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Ladies and gentlemen I am Elliot Carson and I am absolutely delighted on behalf of our sponsor for this track also Allstate to introduce our next speaker. Sam Harris is the author of two best selling books, "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation". He has appeared on countless television shows, he has written in many publications, and indeed one could almost say that he was the first to launch a recent and very substantial intellectual and literary trend in the United States carrying over into Europe where people speak very seriously about faith and the lack of faith. His he is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford. He studied religion extensively over many-many years, he is also one of probably because of the best selling status of his books and the demand for him as a speaker, he is very slow in getting his doctorate in neuroscience but he assures me he will still do that some day. One think now I think that can safely be said about Sam in terms of his intellectual impact and his contribution to the free exchange of ideas. Well I think its probably still safe to say that it will be a very-very long time before a self proclaimed atheist could be elected to public office in this country unlike most countries in western Europe. I think since Sam's pioneering book and I think this is some thing that has to be upheld by everyone who believes in free speech and tolerance. The people who are not of faith at least have the comfort in social settings to acknowledge their lack of faith in a way that really has not been the case in much of American cultural and social tradition. Sam indicates that he himself didn't use the word atheist of his own opinions until after his book, but he again has has generated I think enormous interest controversy and debate and I think that's healthy for people of faith as well as people with out faith. I am very pleased to introduce Sam Harris. How come you are not at Walter Isaacson's talk on Einstein? Even I want to be a Walter's talk on Einstein. Well you all made a terrible mistake, I often can you all hear me okay? I often begin any talk talk on this subject with an apology because I think I am I am dusting to say to say some very derogatory things about religion and given that we live in a country where 90 percent of people believe in a Biblical God. I think I am destined to offend some of you here. I want to assure you that's not the point. That's not the point of my being here, that's not the point of my writing my books, I am not being deliberatively provocative. I am simply extremely worried about the role that religion is playing in our world. I think religion is the most divisive and dangerous ideology that we have ever produced. And what's more is the only ideology that is systematically protected both from with in and with out. It remains to taboo, I mean you can you can criticize someone's beliefs about on really on any subject but it remains to taboo to criticize their beliefs about God and I think we are paying an extraordinary price for maintaining this taboo. So I am going to break this taboo rather enthusiastically over the next hour and I will I will leave some time for questions and I am happy to take your criticism. I also want to point out upfront there is nothing that I am about to say that should be construed as a denial of the possibilities of spiritual experience and indeed the importance of spiritual experience and that's a subject I will come back to at the end. I mean here is my basic concern, our ability to cause ourselves harm is now spreading with 21st century efficiency and that we are still to a remarkable degree drawing our vision of how to live in this world from ancient literature. This marriage of of modern technology, destructive technology and iron age philosophy is a bad one for reasons that I think nobody should have to specify much less argue for and here arguing for them has has taken up most of my time since September 11th 2001, that day that 19 pious men showed our pious nation just how socially beneficial religious certainty can be. Now someone who has spend a few years publicly criticizing religion had become quite familiar with how people rise to the defense of god. As it turns out there are not a hundred ways of doing this, there appear to be just three. Either a person argues that a specific religion is true or he argues that religion is useful and indeed so useful that it might be necessary or he argues that that atheism is essentially another religion, dogmatic intolerant or other wise where they have condemned and I want to I want to differentiate these three strands of arguments because there they regularly run together on any conversation between a believer and a non believer is is liable to fall into one of these ruts. Lets begin with the specific claim that a given religion is true, there are two problems with arguing this, the first is that as Rousso and Russell point out over a century ago, they can't all be true, I mean giving the shear diversity of religions on offer, even if we knew that one of them was absolutely true, I mean even if we knew this was God's multiple choice exam, is it A) Judaism, B)Christianity, C)Islam, even if we knew we were in this situation, every believer should expect to wind up in Hell surely as a matter of probability. It seems to me this should give religious people pause when they before they have espouse their religious certainties. It never does, but it should. The second problem with arguing for the truth of religion is that the evidence for our religious doctrines is either terrible or non existent and this subsumes all claims about the existence of a personal God, the divine origin of certain books, the virgin birth of certain people, the veracity of ancient miracles, all of it. You consider Christianity, the entire doctrine is predicated on the idea that the the gospel account of the miracles of Jesus is true, this is this is why people believe Jesus was the son of God, divine etc. This textual claim, this textual claim is problematic because every one acknowledges that the gospels followed Jesus' ministry by decades and there is there is no extra biblical account to his miracles, but the the truth is quiet a bit worse than that, the truth is even if we had multiple contemporaneous eye witness accounts of the miracles of Jesus, this still would not provide sufficient basis to believe that these events actually occurred, or why not? Well the problem is that first hand reports of miracles are quite common, even in the 21st century. I have met literally literally hundreds at this point, western educated men and women who think that their favorite Hindu or Buddhist guru has magic powers, all the powers asscribed to this gurus are every bit as outlandish as those described to Jesus. I actually remain open to evidence of such powers, but the fact is that people who tell these stories desperately want to believe them. All to my knowledge that's the kind of corroborating evidence we should require before believing that natures laws have been abrogated in this way and and people who believe these stories show an uncanny reluctance to look for non miraculous causes. But it remains a fact that Yogis and mystics are said to be walking on water and raising the dead and flying with out the aid of technology, materializing objects, reading minds, foretelling the future, right now. In fact all of these powers have been described to Sathya Sai Baba the the south Indian guru by an uncountable number of eye witnesses. He even claims to been born of a virgin which is not all that uncommon a claim in in the history of religion or in history generally Ghengis Khan supposedly was born of a virgin, as was was Alexander. Apparently parthenogenesis doesn't guarantee that you are going to turn the other cheek. But Sathya Sai Baba is not a fringe figure, he is not the David Koresh of Hinduism, his followers threw a birthday party for him recently and a million people showed up, so there are there are vast numbers of people who believe he is a living God, you can even watch his miracles on You Tube prepare to be under whelmed, may be its true that he has an afro of sufficient diameter as to suggest a total detachment from the opinions of his fellow human beings but I am not sure this is reason enough to worship him in any case, so consider as though for the first time the foundational claim of Christianity. The claim is this that miracle stories of a sort that today surround a person like Sathya Sai Baba, become especially compelling when you set them in the pre-scientific religious context of the first century roman empire, decades after they are supposed to the occurrence. We have Sathya Sai Baba's miracle stories attested to by thousands upon thousands of living eye witnesses and they don't even merit an hour on the discovery channel but you place a few miracle stories in some ancient books and half of the people on this earth think it a legitimate project to organize their lives around them, does anyone else here see a problem with that? Speaking more generally, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are founded on the claim that the bible and the Koran were dictated by the creator of the universe there is a there is a creator, there is a personal God and he occasionally writes books, he doesn't he doesn't code software, he doesn't produce films, Mel Gibson's claim to have been toiling all the while under the influence of the holy spirit I think this is probably an exception here. But in any case, God is principally an author of books, and this idea has achieved credibility because the the contents of these books are deemed to be so profound that they could not possibly have been produced by the human mind. Please consider how implausable this is. Consider how differently we treat scientific tests and discoveries? In the year 1665, it was in the beginning in the summer of 1665 Isaac Newton went into isolation to dodge the outbreak of plague was incidentally laying waste of the pious men and women of England and when he when he had emerged from his solitude, he had invented the integral differential calculus, he had discovered the laws of universal gravitation and motion, he had set the field of optics on its foundation and many scientists think this is the most awe inspiring display of human intelligence in the history of human intelligence. And here no one is tempted to describe this to a divine agency, we know that these accomplishments were affected by a mortal and a very unpleasant mortal at that and you know literally billions of us deem the contents of the Bible and the Koran so profound as to rule out the possibility of of terrestrial authorship. Now given the depths and breadths of human achievement I think this is almost a miracle in its own realm. It seems to me a miraculous misappropriation of awe. It took two centuries of continues human ingenuity. On the part of on the part of some of the smartest people who had ever lived, to significantly improve upon Newton's achievement, how difficult would it be to improve the Bible, I mean anyone in this tent could improve the supposedly inherent text scientifically, historically, ethically, spiritually in a manner or movements. I mean consider the possibilities of improving the ten commandments and this may seem to be setting the bar kind of high because this this is the only part of the bible the only text that the that God felt the need to physically write himself and in stone, consider the second commandment, "Though shalt not erect any Graven Images", is this really the second most important thing upon which to admonish all future generations of human beings I mean is this as good as it gets ethically and spiritually? You remember the Muslims who rioted by the hundreds of thousands over cartoons, what got them so riot up? Well this is it, the second commandment. Now was that pious mayhem, the burning of Embassies, the killing of nuns, was all of that some kind of great flowering of of spiritual and ethical intelligence or was it egregious medieval stupidity? Well come to think of it, it was egregious medieval stupidity. The truth is that almost any precept we would put in place of the second commandment would improve the wisdom of the bible. How about don't mistreat children?, how about don't pretend to know the things you do not know?, or what about just try not to deep fry all of your food? Could could we live with the resulting proliferation of graven images, I think we would manage somehow. So I submit to you that there is not a person on this earth who has good reason to believe that the Bible and the Koran are the product of omniscient intelligence and you had billions claim to know that they are the word of God, in fact 78 percent of the American population claims to know that the Bible is the word of God, 70 percent of college graduates believe that the Bible is the word of God, so lets leave aside questions of religions truth for a moment. The second way of arguing in defense of God is to argue that religion is useful and so useful that it may in fact be necessary. Now this line of argument is also problematic for a few reasons, the first is said it really is a total non sequitur. This is not even if religious belief was exquisitely useful, I don't doubt there are circumstances in which it is in fact useful but even if it were useful across the board, this would not give us reason to believe the cosmologist and the physicists came forward suddenly and said you know sorry for that a personal God exists or that any one of our books are his word. The fact that certain ideas are useful or motivating or give people meaning in their lives so it's a fact that that the idea that that God has a plan for me or every everything happens for a reason, the fact that such ideas are consoling doesn't offer the slightest reason to believe that they are true and in fact ironically they even if we had good scientific reasons to believe that these ideas were true, their power to console us wouldn't even offer an additional reason to believe that they are true. I mean even if the even if the cosmologist and the physicists came forward suddenly and said you know sorry for the misunderstanding guys but it seems there is a God and he he has a plan for you. The fact that so many of us would would find this consoling would give us further reason to be skeptical in scientific terms this is why we have phrases like wishful thinking and self delusion and self deception, this is why scientists do double blind control studies wherever possible, this is why they submit their data peer review, if we had conquered any ground in our career of rationality, it is on this point there is a profound difference between having between having good reasons for believing something and simply wanting to believe it. Now of course there are other reasons to doubt the usefulness of religion, and many of these are annunciated on a daily basis by bomb blasts. I mean how how useful is it that millions of Muslims believe in a the metaphysics of martyrdom. How useful is it that the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq have such hard felt religious differences? How useful is it that so many Jewish settlers thinks that the creator of the universe promise them a patch of desert on the Mediterranean? How useful has Christianity's anxiety about sex been these last 70 generations? Now those who conflate usefulness and truth in defense of religion generally argue that that religion provides the most reliable foundation for morality. Now again before we even we are even tempted to evaluate this claim, please notice that it is a non sequitur it is not even if even if religion made people moral, this would not provide evidence for the existence of God or that Jesus is his son or any specific doctrinal proposition to which people are attached. Every religion could function like a placebo they could they could be extremely useful and entirely barren of content. But lets talk for a moment about the supposed link between morality and and religion, it seems to me that religion gives people bad reasons to be good where good reasons are actually available. I mean me ask your self which is more moral? Helping the poor, feeding the hungry, defending the week out of a mere concern for their well being or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it? The truth is people do not need to be threatened with damnation to love their children, to love their friends, to want to collaborate with strangers or indeed to recognize that helping strangers can be one of their greatest sources of happiness and what kind of morality is it that is entirely predicated on a self interested desire to escape the damnation? This seems to by pass the very core of what we mean by morality which is at actual concern for the welfare of other human beings. Clearly it is possible to teach our children to form such a concern and to grow in empathy and compassion with out lying to ourselves or to them about the nature of the universe, with out pretending to know things we do not know. You can teach your children the golden rule as an utterly wise ethical precept without pretending to know that Jesus was born of a virgin. I mean it's also worth observing that the most atheist societies on the planet like Sweden and Denmark and the Netherlands are in many respects the most moral. They have rates of violent crime that are far lower than our own in the US and they are more generous both with in their own population and in the developing world on a per capita basis. Sweden which opposed the war in Iraq has never or less admitted more Iraqi refugees into its borders than any country and many more than the US has. So if you are looking for a state model of Christian charity, the most atheist societies at this moment fit it better than the most Christian societies do. What about this notion that we get on morality on a scripture? So clearly we don't get our most basic moral impulses at a scripture because he is going to seeing emerging very earlier I mean toddlers 18 months old will spontaneously try to comfort somebody who looks upset and a person clearly doesn't learn that cruelty is wrong by reading the Bible, the Koran because you don't already know that going in, you are just going to be confronted with with endless celebrations of cruelty in this texts and these these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty both human and divine. The God of the Bible hates sodomy and will kill you for it, but he rather enjoys the occasional human sacrifice. I think in the very least we can we can say he doesn't quite have his priorities straight. In the Old Testament, we witnessed the most immoral behavior imaginable. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, sexual slavery, the murder of children, kidnapping, all of it not only permitted by God but mandated by God. If you doubt this, take another look at books like exodus and Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Second Samuel and Numbers and First and Second Kings, and Zachariah I mean these books on these books, in these books the the most unethical behavior is celebrated, if these events occurred in our own time, half the prophets and kings of Israel would be shackled and brought to the hag for crimes against humanity including Moses for slottering the Midianites, including Joshua for slottering the Amalachites, including Elijah for slottering the the prophets of Baal. I mean these men by our by our standards today they were utter psychopaths. As was Abraham for as Christopher Hitchens recently put it for taking such a long and gloomy walk with his son Isaac. Then you might wonder, well what about the Ten Commandments, what about "Thou shalt not Murder". Well the problem is the ten commandments simply give us more bad reasons to kill people. I mean what are you supposed to do when your best friend breaks the Sabbath or erects a graven image or takes the lord's name in vain. You are supposed to kill him and if you are unwilling to kill him, your neighbors are supposed to kill you. Is this really the best book we have on morality? Is it even a good book? Now happily most Christians and Jews now disregard the morality on offering the Old Testament and they rationalize the barbarity we find there by saying oh this was appropriate to the time, it was appropriate to the ancient world, the idea being that the Canaanites were so ill behaved they are just getting together a short list of reasons to kill your neighbor and sticking to it was a great improvement over the the general barbarity of the time. No it wasn't. it was it was with in the moral compass of human beings then to recognize that killing somebody for adultery was evil. The Buddha managed it, Mahavira, the Jain patriarch managed it, numerous Greek philosophers managed it, so Jews and Christians are simply lying to themselves. When they talk about the impediments to morality that prevailed in the fifth century BC, and the the other thing to notice is that rationalizing the barbarism we find in the Old Testament merely renders it irrelevant, it doesn't render these books morally wise, I mean it is faint price indeed if the best that can be said of much of scripture is it a canal be safely ignored? Now in despite what would Christians say on the subject, the New Testament is not good as to make the bible a reliable basis of morality, in fact much of the book is an embarrassment, anyone who would say it is a moral book much less say perfectly moral book and no where is this clear than on the question of slavery, the truth is the Bible in its totality, Old Testament, New Testament support slavery. If we recognize any thing, if we converge on any point in ethical terms now, is this slavery is evil nowhere in the bible is either recognized much less repudiated. The slave holders of the south were on the winning side of the theological argument, they knew it, they never stopped talking about. The best God does in the Old Testament was to admonish us not to beat our slaves so badly that we injure their eyes or their teeth or not to beat them so badly with a rod that they die on the spot, if they die after a day or two no problem. I think you should go with out saying that this is not the kind of moral insight that got rid of slavery in the United States or consider the treatment of women, and for millennia, the great theologians and prophets of our religions have set to work on the the riddle of women hood and the result in various times and places has been widow burning and honor killing and genital mutilation, a cultic obsession with virginity, just other forms of physical and psychological abuses so kaleidoscopic in variety as to scarcely it might have been summarized. Now I I have no doubt that much of this is sexist evil in predates religion and can be described to our biology, but there is no question that religion promulgates and renders sacrosanct attitudes toward women that would be unseemly in _____ape. Now well man was made in the image of God, woman was made in the image of man according to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Humanity therefore is derivative, it's ______. The Old Testament values the life of a woman at one half to two thirds that of a man, the Koran says that the testimony of two women is required to offset the testimony of one man and every women is is deserving of one half her brother share of inheritance. But the Biblical God has made it perfectly clear that women are expected to live in in absolute subjugation to their fathers until the moment they are pressed into connubial service to their husbands and the New Testament offers no relief and the St. Paul put in his letters to the Ephesians "wives, be subject to your husbands as to the lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, as the church is subject to Christ, so let wives be subject to their husbands in all things". The Koran delivers the same message and on most translations argue it says that that disobedient wife should be whipped or scourged or beaten. The 11th century sage Al Ghazali perhaps the most influential Muslim since Mohamed described a women's duty this way, she should stay at home and get on with her spinning, she should not go out often, she must not be well informed, nor must she be communicative with her neighbors and only this of them is absolutely necessary, she should take care of her husband and respect him in his presence and in his absence and seek to satisfy him in everything, she must not leave the house with out his permission and if given his permission, she must leave surreptitiously, she should put on old clothes and take the deserted streets and allies, avoid markets, make sure that a stranger does not hear her voice or recognize her, she must not speak to a friend of her husband even in need, her sole worry should be her virtue, her home as well as her prayers and her fast, if a friend of her husband calls when the later is absent, she must not open the door nor reply to him in order to safeguard her and her husbands honor. She should accept what her husband gives her as sufficient sexual needs at any moment, she should be clean and ready to satisfy her husband's sexual needs at any moment. Now recall the blissful lives of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban or think about the the millions of women who even now are forced to wear the veil under Islam or who are who are forced into these these forced marriages with men they have never met and you will realize that these kinds of religious opinions have consequences. The net effect of religion, especially in in the Abrahamic tradition has been to demonize female sexuality and portray women as as morally and intellectually inferior to men. Every woman it is it is imagined hold the honor of the men in her life for ransom and its liable to tarnish it with the glance or destroy it outright through sexual indiscretion. In this context rape is actually a crime that one man commits against another man, the women is only shame as vehicle and often capably acquiescent being on blandishments and guile and winking treachery. In the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 22, God says that if a woman doesn't scream loudly enough while being raped, she should be stoned to death as an accessory to her own defilement. There is no escape in the view in the Bible and the Koran that women have been put on earth to serve men, to keep their homes in order and to be incubators of sons, so I think this is a fact that really cannot be disputed, if we ever achieve a global civilization that that truly values and honors the the rights and capabilities of women, it will not be because we paid more attention to our holy books. So to summarize, the basic claim that we get on morality from religion is clearly false, the claim that we are the only species that has moral impulses is also false. Clearly our ability to cooperate with one another can be explained in evolutionary terms I mean chimpanzee is with whom we share a 99 percent of our DNA find one another's emotional lives contagious just as we do, they are motivated to reconcile after disputes, to comfort one another. Chimpanzees have even died trying to save other chimpanzees from drowning, they react negatively to situations that they perceive as unfair like the unequal distribution of food, given how precarious all primates are, it is not a surprise that evolution would have selected for a variety of ethical concerns and social instincts, now religious people I think are right to believe that our morality isn't merely a product of culture I mean it is hard wired in us and it it clearly is massively empowered by our ability to speak and to write I mean language gives us the capacity to extent our moral horizons beyond our mere family and kin and even beyond our species, but its also it should be pointed out that language also empowers our hatred and stupidity to a remarkably and we are the only species to my knowledge that can forsake life saving medical research, demonize homosexuals or fly planes into buildings because of what we tell one another about God. The fact is the basic fact is on this point of morality is that we decide what is good in our good books I mean we come to the bible and we see that just as in Leviticus if a women is not a virgin on her wedding night, you are supposed to stone her to death on her fathers door step, we choose to reject this parallel of ancient wisdom, and then we choose to emphasize something like the golden rule so that the guarantor of our morality is in our brains, not in our books. So I have spoken about the the problems in arguing the relation is true and in arguing that relation is useful. The last way of defending God is to argue that atheism is dogmatic intolerance or otherwise worthy of reproach, now as I pointed out in my second book, "A Letter to a Christian nation", atheism is really a term we do not need I mean in same way that we don't have a word for someone who is not an astrologer, you know it you know we don't have websites for non-astrologers, there are no groups for non-astrologers, nobody wakes up in the morning feeling the need to remind himself that he is not an astrologer. The irony is that atheism is completely with out content, it is not a philosophical position and all religious people are atheist with respect to everyone else's religion. I mean we are all atheist with respect to the thousands of dead gods who lie in that mass grave we call mythology, we think of Thor and Isis and Zeus. You know these were once gods in good standing among our ancestors. Everyone now rejects them, well actually not everyone I occasionally get hate mail from people who do believe in Zeus but that's another story but the more importantly every Christian rejects the claims of Islam just as I do. You know Muslims claim that they have the perfect word of the creator of the universe, why do they believe this? Because it says so in the book, sorry not good enough so so this term atheism really is misleading, we are talking about specific truth claims and their evidence relative of. Now what about the charge that atheism is dogmatic? Let's get this straight. Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their holy books are so profound, so prescient of humanities needs that they could have only been written by an omniscient being. An atheist is simply a person who has entertained this claim, read the books and found the claims to be ridiculous, this is not dogmatism, there is nothing that an atheist needs to believe on insufficient evidence in order to reject the Biblical God you know what dogma have we all embraced to not take Apollo and Zeus into account as we go about our day? What would it be dogmatic to doubt that the Illiad or the Oddyssey was dictated by the creator of the universe. The atheist is simply saying as Carl Sagan did that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, if ever there were an antidote to dogmatism, this is it, there is a related claim that atheist and scientists generally are arrogant and this is rather ironic. The truth is that when scientists don't know something, like why the universe came into being or how the first self replicating molecules formed on earth, they tend to admit it. Pretending to know the things that you do not know is a profound liability on science, you get punished for this rather quickly but pretending to know things you do not know is the life blood of faith based religion. Any this is really one of the profound ironies of religious discourse in the the frequency with which you can hear religious people praise themselves for their humility while tacitly claiming to know things about cosmology and physics and chemistry and paleontology that no scientist knows. Any person who dignifies Genesis as an account of creation or as even as informative is essentially saying to someone like Stephen Hawking, Stephen you are a smart guy and and you know see there are a lot of equations over there but you don't know enough about cosmology, you know it says here that God did this six days and then rested on the seventh and I don't see how you really grapple with the nuiances of the Biblical account. And this would be amusing if we are not having such a disastrous effect upon our public policy. It is impeding medical research and the teaching of science in this country. 30 percent of biology teachers in the United States at the high school level don't even mention evolution because of the the because of the hassle occasioned by the just the religious hysteria that it provokes in their students and their students' parents. We all remember the recent presidential debate where three Republican candidates for the presidency solemnly raised their hands to testify that they don't believe in evolution. And there was no there was no follow up question. I mean this is embarrassing. And it seems like every few months the opinion page of The New York Times publishes another defense of this kind of ignorance. There is no question that this is eroding our stature in the eyes of the rest of the developed world. It's not arrogant or dogmatic to point this out. It seems to me that our intellectual honesty lives or dies in this trench. Now, it's also commonly imagined that atheists think there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding. The truth is that atheist are free to admit that there is much about the universe we don't understand. It is obvious we don't understand the universe. But it is even more obvious that neither the Bible, nor the Qur'an reflects our best understanding of them. There could be life on other planets, complex life, technical technically accomplished civilization. I mean just imagine a civilization a million years old as opposed to a few thousand. Atheists are free to imagine this possibility. They are also free to admit that if such brilliant extra terrestrials exist the Bible and Qur'an are going to be even less impressive to them than they are to human atheists. It's often imagined that atheists are in principle closed to spiritual experience. But the truth is that there is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing self-transcending love, or ecstasy, or rapture, or awe. In fact there's nothing that prevents an atheist from going into a cave for a year or a decade and practicing meditation like a proper mystic. What atheists don't tend to do is make unjustified and unjustifiable claims about the cosmos on the basis of those experiences. I mean there's no question that disciplines like meditation and prayer can have a profound effect upon the human mind. But do the positive experiences, of say, Christian mystics, over the ages suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely, because Christians have been having these experiences but so have Buddhists, and Muslims, and even atheists. So there's a deeper reality here and it makes a mockery of religious denominations. The fact is that whenever human beings make an honest effort to get at the truth, they reliably transcend the accidents of their birth and upbringing. Just as it would be absurd to speak about Christian physics, though the Christians invented physics, and it would be absurd to speak about Muslim algebra, though the Muslims invented algebra. It will one day be absurd to speak about Christian or Muslim ethics or spirituality. Whatever is true about our circumstance, in ethical and spiritual terms, is discoverable now, and can be articulated without offending all that we've come to understand about the nature of the universe. And certainly without making divisive claims about the unique sanctity of any book or or pegging these most features of our life to rumors of ancient miracles. Finally there is this notion that atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in the 20th century. Now, this is actually it's quite amazing to me. This is the most frequent objection I come across, so I think I should deal with it briefly. It is amazing that how many people think that the crimes of Hitler and Pol Pot and Mao were the result of atheism. The truth is this is a total misconstrue of what went on in those societies of these psychological and social forces that allowed people to follow their dear leader over the brink. The problem with fascism and communism was not that they were too critical of religion. The problem is that they are too much like religions. I mean these are utterly dogmatic systems of thought. I recently had a debate with Rick Warren in the pages of Newsweek and he suggested that North Korea was a model atheist society and that any atheist with the courage of his convictions should want to move there. The truth is North Korea is organized exactly like a faith based cult, centered on the worship of Kim Jong-il. The North Koreans apparently believed that the shipments of food aid that they received from us, to keep them from starving to death are actually devotional offerings to Kim Jong-il. Is too little faith really the problem with North Korea? Is too much skeptical enquiry? What is wrong here? The Auschwitz, the Gulag and the killing fields are not the product of atheism. They are the product of other dogmas run amuck, nationalism, political dogma. Hitler did not engineer a genocide in Europe because of atheism. In fact doesn't even appear to have been an atheist. He regularly invoked Jesus in his speeches. But that's beside the point. He did it on the basis of other beliefs, dogmas about Jews and the purity of German blood. The history of Muslim jihad however does have something with Islam. The atrocities of September 11 did have something to do with what 19 men believed about martyrdom and paradise. The fact that we are not funding stem cell research at the federal level does have something to do with what Christians believe about conception and the human soul. It's important to focus on the specific consequences of specific ideas. So I want to make it very clear that I am not holding religion responsible for every bad thing that a religious person has done in human history, to be balanced against all the bad things that atheists have done. I am only holding religion responsible for what people do and will continue to do explicitly for religious reasons. So I submit to you that there really is no society in human history that has ever suffered because its population became too reasonable, too reluctant to embrace dogma or too demanding of evidence. So in conclusion let me say that I think civilization in the 21st century is passing through a bottle neck of sorts, formed on the one side by 21st century destructive technology and on the other by by Iron Age superstition. And we will either pass through this bottle neck, more or less in tact, more or less painfully or we will destroy ourselves. Now perhaps this fear sounds grandiose to some of you. But the truth is that civilizations can end. In fact every civilization in human history virtually has ended, over and over again in history some unlucky generations has had to witness the ruination of every thing they and their ancestors have worked hard to build. We are part of history. There is no guarantee that things can't go spectacularly wrong for us. In fact it's an article of faith in many religious communities that things will go spectacularly wrong. And that this was a good thing. 79 percent of Americans think that Jesus is going to come down out of the clouds and rectify all of our problems with this magic powers at some point in history. 20 percent of Americans claim to be certain that it will happen in their lifetime. This is precisely the sort of thinking we do not need. And I think it should it be rather obvious that prophecies about the end of the world could well be self affluent. So in the uniqueness of our circumstance with respect to the growth of technology, I think also shouldn't be ignored not only is technology growing, but the rate at which technology is growing is also growing. Futurists like Ray Kurzweil have said that the rate is doubling every 10 years. So that if you look at the rate at which technology was growing in the year 2000 as your metric, the 20th century represents something like 20 years of change. Now we are in the process of making another 20 years of change in about 14 years and then seven and then three and a half, if this trend continues, the 21st century won't represent a 100 years of technological changes a 20,000 years. You know 20,000 years ago human beings exactly like ourselves with the same size brains, the same biological capacity for creative thought had been languishing for at least a 100,000 years and had produced nothing more complicated than a bow and arrow, we went from a bow and arrow to the internet in 20,000 years. Imagine seeing this much change in a single century, and lets be utterly conservative, lets just say we are going to have as much change in this century as we did last century, even this is sobering when you when you recognize who is going to have access to this kind of technology I mean just just look at how the internet has facilitated the global Jihadist movement among Muslims, look how difficult it is proving to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. So I think if we accept that the I think quite reasonable premise that is going to remain easier to break things than to fix them or defend them, the growth of technology is is quiet sobering in the way that it is interacting with religion, especially in a world that has been shattered into competing religious and moral communities and especially among communities who think death is an illusion, that this world is is fit only to be consumed by God's fury and that the destruction of every tangible good will itself be the highest good because it will be a gateway to eternity. These are exclusively religious ideas, they have no basis in fact and you know they are amazingly well subscribed. It seems to me that it is everyone's responsibility to help break this spell. Thank you very much.