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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sam Harris on Islam

The following is a partial transcript of a speech given in 2007 by philosopher Sam Harris regarding the mainstream muzzling of those who speak out about the very serious threat of Islam. We are extremely fortunate to have someone as eloquent, measured and persistent as Sam Harris to talk sense to the world at large during this very dangerous crossroads of human civilization. Harris could not be more correct in his assessments. We ignore his words at our own peril.
"Consider how we as atheists are constrained to talk about Islam. And Christians often complain that atheists balance - and the secular media, generally - balance every discussion of Islam with a discussion of extremist Christianity. The usual mode is to say, 'Well, they have their jihadists, but we have people who kill abortion doctors.' I think our Christian neighbors, even the craziest of them, are right to be outraged by this pretense of evenhandedness. The truth is that Islam is quite a bit scarier and more culpable for needless human misery at this moment than Christianity has been for a very, very long time. And we have to point this out.

"You might remember that Thomas Friedman recently wrote an op-ed from Iraq noticing that some Sunni militias were fighting alongside American troops against al-Qaeda, and he asked a Sunni militant why he was doing this. And the militant said that he had recently seen an al-Qaeda member decapitate an eight-year-old girl, and this convinced him that the American crusader forces were the lesser of two evils. Okay, great, so even Muslims, even Sunni militants, can discern the line between ordinary crazy Islam and the utterly crazy, once it is drawn in the spilled blood of little girls. This is a basis for hope of sorts.

"We have to be clear, unremittingly clear, about what is on the other side of that line. This is what we and the rest of the civilized world, and the semi-civilized world, are facing: Utter religious lunacy and barbarism in the name of Islam, with, I'm unhappy to say, some mainstream theology to back it up.

"To be evenhanded, as we are constrained to be as atheists, when discussing the problem of Islam, is to misconstrue the problem. The refrain that all religions have their extremists is bullshit - all religions don't have these extremists. Some religions have never had these extremists.

"A recent poll in the UK showed that a third of young British Muslims say they want to live under sharia law and think that anyone who wants to leave the faith should be put to death for apostasy. This is a third of British Muslims. 68% of British Muslims think that their neighbors who insult Islam should be arrested and prosecuted. 78% think that the Danish cartoonists should be brought to justice. These people do not have a clue about what constitutes a civil society.

"It seems to me that reports like this coming out of Muslim communities living in the West should concern us before anything else about religion concerns us."


Anonymous said...

That was fantastic!!!

Acharya S said...

Thanks, 22. It's always a pleasure to have you comment on my blog.

Anonymous said...

If you ever get an opportunity to view part 2, it's worth it. It is the question & answer section of his lecture.

Harris has plenty of brilliant Ideas for folks to chew on.

p.s. No, thank you for doing the blog on this issue - one of the top issues of our time.

Acharya S said...

I did watch the second part - it was great too.

Here's some notes I took on that part:

It is interesting that in the Q&A part of this speech, Harris anticipates a drubbing for his interest in mysticism by atheist philosopher and "Bright" movement leader Dan Dennett. Yet, Dennett confesses that he uses Transcendental Meditation in order to "center" and "calm" himself. It would seem that there are many more closet meditators in the atheist community than is admitted. Hence, the contemptuous attitude we find towards such practices, including allowing our own brains and minds to wander where we wish, is unmerited and undesirable. Indeed, simply because one doesn't "believe" in the reigning concept of "God" does not mean one wishes to be subjected to the mind control advocated by too many of the most vocal members of the atheist community. (Including, of course, those who have viciously attacked me, leading me to conclude that civility is scarce no matter what "ism" one follows.) I do believe this notion against mind control is what Sam Harris is attempting to impart in his discussion of the typical atheist stance towards mysticism.

Dennett remarks that he guesses he is a "novice," but that TM is "useful" and "wonderful." At that point, he also comments that he agrees that "if you ignore the prospect that such solitude and deliberate emptying of your mind can stop the noise and give you some insights, I agree entirely." I believe that last sentence means he concurs with Sam Harris that atheists need to stop immediately dismissing all experiences beyond the "normal" realm of science and rationality.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I feel like I understand where they're coming from having practiced & enjoyed meditation as an atheist myself.

I had an Idea based off of Sam's video.

We have fire alarms to alert us of the danger of smoke or fire. A brilliant invention that saves lives. We now have a "Homeland Security Advisory System" color code chart to alert us of the dangers of terrorism.


We need a "FAITH" threat alarm of some sort. Of course, who determines what that threat is? It depends of what ones beliefs are but there's another Idea in & of itself - a reasonable code to compare it to. A set of guidelines if you will, which will help us determine when the threat of faith or fundamentalism of any kind has become overly threatening. Be it theistic or atheistic.

Thoughts please?

Todd the Toad said...

Thanks to Acharya and 22 for telling us about these Sam Harris videos -- I greatly enjoyed both.

Certainly, an atheist can be close-minded and self righteous just like a Baptist fundamentalist.
I think the key is for all of us on all sides of the fence to be "open minded." I wouldn't even call myself a rationalist because I believe that supernatural activity is possible. What I do know for sure is that ALL RELIGION IS MAN MADE.

It is interesting that the atheist movement appears to be splintering into many different flavors. You have your hardliners and para-normal believers, etc... This is a positive development.

As for the Christian who recently asked what my ADP (After Death Plans) are, I'll have to borrow my wife's response: "I don't have any."

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful material, thank you so much for presenting it in a manner for me to find it! Personally I have trouble defining myself as an atheist because I would like to leave open the possibility of some "god" concept even if it is as simplistic as the entire universe is "God" and that be it. However, I am a staunch anti-religionist and happy to accept that label and really pleased to discover "Sun of God" concept (theism? heh) as a practical explanation behind the evolvement of various religions. That has filled in some gaps for me as it was many years ago I came to my own conclusion that if I get to see another sunrise in my lifetime then that is far more impactful and important, to me, than any amount of religious fervor. What I find interesting though is that Sam, acharya, and others, are starting to define a new understanding that could evolve into a another "religion". To counter the inevitable onslaught from various religions against this new athiest-aligned movement, we will provide guidelines for defensive, even offensive, responses and these guidelines will, no doubt in my mind, evolve into the basic commandments of this new "religion". I can see this happening. But I have have a fundamental problem with this future movement because I am anti-religionist but I do hope I have to deal with this "problem" :-)

Anonymous said...

I must say, I am surprised to see this type of post here. While I can certainly understand your justified skepticism vis-a-vis ALL religions, you might want to consider researching another take on the "Muslim scare".

Many folks - such as many a Zeitgeist fan - have concluded that the "Muslim scare" as well as the promotion of "radical Islam" is simply part of the 9-11-based scare (& terrorism) campaign to promote war and frighten the North American and European masses into giving up yet more of their civil rights. Moreover, while I am not one to claim that anything is an "incontrovertible fact", certainly some major "players" in the Muslim scare game are well documented to have been CIA "inventions". In fact, many would claim that "Al-Qaeda" (apparently Arabic slang for "the toilet") never existed but in the imagination of the CIA and their "friends" in the media.

Acharya S said...

Sorry, but the threat of Islam world domination is quite real, as you can simply ask the people who live under Muslim domination, or who are living in countries where Muslims are now becoming dominant. Many European nations are currently under assault from burgeoning Muslims populations - just ask their natives. Sam Harris correct, and there is nothing surprising about me posting material demonstrating a frightening trend that could end human civilization. I am not interested in seeing either myself or my offspring enslaved under Islamic rule, and I will continue to battle this enslavement.

Now, if you want to ask WHY Muslims are being allowed to overrun the earth - and to eventually impose sharia law and enslave everyone - that's a different story.

Anonymous said...

As real as Al-Qaeda? Or as those 19 clever Muslims who managed to convert 3000 people, 3 buildings and 200,000 tons of concrete into finest Grade A dust?

Acharya S said...

These are separate issues, and straw men arguments are a waste of time.

Again, one need only look at the nations that Islamic fanatics have invaded and destroyed over the centuries - long prior to the founding of the U.S. - in order to see what we are discussing here. Not to mention beheadings, floggings, limb amputations, stonings, hangings, genital mutilation, enslavement and routine torture of women, endemic child rape of both genders, murder of infidels, honor killings, widespread animal abuse, and so on - all the human depravity imaginable.

These atrocities are strictly homegrown straight out of the annals of Islam. Again, I am not interested in living in such a barbaric society, and I will continue to speak out against it. If you are so interested, please feel free to move to Saudi Arabia or Somalia, etc., ad nauseam.

Anonymous said...

I can definitely understand your passion. When one looks earnestly at the callous violence that passes for normality all around the world, it can be pretty sickening.

And yet, I think that one must fairly admit that this violence is a feature of societies all around the world - certainly also the United States. Just take the example of the rampant police brutality in the United States; not to mention the so-called War on Drugs (aka the "War on Poor People"). Moreover, it seems to me that since MLK's Riverside speech little has changed - agents of the United States government remain the uncontested principal purveyors of violence worldwide. Certainly the 1m+ in additional deaths racked up by those folks over the past several years is hard to beat.

While I do not wish to minimize the violence in Muslim countries, doesn't a focus on them risk detracting attention from the other SERIOUS serial killers running around?

Acharya S said...

We try to work on all issues at once, but that doesn't mean we ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

Nor does pointing fingers elsewhere remove the issue, which is breathing down our necks at a rapid pace. Again, I do not wish to see my progeny enslaved under Islam - and that's the way it's currently going.

Like I say, if we want to investigate why the powers that be are allowing this development, letting demented, violent Islamists run rampant around the world in "mosques" that are in reality terrorist training camps for millions of Muslims to rampage and destroy non-Muslim society, that would be a useful discovery.

I can only think they are deliberately setting us all up for Armageddon, if you want to talk about mass murder.

Not taking a strong stance against Islamic fanaticism - and it seems that most who call themselves Muslim are fanatical about Islam, because fanaticism is the nature of Islam, with a constant obsession with Allah, praying, religious attire, mind-controlled, robotic behavior, etc. - will only contribute to the apocalyptic atmosphere.

Ditto with the Christ-insanity setting up the opposing view, with constant blather about "the Rapture" and "End Times." These two factions will surely bring off Armageddon. And I do frequently address the Christian role in this blueprint for destruction. In fact, I make remarks about it in the conclusions to all of my books.

The Christ Conspiracy
Suns of God
Who Was Jesus?
The Companion Guide to ZEITGEIST, Part 1

Anonymous said...

Anti-Sharia Video AND petition link here: