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.
For the love of the pursuit of knowledge
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I don't really believe in chance. Except maybe when it comes to free will. Other things, such as the nature of miracles (or the sun), applying "chance" in my opinion is meaningless. If you can't see what exactly goes on behind the scenes, behind the curtain, you have no right to tell what "might" be the case because you don't know.