Robert Barron | – Bishop Barron on Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris

Over the Christmas break, I spent a fair amount of time binge-watching Jordan Peterson videos. Of the many Peterson videos, the ones that intrigued me the most featured his dialogues with Sam Harris, one of the “four horsemen of the new atheism” and perhaps the most strident critic of religion on the scene today.

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Bishop Robert Barron These are brief and insightful commentaries on faith and culture by Catholic theologian and author Bishop Robert Barron. The videos complement his weekly sermons posted and podcasted at WordOnFire.org.

Comment (49)

  1. I asked JP this question in my patreon Skype interview. He does not believe in Yahweh any more than Vishnu or Thor. He does not believe the Bible is any more true than Hamlet.

    The complication is that he does believe in Thor and he does believe that Hamlet is true.

  2. The ultimate destruction of Dr. Peterson's argument:
    Dr. Peterson said he behaves AS IF God existed. Great. So what?
    Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot behaved BECAUSE God does not exist. And they became the most successful and powerful human beings in history!

    Nietzsche correctly argued by ridiculing the Victorians and others in thinking that one could retain Christian morality and at the same time jettison Christian Religion.

    Peterson and Harris are more similar than one would appear in that they both want to retain most Christian principles. Harris believes that we do not need religion anymore to retain these ethical principles. Peterson argues for "archetypes" which is another word for universal truth. But if there is no God, no life after death, no justice in the next life, then all human relation is founded on survival of the fittest which results in survival of the most ruthless. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot PROVED the success of the logical consequences of rejection of Christian religion.

    Actually, Harris is much closer to the truth in that, having false beliefs (Christian "narratives") as the basis for Peterson's "archetypes" is a delusion. An ethics based on a reality that does not exist goes against reason.

    What Dr. Peterson and Sam Harris generally represent is the atheistic secular right and atheistic secular left respectively. Both are dead and sterile. Only Jesus Christ, who is True God and True Man, is the True basis for True ethics based on Revelation and Reason…

    God bless, Michael

  3. I think Jordan Peterson is a Catholic, but he's somehow cautious about admitting his faith in God because he thinks all of his arguments will be refuted because they're coming from a "religious nut"…

    He's very afraid of having his opinion on many subjects being underestimated that he doesn't present in the "extreme" in any subject.

    I've seen Jordan Peterson talk about abortion, and he clearly states the reasons to be extremely Prolife, he knows them, understands them and believe them; but when asked if he's Prolife or prochoice, he'll make an excuse not to put himself in any group.

    He's reluctant to being associated with any group, no matter if he actually belongs to it…

  4. Please, please Bishop Barron, find some way to sit down with Dr. Peterson and have a discussion. Millions of people would love to watch it. I am a big fan of you both and I think he really wants to convert but needs a bit of your loving spirit and keen intellect to find his way home. God bless!!

  5. Religion is a collection of man-made practices, and is not the same as spirituality and faith. Live and let live. Truly “religious” people make the best Pharisees. Truly “spiritual” people are the best neighbors.

  6. Where I tend to disagree with Jordan is that Jordan views on religion seem to be metaphorical until he hits a stumbling block. He then moves to the bible to inform him on what to do next but not necessarily what to think. Sam takes the view of religion as a whole as a human made construct and a flawed premise. I like Jordan but he seems to tie human concepts and thoughts with divine beings to easily. Sam is simply saying that religion, while not completely bad in its self does more harm then good.

  7. Dr. Peterson does offer some interesting 'interpretations' of biblical stories, that appear more rational than anything any religion has achieved in millennia. I remain an anti-theist though, because religion in any form is an atrocity.

    Bishop Baron says 'think of slavery and genocide and violence that seem to be condoned in parts of the bible'. They don't 'seem to be condoned'. They ARE explicitly condoned. Apologists often try to make excuses, such as the word was servants and not slave.

    Accept the bible as a book that was written in the distant past as an attempt to explain the world and the 'human condition' But literal beliefs about God and Satan, heaven and hell, that's delusion, or insanity.

  8. If the highly rational Harris was right, moral truth would be open to the intellectual more so than to the dim witted, but any direct observation of the world around us leads most people to dismiss this claim.

  9. I dont get why Christians have such a hard on for JP.. he is about as much a Christian as Sam Harris. He does not believe in the resurrection of JC and even vague on god. Yet you all act as if he is your new saviour

  10. Peterson may or may not be a Christian, but more impressively if he ever comes out and says he is an atheist, that he has been arguing that the institution of religion is a good and necessary thing for most people at least.

  11. Your excellency,
    I completely agree with you all the way. Sam Harris is obviously no friend of God or the Christian faith that you and I share. Sam Harris seems to think that Christianity is nothing but a human sacrifice cult. Which unfortunately for him, he’s completely wrong and has a bias. He believes that God is nothing but a psychological monster and doesn’t care about us.

  12. OMG! I didn't know Barron did this opinion on this debate, and I already shot my own, though I haven't posted it yet, but I came to the EXACT same conclusion Barron did! Why didn't Peterson zero in on the personhood of God, and in particular the relationship that one can have with that truth — something Harris' proposal for a rational truthful ideal could never have!? Geez now I need to finish fiddling with the editing and just post the darn thing… I'm onto something! I'm not a moron after all, I really have learned something from Barron after all these years!

  13. Bishop Barron..I'm very glad you made a video on this..I watched some of those debates as well and wished you were on that stage to help Peterson's critical point of the Church being here still over 2 millennia. I did my best to bring your point to light in my comment on the church wouldn't have lasted this long if left in the hands of people…not the Jesus Christ Society /organization but an organism

  14. Not bad for a religious figure. One of the better thought processes on the subject, but when all the evidence and arguments are examines on the subject, the secular (athiest) movements still dominate the spectrum on further progression of humanity.

  15. "Dogmatism and a chaotic relativism", this begs the question of a fallacy of binary thinking (false dichotomy). Quite often it is "none of the above" or "invalid question" or "false premises leading to irrational conclusions". Words, speeches, homilies, story-telling can be based on complete nonsense, and not even the speaker knows better. The only pragmatic position is that of constructive skepticism and dogged evidence accumulation. You do not know that which you have not learned through direct experience. Science is a probabilistic version of this principle.

  16. Thank you for mentioning Emanuel Kant, he will be a fascinating person to study. Listening further, your rendering of Kant leaves me thinking he was subject to compartmentalized thinking, both supported and unsubstantiated thoughts. He did not question the foundations and history of the Roman church, a mistake. Peterson seems to hedge the line a bit perhaps not wanting to be on the wrong side of religious politics. Harris just throws it out there citing lack of any supernatural evidence. The trend over time is in favor of the natural view subsuming the supernatural, of experience replacing speculation. What we have always spoken of in religious texts is eventually replaced or forgotten step-by-tiny-step with more accurate behaviors and facts. The progress is always so very slow.

  17. # 210423: BpB comments on JP and SH

    Here I don’t agree. JP seems to hold something closer to a Christian anthropology regarding the development of morality in the biblical text. Metaphysics doesn’t seem to be his bag.

    I remember John Milbank somewhere in Theology and Social Theory writing (again, this is just my memory), that EKant was basically a pietist. Kant was agnostic regarding God’s being, but dogmatic about how God would act and what he would demand if he existed. Augustine, on the other hand, was dogmatic about God’s existence, but agnostic about God’s possible agency. Augustine had a deep sense of his contingency and limitations. JP too. Not that JP is absolutely sure of God’s existence, just that he is aware of his limits regarding things above his pay grade. Kant not so much.

  18. Jordan Peterson is a brilliant man, but his intellect seems to get in the way of his ability to be fully in the present moment to discover a personal relationship with God. His wife on the other hand, is in touch with her spirit and feels God and knows him on a personal level, which is why I think he is so keen on his wife. What he lacks, she has. I believe if he could get more in tune with his metaphysical form instead of his intellectual ideologies, he might just turn into a true believer.

  19. Peterson’s ideas about “narrative truth” helped bring me back from college induced agnosticism. I don’t wonder so much about “do I believe in this or that” as much with regards to the Bible anymore, but rather “do I believe that the message, or the lesson being relayed is true”. It’s easier on my overly literal brain.

  20. If God could be defined, then he would not be God. For me, God is someone who creates something from nothing. The Trinity stands alone in this. As humans, we are limited to this physical world. Our problem was, we tend to perceive the reality of God on our own terms. Like putting God in our own basket. When we die someday, we will come to our sense of reality on this.

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