Sam Harris vs. Dennis Prager on Atheism vs. Christianity

Ironically, Atheism is a hot top this Christmas with best sellers like Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation” on the scene. I haven’t read either of them yet, but just finished a very interesting exchange of letters between Sam Harris and Judeo-Christian talk show host, Dennis Prager. Prager’s on AM 1280 – The Patriot in Minneapolis, and has been mentioned before on The Deets as the guy who think Keith Ellison shouldn’t be able to take his congressional oath on the Qur’an.
The two writers correspond once a day for four days with their best arguments for their own beliefs / against the other author’s beliefs. I really like the format of the debate, since it gives both sides time to create well-reasoned arguments, unlike the polar opposite format of the now-defunct Crossfire show from CNN.

While the two never meet on whether a God exists, Sam Harris admits that there may be some value in believing in God. For example, if being a believer makes you a more moral person, believing has some benefits. However, there are also believers who use their beliefs to justify outrageous behavior up through genocide, so not all belief is a good thing. On the positive side, Harris uses the term “useful delusions” to describe the value that comes from belief. I believe Jesse Ventura called this “a crutch.”

There is one thing I’m certain about: I believe that many people are true believers.

Rep. Ellison To Take Oath on Qur’an?

I’m not really sure why it’s news that a newly elected Muslim congressman would choose to take his oath of office on the Qur’an rather than a Bible, but I suppose people need to be outraged about something, and since there’s a real glut of stuff to be outraged about in the world today (not counties wars, genocides, homelessness, illiteracy, access to health care, yadda yadda), people like Dennis Prager have time to bitch about stuff like this:

“Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath,” radio talk show host and author Dennis Prager wrote in his online column this week. He said that American Jews routinely have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they don’t believe in the New Testament, and that if Ellison refuses to do so, “don’t serve in Congress.”

Call me crazy, but for an oath to be credible shouldn’t it be taken on something the person truly believes in? For example, wouldn’t it make more sense for Tom Delay to swear on a stack of K-Street lobbying firm requests? For Newt Gingrich to swear on a stack of divorce filings?

Here’s something I don’t think I’ve ever said before: Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo and I seem to agree on this issue. Here’s his take:

“He wants to take his oath on the Qur’an, that’s fine,” Tancredo said. “I think whatever you believe is necessary for you to uphold your obligations to the Constitution, that is fine with me.”

Ellison done a fine job educating the bigots with his commentary on this non-issue:

“The Constitution guarantees for everyone to take the oath of office on whichever book they prefer,” Ellison was quoted as saying. “And that’s what the freedom of religion is all about.”

I think the right-wing is going to have a hard time with Rep. Keith Ellison. A popular quote from George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign is very fitting, “You may not agree with me on everything, but you know where I stand.”

The best part about this entire debacle is that congresspersons don’t take individual oaths. They pledge to uphold the constitution as a group. However, based on the track record of some recent member’s of congress, maybe switching to individual oaths on their sacred text of choice would be worth considering?

Update: It’s worth checking out the video from Hannity & Colmes posted on Crooks & Liars featuring Dennis Prager. It’s pretty hard to pick out the most asinine statement made during that segment, but I think I’ll give that “honor” to Sean Hannity for comparing the Qur’in to Mein Kampf.