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Craig, Harris debate nature of morality

Emily Schrank | Friday, April 8, 2011

Christian apologist William Lane Craig and anti-theist Sam Harris only agree on one thing — the existence of moral values and duties. Beyond that, the two have nothing in common, except that they debated their views in front of a sold-out audience Thursday evening in the Leighton Concert Hall of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Craig argues that religion and belief in God’s existence is the foundation for all moral values. Harris, who is known as one of the “four horsemen of atheism,” believes that science, not religion, should provide the basis for morality.

Craig said theism provides a sound foundation for objective moral values.

“If God exists, objective moral values exist,” he said. “God’s moral nature is expressed to us in the form of commandments, which constitute our moral obligations. These obligations reflect His essential character.”

Craig also said that if God did not exist, humans would not believe they have moral obligations to do anything.

Conversely, Harris said religion actually provides a source of moral blindness, and religious explanations for morality are not permanent because religion itself cannot last forever.

“Morality and human values can be understood through science,” he said. “All we can do is appeal to scientific values.”

Craig said an atheistic approach to morality inherently involves a lack of a defined authority that provides humans with moral obligations.

“It [atheism] is bereft of foundations to establish moral life,” he said. “Moral duties are very obviously grounded in divine commands.”

Harris argued that belief in God is the epitome of narcissism and that Christianity constitutes a cult of human sacrifice.

“This kind of faith is obscene,” he said. “The true horror of religion is that it allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the millions something that only lunatics would.”

Harris said science does not lead humans to lie to themselves about the nature of reality and morality in the way that religion does.

“What my argument entails is that we can speak objectively about a certain class of subjective facts that go by the name of morality,” he said. “The real challenge is a world where the maximum number of people truly flourish.”