It’s often argued that religion gives us the most secure foundation for morality, that without it questions of good and evil, right and wrong, simply cannot be answered. Or worse, without God such questions have no answers.

But what can we make of this notion that God is the basis of morality, in a world in which 9 million children a year die before the age of 5. Most of this death and suffering has nothing to do with the choices people make for which they could conceivably be held responsible. You can’t say that these children were bad of their own free will, or that they got what they deserved. We’re talking about children dying before the age of 5. We’re talking about disease and unclean water and accidents and natural disasters—death by bad luck, essentially. There are some very unlucky people in this world, but according to a religion like Christianity, this is all part of God’s plan.

[He goes on about such needless deaths, vs the Christian idea that a serial killer can get into heaven by simply accepting Jesus in the last moments before his execution.]

One thing should be crystal clear to us at this point: this vision of life has absolutely nothing to do with moral accountability. And notice the double standard that most believers use to exempt God from any accountability for this evil. We’re told that God is loving and kind and just and wholly good, but when someone points out the evidence that God is cruel and unjust, because he imposes suffering on innocent people on a scope and scale that would embarrass the most vicious psychopath, we’re told that God’s will is a mystery. God cannot be judged by mere human standards, don’t you know? And yet these merely human standards are what believers use to judge God to be good in the first place.

[and skipping until the last minute or two]

Consider the real moral framework that Christianity recommends. It’s rather startling when you think about it. Christianity is actually a cult of human sacrifice. God so loved the world that he gave his only son. John 3:16. The idea is that Jesus suffered the crucifixion so none need suffer Hell – except of course for those poor people in India, and billions like them throughout history.

Humanity has actually had a long fascination with blood offerings to imaginary gods. In fact it has been by no means uncommon for a child to be born into this world only to be patiently and lovingly reared by religious maniacs who believe that the best way to keep the sun on its course, or to ensure a rich harvest, is to lead him by a tender hand into a field or a mountaintop, and bury, butcher, or burn him alive, as an offering to an invisible god. Human beings, just like ourselves, actually buried their children alive in postholes, believing that this would keep invisible beings from knocking down their buildings.

These are the sorts of people who wrote the Bible. And it is atop this truly contemptible history, of scientific ignorance and religious barbarism, that Christianity now stands.

Christianity is not a religion that repudiates human sacrifice. It is a religion that celebrates a single human sacrifice, as though it were effective. Christianity amounts to the claim that we must love and loved by a God who approves of the scapegoating, torture, and murder of one man – His son, incidentally – in compensation for the misbehavior and thought-crimes of all others. But who has still created a circumstance in which most others end up in Hell for eternity. And Jesus himself will happily preside over this misery and terror on the Day of Judgment.

If there is a less-moral moral framework to be found anywhere, I haven’t heard of it.

This entry was posted in Religion. Bookmark the permalink.