Hall of Shame:
Posted: August 3, 2009.
Anyone tempted to believe that the abolition of religion would make the world a wiser and better place should study the works of Sam Harris. Shallow, narrow, and self-righteous, he defends and embodies all of the traits that have made organised religion repulsive; and he does so in the name of atheism and rationality. He has, for example, defended torture, (“restraint in the use of torture cannot be reconciled with our willingness to wage war in the first place”) attacked religious toleration in ways that would make Pio Nono blush: “We can no more tolerate a diversity of religious beliefs than a diversity of beliefs about epidemiology and basic hygiene” ; he has claimed that there are some ideas so terrible that we may be justified in killing people just for believing them. Naturally, he also believes that the Nazis were really mere catspaws of the Christians. (“Knowingly or not, the Nazis were agents of religion”).
“A bold and exhilarating thesis” is what Johann Hari said of Harris’s first book (from which the quotes above are taken), though on reflection he might think it more bold than exhilarating. Richard Dawkins was more wordily enthusiastic in a preface for Harris’s next: “Every word zings like an elegantly fletched arrow from a taut bowstring and flies in a gratifyingly swift arc to the target, where it thuds satisfyingly into the bullseye.” (where else does he expect to find the bullseye?)