I printed out and read all 40 pages of this email debate last night, and though predictably enough, I came down solidly on Harris’s side, I found both sides to be remarkably honest, sincere, and free of glibness and antipathy for the other. Some of what Sullivan writes is surprisingly touching in a personal way. It ends up being a fairly comprehensive document of the issues involved, and though some of the arguments made may be familiar by now, there are fresh ones as well. It is worth reading in its entirety.
From: Sam Harris To: Andrew Sullivan
First, I’d like to say that it is a pleasure to communicate with you in this forum. We’ve engaged one another indirectly on the internet, and on the radio, but I think this email exchange will give us our first opportunity for a proper discussion. Before I drive toward areas where I think you and I will disagree, I’d first like to acknowledge what appears to be the common ground between us.
I think you and I agree that there is a problem with religious fundamentalism. We might not agree about how to solve this problem, or about how fundamentalism relates to religion as a whole, but we both think that far too many people currently imagine that one of their books contains the perfect word of the Creator of the universe. You and I also agree that the world’s major religions differ in ways that are nontrivial-and, therefore, that not all fundamentalists have the same fundamentals in hand. Not all religions teach precisely the same thing, and when they do teach the same thing, they don’t necessarily teach it equally well…