from Sam Harris

“Thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ’s love are deep, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.” – Sam Harris, “Letter to a Christian Nation.”

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About Ed Anderson

I am "non-religious", not an atheist as some suppose, since after reading what I have written many wonder if I believe in "God", I just don't have a name for the concept, "God", nor do I have an origination story or theological mystery tour to stretch your faith. (I have no proof of what I believe and I wonder if my belief in "God" is supportable as I have increasing doubts.) I just can't accept an inflexible point of view that says, "I know what you need, and I know what you should know and here it is, you can have it too." Religionists present yet another obstacle to finding "truth" as they claim to have succeeded exclusively in finding it. Having been a part of the religious scene for years it is clear to me how easily duped we are to believe in something we have no proof of, has caused an abundance of divisions, and "territorialized" people into believers and non-believers. Furthermore, my belief in "God" equates to the larger perspective which includes an awareness of "God" in everything. I speculate at times whether or not consciousness is "God" So, my belief in "God" does not necessarily match up to the Christian/Judaeo tradition of a being existing somewhere in the beyond or in one's "heart". If there is a "God" he/she/it could be anywhere and in anything. Though I believe in God, it is not a belief in the God of Scripture. Too many “holes” in Scripture to satisfy my inquiring mind. It may indeed point me in the right direction but I find it not only unreliable but full of plagiaristic thought and re-writing of some of history’s interesting solutions. I much prefer to trust the minds of men and women who conjecture on the basis of what we now know of our universe than those men and women who trust the minds of ancient spiritual guides who, in turn, contributed to a book allegedly “inspired” by God. It is all unprovable, either side of this argument, but I prefer to invest most of my thinking in current ideas rather than those that show little support in logic. Do I hear an "Amen"? View all posts by Ed Anderson

20 responses to “from Sam Harris

  • Admin

    Said the man who says it’s ethical to kill people for holding to what he calls “dangerous beliefs.”

    • Ed Anderson

      I doubt it… but would be open to a verifiable quote from Sam Harris that proves your point.

    • Ed Anderson

      “Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them” -Sam Harris. The operative words are “may be”. This is a statement of possibility, hardly a statement encouraging such. (BTW I do not care to defend Sam Harris as he is capable of that. However, I do find his writing of value and, in the main, indisputable.)

      • Admin

        If I said it MAY BE ethical to kill someone for their beliefs, but then complained people are being mean to me, am I not a hypocrite?

        Hardly a statement encouraging such? If someone said there MAY BE a hit out on you, would shrug it off because it’s hardly a statement encouraging such?

  • Ed Anderson

    Admin, From what I have read by Sam Harris and what I know of him, there is little evidence that would support your claim. Please support your allegation with a verifiable quote.

  • Godless Cranium

    Somehow I doubt a verifiable quote is coming.

    • Ed Anderson

      When one finds their faith questioned there is a tendency to take words out of context to shore up an argument. It appears that Admin wants to use a bait and switch approach so that the main point is lost in the shuffle.

    • Admin

      “The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. ” (The end of faith pp.52-53)

      • Ed Anderson

        Why would you leave out “may even be” when tossing this quote into the discussion? And, what does this have to do with the message of the quote I posted from Sam? Self delusion “may even be” part of your motivation but probably unknown to you.

      • Godless Cranium

        Here’s the full quote:

        “The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.”

        And here is his clarification, which you can find here:

        This paragraph appears after a long discussion of the role that belief plays in governing human behavior, and it should be read in that context. Some critics have interpreted the second sentence of this passage to mean that I advocate simply killing religious people for their beliefs. Granted, I made the job of misinterpreting me easier than it might have been, but such a reading remains a frank distortion of my views. To someone reading the passage in context, it should be clear that I am discussing the link between belief and behavior. The fact that belief determines behavior is what makes certain beliefs so dangerous.

        When one asks why it would be ethical to drop a bomb on Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al Qaeda, the answer cannot be, “Because he killed so many people in the past.” To my knowledge, the man hasn’t killed anyone personally. However, he is likely to get a lot of innocent people killed because of what he and his followers believe about jihad, martyrdom, the ascendancy of Islam, etc. A willingness to take preventative action against a dangerous enemy is compatible with being against the death penalty (which I am). Whenever we can capture and imprison jihadists, we should. But in many cases this is either impossible or too risky. Would it have been better if we had captured Osama bin Laden? In my view, yes. Do I think the members of Seal Team Six should have assumed any added risk to bring him back alive? Absolutely not.

        Now that you’ve seen the full quote and his explanation, I hope you’ll stop misrepresenting his position in the future.

    • Admin

      Alright fine, thanks for the clarification.

  • Ed Anderson

    Admin, It is interesting that you would leave out the words, “may be” as if to bolster your argument. I find that disingenuous and misleading. Furthermore, Sam was talking about terrorists.

    • Admin

      I was quoting from memory, I didn’t leave out any words. I provided the quote above.

    • Admin

      Regardless, the words MAY BE don’t really make much of a difference do they? Come on.

      • Ed Anderson

        On the contrary, the words in question are intended as a modifier. These are your words then? “Said the man who says it’s ethical to kill people for holding to what he calls “dangerous beliefs.”” I find it interesting that you would leave out those very important words. Why those words? Because they don’t match the take down attitude that prefers to look for what could be a chink in the discussion than deal with its merits.

    • Admin

      “Why would you leave out “may even be” when tossing this quote into the discussion? And, what does this have to do with the message of the quote I posted from Sam? Self delusion “may even be” part of your motivation but probably unknown to you.”

      I didn’t leave out any words. I was quoting from memory like I told you. Regardless, I don’t see how saying may even be makes an ounce of difference.

      The point is, Sam Harris is complaining about being mistreated, but then goes and says it MAY EVEN BE ethical to kill people for believing what he deems dangerous propositions. Who decides what is a dangerous proposition? Sam Harris?

      • Ed Anderson

        Let’s be clear about your motives. If I were you, given the kind of commentary you publish, I would see his writing as a threat to me and would be tempted to undermine his message. The problem is, the message you represent has many holes in it, Sam’s are few. And, they are revisable, yours are not.

    • Admin

      Why would I see Sam Harris as a threat to me? Show me where I have tried to undermine him? Quoting from his book is undermining?

  • Ed Anderson

    “If I were you…” Having chosen the words from Sam’s work as you did leads me to wonder if I were in your shoes I would probably feel threatened since he is a master of the religious take-down. I don’t know if you are threatened, I would be, given the kind of commentary you publish. You are in a bind as your theology and thinking is based on literature that is sacrosanct and permanent, the words of Scripture are nearly engraved in stone, they are static. Whereas, on the other hand, Sam’s is based on thinking that is current and revisable. You cannot revise the 66 books, they are the basis to your commentary. Undermining Sam’s thinking is an imperative for you as he represents the atheist who does not take your stories as fact nor your interpretation of them as truth. (BTW I did not say you were undermining him, I only said that if I were you I would be tempted to undermine his message.)

  • Ed Anderson

    Godless Cranium, thanks for your comments and clarifying quotes. I doubt they were read with comprehension…!

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