Sam Harris, formally Samuel B. "Sam" Harris

Harris, formally Samuel B. "Sam" Harris

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

Author Quotes

We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation, or any of the other fantastical notions that have lurked in the minds of the faithful for millennia?because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

We did not lose a decade of progress on stem-cell research in the United States because of religion as a social construct; we lost it because of the behavioral and emotional consequences of a specific belief. If there were a line in the book of Genesis that read ? The soul enters the womb on the hundredth day (you idiots) ? we wouldn?t have lost a step on stem-cell research, and there would not be a Christian or Jew anywhere who would worry about souls in Petri dishes suffering the torments of the damned. The beliefs currently rattling around in the heads of human beings are some of the most potent forces on earth; some of the craziest and most divisive of these are religious, and so-dubbed they are treated with absurd deference, even in the halls of science; this is a very bad combination?that is my point.

We do not know what awaits each of us after death, but we know that we will die. Clearly, it must be possible to live ethically--with a genuine concern for the happiness of other sentient beings--without presuming to know things about which we are patently ignorant. Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass in the street today, is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?

We do our friends no favors by pretending not to notice flaws in their work, especially when those who are not their friends are bound to notice these same flaws.

We have a choice. We have two options as human beings. We have a choice between conversation and war. That's it. Conversation and violence. And faith is a conversation stopper.

We have barely emerged from centuries of barbarism. It's not a surprise that there are shocking inequities in this world. It is hard work to climb down out of the trees and walk upright,and build a viable global civilization when you start with technology that is made of rocks and sticks and fur. This is a project, and progress is difficult.

We have Christians against Muslims against Jews, and no matter how liberal your theology, merely identifying yourself as a Christian or a Jew lends tacit validity to this status quo. People have morally identified with a subset of humanity rather than with humanity as a whole.

We have Christians against Muslims against Jews. They're making incompatible claims on real estate in the Middle East as though God were some kind of omniscient real estate broker parsing out parcels of land to his chosen flock. People are literally dying over ancient literature.

We have this kind of shibboleth which says: what wasn?t reasoned into existence can?t be reasoned out. The truth I think is rather much closer to this: that people are making desperate efforts, rather heroic efforts, to be reasonable, to have a coherent worldview, and when those efforts become too costly or too embarrassing? dogma loses.

We just don?t teach people how to grieve. You know, religion is the epitome, the antithesis of teaching your children how to grieve. You tell your child that, ?Grandma is in heaven?, and there?s nothing to be sad about. That?s religion. It would be better to equip your child for the reality of this life, which is, you know, we... death is a fact. And we don?t know what happens after death. And I?m not pretending to know that you get a dial tone after death. I don?t know what happens after the physical brain dies. I don?t know what the relationship between consciousness and the physical world is. I don?t think anyone does know. Now I think there are many reasons to be doubtful of na‹ve conceptions about the soul, and about this idea that you could just migrate to a better place after death. But I simply don?t know about what... I don?t know what I believe about death. And I don?t think it?s necessary to know in order to live as sanely and ethically and happily as possible. I don?t think you get... You don't get anything worth getting by pretending to know things you don't know.

We know enough at this moment to say that the God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.

We live in a world of unimaginable surprises - from the fusion energy that lights the sun to the genetic and evolutionary consequences of this light?s dancing for eons upon the earth - and yet paradise conforms to our most superficial concerns with all the fidelity of a Caribbean cruise. This is wondrously strange. If one didn't know better, one would think that man, in his fear of losing all that he loves, had created heaven, along with its gatekeeper God, in his own image.

We might also wonder, in passing, which is more moral: helping people purely out of concern for their suffering, or helping them because you think the creator of the universe will reward you for it?

To speak specifically of our problem with the Muslim world, we are meandering into a genuine clash of civilizations, and we're deluding ourselves with euphemisms. We're talking about Islam being a religion of peace that's been hijacked by extremists. If ever there were a religion that's not a religion of peace, it is Islam.

Tolerance, openness to argument, openness to self-doubt, willingness to see other people's points of view - these are very liberal and enlightened values that people are right to hold, but we can't allow them to delude us to the point where we can't recognize people who are needlessly perpetrating human misery.

Understanding ourselves and using this knowledge to improve human life, will be among the most important challenges to science in the decades to come.

Unless experience lasts forever, there is no point. It means nothing. Just try to map this onto your life: every good meal you' had, every pleasant experience as opposed to an unpleasant one, every relationship, none of it means anything, because it ends. A good movie is meaningless ? it?s no better than a bad movie ? because it ends. This is a strange idea, that unless we disappear into infinity with our experience, there is no difference between the most sublime happiness and the most abject suffering. I think when you actually try to connect with that intuition, it?s strange and really insupportable in our moment-to-moment experience. We care very deeply about the character of our experience. In fact, it is the only thing we can care about.

Unlike statements of fact, which require no further work on our part, lies must be continually protected from collisions with reality.

Unreason is now ascendant in the United States?in our schools, in our courts, and in each branch of the federal government. Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution; 68 percent believe in Satan. Ignorance in this degree, concentrated in both the head and belly of a lumbering superpower, is now a problem for the entire world.

Viewing the drug problem from the perspective of health care is instructive: our laws against providing addicts with clean needles have increased the spread of AIDS, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. Since the purity and dosage of illegal drugs remains a matter of guesswork for the user, the rates of poisoning and overdose from drug use are unnecessarily high (as they were for alcohol use during Prohibition). Perversely, the criminal prohibition of drugs has actually made it easier for minors to get them, because the market for them has been driven underground. The laws limiting the medical use of opiate painkillers do little more than keep the terminally ill suffering unnecessarily during the last months of life.

Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. What if someone says, 'Well, that's not how I choose to think about water.? All we can do is appeal to scientific values. And if he doesn't share those values, the conversation is over. If someone doesn't value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn't value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance or logic?

We are all trying to find a path back to the present moment. And good enough reason to just be happy here... Mindfulness meditation is just a trick for doing that. It's a trick for setting aside your to-do list, if only for a few moments, and actually locate a feeling of fulfilment in the present

We are being offered a psychopathic and psychotic moral attitude? it is psychopathic because this is a total detachment from the, from the well-being of human beings. It, this so easily rationalizes the slaughter of children. Ok, just think about the Muslims at this moment who are blowing themselves up, convinced that they are agents of God?s will. There is absolutely nothing that Dr. Craig can s?can say against their behavior, in moral terms, apart from his own faith-based claim that they?re praying to the wrong God. If they had the right God, what they were doing would be good, on Divine Command theory. Now, I?m obviously not saying that all that Dr. Craig, or all religious people, are psychopaths and psychotics, but this to me is the true horror of religion. It allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions, what only lunatics could believe on their own.

We are not self-caused little gods.

We are now in the 21st century: all books, including the Koran, should be fair game for flushing down the toilet without fear of violent reprisal.

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Harris, formally Samuel B. "Sam" Harris
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American Philosopher, Neuroscientist, Author and Mindful Skeptic, Co-Founder and CEO of Project Reason