Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rick Warren, Clueless Hypocrite

Newsweek has printed a debate between minister Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, and atheist Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith. Although I don't agree with Harris on everything, he certainly gets the better of nearly every exchange. Warren, on the other hand, comes off as a clueless hypocrite. Here are few excepts from their exchange, which, thanks to Newsweek's unpleasant site design, requires one to manually page through 10 pages of text.

Harris points out, "There is so much about us that is not in the Bible. Every specific science from cosmology to psychology to economics has surpassed and superseded what the Bible tells us is true about our world." Warren has no response.

Warren claims, "I believe [the Bible is] inerrant in what it claims to be." What? Has he never read any lists of contradictions to be found in the Bible?

In response to Harris's description of natural selection, Warren asks, "Who's doing the selecting?", proving he has no understanding of evolution. When Harris answers, "The environment. You don't have to invoke an intelligent designer to explain the complexity we see", Warren comes up with this non sequitur: "Sam makes all kinds of assertions based on his presuppositions."

Warren then describes his reason for believing that God answers his prayers: "One of the great evidences of God is answered prayer. I have a friend, a Canadian friend, who has an immigration issue. He's an intern at this church, and so I said, "God, I need you to help me with this," as I went out for my evening walk. As I was walking I met a woman. She said, "I'm an immigration attorney; I'd be happy to take this case." Now, if that happened once in my life I'd say, "That is a coincidence." If it happened tens of thousands of times, that is not a coincidence."

This is the sort of post hoc, propter hoc reasoning that leads people astray in so many fields, from reason to medicine. I never pray, and yet beneficial coincidences happen to me, too. Warren seems to have this childish conception of his god as cosmic favor-granter, routinely rearranging the universe for his personal benefit.

About the virgin birth of Jesus, Harris says "I consider it such a low-probability event that I—" and Warren cuts him off, saying, "A low probability? When there are 96 percent believers in the world? So is everybody else an idiot?"

Warren seems to think the probability of an event is related to the number of people who believe in it. Then we get this exchange:

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.

But later we get this:

Interviewer: Rick, let's be blunt. Is Sam's soul in jeopardy, in your view, because he has rejected Jesus?

WARREN: The politically incorrect answer is yes.

HARRIS: Is that the honest answer?

WARREN: The truth is, religion is mutually exclusive.

So in other words, according to Warren, it's "arrogant" when Harris says it's "possible" most people could be wrong about religion. But Warren admits that he thinks (not it's "possible", it definitely is the case) that everyone who doesn't believe in Jesus has "their soul in jeopardy".

Now I've justified my charge that Warren is a hypocrite. How about clueless? Well, consider this exchange:

WARREN: ... I say, "God likes order," and the more we understand ecology, the more we understand how sensitive that order is.

HARRIS: Then God also likes smallpox and tuberculosis.

WARREN: I would attribute a lot of the sins in the world to myself.

HARRIS: Are you responsible for smallpox?

WARREN: I am responsible to do something about it.

Here Harris is clearly asking, is Warren the source, the cause of smallpox? But Warren misunderstands, choosing a different meaning of "responsible". Deep inside, he probably doesn't want to deal with the implications, which is that the god he worships as all-good is also the source of this scourge.

Rick Warren, clueless hypocrite.


Andrew said...

That's unbelievable... wow. It's insane that arguments of that quality were treated with respect (enough to be printed as a legitimate debate) in Newsweek. Using a specific example to show that prayers are answered generally for everyone and saying that something is correct because 96% of people believe it. I wonder why the atheist didn't cite the example of most people in the world at one time believing that the world is flat?

Anonymous said...

My favorite juxtaposition:

WARREN: I talk to God every day. He talks to me.


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.

Oh, to be called arrogant by someone who converses daily with the Creator of the universe!

Anonymous said...

Another juxtaposition:

WARREN: In 1974, I spent the better part of a year living in Japan, and I studied all the world religions. All of the religions basically point toward truth.


WARREN: The truth is, religion is mutually exclusive. The person who says, "Oh, I just believe them all," is an idiot because the religions flat-out contradict each other. You cannot believe in reincarnation and heaven at the same time.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Mustafa, what does "FCD" mean?

Anonymous said...

Friend of Charles Darwin. Pick up one for yourself. It's cheaper (free) than most other three letter suffices.