Where to start?

When the target is almost too big, I suppose it’s best to begin at the beginning:

Most people believe that the Creator of the universe wrote (or dictated) one of their books. Unfortunately, there are many books that pretend to divine authorship, and each makes incompatible claims about how we all must live.

I counted 12 logical errors in the article quoted, but the most entertaining thing about Sam Harris is that he literally can’t write his first sentence without making an easily verifiable factual error. So, even if we avert our eyes and skip over Mr. Harris’ confusion of the terms “authorship” and “inspiration”, since there are six billion people on the planet, there would need to be at least three billion people who believe that the Creator of the universe wrote or dictated their holy book for his opening sentence to be true, .

Let’s start with the numbers and see who believes this:

Y Christianity: 2.1 billion
N Islam: 1.3 billion
N Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
N Hinduism: 900 million*
N Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
N Buddhism: 376 million
N primal-indigenous: 300 million
N African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
N Sikhism: 23 million
N Juche: 19 million
N Spiritism: 15 million
Y Judaism: 14 million
N Baha’i: 7 million
N Jainism: 4.2 million
N Shinto: 4 million
N Cao Dai: 4 million
N Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
N Tenrikyo: 2 million
N Neo-Paganism: 1 million
N Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
N Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
N Scientology: 500 thousand

So, assuming that all professed Christians believe in the divine authorship of the Bible, (which we know isn’t true), 2.114 billion fit the description, only a billion or so short of Mr. Harris’ “most people”. Of course, Mr. Harris was almost surely counting Muslims, forgetting (one hopes, as opposed to simply not knowing) that it wasn’t a Creator god who supposedly dictated the Koran, but merely the angel Gabriel.

As for those “many books”, there are actually very, very few books for which a claim of divine authorship is made. It is not made for the Vedas or Upanishads, the Yasna, the Book of Mormon, the I Ching, the Talmud, the Dasam Granth or Battlefield Earth. In fact, I’d be quite interested to see Mr. Harris make a list of these “many books claiming divine authorship”.

I don’t believe all atheists are idiots, but you can rest assured that any atheist regurgitating Sam Harris quotes is one.

*You could try to make a case for the Bhagavad Gita, but even the few Hindu commentators who appear to view it as divinely authored recommend approaching it “as if” it had been so written. Since the other sacred Hindu scriptures don’t even appear to make any such claim, it would be seriously stretching the concept to assign a Y to the very diverse religion that is Hinduism

A gentle reproach

Giles Coren considers the latest excuse for porco-humanity:

I HAVE HEARD some hilarious excuses from fat people in my time, but the one rolled out in the last item of yesterday’s Today programme managed to flabbergast even me. Indeed, I dare say that obese people all over Britain were so delighted by this new chance to blame their condition on something other than their own moral turpitude that many of them choked on their cornflakes. Except that by 8.53am they had probably already wolfed down their cornflakes and were well onto their third plate of scrambled eggs and bacon with pancakes and maple syrup.

While making a documentary about the obesity crisis for More4 this year, I went to great trouble to show how such excuses as “I’ve got a slow metabolism”, “it’s genetic”, “I can’t afford healthy food” and “I’ve got an underactive thyroid” were in most cases as meaningless and self-deluding as “I’ve got heavy bones” and “like Superman, I have infinite mass”.

I little dreamt, however, that the health editor of The Ecologist, Pat Thomas, would soon be attempting to persuade us, by way of a report in her magazine and a debate on Radio 4, that the critical rise in obesity in the past 20 years has been caused by . . . pollution.

My personal theory is that aliens have converted the Earth into a massive Man ranch and prefer their most delectable morsels of long pig to be dripping with fat.