Sam Harris, formally Samuel B. "Sam" Harris

Sam
Harris, formally Samuel B. "Sam" Harris
1967

American Philosopher, Neuroscientist, Author and Mindful Skeptic, Co-Founder and CEO of Project Reason

Author Quotes

Words like 'God' and 'Allah' must go the way of 'Apollo' and 'Baal' or they will unmake our world.

You are either lucky in this department or you aren't?and you cannot make your own luck.

You are happily being misunderstood in your use of the word "God".

You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm.

You are not in control of your mind because you, as a conscious agent, are only part of your mind, living at the mercy of other parts.

You are using your own moral intuitions to authenticate the wisdom of the Bible - and then, in the next moment, you assert that we human beings cannot possibly rely upon our own intuitions to rightly guide us in the world.

While moderation in religion may seem a reasonable position to stake out, in light of all that we have (and have not) learned about the universe, it offers no bulwark against religious extremism and religious violence. From the perspective of those seeking to live by the letter of the texts, the religious moderate is nothing more than a failed fundamentalist. He is, in all likelihood, going to wind up in hell with the rest of the unbelievers. The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. We cannot say that fundamentalists are crazy, because they are merely practicing their freedom of belief; we cannot even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled. All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don?t like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture imposes on us. This is not a new form of faith, or even a new species of scriptural exegesis; it is simply a capitulation to a variety of all-too-human interests that have nothing, in principle, to do with God. Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance ? and it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on a par with fundamentalism. The texts themselves are unequivocal: they are perfect in all their parts. By their light, religious moderation appears to be nothing more than an unwillingness to fully submit to God?s law. By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally. Unless the core dogmas of faith are called into question ? i.e., that we know there is a God, and that we know what he wants from us ? religious moderation will do nothing to lead us out of the wilderness.

While religious faith is the one species of human ignorance that will not admit of even the possibility of correction, it is still sheltered from criticism in every corner of our culture.

While religious tolerance is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its liabilities. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us incapable of criticizing ideas that are now patently absurd and increasingly maladaptive.

While religious tolerance is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its problems. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us unwilling to criticize ideas that are increasingly maladaptive and patently ridiculous.

While the religious divisions in our world are self-evident, many people still imagine that religious conflict is always caused by a lack of education, by poverty, or by politics.

While the stoning of children for heresy has fallen out of fashion in our country, you will not hear a moderate Christian or Jew arguing for a symbolic reading of passages of this sort... it is only by ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the modern world. This is a problem for moderation in religion: it has nothing underwriting it other than the unacknowledged neglect of the letter of the divine law.

While thinking is a practical necessity, the failure to recognize thoughts as thoughts, moment after moment, is what gives each of us the feeling that we call I, and this is the string upon which all our states of suffering and dissatisfaction are strung.

Why didn?t I decide to drink a glass of juice? The thought never occurred to me. Am I free to do that which does not occur to me to do? Of course not.

Why is religion such a potent source of violence? There is no other sphere of discourse in which human beings so fully articulate their differences from one another, or cast these differences in terms of everlasting rewards and punishments. Religion is the one endeavor in which us?them thinking achieves a transcendent significance. If you really believe that calling God by the right name can spell the difference between eternal happiness and eternal suffering, then it becomes quite reasonable to treat heretics and unbelievers rather badly. The stakes of our religious differences are immeasurably higher than those born of mere tribalism, racism, or politics.

While each of us is selfish, we are not merely so. Our own happiness requires that we extend the circle of our self-interest to others - to family, friends, and even to perfect strangers whose pleasures and pains matter to us.

While liberals are leery of religious fundamentalism in general, they consistently imagine that all religions at their core teach the same thing and teach it equally well. This is one of the many delusions borne of political correctness.

While meditation can open the mind to a similar range of conscious states, they are reached far less haphazardly. If LSD is like being strapped to rocket, learning to meditate is like gently raising a sail. Yes, it is possible, even with guidance, to wind up someplace terrifying?and there are people who probably shouldn?t spend long periods in intensive practice. But the general effect of meditation training is of settling ever more fully into one?s own skin, and suffering less, rather than more there.

While missionaries do many noble things at great risk to themselves, their dogmatism still spreads ignorance and death.

What we do in every other area of our lives (other than religion), is, rather than respect somebody's beliefs, we evaluate their reasons.

What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry?

What would our world be like if we ceased to worry about "right" and "wrong," or "good" and "evil," and simply acted so as to maximize well-being, our own and that of others? Would we lose anything important?

What would the Israelis do if they could do what they want? They would live in peace with their neighbors, if they had neighbors who would livSam Hiarris Thoughte in peace with them. They would simply continue to build out their high tech sector and thrive. What do groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and even Hamas want? They want to impose their religious views on the rest of humanity. They want stifle every freedom that decent, educated, secular people care about. This is not a trivial difference. And yet judging from the level of condemnation that Israel now receives, you would think the difference ran the other way. This kind of confusion puts all of us in danger. This is the great story of our time. For the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children, we are going to be confronted by people who don't want to live peacefully in a secular, pluralistic world, because they are desperate to get to Paradise, and they are willing to destroy the very possibility of human happiness along the way. The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It's just that some of us haven't realized it yet.

Whatever their conscious motives, these men cannot know why they are as they are. As sickening as I find their behavior, I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Even if you believe that every human being harbors an immortal soul, the problem of responsibility remains: I cannot take credit for the fact that I do not have the soul of psychopath. If I had truly been in Komisarjevsky's shoes on July 23,2007 - that is, if I had his genes and life experience and identical brain (or soul) in an identical state - I would have acted exactly as he did. There is simply no intellectually respectable position from which to deny this.

Whatever their imagined source, the doctrines of modern religions are no more tenable than those which, for lack of adherents, were cast upon the scrap heap of mythology millennia ago; for there is no more evidence to justify a belief in the literal existence of Yahweh and Satan than there was to keep Zeus perched upon his mountain throne or Poseidon churning the seas.

Author Picture
First Name
Sam
Last Name
Harris, formally Samuel B. "Sam" Harris
Birth Date
1967
Bio

American Philosopher, Neuroscientist, Author and Mindful Skeptic, Co-Founder and CEO of Project Reason