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The Great Debate:
Dinesh D’Souza v. Michael Shermer

broadcast February 2007 | comments (79)

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In this debate on what are arguably two of the most important questions in the culture wars today — Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil? and Can you be Good without God? — the conservative Christian author and cultural scholar Dinesh D’Souza and the libertarian skeptic writer and social scientist Michael Shermer, square off to resolve these and related issues, such as the relationship between science and religion and the nature and existence of God. This event was one of the liveliest ever hosted by the Skeptics Society at Caltech, mixing science, religion, politics, and culture.

Dinesh D’Souza is the Robert and Karen Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Investor’s Business Daily called him one of the “ top young public-policy makers in the country,” and the New York Times magazine named him one of America’s most influential conservative thinkers. Before joining the Hoover Institution, Mr. D’Souza was the John M. Olin Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In 1987–88 he served as senior policy analyst at the Reagan White House. From 1985–1987 he was managing editor of Policy Review. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College in 1983. His books include the New York Times bestseller What’s So Great About America. His 1991 book Illiberal Education was the first study to publicize the phenomenon of political correctness. He is also the author of The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values in an Age of Techno Affluence. D’Souza’s articles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, New Republic, and National Review. His latest book is titled What’s So Great About Christianity?

Part A

Part B

Part C

Part D

topics in this broadcast: , , , , , , ,

79 Comments to “The Great Debate:
Dinesh D’Souza v. Michael Shermer”

  1. Steve Says:

    Dinesh is tiring. He keeps bringing non related topics into discussions that is non sequitur. He belittles scientists as not knowing about history. I heard him tell some historical nontruths. About the historical evidence for Jesus is slim at best. Dinesh cites sources that are the bible itself. Only one source outside was Joesephus. Dineash is a liar. Dinesh likes to hear himself talk and try to do bait and switch in the debate.
    Shermer I think has done a much better and more cognitante discussions and answers.

  2. Jeff Furgerson Says:

    Micheal did a great job of backing up his views.

  3. Thomas Kroenke Says:

    I have watched D’Souza v. Hitchens and now v. Shermer. These debates do nothing more than allow people to confirm what they already believe. Each debater ignores directly answering the other persons points and each debater is actually failing to address the only real question – is there a god? Each expresses “opinions” rather than dealing with facts. It is easy to trace the Christian values D’Souza alleges to be unique to Christians to pre-Christian times – point this out! Does D’Souza really believe the Christians of the crusades would not have use Death Camps and modern weapons on the Muslims if they had them. The fact that non-believing leaders such as Stalin killed more people than Christians has more to do with technology than belief.

  4. barry barrett Says:

    Dinesh says Christianity gave us our values. I think people gave Christianity it’s values.

  5. Troy Carter Says:

    Dinesh has a problem with conformational bias when it comes to history.

  6. Will Hunting Says:

    Despite being from India its amazing how many factual errors Dinesh makes about Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism (one of the most severe forms of compassion I know) etc. Doesn’t the existence of moral values in so many different parts and cultures (about half of whom are not Christian) suggest that this is, as Shermer says, a product of a general understanding about how best to function together as a society and these rules were codified by Religion and Government in order to do so ?

  7. Donald Foster Says:

    Barry Barrett has reiterated my chief concern about my own atheism, which is, as Mr. D’Souza suggests: if modern morality and compassion are the fruit of Christianity, what will happen to our social order once we have eliminated the scourge of Christian thinking?

    To paraphrase Blanche DuBois, aren’t we relying upon the kindness of Christians to keep our moral universe from collapsing?

    What will the post-Christian world be like? Will atheists take responsibility for their own actions and create a new moral paradigm? Once Christian thinking is truly gone and forgotten – in perhaps another 1000 years – it may become necessary for us to rely upon legal structures to govern our moral interactions.

  8. Tom Dietrich Says:

    D’Souza offers no proof that Jesus Christ was a real person. In his book in Ch. 26 A Foretaste of Eternity on p. 296 he tells us that Suetonius 69-122 AD, Pliny the Younger 62-113 AD, Josephus 37-100 AD and Tacitus 56-120 AD wrote of Jesus.

    The problem here is that these authors were writing history from 80 AD to 120 AD. So we have no historian writing of Jesus Christ from 30 AD to 80 AD. This is a major problem. God becomes a man and comes to earth and no one is reporting on this for 50 years. Very strange indeed!

    Yet a bigger problem is that these are known frauds written by the Catholic Church in the 4th century by Eusebius 264-340 AD. We know that Eusebius wrote, “It is an act of virtue to deceive and lie, when by such means the interest of the church might be promoted.” Eusebius would do anything to maintain his power base in the church. He would even lie.

    Here are some proofs that these references D’Souza makes are frauds.

    http://www.truthbeknown.com/josephus.htm

    http://www.truthbeknown.com/pliny.htm

    http://pages.ca.inter.net/~oblio/supp10.htm

    Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ by D.M. Murdock

    D’Souza offers no historical, archeological or scientific proof that Jesus Christ was a real person, yet he still claims Jesus Christ was a real person. How ill-logical is this? His book can not be taken seriously as real historical research.

  9. Michael Ardito Says:

    I agree with Barry Barrett, people gave christianity its moral values just as judiasm, hinduism, islam etc. I beleive Dinish spoke well,but neither addressed the questions presented. I also believe that atheism has different pathways to the endpoint. Anti-religous reasons versus scientific. I like to think I am good because it makes me feel good to help others rather than I will realize some reward at some time in my life. So far not. (I’m still waiting after 50 years)

  10. Tom Dietrich Says:

    D’Souza offers no proof that Jesus Christ was a real person and Shermer does not challenge D’Souza on this issue! D’Souza’s claims proof of the historical Jesus by citing Suetonius 69-122 AD, Pliny the Younger 62-113 AD, Josephus 37-100 AD and Tacitus 56-120 AD who all briefly wrote of Jesus.

    The problem here is that these authors were writing history from 80 AD to 120 AD. So we have no historian writing of Jesus Christ from 30 AD to 80 AD. This is a major problem. God becomes a man and comes to earth and no one is reporting on this for 50 years. Very strange indeed!

    Yet a bigger problem is that these are known frauds written by the Catholic Church in the 4th century by Eusebius 264-340 AD. Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ by D.M. Murdock clearly shows that the Gospel stories of Jesus Christ are myth, not history.

    Where are the Skeptics from the Skeptic’s Society on this issue?

  11. Mark Gittens Says:

    The chief problem with any historical claims of Jesus are simple yet everyone consistently fails to point it out: it’s the magic.

    If I claim to know a man “Joe Smith”. And I tell you Joe lives on Main St, drives a Honda, and works for the post office, you’d say “O.K., sounds like a real person.”

    But if I tell you this Joe Smith can also fly, predict the future (presumably Jesus could do this trick, because even if you down play the other “miracles” he “knew” about god’s plan for his “sacrifice”.), and walk through walls, you’d say “hmmm…sounds made up.”

    Jesus’ magic tricks are what makes him sound like a character to be dismissed as quickly as Robin Hood or Hercules.

  12. Alan Lloyd Says:

    I am a Christian and a scientist, engineer so I have an interesting point. Religion was developed, I believe, because of the incompetency of those entrusted to interpret it and apply the scriptures. The brightest minds are applied towards science in western civilization which makes scientist conservative in nature while those with more passionate and emotional mindsets are left to the scriptures. Reasoning and rationalization is therefore not welcomed in the church, the church I know. For example my church would say that Dinesh is not a Christian because he does not follow our rituals for salvation; in the same my church says that homosexuals cannot be Christians. My point is the science that is being left out of this debate is the psychology of the soul. Even Christ was human so He also had weaknesses as all of us do each weakness being different because of family and social issues growing up. If we do not entertain psychology as a science then how do we spiritually qualify that Jesus the son of God was human?

  13. Yisrael Harris Says:

    Dinesh claims Christianity is the root of many cherished values, as if Judaism had never existed.

  14. Chosenrebel Says:

    Is it really possible that the debate was as one-sided as these first 12 comments indicate? Or do the commentors to this site simply like to hear themselves rant?

    I don’t know the answer. But I am lookingforward to seeing the debate and deciding myself.

  15. RicK Little Says:

    “One of the problems with having a theory is that your theory may be loaded with cognitive biases” Michael Shermer
    Clearly most of the people commenting here are Atheists and see things through that lens. Surely they need to take a lesson from Socrates. I am gong to make a claim that many on this web site will find amazing as it does not agree with what they want to think: When carefully examined, there is no evidence for evolution. Most people believe there is because of the constant drum beat of those who make that claim. On the other the hand the evidence for Christianity is overwhelming. Most people are unaware of that evidence and so assume it does not exist.
    Clearly Atheists are looking for a god that resembles Zeus or Thor and rightly claim that no such god exists. Yet the first words in the Bible say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” While this is perfectly in line with singularity, it also says that God exists outside of time and space and is not three dimensional. Because man could not conceive of this, was one of the reasons God became man.

  16. Neal Lang Says:

    “Yet a bigger problem is that these are known frauds written by the Catholic Church in the 4th century by Eusebius 264-340 AD. Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ by D.M. Murdock clearly shows that the Gospel stories of Jesus Christ are myth, not history.”

    Amazing claim seeing how Eusebius was an Arian heretic and completely disagreed with the Roman Catholic Chuch on the true nature of Jesus, the Christ. BTW, there is less “proof” of the existance of Socrates than there is of Jesus, the Christ, and most of that “proof” comes from his disciples – Aristotle, Xenophon and Plato. I find it interesting that apparently Socrates’ “crime”, the one that sentenced him to death by drinking “hemlock”, was teaching his students at the Academy in Athens the TRUTH of one God. Go figure!

  17. Peter Smith Says:

    “On the other the hand the evidence for Christianity is overwhelming. Most people are unaware of that evidence and so assume it does not exist.”
    You are right, I am unaware of any evidence the christianity is any thing other than a myth. I’ve read and listened to many who offer such evidence but have yet to hear any at all that stands up to a minutes rational thought. Please post URL for your “overwhelming” evidence.

  18. Gregory Solman Says:

    Dr. Shermer’s arguments, particularly in part D, are feeble. To suggest that the Inquisition–which introduced legal principles incorporated and still in use in Western law, and was in many respects superior in meting justice to contemporary national courts of law–would have unleashed the evil of Stalin’s purges or Hitler’s holocaust or Mao’s cultural revolution but for “technology” is unsupported by fact, unsubstantiated by history, and frankly a little silly. In the darkest 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition around 2,000 people were put to death, and not all unjustly. Dr. Shermer ludicrously suggests that this is because men like Torquemado lacked the means to kill people. (Cut to genocide in Africa today, often done deliberately with machetes, and, in the Communist style–where children have been forced to butcher their parents.)

    No wonder Dr. Shermer repeatedly says that we should not “tally” good and bad on both sides for a body count. Plainly, the atheists lose that argument by several hundred million people, even if you make the ridiculous suggestion, as he does, that the World Wars were religious wars.

    This is the same weak mode of argument wherein Shermer, on the one hand, condemns so-called “pedophile priests” (who, first, were not clinically pedophiles–alliteration trumping accuracy–and second, whose immoral actions were not governed by religious convictions at all, and present a counter example to his argument)and on the other panders to his audience in acting more-tolerant-than-thou toward homosexuals. By what standard does the atheist say that priests having homosexual affairs with teenaged boys is wrong but what NAMBLA unabashedly promotes is not?

  19. Question Everything Says:

    I wish someone would have asked Dr. Sherman the most obvious and simple question relative to atheism. If atheists believe in evolution, that human life came into being by “survival of the fittest,” the weak dying off while the strong remain to morph into even stronger and more successful life forms, then why all of a sudden only in the case of human life do they declare egalitarianism to be the best philosophy under which to live? Shouldn’t atheists believe that humans should continue the process of fighting and killing each other in order to advance the evolutionary theory that competition and strife is good for the success and advancement of the species, to weed out the weak and perpetuate the strong?

    Why in the world do atheists complain about religion, that it “poisons” everything and causes so much turmoil that it would be good for humans to rid themselves of it, when according to their own philosophy, it just might be the mechanism by which “survival of the fittest” takes place? They should be singing praises to religious strife, that it is a good and natural thing for people to kill and fight because we just might get a “better” and “more fit” human race because of it. Atheists should all be thinking, “the more gods, the better,” because this would ensure their own survival, would it not?

    Also, if there is no God, then why does anything matter? Why do we care if there is trouble in the world? Why should we go to the trouble to make laws and try to build civilized societies? What does it matter if I lie, cheat, steal and murder? Who cares if other people are hurt by my actions? Why don’t we stop all our philosophic drivel, do the human race a favor and start shooting each other?

  20. Question Everything Says:

    Oops, sorry, I meant Dr. Shermer.

  21. John Says:

    That was frustrating. Dr. Shermer, intelligent as he may be, really let D’Souza go mostly unchallenged, particularly in the Q&A portions. I have been sitting here rebutting (in my head) the fallacious comments D’Souza made and wondering why Shermer said nothing most of the time. It was as though Shermer was trying to “play nice” and D’Souza was wisely taking advantage of it. This might have been an interesting debate if Shermer had gotten off of the sidelines a bit more.

  22. Mark Gittens Says:

    “Clearly Atheists are looking for a god that resembles Zeus or Thor and rightly claim that no such god exists. Yet the first words in the Bible say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” While this is perfectly in line with singularity, it also says that God exists outside of time and space and is not three dimensional. Because man could not conceive of this, was one of the reasons God became man.”

    This is an attempt to equate an ancient myth with current scientific theory and fails for many reasons.

    Even if the myth states “God created the Heavens and Earth” does not mean these bronze age speculators had the slightest idea what a “singularity” was any more than my dog does.

    Getting something right for the wrong reason (a guess) doesn’t count – if you can even consider such a broad guess to even be right. We know EXACTLY how the current theory of the Big Bang was derived and what evidence supports it. Presumably “God” just put the knowledge in the writer of Genesis head.

    Sounds like a guess to me – the universe was created/ the universe alway existed…flip a coin and then if you’re even close to right – Hey this was a message from God!

    Very much like the theory of atoms, which existed in ancient Greece for philosophical reasons, doesn’t count when compared with Einsteins Brownian Motion or Bohr’s model.

    If the Greeks “guess” was right we don’t count that for obvious reasons – they had no idea what they were talking about in this matter – there is a bigger gap between their level of ingnorance in their guess about atoms and the evidence and reasons behind Einstein and Bohr than the ramblings in ancient text about creation and a god who makes “the world” (and that is what they meant, not the space time continuum or other modern ideas involving extra dimensions – I mean this IS the book that tells us Pi is equal to three; they are a FAR way from understanding N-dimensional topography; sorry but come on!) and the current inform theories based on evidence mankind has only recently gained through physics.

  23. David Koch Says:

    We have a debate posted by one side of the debate. If for example he had 6 debates total with 3 different people, do you think as part of human nature he would pick the one that made him look worst or make his side look best?

    Regarding something proven, it is common for people to use a different standard for what they want to believe compared to what they don’t want to believe.

    So for example Isaac Newton and several modern athiests will start with the exact same evidence to come to exact opposite conclusions of what the family tree/order in life forms proves. (Most designs of humans can be fit in a family tree of progress, eg Model T, MS Windows XP)

    There are those who doubt that Shakespeare wrote the plays that bear his name, and they point to the lack of historical documentation. We are dealing with a time period only hundreds of years past with no empires collapsing or well documented efforts of group a to purge the world of group b.

    Richard Dawkings claims in his book ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ that his included computer software can evolve. But do chess programs continue to improve if a system of change/random mutation and natural selection are used to make copies of the winning programs, or are programmers so far needed for engineering level changes.

    Should we blame Jesus for the actions of ‘christians’ who killed others when according to gospels he taught people to love their enemies many times including famous good samaritan story?

    Should we blame Darwin for the thinking of the ‘social darwinists’ including his relative who held survival of the fittest/best in a social seeting was good, and we must eliminate the ‘weaker’ genes? (Popular idea in west amoung intellectuals before exposure of Hitler’s methods made it taboo)

  24. David Koch Says:

    Quote: Even if the myth states “God created the Heavens and Earth” does not mean these bronze age speculators had the slightest idea what a “singularity” was any more than my dog does.

    True. But that myth from perspective of explaination on terms that the audience could understand does fit better than most. Order of lifeforms listed starts with plants, then fish, birds, mammals and finally man, naming what the natives actually commonly knew. It would have been pointless to include life forms they didn’t know or know well.

    If we see it from perspective, just as we still say sunrise and sunset, it is natural to talk about how events would appear from surface of earth to a native who only thought in those terms. And from that perspective the myth does fit what earth’s early history may look like. (Some planets have atmospheres that block a view of the sun and stars, just as like on planet earth on a cloudy day)

    As far as length of ‘day’ goes, jews held every seventh day AND every seventh year as sabbath based on the ‘myth’, and used term ‘day’ for different periods of time, just as we may say in english ‘in my father’s day there were no computers or calculators, they had to use slide rulers’.

  25. Mark Gittens Says:

    “True. But that myth from perspective of explaination on terms that the audience could understand does fit better than most. Order of lifeforms listed starts with plants, then fish, birds, mammals and finally man, naming what the natives actually commonly knew. It would have been pointless to include life forms they didn’t know or know well.”

    Seems a bit of a stretch to me.

    The All Knowing All Powerful creator of the Universe “communicates” with an Iron/Bronze age people (who knows how)to give them cosmological information about the Big Bang (and even more -who caused it!) Information about the true nature of space and time (mind boggling to even our greatest mathematicians and physicists) – yet they don’t know the actual number for Pi? Presumably while he was giving them the myth that explains the Holographic priciple and the Boltzmann constant he thought they could work the math without that tidbit.

    And while God was communicating this information to the people he chose (out of the million(s?) of other wallowing in the ignorance of “His” presence in China and Mexico etc. he neglected to tell them about…let’s say germs.

    Thou shalt wash thy hands and cover thy mouth when thou coughest.

    Or,
    I shall send thee a plague but knowest thou what the infidel knowest not: the fleas and and rats must be avoided.

    How about: There is a great illness the fool sayeth it is in the bad air but verily I tell you: It cometh of the mosquito.

    Wouldn’t this have solved a few problems:

    Thou shalt not enslave thy fellow man.

    or,

    Thou shalt not commit genocide.

    It is very odd to me these myths seem to convey exactly the information a Bronze/Iron Age culture (and not a particularly advance one either) would have and their morality – no censure of slavery but morbid concern about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms, yet even today people twist and bend them to attempt to match modern knowledge and standards of conduct.

    These Bronze Age people quite obviously believed a simple tale where the earth was made in seven days, the sky was a bowl, the world was the biggest thing in creation and was made for them.

    I might have believed it too had I lived in the Bronze Age; but fortunately I don’t.

    I live in a time where we know at least this much: there are other worlds larger than this one; that this one in not likely all that special; that life is a result of natural processes and the elements that formed it are not unique to our planet but exist elsewhere in the universe and amazingly are the result of nuclear fusion. The list goes on: we have come far from the dark myths of the Bronze Age.

    What they wrote and believed seems childish to me and woefully misinformed, useful only in the way that Homer or the story of Gilgamesh is useful, certainly not “divinely inspired” but the fumbling attempts of the ignorant to do the best they could to understand the world.

    I am neglecting to address the miracles out of charity, in that when they present these one must conclude they where either deluded or gullibly deceived by charlatans.

    We know something about hydrodynamics now…men can’t not walk on water unless their feet displace a weight of water equal to or greater than their mass. Either Jesus had huge feet or men are liars.

  26. Vinod Bhardwaj Says:

    The skeptics are really the theists who do not believe in anything that science has to say even though there is overwhelming evidence. In fact they do not believe in evidence itself. It is the scientists who believe that it is necessary to change your mind once there is evidence and are the people of faith who will conclude based on incomplete evidence. The very fact that the theories in science keep changing is what keeps the theists skeptics. Clearly for the skeptics( theists) there is never enough evidence whether it is the case of the origin of the universe or the explanation of the evolution of life on earth. And they are right in the sense that there is not enough evidence to believe in anything ever. Thus it is a matter of faith as to how much evidence you need to believe in anything. Remember that Einstein never believed in quantum mechanics till his last day since there was not enough evidence at that time. If only he had lived to see the result of some of the later experiments that would have been sufficient evidence for Einstein to change his mind. Both Einstein and Fred Hoyle did not believe in the Big Bang to start with but once the evidence was presented Einstein had no problem changing his mind but Fred Hoyle did not believe in the Big Bang theory till the day he died. He coined the term Big Bang to ridicule this theory of the origin of the universe. The thiests have to fight their in-built brainwashig that happens in chilhood and that makes it hard for them to believe what could possible be wrong tomorrow. Those who are past that can easily accept the fact that in life we do not have unlimited time and we need to decide what is true and what is not on what ever little evidence is there and be willing to change our mind when newer evidence demands that. The theists are far more comforable living with their faith in the scriptures because there will never be enough evidence to prove the scriptures wrong. They are the real skeptics.

  27. Sarah999 Says:

    What D’Souza doesn’t realize (or acknowledge) is that many Evil dictators use religion as an excuse ( or rationalization) to their followers to perpetrate evil. They could care less about “the last judgement”. And hense, It does not (as he claims) prevent them from doing EVIL

  28. Sarah999 Says:

    I believe just as my Cat is unable to understand the “Stock Market”, we humans are unable to undertand “how the hell we got here”.
    And another thing . . why does everyone assume that if there is a God he would be good, or kind, or care about us? Why don’t they assume he is evil, and doesn’t give a SH&*?
    And another thing, why are we relying on events we can’t prove that are 2,000 years old (like the bible) & Jesus? When we can’t even get right what happened, in the next cubicle, at work? Who knows if there was a Jesus, and if there was, who cares?

  29. pete Says:

    Part of the problem with D’Souza’s argument that atheist regimes have done more harm than religious ones is the underlying assumption that atheists share a unifying belief system. That is not the case. While they all reject the various theistic belief systems that says nothing about what beliefs they accept. While it is true that Pol Pot did not believe in God that is as far as the comparison can go between him and atheists in general.

    There are ethical frameworks that atheists can follow such as secular humanism that provide at least as much moral guidance as any other religion. I think this is the answer to the question of what would happen to society if our Christian roots were disposed of. As Christopher Hitchens said, “religion ends and philosophy begins, just as alchemy ends and chemistry begins and astrology ends and astronomy begins”. I see no reason to think that without religion we would fall into a moral dark age.

  30. John Lemieux Says:

    Wow. Just wow. Shermer SMOKED Dinesh like I’ve never seen before. Dinesh’s implication that experiments on the topic of Abiogenesis are analogous with ID is LAUGHABLE. He honest to FSM does not understand that all they are doing is REPLICATING possible early earth conditions, not DESIGNING LIFE.

  31. John Wagner Says:

    Interesting and informative debate!

    Denish D”Souza’s most believable moment…. Evolution is real……and…. morals and values could be human creations.

    Michael Shermer’s “cut to the chase” moment….when he asked D’Souza why he buys into the Dark Age’s unbelievable hearsay testimony about Christian beliefs and then doubts the more modern and verifiable [also unbelievable] testimonies for Mormonism!

    1. In the Shermer/D’Sousza debates, Dinesh agrees with Michael that human morals and values are more likely human creations than theological creations. Since human development precedes Dark Age religions, it seems far more rational to say that evolving man determined beneficial morals and values as man accepted the ones that enhanced his existence. And then, man created religious doctrines, based on selected morals and values, to create power over others.

    2. Dinesh starts every debate saying he will not use scripture or theology to make points but implies constantly that everything he says is true because there must be a God or nothing else makes any sense. He does use theology and occasional scripture based comments to enforce debate points! Webster’s…..theology….1: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world.

    3. Prof. R.J. Rummel says: Power Kills! Absolute power kills….absolutely! History should have taught us that the desire for absolute power can be irrationally accepted by all beliefs!

    D’Souza says that Osama Bin Laden, even in his wildest dreams, could not successfully kill as many people as Atheists have. That is a pretty crazy and foolish statement for D’Souza to make in this unpredictable nuclear world we all live in! Will it take a faith based religion to exterminate most of mankind and will it be assisted in this chore by a God to die for?

    It is so simplistic to debate the deaths credited to the world’s evil leaders and say they were caused more by atheistic belief than god fearing believers. In all cases dealing with violent murderous oppression, the real goal is to end freedom of thought and enslave people….what ever that takes! The single most important issue in the minds of totalitarian thugs is suppression of all freedoms! Islamic radicals want to rid the world of all religions but theirs, and the communists want to rid the world of all religions…..a difference of one religion among thugs [unless you include dictators as gods]! And yet we actually hear intellectuals say radical Islam is a credible faith and that socialist/communist ideology is a reasonable social concept.

    D’Souza keeps saying that Atheism has killed more people than religious beliefs have. What will he say if Radical Islam destroys everything that the rest of the world treasures in order to fulfill its prophecies [we are all non-believers and Infidels to Islam]? That is the clearly the openly stated goal of Iran and its leaders!

    D’Souza can debate everyone about the concept of whether God or Creator exists or not, but that’s much easier task than proving that Christianity, rather than Islam or some other religion, is the endorsed religion of a real God. Unfortunately, if Radical Islam is successful with its goals, there may not be many of us around to talk about how wrong D’Souza was!

    Is there a possibility that Dinesh would openly admit that a faith based religion about an almighty God could destroy all the freedoms precious to us…. including Christianity and all other beliefs? Would that make Islam the true religion of a God that has moral influence?

    Michael Shermer’s comment that no one knows if there is a god and that we shouldn’t simply assume a god’s existence is the only wise position. It seems we should find real world evidence for God’s existence before we randomly define its character, demands and values.

    Mankind should understand and accept that any belief that denies the universal rights and freedoms of man can become the tool of evil! All beliefs have unfortunately opened that door! The trophy for the most oppressive and violent totalitarian belief has not been handed out yet! Will a faith based religion receive that future award?

    4. D’Souza says the great thing about Christianity is that you are free to join or leave without penalty unlike the way it is with Islam or Communism. I have worked in a mostly Christian community all my life and have always gone along to get along. I was never very religious and my experiences in life led me to question Christianity more and more. And trust me…..when you let Christians know you don’t hold their belief and do not believe in their God, the condemnation and rejection can be overwhelming [there is a small amount of lee way if you leave the door open to possibly being saved!}. Could this be an example of why a Christian theocracy would be a scary thing! Look at reality…. if you value your job in a Christian community don’t be too verbal about being a non-believer or your life’s plan can suffer! So much for freedom of belief without penalty! Fortunately, our freedom through democracy helps contain and protect all of us somewhat from the cultish downsides of religions. Oppressed countries are not that fortunate.

    5. The culture of the United States acquired its values and character by being the first framework for world government that truly established a constitution that protects freedom and liberty for all…..regardless of religion. That’s the factor that makes the USA the shining light on our planet…..and it is indeed the factor that has allowed religions to thrive!

    John

  32. It looks obvious » Blog Archive » From here and from there - 11 Says:

    [...] first link is to a debate about religious, atheism and moral. The debate was between Dinesh D’Souza, which I’m developing great dislike to, and [...]

  33. charles coryn Says:

    Dinesh presents himself as another born-again Christian whose entire philosophy is based on his ‘inner’ knowledge regarding the existence of a ‘god’, Jesus and whatever else he can imagine exists, such as devils and hells and heavens, etc. When you ask such a person as Dinesh how they know the mind of God, they have no reasonable answer. It’s all faith, it feels so real it must be real, seems to be the foundation of his belief system.

    He relies on arguments that have been worn out, such as the Anthropic Principal, but never faces the serious issues – such as presenting evidence for a ‘creation’, and a ‘creator’.

  34. barry Says:

    I have seen his debate with Hitchens as well, and in both debates Dinesh relies heavily on arguments-from-authority. For instance, here he cites Hume and Nietzsche. You feel as though he is going to back up his arguments further, but he never does. He just leaves it there. He, like a skilled illusionist, presents the appearance of having presented a valid argument. It is really very fascinating to “deconstruct.” I suspect that, if these debates were transcribed to text instead of posted as videos, many of his arguments would look entirely silly.

  35. Mike Says:

    I thought that Michael could have countered some of D’Souza’s points a little better, but the main thing I noticed was that Michael kept his cool and his sense of humor. Dinesh was almost climbing out of his chair at times. He has no case, and he knows it, just like more and more people will know it eventually. Kids are buying this religious BS less and less these days. For the ones who DO buy into it, somebody will have to get them to read the ENTIRE bible someday-not just the spoon-fed quotes.

  36. JohnS Says:

    The Messiah Plan:

    I spent the month of May 2006 in a Pilgrimage to Israel, the land birthing many faiths and their deviations.
    I’ve seen Xtians, Jews, Muslims and others fervently praying for the return of the Messiah and the fury/glory of the earthen End.
    I’ve also heard many live believers preach that the return of the Messiah will be in their earth-time.

    This is my Plan to force the Messiah (or Buddha) or what/who-ever the god(s) choose to descend for the “Final Judgment” in mine and your skeleton bound soul-time.
    There will be no more wall wailing, lotus chanting, hymn bleating, alter preaching, prayer kneeling, soul reincarnate, …:-)
    We the under-heaven creations can speed the promised End Prophecy to occur in the next 21 years.
    The world as is to be ended, the dead to be re-fleshed, and the living to see The END!
    And the simple plan, the mortal conspiracy is this-
    STOP having children!

    It is children: the innocent angels, the sprouts of us sinners/holy adults that keep the humans on earth ever generating into thousand of years plus.
    All Prophets, half-Gods, or full God(s) love children.
    JC “welcomed” them by His side before the assembled grown adults.
    What god(s) would want to deliberately kill them or savagely end their playful cocoon state of metamorphosing to adult’s responsibility choices?
    A child is what we all were ere time’s aging/learning ticks forced us to decision states of sin and evil or righteousness and goodness.
    The choice was ours and not “willed” by a destinies evolving path’s direction;our own conscious “will’s” decision.

    So here’s the Messiah Plan:
    stop all future pregnancies by immediately using birth control devices/methods,
    vasectomize all males- be they new tinys, stiff teens or hanging oldies,
    un-ovarize all females that can or may ovulate.

    Permit the current pregnancies to be birthed but abort all future conceptions.
    Thus- sanitize the humans from reproducing world-wide without exception to race/creed/color/nation!

    So 21 years from the Messiah Plan’s inception all innocent children and the know-all teens will have passed on to the know-less adults.
    There will be no human angels left just due to their birth age.

    The resultant adults will all have chosen a respective life’s path- be it straight up, curvy indecision’s, or sinful meandering down.
    (It will also give an incentive for all to behave knowing that the End is to come soon.)

    And then we all wait for the Heaven’s Star to be (re)born!
    One woman alone shall be virgin-ally impregnated or one Heavenly Being shall cloud descend in lightning and thunder glory.

    The Ender will come to judge, to decide, to weigh, to render world peace and final human earth ending.

    Why must this occur; to succeed?
    If not, then all the dead earthen bones or skeleton scattered dust ashes will ever remain as so-
    neither Heaven rewarded nor Hell tortured.
    And soon we too shall all die off, leaving the earth to but roaming animals or stationary plants.
    An Eden that existed ere the sixth Creation Day.
    There will be no living humans left to be judged.

    What possible sin would we be committing in not having children?

    A god(s) without humans as worshipers or prayer chanters has lost its(their) purpose or stature as being nothing more than a veggie Gardner or animal Hunter.
    It (they) can either birth the Messiah as foretold or restart Eden with a new Adam/Eve.
    And if it does happen that a new Paradise results, why then:
    “I’ll still be but aimless shifting ashes till the sun does expire billions of rotations hence.”
    No reward or punishment till eternity ends all creations.

    So the Sinful will have escaped god(s) wrath and the Pure lost god(s) rapture.
    Our lived selves will be all the reward we have earned or allowed to happen as living souls.
    Our lives will have amounted to nothing more than heavenly addictive desires spiced with hell’s fiery passions.

    As the god(s) gave us a choice, so too we will give god(s) a choice.

    Finally-
    Do we love god(s) before children or children before god(s)?

    I doubt if any child has ever awoken to un-bought “lovely ribbons”.
    And if children are doted on by the god(s), why is it allowed for some of them to be tormented by pedophiles or tortured in half-brain bodies.?

    Virgin Mary suffered in her 30 year parentage knowledge that her son JC was to die for human’ salvation.
    Yet she did nothing to prevent JC’s fate.

    So too we must end this inbred want to procreate our reflections.
    Instead, follow the 2nd Cmndmnt to its true meaning: smashing from further existence the “golden” love idols of our children.
    And thus to end human earthly existence suffering as foretold by all the dead saintly prophets!

  37. John Says:

    Christianity – The belief that a cosmic, transdimensional, jewish zombie can make you live
    forever if you telepathically tell him you accept him as your “saviour”,
    so he can remove an evil force from you that is somehow present in all humanity
    because a rib-woman was convinced by an evil snake to eat an apple
    from a magic tree, yeah….that makes perfect sense.

  38. Eugene Says:

    The blame game as to who spilled the most blood, an atheist or a believer, is misplaced, rather the question comes up why does god allow these horrible events in the first place, regardless of motivation. Europe is increasingly secular because so much evil was perpetrated there in the first half of the previous century that people simply have given up on religion (but also as a result of scientific progress and explanations, of course), and are increasingly skeptic and baffled by an over-religious country across the pond.

    Incidentally, if you extrapolate the fatality numbers of the thirty year war in Europe (allegedly a religion-inspired conflict), where, e.g., half the male population of Germany vanished to today’s population figures, you would easily rival the more daunting figures of more recent conflicts.

  39. Monty Snow Says:

    I don’t know whether or not there is a “god.” Based on empirical evidence, i.e., my own observation of the natural world, I think there is a creative force. In fact I don’t know a scientist who disagrees with the idea that a great deal of force created the universe. The ultimate result of that initial explosion, that creative force, if you will, is self-evident. Its cause is not. Is that cause a conscious being? I don’t know. Is the universe itself, of which we are a part, “God?” I don’t know, but I have as much evidence of it as anything else.

    On the other hand I do know what I believe is NOT God, and it is the deity described in the Old Testament. Even if I thought that deity was the creator of the universe, I would not worship it. I do not worship genocidal maniacs, slave-mongerers, rapists or xenophobes. I do not worship a deity who creates humans with gross deformities and then says to his priests that they are not to come near his sacrificial altar, because they have a deformity. I could go on forever with increasingly absurd shalts and shalt nots. What absolute utter nonsense people will believe because they cannot face their own mortality.

    If the creator of the universe is a god, there is no evidence whatsoever that he is a merciful god or that he is concerned one way or the other with man or beast. In fact there is abundant evidence that he is either napping or he is a sadist of the worst kind. Two examples: a sweet child born without a face and a man whose twin, born without a brain, is imbedded in his chest, with only the twin’s perfectly healthy legs and feet, occasionally requiring a pedicure, protruding from the man’s chest.

    The mere fact that there are 33,000 different sects of Christianity, not to mention all the other sects of all the other religions that exist or have existed, is evidence to me that nobody knows anything about god. And out of all the many fantastic explanations of creation, why has this one, as absurd as any, captured the devotion of so many people who are otherwise sane and rational? What, out of all the societies on earth, makes this small middle eastern tribe so special that a god would “choose” it as his people, to the exclusion of all others? This should have been the first clue that this god was created by the more enterprising of his “children” to control the great unwashed.

    I think Jesus did exist, but it would not have been out of character for a middle eastern legend to create him out of thin air. But assuming he did exist, I admire him most for disobeying so many of the laws handed down by the monster he so innocently called his “father.” If he existed, he may very well have believed he was the son of God. Right now, in February 2008, you can find plenty of equally confident people who believe the same thing about themselves. Most of them are locked up. That’s a good thing.

    Now, here’s something to ponder. Assume that Jesus did not appear in history when he (allegedly) did. Assume the Jews have been waiting for their messiah all this time, and you have heard a rumor that he arrived three years ago and was executed on some trumped up charge just last week. You have also heard rumors that a small group of people saw him walk on water, turn water into wine, cast demons out of people and into a herd of suicidal pigs, heal the sick, raise the dead, feed 5000 people with a handful of fish and bread, rise from the dead, and slowly levitate until he disappeared into the clouds, where presumably he should have been picked up on radar if not visually sighted by passing aircraft on his way to ???.

    Now you didn’t witness any of this, and you don’t know anyone who did, but there’s a rumor that this small group did. Just last week! Would you believe it? Of course not. You would put these people in the same class as the Heaven’s Gate cult who committed suicide so they could catch a ride to heaven on the comet Halebop (might as well have been the good ship lollipop).

    However, wait the interval between the execution and the first written account of it, about 50 years, and the number of believers might increase exponentially. Why? I think we have somehow got the idea that the more ancient magic is, the more distant, the more believable it is.

    However, when confronted with present reality, the absurdity of it is insulting to any intelligent being. I have seen Criss Angel on TV walking in mid-air approximately 30 feet between the roofs of two buildings. Did I believe it? Of course not. But I have the benefit of a worldview that did not exist 2000 years ago.

    If there is a god, then I deserve a personal visit, just like the ancients. When that happens, I’ll let you know.

  40. Marble Says:

    How exactly has athiesm killed more people than religion?

    Most of the wars in history have been religious or religiously inspired wars.

    And then when you get to the most killing-tastic century in history, the 20th Century, most of that was religiously inspired in someway.

    Take WW1 for example. There are plenty of examples of speeches by the Kaiser claiming divine right to start a war. He justified his aggression through religion. No doubt he truly believed it.

    Then look at WW2. Hitler was a Christian. There are many statements of his about God and christianity. He also took in a very great many gobbledygook religious beliefs of various kinds to talk about ‘manifest destiny’ for the German people and formulated his Lebensraum policies on the need for the Volk to spread out to achieve their manifest destiny.

    The only ones who you can say did kill while being athiests were the socialists and the communists. But they did their murdering under the banner of socialism and communism and largely not under athiesm (except where they explicitly targeted the religious).

    But even if the claim that athiests killed more people than the religious is true, which it’s not, it still doesn’t alter the fact that there is vanishingly little, if any, evidence for the existence of ‘God’ (and no evidence at all for an interventionist god of the style found in the Bible).

    The morality, or lack of morality, of athiesm is irrelevant to the question: ‘does god exist’?

  41. Raymond Davis Says:

    I was an atheist.
    In Germany as a teenager and later in the military, Christians would come up to me and start talking to me about God/Jesus, and I would ask them if He was real. They would say, “Yes.” I would say to them, “If he is real you have 60-seconds to have Him appear, if He appears I will believe.” Of course He never appeared!
    While living in Frankfurt Germany, I read Eric Von Daniken’s book, Chariots of the Gods. As a young teenager it made an impact on me, and I quickly believed Eric’s theory to be the right stuff. In 1978, we moved to the New Cumberland Army Depot near Harrisburg, PA where I met a man from Guam who became my martial arts instructor. He is a very highly respected person and had attained a very high level of “enlightenment.” He was able to do unbelievable things in the physical and spiritual realm, of which I began to follow. One of the strangest things he did was stand in the middle of the floor with his hands out to his side and no one could move him. He “became an iron beam” he would say.
    By the summer of 1992, I was teaching martial arts in several locations, working in a top secret job and considered myself an atheist acquainted with the spiritual realm. I was quite happy with my understanding of the universe and money was something I had plenty of. One of my favorite toys was a car stereo that I purchased in 1984 that cost me about $3,000. I loved music whether classical, rock, techno, jazz, yes, even country.
    My commute was 35 minutes from Harrisburg to the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle. One day I just could not listen to the stereo anymore so I began to read poetry. Amazing what we do driving. I had memorized a large part of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and about 30 poems within a few months. One day I forgot my poetry book, and I looked around the car to see if there was anything I could memorize. I saw a booklet on the back seat that was left in my car from my wife’s catholic church. Not liking religion, but needing something to memorize, I started memorizing what seemed to me to be a poem, but was really a song, “How Great Thou Art.”
    With the radio off while I was driving home, I began to memorize the song and when I read the verse:
    And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
    Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
    That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
    He bled and died to take away my sin.
    I said out loud, “Why would you do that?” and for a split second I thought, why did I just say that and to whom am I speaking?
    (What happened next is difficult to place into text or speech. All I can say is that God is not constricted to linear time. Several things happened simultaneously and something that would take you, and I several seconds to say and do took Him a split second. Think of it as 30 seconds in 1 second?)
    Then suddenly I heard an audible voice come from the back seat area of my car which amazed me. The voice said, “Because, I love you.” As I heard the “B” sound in the word “Because” I felt something get out of my body and hang in the air between my head and the side window. I could sense that it was there, but I could not see it. I was never aware that I had anything in me, but I felt it get out of me and place its self right next to the left side of my head. I was slightly startled by the audible voice but more so by what just got out of me.
    At the same time that I heard this audible voice—time and space changed. During the time it took Him to say the word “Because” audibly, He spoke three sentences directly into my mind and showed me two visions. All during the time I hear “Because.”
    In my mind He said to me, “I Am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I Am, who stretched out the heavens.” And all of a sudden it was as if I were suspended in space and I see stars going out away from me as if someone pulled them open like a blanket filled with stars and space. I was amazed! It was beautiful! I saw this for a few seconds.
    And then He spoke in my mind again, and as I heard His voice in my mind, “I Am,” I saw the road in front of me. Then right next to my right elbow over the center console an oval hole opened up right in mid air! I look down into this hole and about an eighth of a mile away I see a man dying on a cross. I knew (it was revealed to me) immediately that this was Jesus the Son of God, that He is God, and that He was dying on that cross for my sins. The holiness which came out of that hole is indescribable and my physical being was almost overwhelmed.
    After looking at Jesus for a few seconds the hole closed up, and I heard the rest of the sentence, “I love you.” So He showed me all that during the time it took Him to say, “Because.”
    Now I have this spirit riding along with me, right between me and the driver’s side window. I just heard God say to me audibly, “Because, I love you.” I heard His voice in my mind, saw the creation of the universe and saw Him dying on a cross, and He reveals the holiness of what Jesus did for us on that cross.
    I knew that this love was unconditional. It was the first time I had ever felt unconditional love. But out of my mouth, out loud, I say, “But I’m stupid.” And I thought to my self, “Why did I just say that?” And immediately I remember my mother saying to me in many ways over the years that I was slow, couldn’t do what the other kids could do etc. etc. etc. But the love would not go away, it was unconditional. I knew that God loved me even if I could not spell. And I thought to myself, “What do you want?”
    I knew that Jesus just paid for my sins and that He was Holy; I wanted to give God something back. “What do you want?” I thought. I thought I would give Him all my money… no response…He didn’t want that? I will give You all my money and my house?…no response… He didn’t want that? I will give You all my money, my house, and my cars?… no response. What do You want?…. Me! I felt so unworthy. I knew at this point that Jesus Christ was without sin, that He was pure and holy. Me? “Yes.” And I vividly remembered a boy that I kicked in the chest as two other boys held him bent over. Though he had a thick coat on he fell to the ground, and we ran away. Suddenly I saw what I did from God’s holy point, and I was grieved and my heart was so sorry. I began to weep, and I cried out, “O’ God, Please make it as if it never happened.” And in my spirit I heard, “Forgiven,” “Paid for.”
    The spirit that was next to me in the car got out of the car and was riding along with me outside my window. I could feel it very tangibly, but I could not see it. And immediately I saw the face of a girl I had sex with when I was younger. I had forgotten about her, but when I saw her face I began to grieve deeply for what I had done. “Forgiven!” And the next sin popped up, and I grieved and was forgiven again, and again, and again. There must have been 70 to 100 images that popped up into my mind and because my heart was truly grieved and asking for forgiveness as soon as they appeared, and I dealt with them I was forgiven. This went on for a minute or so. I didn’t know that so much of what I did was sin. But as soon as they popped up I grieved and was forgiven.
    Then the Lord said to me in my mind, “The way you are, right now.” And I said, “But I have to change my language.” I used foul language on a regular basis at the military basis I worked. And He said, “No, the way you are right now.” And suddenly I saw a black line in front of me, and to the left was all black with a white “No” and to the right was all white with black “Yes.” And when I saw this I leaped at the “Yes” with all my being with my spirit I could actually feel myself leap to the “Yes.” And two things happened, first the spirit that was outside my car began to leave—I sensed it, as if I could see it go up and away from me back towards Carlisle. I could sense it for about a half a mile, and then it just took off. I knew that it was gone. It wanted nothing to do with what was happening to me.
    At the same time electricity touched the top of my head and as a wave began to filter down through my body. When it reached my heart another wave started at the top of my head. This continued on until I had four waves going down through my body at the same time. When one would leave my feet another would enter my head. I could not drive anymore, and I pulled over to the side of the road. My body was shaking as if being shocked—but I felt no pain. I began to cry, laugh, sing songs I had never sang. I felt such joy, such love, I was overwhelmed. This went on for an hour. Every time I would pull on to the road it would happen again, and I would have to pull over. This was the greatest day of my life. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my wife. Oh, the love, Oh He’s real.
    When I got home my wife opened up the door, and I said, “Honey, you have got to give your life to Jesus!”
    She replied with a shout, “Of course I have, I’m catholic. Who are you?”
    I said, “No you don’t understand, you need to give your life to Jesus!”
    Five years later, Leah would have an experience which I find incredible and wonderful that would accomplish the same for her as this testimony has done for me: salvation and a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

    You said that you were a “born again” evangelical christian. What made you this? or why do you say you were born again?

    Thanks for your response.

    Raymond Davis

  42. Steve Says:

    I like the way they use Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris in the debate. It seemed D’Souza wasn’t only debating Shermer, but those atheists as well.

  43. Simon Says:

    Why does D’Souza even matter? How is he even relevant? I’m frankly tired of hearing his nonsense. Why does anyone even bother to debate him anymore? He just rehashes every tired old argument that has been very well explained, particularly the droning about Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot. How can their dogmatic beliefs and “religious” adherence to their own utopian political ideologies be considered anything akin to atheism? This is “belief” in as much sense as religious belief. Why don’t people like Dinesh, and him in particular, who has had this explained to him a dozen times at least just NOT “get” this? Why does he insist on using these historical figures to rehash the same tired, lame, debunked old arguments?

  44. history student Says:

    Oh, bye the way, contrary to popular belief Hitler was not an atheist, he was quite religious, he interpreted the Christian bible to justify his view for a supreme race. He also had a deep fascination with the dark side of religion, the occult which could have been a result of, what is now speculated to have been, a drug addiction.

  45. Ludicredius Says:

    OMG!
    The inanity of Dinesh’s comments!
    I wish HE could hear what he is saying, but I think he is too enamoured with they way he is saying it…

    How is it that Math works? How is it that both we and the Universe are rational?? He states his questions in such a condescending manner, yet I think the answers are quite obvious!!!

    I get the sense he is desperately grasping at straws to stay in the debating circuit. Why are people still debating him exactly???

  46. Tom Laird Says:

    Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but science too is a belief system, just as religion is. And belief requires a person to make choices.

    Asking “Is religion evil?” is a question a child might ask. And the answer, of course, is “no.” There may be evil *in* someone’s practice *in* any religion. It could even be institutionalized into a religion, I don’t deny that. But one can also be evil (or do evil) in their practice of science, or anything else. (Remember the scientists that supported the tobacco industry?) Evil in all its forms is basically a human condition. And religion is but one way to try to remediate that condition.

    For instance, money isn’t the root of all evil. But the LOVE of money may be. Evil requires the human element.

    Is a tree evil because it falls on my house? No, it just happens. Is a wolf evil because it attacks a person? No, it is likely a matter of its survival mechanism kicking in. A shovel isn’t evil, it’s a tool. But if I randomly bludgeon someone to death with one, it was used for evil purposes. The same holds true with hammer or a gun.

    What if a doctor saves an abused child that grows up to be a mass murdererer, did that doctor do evil? Why didn’t he or she know that the child was highly likely to be damaged human being? Statistics have PROVEN many abused persons become abusers, or worse. Yet, as a society, don’t we generally have compassion for others in these instances? There was also a chance that the child could have grown up to discover the cure for cancer. We can’t tell the future and we TRULY don’t know the actual, long-term impacts of our decisions and actions. We can’t PROVE Jack on many of the truly big questions…Why are here? Is there something more? The human factor and complexity of the world (and universe) leads to randomness and chaos in OUR world that we will NEVER fully master, let alone truly understand the universe. Yet we continue to ask those questions. Religion is but one source of rules and standards that, if followed, can help make things a little better for us all.

    But we all have that choice. And we don’t have to justify that choice to anyone. It is ours and ours alone.

    Evil requires a conditioned or concious decision by man,
    individually or collectively. It is simply a matter of higher consciousness that we determine something as evil… or not.

    I consider myself a healthy skeptic in many ways. Many of the posters here seem to slam the debate participants (especially Dinesh) for their own reasons, but I found a number of interesting and telling views and perspectives on both sides of this discourse. I personally really enjoyed the debate. I ‘ve always looked at debates as opportunities to look at things from different perspectives and to ask myself what I truly believe. This debate series met and exceeded those expectations.

    You might raise a question about why God doesn’t regrow an amputated human limb to prove He exists. But why do we assume that A) it has never happened, B) that God should have to prove anything to anyone, and C) a person with an amputated limb is somehow a lesser person?

    We are not guaranteed a trouble-free and seamlessly unburdened life. Living life itself is choice. I can choose to end mine right here and now if I’d want to. But I personally choose to believe that we have a higher calling and purpose. We can try to meet that purpose whether we have an arm missing, or grow up in difficult circumstances, or whatever our setbacks might be.

    You may choose to believe that we are all a happy accident that led to biological machines that somehow developed the capacity for speaking, thinking, and reasoning — and that’s all. But what does that lead us to?

    I believe parts of that too. I think we are biological machines that can speak, think, and reason — but more.

    In the end, I believe that we are all better off by trying to do good rather than evil. I believe that my approach to religion helps me to define and do that.

    You are free to believe whatever helps you to do that too.

  47. A Says:

    Sorry but Shermer was pathetic, he never really challenged D’Souza; he could have nailed D’Souza multiple times about the nonsense he usually spouts about science. At least it was a relief to see that the audience really took care of D’Souza. They practically slew him.

  48. rashad Says:

    i wish shermer wasnt so polite and cautious when debating him. Dawkins would of been a much better opponent since D’souza is naive and is clearly lacking in logic towards issues in science and history.

  49. rashad Says:

    especially in regards to hitler. If darwin was such a positive influence on hitler, then why did he have his books burned and called it false scientific enlightenment?

  50. patrick sullivan Says:

    We need an atheist who had been trained to replace Schermer. Souza knows where he is coming from, but Schermer hass the problem of demonstrating the negative, and leaves it as the more difficult position. I gotta go find the debate vs Hitchens.

  51. Keith Says:

    Even if Christianity was the source of modern values (or all of morality as Dinesh seems to think), what does it matter? I still have no reason to believe in a diety, much less the paragon of anti-modern values, the Judeo-Christian god.

  52. Joel Says:

    Two words: Antony Flew

    Flame away.

  53. Christopher Engelsma » Blog Archive » Atheism Says:

    [...] Dinesh D’Souza also regulary takes on athiests.  He has debated Daniel Dennett and MIchael Shermer. [...]

  54. Eli Says:

    This is directed at those that are denying the existence of the Jesus from the Christian Bible.

    Claiming that Jesus never existed is to deny the tools that are used to understand our history. Bart D. Ehrman has shown how we know that Jesus existed based on 1) Criterion of independent attestation, 2) Criterion of dissimilarity, and 3) Criterion of contextual credibility.

    Jesus existed, this is simply a matter of good history. To argue that ALL the stories that are described in the New Testament gospels are true brings up some major historical qualms, but this does not mean that all of it is wrong. Hypothetically, if we one day found out we were wrong with our understandings of natural selection this does not infer evolution is false.

    To deny that Jesus in the gospels did not exist one would have to prove how he did not exist by falsifying the arguments set forth by such leading academics as Ehrman. It is just as childish to buy into a Zeitgeist argument as it would be to infer that a global flood happened.

    As for Atheists or Theists killing, this argument is getting so absurd on both sides. People kill, memes do not. Memes can influence, but it is the person that carries out the action. The use of ‘Atheism’ or ‘Theism’ as the reason for killing is barbaric, as we all know its the abuse of power, and it just so happens these memes allow for a greater abuse of that power. In the end, with or without them people will find some meme to abuse and kill in the name of that.

  55. manainne Says:

    Is it possible to be a “good” person without Christianity? Of course it is, but why bother?

  56. Derek Says:

    It appears that many on this page are more interested in the existence of God. Unfortunately, the existence of God is not quantifiable and it cannot be known through empirical methods. Yet, people attempt to discredit D’Souza simply because he believes in God. Further, people do this based on presuppositional philosophical rationalism, a priori. To put it another way, D’Souza doesn’t matter to you because, his perspective doesn’t jell with your world view. If this is the case, why watch scholastic debate? All you have done is proof text the arguments to suit your biases. I want to thank both of these debaters for approaching this debate with professionalism and intelligence. I wish the posters would do the same.

  57. Thy Liberty In Law » Laying Down The Law Says:

    [...] http://www.michaelshermer.com/2007/02/dinesh-shermer-debate3/ [...]

  58. mark Says:

    D’SOuza clearly won the debate. He has had many debates now with atheists and its becoming tiring the wipe he destroys their arguments!

    No wonder Sam Harris has requested a written debate with D’souza and has refused to an oral debate.

  59. Reborn Says:

    Tom Laird said most of it, but I am shocked at the number of people who have developed their own set of “beliefs” in an attempt to justify a lack of moral or ethical self-worth. Being a former atheist myself, I found it easier to sin than follow God’s guidance.

    I feel compelled to remind the blind naysayers that a theory, such as the “big-bang” theory, or Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution”, are just that…THEORIES.

    From Dictionary.com –
    the·o·ry

    1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein’s theory of relativity.
    2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
    3. Mathematics. a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory.
    4. the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.
    5. a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.
    6. contemplation or speculation.
    7. guess or conjecture.

    Please note the last couple of definitions in particular. To paraphrase Charles Darwin, ” I do not believe the theory to be plausible, but it is all that I have, since I do not believe in God”.

    The facts are clear, but it easier to deny them than face the truth of a bleak and dismal eternity without faith.

  60. gary Says:

    There is a problem here that I have seen from both Michael and Hitch.
    They sometimes seem to come in with their own statements to make (which is fine) but don’t take the time to refute the ridiculous drivel thrown out by the opponent.
    They would better serve the “cause” if they would pay a little more attention to the charges being made, rather than the charges they go in expecting.
    It would be fairly easy to refute so many of the statements thrown out, and the opportunities are missed.
    I don’t know the first thing about formal debate, but I have never lost an argument in a bar (snicker) so that must mean something…right?
    Seriously though, make notes while your opponent is talking because some of those watching may not realise what lies they are spreading. Just because you know it’s a silly statement doesn’t mean everyone viewing does.

  61. joe Says:

    John, Post 31 wrote:
    > USA [is] the shining light on our planet….

    Looks like someone has their own issues with believing in mythical bunk…
    Shining Light = Military bully, ‘spreading democracy’ at gunpoint.

    (that would be the same ‘democracy’ that will use force to try and ‘solve’ the bugabear of Global Warming (great article on *that* BTW — I love to see Skeptics debunking the religions of the left as well as of the right. Although, I like George Carlin’s poignent rant on the ‘save the planet’ religionist just as well as Patrick Frank’s)

  62. Evan Says:

    I love watching these two guys debate. I am a Catholic but I have huge respect for Michale but I agree with most people here that defined arguments were not here. Dinish argues that western Society at large benefited from its Christian past. Michale worries that theistic beliefs will halt progress etc. Kinda going in circles in many aspects I agree with them both.

    Joe I would be careful in calling the Liberation of Iraq Mythical Bunk..It it not just American guns spreading Democracy in Iraq by gunpoint. The Iraqi security forces with the support of the Americans are trying to give that country a brighter future than it would have had under Saddam then one of his sons.

    Your words are very hurtful to many people my self friends of mine. How has freedom ever been wrestled from the kind of tyranny Saddam embodied but by the end of gun? It isn’t 2006, and current success is not mythical bunk by any stretch.

  63. Noel Cruz Says:

    I watching the whole debate, one could note the reluctance and inability of Shermer to answer any of the questions that were directly given to him. D’souza on the other hand approaches and answers all his quesitons with truth. I see nothing wrong in living with the thought that you have to answer to a higher power since it affects the way you live today. If there is no GOD, then anything goes and this will be the time when humanity will end.

  64. Michael Says:

    I came here via a link from another website, and I was surprised at the overwhelming number of anti-God statements (in light of population statistics, etc.) … and then I see I am on Michael Shermer’s website. LOL. Explains a lot!

    I haven’t watched the videos yet, but have only read the above comments. It’s obvious many people consider themselves Bible experts who don’t know a thing about what the Bible says. It’s also obvious that many people on here are clueless that many Christians don’t consider the great body of so-called Christians of past centuries to be true Christians. And this follows on the logical view that people who are true representatives of a religion should practice what that religion teaches … which is certainly not what we see in the wars and persecutions of medieval Christianity. This is not surprising, because New Testament faith is a hard line, which even people who “believe” it are not willing to follow. There is very little Christianity in the world that is true to its source, even allowing for the complexities of understanding an ancient text and the different ways a statement can be understood.

    On the other hand, there is nothing inherent in an atheist/evolutionist ideology to prevent someone from being a warmonger. Indeed, it would very much fit with how things happened over the supposed millions of years of pre-human existence … such people would just be continuing the tradition. The ideas that individuals have personal “value”, that people have rights, that human life is something special, are all spiritual values that must arise from something other than scientific facts.

  65. Farook Iqbal Says:

    Shermer, why don’t you debate with someone who is not an employee in your disbelieving magazine. Ravi Zacharias comes to mind. You have tons of evidence but yet you dont debate someone who is outside of your safe circle.

  66. Farook Iqbal Says:

    Also wanted to respond to your BS on Penn and teller’s BS. Here is some proof since you actually didn’t do your research before you went on the show.

    Penn and Teller are liars who want ratings for their show. They are BS. here is why. There is not just a little evidence but a ton of evidence of the Jews being enslaved by Egyptians. Its located in the 12th dynasty. Most Archaeologist look the 14th dynasty for evidence and don’t find any. Its the WRONG TIME PERIOD!!!! Just look it up on the INTERNET. DID THEY ACTUALLY DO ANY RESEARCH OR JUST PICKED A Biased point of view and went with it. Sobekneferu who was the daughter of Amenemhet III is recorded as having NO children. She went and bathed in the river. Why would she do that? go to the river to bathe?? DID SHE NOT HAVE FREAKIN BATHING FACILITY IN THE PALACE???? She went to the river to bathe because she was praying to the river GOD HAPI BECAUSE SHE HAD NO KIDS AS IT ITS IN THE BIBLE EXODUS 2:5-6. This all is not from the bible but is 12th century Egyptian records. Funny how the bible account says the same thing in great detail? hmmm yet the bible there is no actual fact just fiction.

    I also liked your weak premise on how there was another guy who preformed miracles and did stuff like Jesus there were lots of them. They all did it. Very nice fallacy? Here let me say the same thing in different words so you can get it. though there were lots of basketball players that played ball they were all like Jordan. They all threw the ball in the hoop. Sounds very similar to “Fallacy of Exclusion”. Please present better arguments Shermer i don’t have your education or your nice diploma’s and i know you’re full of it.

    If God is not real why are you so bent on proving it? Please think about that statement first then respond.

  67. Simple Says:

    I keep hearing “Did not prove that Jesus exist” or as Michael quoted, “If God were to put a large sum of money into a Swiss bank account” or “Why would god not grow limbs” To me this just means you have no idea how God works. He wants us to find him through distance and discipline, to earn the wisdom. If he grew our limbs and provided miracles we would believe because we were shown it but didn’t have to find it. lives lessons are not learned through witness but experience. “Who are we to demand our creator prove himself?” This explains the lack of depth in a atheists comment, there hatred and mean spirit. Just empty vessels that repeat day in and day out things they saw on Discovery Channel or read in a book. Watch comments from the “atheist, you will see no heart, no passion. just repeaters spewing scientific “facts” that have yet to provide a single proof that God does not exist. My point is God can not been shown in a lab or micro scope. Nothing I say to you will get you any closer to God. I had to find him on my own with my own self sacrifice. I never demanded he prove anything and perhaps that is the difference between us. Just imagine there is a God and at the end he makes sense of everything. Why we are hear and the point to it all. There is more to this life then shopping and the Internet. He explains that we are young and he had to create this temporary life to condition us for something bigger. Some passed some do not. And we take all of our experiences and understandings and move on to something amazing. Or you live on this earth because of a chemical reaction. You have no purpose because in the end when nothing is left it is as if it never existed. This conversation is pointless. Feeding our children and teaching them is irrelevant. They will just be dust one day. What is the point in even reading this and arguing creation vs evolution if nothing matters in the end. Why do soldiers sacrifice their lives for civilians if in the end the life is nothing?

  68. elmolestoso Says:

    But why won’t god heal the amputees?????

  69. Robert Says:

    Great debate, and well done to both sides. Very entertaining, and personally I felt Dinesh was slightly superior as far as scoring the debate would go.

    Personally, I am agnostic (lol @ ‘atheist without balls’, but I would prefer to say ‘an atheist is an agnostic without brains’). I appreciate the devotion to scientific rationality that comes from the skeptical side of the debate, but I am bewildered how this could lead a person to be ‘certain’ that no god exists(certainly something that science has not proved or disproved). My own background is scientific and while I am well aware of the phenomenal progress made in explaining the nature of our world there is still huge parts of the spectrum that remain unknown. The beginning of the universe for example. Even if we reasonably accept a Big Bang, and I personally do, what was before this? Where did the matter come from? Sounds like a reasonable point of entry for the existence of a god. That being said, I don’t know, and nor do you, so until more evidence comes to light I remain open minded.

  70. Richard Says:

    I have spent a good deal of time researching the connection between pagansim and the Bible and there is a massive amount of plagerized themes that are in the bible from older Assryo-Babylonian religions as well as Greek and Ggyptian. This includes most of the major characters, Moses – Bacchus, Jesus- Mithras just as a few examples.

    From a historical perspective Jesus also fails to meet the litmus test. Jospheus Antiquities mention of Jesus was latter admitted by Christians to be a forged entry and Pliny the Younger is a more reputable entry however it does date the appearance of Jesus much later and coincides with Luke writing of the Synoptic Gospels.

    If the real question of these debates is “Does God Exist”? I always come back to “What evidence is there”? and the answer I always hear is you must have faith.

    I have been taught that faith without fact is ignorance.

  71. Donnie Says:

    Can all this theists give answer to “Why did god create Human race?” and “Where from does he come?” and “Who created him?”

  72. brad Says:

    just read the Devils delusion by David Berlinski. It is a fresh and intelligent rebuttal of the GOD Delusion by Dawkins and Berlinski also strikes at Shermer and Christopher Hitchens. The debate of GOD and science is like the Hatfield and the McCoys feud…it seems neverending. Science has not proved the GOD does not exist. Thats a fact. Also what made the big bang happen??? How did something come from nothing?? Even Hawking writes… if the universe had a beginning then you could suppose it had a creator. Thats a fact. But what overwhelmingly makes me believe that HE is what HE is… I picked up the Fall 2008 isssue of Discover Magazine presents the Whole Universe. Just looking at those beautiful pictures of our universe certainly moves me to think… we are not here by chance. Thats a fact.

  73. supercuré Says:

    Pheeew. Some days I am glad i am an agnostic.

    if i was a Christian, i’d think really hard about the following simple question: is my god the right one?

    Fair enough, you may feel it as a truth – and i can respect that.

    But what if? When you die, what if you happen to be sent to Buddah instead of good old St Peter? What if it was to be Allah? Bhaal? The Big Spaghetti Monster?

    Wouldn’t the “actual” god be vurrry displeased that you worshiped a false god all the time? All religions carry frightening small prints when it comes to worshiping the wrong god.

    So, are you sure that you worship the real god?

    Another question that would make me vurrry uncomfortable is the following: why is it that most Christians were born from Christian families? I mean, Taoists are probably born in Taoist families, Jews in Jewish families and so on. Few Odin worshipers in Marrakesh, not many Zoroastrians in Madagascar. You see the picture.

    So, it looks fairly obvious that one naturally adopts the prevailing religion of their place of birth / residence.

    Then: why would all the Chinese be wrong? Is the god of the Indians not as valid a proposition as yours? Half the world population cannot be wrong, can’t they? And they have old books about their messiah and gods too, some of them predating the Bible by a good few centuries.

    Bhaal’s not going to like it. Pray i am wrong,

  74. Pierrot Says:

    The whole debate is so stupid…

    I never feel at ease when discussing about religion with people, because I simply cannot understand how a normal intelligent adult can believe such -well- stupid stories and the terrible philosophy connected with it.

    Even if – and this issue is often pointed at- you believe in (a) God, how can you be sure that your God is the right one? Shouldn’t you be very VERY afraid that you chose the wrong one? Every religion knows of the worst punishments if you believe in a wrong God. So, mathematically speaking, and even taking into account only the 5 major religions, your chance of being right is at most 20 %… not very much for the challenge of infinite happiness or doom. (if we take into account every God that was ever worshipped, your chance diminishes right down close to somewhere zero..)

    So if people want to believe that a God, a being so powerful that it can create a whole universe, has nothing else to do than presenting himself in more or less obscure ways to a very selective community in old times, with some illusionist tricks and so on… I say: let them. I have no whatsoever in common with people that do believe such things… it simply is schizophrenic and incomprehensible !

    The only thing I strongly would oppose (and fortunately I live in Europe in a, compared to the US, atheistic country) is the way politics would be influenced by religious beliefs. Even though we have many christian parties, even which have the power, no one would openly try to implement a non secular policy in whatsoever field. (They sometimes try doing it through the “back door”, but normally this goes not undetected).

    So I can only hope for the US, that the beginning outing of atheists and the more and more intense debates will help it to arrive in the 21st century as soon as possible.

    At least you invented the FSM, and I think, as silly as it may sound at first, this is a VERY powerful weapon against religions, because you can do EVERY argument the religious use
    with the FSM as well – which shows so strikingly immediately the ridiculousness of all their arguments! )

  75. b hartnett Says:

    i was a skeptic but after this incredibly persuasive performance by dineesh ive decided to become a theist.

  76. Jason Hitchcock Says:

    The fundamental point that Dinesh makes remains unchallenged. Namely, the footing of modern western society’s values like tolerance, compassion, separation of church and state–these were all given their fundamental place in western society by Christianity. It was interesting to me that the debate moved away from the question about “religion being good or bad” and became (especially during the questions) a debate about the rationality of Christianity.

    It’s funny to read all the comments questioning the existence of Jesus. As far as historical questions go, people forget that the criteria for historical veracity is very different from the criteria for scientific veracity. History looks at one-off events, always unrepeatable in a laboratory. Science demands repeatability. The way to answer a historical question is not to demand empirical proof. Rather, the historian is always making truth claims that go “unproven.” History forces the ultimate skeptic to make truth claims based upon a very different system of “knowing.” Keeping this in mind, only the boldest of skeptics (all of course having their own axe to grind) have even suggested that the existence of Jesus as a myth. Take the Jesus Seminar for example. Here is a group of Bible scholars and historians, most of them being secular or your run-of-the-mill “anti-fundamentalist,” and there is remarkable agreement about the existence of Jesus. In fact, you’ll find even secular historians agree on these points.

    1. Jesus existed
    2. He was a Jew from Galillee
    3. He led some sort of movement and was crucified after going to Jerusalem

    Admittedly, these are the most boring conclusions. So to say this helps argue up all the way to orthodox Christianity is ridiculous. My point is, to posit the non-existence of Christianity requires a historical explanation for far more unexplained data. It is a very silly claim, but shows the lengths people go.

    I recommend NT Wright for anyone looking for a historian willing to take on board all that data. Obviously, the guy’s a professed Christian and has an opinion. That does not make him any less of a good historian, and anyone reading his work will see the scrutiny he brings to the table.

  77. Rosaline Costa Says:

    The discussion topic “religion being good or bad” has turned into a debate on “whether Jesus existed or not” point. Historically Jesus existed in Israel born in Galilee, walked around Jordan, Samaria, Tiber,Bethlehem, Nazareth, Judea, etc. areas and died on the cross in Jerusalem. What he did was to help people in curing the sick, giving life to dead, feeding the hungry, giving sight to the blind, curing the lame and so on. What he preached was to love people and to forgive others for their weaknesses. He never preached “Christianity” neither established “Church”. All those who follow his way of life and teachings are called Christians after his name. The nature of people, whatever religion she/he might follow, have the same. The nature of human being is not as per her/his religion, but as a human nature people act. Religion is a spiritual matter which may or can influence in our life but that does not make “religion being good or bad”. “Good and bad” exists in every human being and no religion generates this good and bad. Some may use or abuse religion in this regard but that does not mean the religion itself is totally good or totally bad. Like if I have a knife I can use it for good purpose or even to kill a person which is grave sin.
    Lets us use religion for our good and not abuse for our selfishness in this life.

  78. SamJohnson Says:

    It appears that D’Souza is not an empiricist or a skeptic but instead starts out with positions and seeks to confirm them. His recent film in which he seeks to assassinate Obama’s character, sliming him with claptrap — that he’s a subscriber to a “3rd world anti-colonialist ideology” is nothing less than bearing false witness. The idea is hardly coherent but is nevertheless a calculated and deliberate smear.

    If this guy is an advertisement for Christianity I would spit on it. Fortunately I know some Christians whom I admire and respect. They would pray for this creep.

  79. swis Says:

    @Donald Foster Let me ask you this: If I believe like that of atheist then what is my punishment as an atheist for not believing as they do?
    If an atheist believes as I, how much more of an award of good news is it that he will have an eternal life? Furthermore: If I am loyal to my creed, and my creed requires me to share my creed, how then am I not blameless to share my creed with all since my creed solidifies that all may have the same creed as I?. If my creed is righteous and true, how then am I not blameless from those who never believe my creed, whom I have shared my creed? The creed of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all in the universe , who came as God in the flesh and Savior of all man; and man’s eternity because of man’s sin for man’s creed. So to am I to share the word and good news so that all may be saved.

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