Sam Harris Quote

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Dimmesdale
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Sam Harris Quote

Post #1

Post by Dimmesdale »

Question for debate: is the comparison Sam Harris makes in this quote a true, or a false, comparison?

I say it is false. Here it is:

"If you think saying a few Latin words over your pancakes will turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you're crazy...but if you think more or less the same thing about the body of Jesus, and a cracker, you're just a Catholic." - Sam Harris

This quotation in my view makes a false comparison, between a private revelation that is "crazy" and a widespread belief that is supposedly no different, but on a mass scale.

Now, let's say that there is someone who thinks he can turn pancakes into the body of Elvis. I am not going to say right away that he or she is crazy. I would ask him or her WHY they think the way they do. I will try to investigate the REASONINGS for said belief, before rushing to judgment.

Now, THAT said, I think it is also a GIVEN that there are many mentally ill people who hold such erroneous beliefs. And they are indeed the products of delusion. So, again, if for the sake of argument we have a GENUINELY IRRATIONAL (i.e., "insane") belief, can you use the same example and compare it to widespread religious beliefs?

I think it is erroneous.

This is because when you have a belief that is more widely shared by others, you have a better chance at least of it being true. This is because it is possible to MARSHAL greater EVIDENCES from MORE SOURCES, than if you were simply the sole claimant of this view.

For example, various texts. A Catholic can turn to things like the Bible, Church History, Scholarship, and so on to make the case for his view based on the AUTHORITIES that go beyond him or her. Let's say for the sake of argument that some of the Church Fathers got their source of knowledge from one of the original Apostles who followed Jesus. Let's say that this is even documented by secular history. If that is the case, then there is a very good chance that the CLAIM at least, of turning bread into the Body, is bona fide. The chances increase that this teaching emanated from the lips of Jesus Himself due to the Church Father's VERY CLOSE PROXIMITY to that source of knowledge.

That may not say much, you might think. After all, what if Jesus Himself was crazy? Just because you have a claim that goes back to the SOURCE doesn't make it true, right?

Well, that's when we may hone in on the character of Jesus Himself. If we can prove certain OTHER THINGS about Jesus that may also SHED LIGHT on the PARTICULAR DOCTRINE of the Bread. If you could show, for instance, that Jesus stayed true to his principles, led a very moral life, etc, that MIGHT at least rule him out as a charlatan or mentally unstable personality. If you could, for the sake of argument, document certain of his miracles as legitimate, that itself might shed light on the legitimacy of the Eucharist as being real ALSO. After all, if Jesus RESURRECTION cannot be debunked, as many apologists claim, then that opens up the POSSIBILITY at least that Jesus really was divine or a powerful metaphysical being. And that provides a foundation for asserting that this particular miracle of the Bread has a degree of legitimacy, whereas an isolated individual with only his private opinion, is not compelling to nearly the same degree.

So no, Sam Harris, your comparison is not accurate. It is apples and oranges.

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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #2

Post by Difflugia »

Dimmesdale wrote: Fri Jan 29, 2021 5:12 pm Question for debate: is the comparison Sam Harris makes in this quote a true, or a false, comparison?

I say it is false. Here it is:

"If you think saying a few Latin words over your pancakes will turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you're crazy...but if you think more or less the same thing about the body of Jesus, and a cracker, you're just a Catholic." - Sam Harris

This quotation in my view makes a false comparison, between a private revelation that is "crazy" and a widespread belief that is supposedly no different, but on a mass scale.
It depends on what point he's making about Catholics. If he's implying that Catholics are crazy, then yes it's a false analogy. If he's implying that they're credulous, then the comparison he's making is apt. I can rewrite Sam Harris' statement by replacing "Catholic" with "credulous" and it's no longer the false analogy that you claim:
"If you think saying a few Latin words over your pancakes will turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you're crazy...but if you think more or less the same thing about the body of Jesus, and a cracker, you're just credulous."
The point there is exactly what you claim in your post: believing that you can turn pancakes into Elvis requires that you be delusional, but believing that a priest can turn crackers into Jesus only requires believing what your friends and family believe. Is the context that the quote was lifted from such that he thinks Catholics are delusional in a clinical sense or is he implying that Catholics aren't critical enough about the the supernatural claims of Catholicism?

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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #3

Post by Dimmesdale »

Difflugia wrote: Fri Jan 29, 2021 7:47 pm
Dimmesdale wrote: Fri Jan 29, 2021 5:12 pm Question for debate: is the comparison Sam Harris makes in this quote a true, or a false, comparison?

I say it is false. Here it is:

"If you think saying a few Latin words over your pancakes will turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you're crazy...but if you think more or less the same thing about the body of Jesus, and a cracker, you're just a Catholic." - Sam Harris

This quotation in my view makes a false comparison, between a private revelation that is "crazy" and a widespread belief that is supposedly no different, but on a mass scale.
It depends on what point he's making about Catholics. If he's implying that Catholics are crazy, then yes it's a false analogy. If he's implying that they're credulous, then the comparison he's making is apt. I can rewrite Sam Harris' statement by replacing "Catholic" with "credulous" and it's no longer the false analogy that you claim:
"If you think saying a few Latin words over your pancakes will turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you're crazy...but if you think more or less the same thing about the body of Jesus, and a cracker, you're just credulous."
The point there is exactly what you claim in your post: believing that you can turn pancakes into Elvis requires that you be delusional, but believing that a priest can turn crackers into Jesus only requires believing what your friends and family believe. Is the context that the quote was lifted from such that he thinks Catholics are delusional in a clinical sense or is he implying that Catholics aren't critical enough about the the supernatural claims of Catholicism?
I am actually not aware of the context, or if there even is one. This was from a meme poster, so I assumed it was a stand-alone off the cuff sort of remark.

I don't think Harris is literally saying that Catholics are just as insane as a delusional person who believes the pancakes are Elvis. No, I didn't think that at all. Instead I see him drawing a comparison based off of, well, the inherent rationality of each position, which in his mind are equivalent.

I don't think they are equivalent at all.

There is much grist to mill in terms of thought, theological and otherwise, regarding the Real Presence in Catholic and Christian thought. On the other hand, in the context of believing in a private dreamworld.... there is usually no wider context beyond the psychology of a single individual. Perhaps Catholics are as credulous in the beginning of believing the Real Presence, but the key difference is that there is a weight of reasons for that position, rather than a paucity thereof (as in the Elvis example). I would argue that on historical, philosophical and other grounds besides there is room for argument. With a delusional person, on the other hand, actual argument is typically non-existent.

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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #4

Post by Benson »

Dimmesdale wrote: Fri Jan 29, 2021 5:12 pm Question for debate: is the comparison Sam Harris makes in this quote a true, or a false, comparison?

I say it is false. Here it is:

"If you think saying a few Latin words over your pancakes will turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you're crazy...but if you think more or less the same thing about the body of Jesus, and a cracker, you're just a Catholic." - Sam Harris

This quotation in my view makes a false comparison, between a private revelation that is "crazy" and a widespread belief that is supposedly no different, but on a mass scale.

Now, let's say that there is someone who thinks he can turn pancakes into the body of Elvis. I am not going to say right away that he or she is crazy. I would ask him or her WHY they think the way they do. I will try to investigate the REASONINGS for said belief, before rushing to judgment.

Now, THAT said, I think it is also a GIVEN that there are many mentally ill people who hold such erroneous beliefs. And they are indeed the products of delusion. So, again, if for the sake of argument we have a GENUINELY IRRATIONAL (i.e., "insane") belief, can you use the same example and compare it to widespread religious beliefs?

I think it is erroneous.

This is because when you have a belief that is more widely shared by others, you have a better chance at least of it being true. This is because it is possible to MARSHAL greater EVIDENCES from MORE SOURCES, than if you were simply the sole claimant of this view.

For example, various texts. A Catholic can turn to things like the Bible, Church History, Scholarship, and so on to make the case for his view based on the AUTHORITIES that go beyond him or her. Let's say for the sake of argument that some of the Church Fathers got their source of knowledge from one of the original Apostles who followed Jesus. Let's say that this is even documented by secular history. If that is the case, then there is a very good chance that the CLAIM at least, of turning bread into the Body, is bona fide. The chances increase that this teaching emanated from the lips of Jesus Himself due to the Church Father's VERY CLOSE PROXIMITY to that source of knowledge.

That may not say much, you might think. After all, what if Jesus Himself was crazy? Just because you have a claim that goes back to the SOURCE doesn't make it true, right?

Well, that's when we may hone in on the character of Jesus Himself. If we can prove certain OTHER THINGS about Jesus that may also SHED LIGHT on the PARTICULAR DOCTRINE of the Bread. If you could show, for instance, that Jesus stayed true to his principles, led a very moral life, etc, that MIGHT at least rule him out as a charlatan or mentally unstable personality. If you could, for the sake of argument, document certain of his miracles as legitimate, that itself might shed light on the legitimacy of the Eucharist as being real ALSO. After all, if Jesus RESURRECTION cannot be debunked, as many apologists claim, then that opens up the POSSIBILITY at least that Jesus really was divine or a powerful metaphysical being. And that provides a foundation for asserting that this particular miracle of the Bread has a degree of legitimacy, whereas an isolated individual with only his private opinion, is not compelling to nearly the same degree.

So no, Sam Harris, your comparison is not accurate. It is apples and oranges.
Does cracker and wine become Jesus' Body?

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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #5

Post by mgb »

[Replying to Dimmesdale in post #1]
"You're crazy because you don't think like me", is not a position I can respect.
"You're deluded because you don't think like me", is not a position I can respect.
"You're irrational because you don't reason like me", is not a position I can respect.

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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #6

Post by Difflugia »

Dimmesdale wrote: Fri Jan 29, 2021 11:22 pmI don't think Harris is literally saying that Catholics are just as insane as a delusional person who believes the pancakes are Elvis. No, I didn't think that at all. Instead I see him drawing a comparison based off of, well, the inherent rationality of each position, which in his mind are equivalent.
I think you're right and, for that matter, that he is as well.
Dimmesdale wrote: Fri Jan 29, 2021 11:22 pmI don't think they are equivalent at all.

There is much grist to mill in terms of thought, theological and otherwise, regarding the Real Presence in Catholic and Christian thought. On the other hand, in the context of believing in a private dreamworld.... there is usually no wider context beyond the psychology of a single individual.
That itself is one difference between delusion and credulity.
Dimmesdale wrote: Fri Jan 29, 2021 11:22 pmPerhaps Catholics are as credulous in the beginning of believing the Real Presence, but the key difference is that there is a weight of reasons for that position, rather than a paucity thereof (as in the Elvis example). I would argue that on historical, philosophical and other grounds besides there is room for argument. With a delusional person, on the other hand, actual argument is typically non-existent.
This is turning into a straw man. He's not saying that Catholics couldn't ultimately be argued out of their position or, for that matter, that the Elvis-pancake person couldn't. What he's arguing (to the extent that we can divine his intent from a single quote out of its original context) is that neither the pancake person nor the Catholic is "weighting" the evidence rationally simply because the overwhelming weight of evidence is that physical materials (whether the elements of the Eucharist or not) don't spontaneously change in that way. It's worse (at least as far as rationality is concerned) that Catholic doctrine is that consecrated elements are physically indistinguishable from unconsecrated elements.

If no test can distinguish between consecrated and unconsecrated host, then in that way at least, delusion and credulity are the same: a person believes in something that is completely undetectable. Certainly Catholics have reasons that they consider satisfying for believing that the host has become Jesus, but so, too, does the delusional person have reasons for believing what they believe. They certainly won't be the same reasons, but Harris isn't splitting those hairs.

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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #7

Post by Dimmesdale »

Difflugia wrote: Sat Jan 30, 2021 5:30 pm . Certainly Catholics have reasons that they consider satisfying for believing that the host has become Jesus, but so, too, does the delusional person have reasons for believing what they believe. They certainly won't be the same reasons, but Harris isn't splitting those hairs.
Those aren't hairs; they're tree trunks. But alas, I don't at this time have the right way to articulate my view. Suffice it to say if a personality like Jesus said it, and it can be corroborated, then that stakes a claim that is miles ahead of what any lonely mentally ill person might think (who, as far as mentally ill people - is probably going off his own personal desires).

If you look at the person of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, you don't see a mad man. You don't see a nefarious cult leader either. You see someone who projects quiet and profound strength. I'll return to this thread later.

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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #8

Post by Tcg »

Dimmesdale wrote: Wed Feb 03, 2021 11:47 am Suffice it to say if a personality like Jesus said it, and it can be corroborated,
Well, now all you have to do is verify that a personality like Jesus said it and then of course corroborate that crackers can be turned into human flesh.


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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #9

Post by Dimmesdale »

Tcg wrote: Thu Feb 04, 2021 4:51 pm
Dimmesdale wrote: Wed Feb 03, 2021 11:47 am Suffice it to say if a personality like Jesus said it, and it can be corroborated,
Well, now all you have to do is verify that a personality like Jesus said it and then of course corroborate that crackers can be turned into human flesh.


Tcg
No, you misunderstand. I'm not talking about proving the claim. Only proving that a claim was made, and that it can be traced to an authority like Jesus....

If you put two and two together, Jesus and the claim, that increasesthe claim's power. It may not prove the claim, but it invests it with, at least potentially, greater validity than any old claim. That is the substance of what I am getting at.

Because... if you throw away the claim, you may by that fact have to throw away Jesus as well, if they are inextricably tied. That may be easy for you, but it isn't for other people.

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Re: Sam Harris Quote

Post #10

Post by Athetotheist »

Dimmesdale wrote: Fri Jan 29, 2021 5:12 pmAfter all, if Jesus RESURRECTION cannot be debunked, as many apologists claim, then that opens up the POSSIBILITY at least that Jesus really was divine or a powerful metaphysical being.
I'm a long way from being a fan of Sam Harris, but can the belief that Muhammed flew to heaven on a winged horse be debunked? Can miraculous feats attributed to the Buddha be debunked? It seems to me that those many apologists are trying to shift the burden of proof.

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