Diagnosis: Schizophrenia

Posted: June 1, 2007 in Theo/Philo



Glancing through a book that caught my eye with the snappy title ‘The End of Faith,Religion,Terror and the future of reason’ by nu-atheist Sam Harris.

I came upon this claim on page 19:


‘…most fundamentals live by the light of reason …,its just that their minds seem to have been partitioned to accommodate the profligate truth claims of their faith. Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and be persuaded only to the extent that you give it.

Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about

the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.’


Hmm I think Sam has forgotten or never been told about theology,or specifically Presuppositional apologetics. I think he’s forgotten or never been told about the evidences for theism?

What amazes me is Harris’s ability to know the mind of all fundamentalists, such they he can diagnose a schizophrenia for all of them.

Its an interesting choice that he chooses to point out Gods punishment rather than the central message ,the good news,the gospel, the message of grace ,forgiveness and restoration through the substitutionary death of Christ.

The Bible is written as a testament to events,constantly pointing to evidence ,witnesses and logic.

Unlike the orbiting chocolate tea pot or the spaghetti monster ,we are not expected to make a Kierkegaardian leap in accepting the propositions of the Bible. We are not jumping in the dark.

Francis Schaeffer wrote regarding the Bibles emphasis on real events :


‘Mount Sinai is one of the most important sites of the entire Bible. It was here that the Hebrew people came shortly after their flight from Egypt. Here God spoke to them through Moses, giving them directions for their life as a newly formed nation and making a covenant with them.

The thing to notice about this epochal moment for Israel is the emphasis on history which the Bible itself makes. Time and time again Moses reminds the people of what has happened on Mount Sinai:

You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire . You heard the sounds of words but saw no form, there was only a voice.”

Deuteronomy 4:11,12 ‘


The emphasis is on being eye witnesses .You heard you saw.

Again Schaeffer writes regarding the new testament as a record of history :


‘This emphasis -that faith is not contrary to reason-is presented in both the old and the new testaments. The entire Bible makes plain that the history it records is to be seen as real history. Consider the apostle Paul in Greece. Paul visited Corinth and stayed there for a year and a half.

There he met a Jew named Aquilla, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks…so Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching then the word of God.

Acts 18: 2-4,11.


The Roman biographer Suetonius tells us more about the expulsion of the Jews, and the occasion can be dated from another source to the year AD 49.

From this scripture we are placed into a definite time in history recognised from external sources; we are also given information about ordinary uncommon events such as Paul’s occupation,Aquilla and Prisilla’s occupation and why they left Italy.

Schaeffer makes the point that the supernatural events are couched in the ordinary everyday and are not some otherworldly trip that cannot be expressed in words but are expressible and able to be witnessed.

Regarding Biblical accuracy:

There are more than 24,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament.
These manuscript copies are very ancient and they are available for inspection now.

There are also some 86,000 quotations from the early church fathers and several thousand Lectionaries (church-service books containing Scripture quotations used in the early centuries of Christianity).

Comparison with other Books

It is worth comparing the manuscript witnesses to the text of the Bible with the manuscript witnesses to the text of other ancient books. The following table contains details of some ancient works.


When Written

Earliest Copy

Time Span


Caesar’s Gallic Wars

100-44 BC

900 AD

1,000 yrs


Plato’s Tetralogies

427-347 BC

900 AD

1,200 yrs


Tacitus’ Annals

100 AD

1100 AD

1,000 yrs


Pliny’s Histories

61-113 AD

850 AD

750 yrs


Herodotus’ History

480-425 BC

900 AD

1,300 yrs


New Testament

40-70 AD

180 AD

120 yrs


In spite of the superior numbers of Biblical manuscripts and the closeness of these manuscripts to the original writing of the Bible, no-one seriously questions the text of the other works.

Sam Harris’s accusation of a mind divided by the need to believe in the supernatural ,is as a consequence of the dominance of the scientific method,such that stretching the point too far ,science becomes the exclusive arbiter of all truth, rightly described as Scientism.

The a priory assumption of scientism is a closed universe,where nothing except what can be measured exists. The reason for this assumption is unfounded -what empirical evidence is there to prove this assumption?


  1. Tom Gilson says:

    Check out page 23:

    “In fact, every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable.”

    In other words, the kind of evidence he would require is the kind of evidence he cannot conceive of. So no matter what evidence is forthcoming, for him it will not count as evidence.

    His beliefs are thus as impervious to actual facts as he accuses Christians’ beliefs of being.

  2. panj says:

    Your use of the term “schizophrenia” in this context is wrong. It is offensive and demonstrates a lack of understanding of this serious condition which affects one per cent of the population.The author clearly has little knowledge of this debilitating condition.It has many and varied symptoms but ‘two identities’ is not one of them. You do sufferers a great disservice by misrepresenting their condition.

    A good place to find more information is http://www.schizophrenia.com/index.php

    panj (A Bright)

  3. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Tom and Panj,
    thanks for posting,Panj I am sorry for offending you,I don’t however think the use of the term is offensive, it is not meant to offend.
    Contary to your assumption that I know nothing about Schizophrenia, I have over 10 years experience working with people with mental illness and challenging behaviour,I know about issues surrounding schizophrenia and disabillities.
    I used the term in a different way to the medical discription, but rather in the sense of a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.
    The term schizophrenia is in such common useage that it has taken on meanings other than the diagnostic one, for instance a dictionary definition I have found is :
    ‘A situation or condition that results from the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic qualities, identities, or activities: the national schizophrenia that results from carrying out an unpopular war.’
    Thanks for the link though Panj.
    Tom thanks for posting ,I hadn’t seen that quote from Harris’s book,it makes me wonder why he bothers to engage in any debate with religous people?
    (see cosmology curiosity -the link is on the blogroll -he has a transcript of a meeting between Sam Harris and Rick Warren)

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