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

The intention to do one thing and not another does not originate in consciousness?rather, it appears in consciousness, as does any thought or impulse that might oppose it.

The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.

The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments, and a passionate unwillingness to do so.

The dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists. To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.

The doors leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside. The moderation we see among non-fundamentalists is not some sign that faith itself has evolved; it is, rather, the product of the many hammer blows of modernity that have exposed certain tenets of faith to doubt.

The entirety of atheism is contained in this response. Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which the obvious is overlooked as a matter of principle. The obvious must be observed and re-observed and argued for. This is a thankless job. It carries with it an aura of petulance and insensitivity. It is, moreover, a job that the atheist does not want.

The fact that millions of people use the term morality as a synonym for religious dogmatism, racism, sexism, or other failures of insight and compassion should not oblige us to merely accept their terminology until the end of time.

The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me in the least should suggest to you just how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are.

The fact that one can lose one's sense of self in an ocean of tranquility does not mean that one's consciousness is immaterial or that it presided over the birth of the universe.

The fact that people are being prosecuted and imprisoned for using marijuana, while alcohol remains a staple commodity, is surely the reductio ad absurdum of any notion that our drug laws are designed to keep people from harming themselves or others. Alcohol is by any measure the more dangerous substance, It has no approved medical use, and its lethal dose is rather easily achieved. Its role in causing automobile accidents is beyond dispute. The manner in which alcohol; relieved people of their inhibitions contributes to human violence, personal injury, unplanned pregnancy, and the spread of sexual disease. Alcohol is also well known to be addictive. When consumed in large quantities over many years, it can lead to devastating neurological impairments, to cirrhosis of the liver, and to death. In the United States alone, more than 100,000 people annually die from its use. It is also more toxic to developing fetus than any other drug of abuse. (Indeed, ?crack babies? appear to have been really suffering from fetal-alcohol syndrome.) None of these charges can be leveled at marijuana. As a drug, marijuana is nearly unique in having several medical applications and no known lethal dosage. While adverse reactions to drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen account for an estimated 7,600 deaths (and 76,000 hospitalizations) each year in the United States alone, marijuana kills no one. (drug war facts) Its role as a ?gateway drug? now seems less plausible than ever (and it was never plausible). In fact, nearly everything human beings do ? driving cars, flying planes, hitting golf balls ? is more dangerous than smoking marijuana in the privacy of one?s own home. Anyone who would seriously attempt to argue that marijuana is worthy of prohibition because of the risk it poses to human beings will find that the powers of the human brain are simply insufficient for the job.

The faith of religion is belief on insufficient evidence.

The feeling that we call ?I? is an illusion. There is no discrete self or ego living like a Minotaur in the labyrinth of the brain. And the feeling that there is ? the sense of being perched somewhere behind your eyes, looking out at a world that is separate from yourself ? can be altered or entirely extinguished. Although such experiences of ?self-transcendence? are generally thought about in religious terms, there is nothing, in principle, irrational about them. From both a scientific and a philosophical point of view, they represent a clearer understanding of the way things are...

The God that our neighbors believe in is essentially an invisible person. He?s a creator deity, who created the universe to have a relationship with one species of primates ? lucky us. And he?s got galaxy upon galaxy to attend to, but he?s especially concerned with what we do, and he?s especially concerned with what we do while naked. He almost certainly disapproves of homosexuality. And he?s created this cosmos as a vast laboratory in which to test our powers of credulity, and the test is this: can you believe in this God on bad evidence, which is to say, on faith? And if you can, you will win an eternity of happiness after you die.

The core of science is not a mathematical modeling--it is intellectual honesty. It is a willingness to have our certainties about the world constrained by good evidence and good argument.

The core of science is not controlled experiment or mathematical modeling; it is intellectual honesty. It is time we acknowledge a basic feature of human discourse: when considering the truth of a proposition, one is either engaged in an honest appraisal of the evidence and logical arguments, or one isn't.

The Creator who purports to be beyond human judgment is consistently ruled by human passions?jealousy, wrath, suspicion, and the lust to dominate.

Spirituality must be distinguished from religion?because people of every faith, and of none, have had the same sorts of spiritual experiences.

Start with our genocidal treatment of the Native Americans, add a couple hundred years of slavery, along with our denial of entry to Jewish refugees fleeing the death camps of the Third Reich, stir in our collusions with a long list of modern despots and our subsequent disregard for their appalling human rights records, add our bombing of Cambodia and the Pentagon Papers to taste, and then top with our recent refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol for greenhouse emissions, to support any ban on land mines, and to submit ourselves to the rulings of the International Criminal Court. The result should smell of death, hypocrisy, and fresh brimstone. [Short list of U.S. sins]

Strange bonds of trust and self-deception tend to grow between journalists and their subjects.

Take a moment to think about the context in which your next decision will occur: You did not pick your parents or the time and place of your birth. You didn't choose your gender or most of your life experiences. You had no control whatsoever over your genome or the development of your brain. And now your brain is making choices on the basis of preferences and beliefs that have been hammered into it over a lifetime - by your genes, your physical development since the moment you were conceived, and the interactions you have had with other people, events, and ideas. Where is the freedom in this? Yes, you are free to do what you want even now. But where did your desires come from?

Take, for example, the people who think Elvis is still alive? What?s wrong with this claim? Why is this claim not vitiating our academic departments and corporations? I?ll tell you why, and it?s very simple. We have not passed laws against believing Elvis is still alive. It?s just whenever somebody seriously represents his belief that Elvis is still alive ? in a conversation, on a first date, at a lecture, at a job interview ? he immediately pays a price. He pays a price in ill-concealed laughter.

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give him it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.

That religion may have served some necessary function for us in the past does not preclude the possibility that it is now the greatest impediment to our building a global civilization.

The ?war on drugs? has been well lost, and should never have been waged. While it isn?t explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, I can think of no political right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one?s own consciousness. The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time.

The atheist, by merely being in touch with reality, appears shamefully out of touch with the fantasy life of his neighbors.

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