Thursday, March 27, 2008

Maverick P has a look at more of the "deep thoughts" of Sam Harris.
In Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006), in the section Are Atheists Evil?, Sam Harris writes:
If you are right to believe that religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers. In fact, they should be utterly immoral. (pp. 38-39)

Harris then goes on to point out something that I don't doubt is true, namely, that atheists ". . . are at least as well behaved as the general population." (Ibid.) Harris' enthymeme can be spelled out as an instance of modus tollendo tollens, if you will forgive the pedantry:

1. If religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers.

2. Atheists are not less moral than believers.

Therefore

3. Religious faith does not offer the only real basis for morality.

The problem with this argument lies in its first premise. It simply doesn't follow that if religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than theists. This blatant non sequitur trades on a confusion of two questions which it is essential to distinguish...


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