September 22, 2019
  • 7:14 pm Why Do Non-Jews Have a Special Appreciation of Jews?
  • 7:14 pm What Is the Role of Jews in the World?
  • 6:14 pm Scripture and Tradition with Fr. Mitch Pacwa – 2019-09-17 – 09/17/2019 Mail Bag Show
  • 6:14 pm 10 Things That Will Happen When JESUS RETURNS!
  • 6:14 pm Real Christians DO NOT SIN
Sam Harris, The View from the End of the World, SALT talk

The talk tonight is in a way overdue.
We’ve been doing these Seminars About Long-term Thinking for almost three
years now. And haven’t had a single one about religion. We’ve had a couple where
religion was referred to, usually approvingly. Because it is clearly a long
term frame of reference. Most religions have rights having to do with with birth
with marriage and with death. And they step right up to generational
issues when lots of other institutions do not. But this is not what you would
call a sanctimonious version of religion we’ll be looking at tonight. It’s a
critique in light of current events. It’s a critique in light of, I suppose,
current science current rationality. Sam Harris’ book
joins a couple of others that I would recommend to you: “One True God” by Rodney Stark. The subtitle there is the historical consequences of monotheism.
The philosopher Daniel Dennett has a book coming out very shortly called “Breaking the Spell.” And we’re beginning to see a pretty deep literature addressing some of the profound issues of religion through history and in our
time. And that’s what we have tonight with Sam Harris. It’s a pleasure to be here. I want to thank Stewart and the rest of the Long Now Foundation for inviting me. I’m going to talk about belief and specifically what I consider to be the problem of religious belief. I actually think that how we deal with the
subject of belief how we criticize or fail to criticize the beliefs of other
human beings at this moment has an extraordinary significance for the
maintenance of civilization. I think it could well be the most significant
variable that’s in our power to influence. So I’m going to talk about
belief and I’m gonna say some pretty unpleasant things about religious
belief. I want to warn you up front that I’m going to offend some people in this
room. And that’s really not the point. I’m not being deliberately provocative.
I’m simply worried. I’m gonna worry out loud for the next hour and and try to
make the case to you that we we have no reason to expect to survive our
religious differences indefinitely. Our world has been balkanized into separate
moral communities. We have Christians against Muslims against Jews .
We have most of the human population living with the idea that the creator of the
universe wrote one of their books. And we have many such books on hand. They all
make incompatible claims about the nature of this universe. They make
non-negotiable claims and it is fundamentally taboo we should recognize
to criticize religious faiths and this is a taboo. I’m about to break over the
next hour. First… what do our neighbors believe? Well 22% of Americans claim to be
certain, literally certain, that Jesus is going to come down out of the clouds
like a superhero sometime in the next 50 years. 22% claim to be certain about this. Another 22% think he probably will come
back in the next 50 years. So that’s 44% of us who think that the
human experiment is gonna unravel in their lifetime. And unravel gloriously.
Of course this belief of Jesus’s imminent return is knit together with myriad other beliefs.
It’s not an accident that 44% of Americans also believe that the
creator of the universe literally promised the land of Israel to the Jews.
This was in his capacity as an omniscient real estate broker. The idea it should be clear this
is a fantastically maladaptive idea. This idea that no matter how bad things get someone’s going to come down and wield
his magic powers and rectify all of the misdeeds that we perpetrate on this
Earth. In fact he’s not going to come down until things get fantastically bad
for us. So it’s actually true to say that something like
44% of Americans if they turned on their television sets and
saw that a mushroom cloud had replaced Jerusalem or San Francisco they would
see a silver lining in this cloud. Because it would presage that the best thing that is ever going to happen is about to happen.
(I’m a percussionist as well) Take another species of belief: we’ve all
been pummeled with this idea of “intelligent design”. This debate that is raging
in our culture. That is really eroding the prestige of science and eroding the
prestige of our intellectual culture in the eyes of the rest of the world. There
really is a problem with society of intelligent design I can’t imagine
anyone in this room has not heard of it. But briefly it’s this is notion that the
machinery of the cell is so complex that it could not possibly have emerged
through naturalistic processes. So there has to be a designer. And this designer
while he’s rather casually not named so much now this designer is the
biblical God. Okay they say your your kids could one day be taught
intelligent design in biology class and this should trouble all of us. But it is
important to point out that intelligent design really is a red herring because
depending on what pole you trust something like 44% or as high as 53
percent as of a month ago of Americans are
creationists they don’t fancy intelligent design as an explanation for
evolution they don’t think evolution occurred at all they think the universe
is 6,000 years old and that our only genetic precursors in the natural world
were Adam and Eve just consider for a minute the fact that something like half
of our neighbors believe that we were created from dirt and divine breath in a
garden with a talking snake and a hankering for apples take another belief
that is really this is really a quaint idea and should be of marginal
significance this idea that this Catholic dogma that condom use
contraception is somehow unethical I can assure you that the the computational
powers of the human brain are insufficient to argue successfully for
this this idea on ethical grounds this is this is a ludicrous idea but map this
on to sub-saharan Africa where something like 3 million people every year die
from AIDS you would literally have Christian ministers preaching the
sinfulness of condom use to people whose only information about condom use is the
representation of the ministry this is this is genocide all stupidity and and
yet because of the taboos around criticizing religious faith we cannot we
cannot treat the Vatican which still upholds this view still mandates that
this be taught we cannot treat them like the the criminally negligent
organisation that they are at least on this subject we do not respect other people’s beliefs
it’s important to point this out we on every other subject we evaluate their
reasons you know if I stood up here and said the Holocaust never happened you
would be under no burden whatsoever to respect my beliefs about European
history you know we don’t we don’t respect Holocaust deniers Holocaust
deniers don’t make it on our boards of directors they don’t become presidents
and universities people who think that Elvis is still alive and well and living
in middle America don’t become presidents of universities they don’t
become senators we don’t pass laws against Elvis worship or Holocaust
denial but we successfully marginalize these views these views in every other
area of our lives to be highly certain of something with a very low order of
evidence or or in contradiction to a mountain of evidence is a sign that
something that’s wrong with your mind it’s a sign that you cannot be trusted
and yet on matters of faith we completely change the rules so what I’m
arguing for you really is that we we should practice a kind of conversational
and tolerance beliefs let’s just pause for a minute and and think about what a
belief is we are when we believe something to be true we are making our
best effort to represent reality in our thoughts this is the difference between
a belief and a hope for instance and when you when you hope that something is
true you are you are representing this a possible state of the world but when you
believe that something is true you are you are really trying to capture reality
as it is in your thoughts now either you can have either you have good reasons
for what you believe or you don’t in every other area of our lives we demand
good reasons and we become highly suspicious of people who cannot marshal
good reasons for their core beliefs so there really is a conflict between
religion and science so this conflict has been papered over by scientists and
and religious people at almost every opportunity there really is a conflict
here because it comes down to having good reasons or bad reasons the every
religion is making claims about the way the world is everyone is in the business
of describing the way reality is maybe either Jesus is coming back
or he’s not if he comes back out of the clouds Christianity will stand revealed
as a science that will be the science of Christianity and every Christian who
wants to will be able to say told you so here he is
look at his magic powers and and any scientist in his right mind would be
convinced by a sufficient display of magic powers these are claims that if
these claims purport to be factual and yet no less an organization than the
National Academy of Sciences literally our most prestigious scientific body has
said that there’s no conflict between religion and science because they quote
represent different ways of knowing or quote ask different questions about the
world this is entirely bogus would you just try to try to graph this this no
conflict idea on to a real world decision that take take stem-cell
research for instance no stem cell research is without a doubt one of the
most promising lines of research in biology to generate medical therapies
there are scores of conditions that could well be remediated one of these
days by stem cell research and we are we are pulling the brakes on this research
and these are and for religious reasons the fear is the release
fear is that we have to kill embryos human embryos in order to conduct this
research we have to kill them at a three to five day stage perhaps that sounds
terrible what what is a a three to five day or the human embryo well it’s a
collection of 150 cells not organized into a nervous system there’s no brain
there’s a it’s a sphere of cells maybe 150 cells sounds like a lot of cells
well there are a hundred thousand cells in the brain of a fly flies have brains
flies have neurons very much like our own if we know anything at all about the
relationship between physical complexity and the possibility of having an
experience and the possibility of having interests a we know that more suffering
is visited upon this earth every time we swat a fly then when we kill a
three-day-old human embryo and yet the the ethical argument never has to get
made because of the deference we have for religious faith someone need only
stand in the oval office or on the floor of the Senate and say you know my faith
teaches me that life starts at the moment of conception
there are souls in those human embryos and you cannot one soul can’t trump
another you can’t sacrifice one soul to benefit another end of argument well on
the one hand we have these collections of 150 cells and on the other we have
little girls suffering from diabetes and full body burns we’ve got men and women
with Parkinson’s disease we have literally tens of millions of people
suffering terrible torments which could one day be remediated by this research
okay it I submit to you if you if you think that the interests of a virtually
microscopic collection of cells if you had 10 of these in the palm of your hand
right now you would never notice if you think that the interest of these
organisms may yet Trump the interests of a little girl with full-body burns you
have had your ethical intuitions blinded by religious metaphysics no no ethical
argument would get you there no argument that talked about human suffering and
its and its alleviation would get you there it’s not enough to say that these
these collections of cells are potential human beings a given genetic engineering
every cell in our body with a nucleus is a potential human being every time the
president scratches his nose he’s engaged in a holocaust of potential
human beings this is literally so given the right conditions let’s just linger
for a moment I don’t want to talk too much about stem cell research but it
really demonstrates the point that we never have to have the conversation
because faith Trump’s rational argument on these subjects
just take take them for a moment the claim that there are souls in this petri
dish that every human blastocyst a three-day-old embryo is insult ok well
unfortunately embryos at that stage can split into twins so what happens we have
one soul becoming two souls embryos that an even later stage confuse back into
climate what’s called a chimera a single individual born of two embryos so do we
have two souls becoming one soul the this arithmetic of souls doesn’t make
much sense so what I’m arguing for you tonight and what I argue at some length
in my book is either we have good reasons for what we believe or we don’t
and faith is the license that religious people give one another to keep
believing when reasons fail to keep believing in the absence of evidence and
this is unacceptable in every other area of our lives and it’s actually
unacceptable even if you take the wrong religious object I mean just imagine how
a senator would be perceived if in in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina he said you know we really have not been praying to Poseidon
enough and that after all is his jurisdiction that is the sea we’re
talking about he’d just imagine what a lunatic misuse
of the human mind that would appear to be it’s not like someone discovered in
the third century that the biblical God really really exists and Poseidon he’s
just a myth they have exactly the same status except one has to speak of the
biblical God something like 2 billion subscribers now in the face of this
rather obvious conflict between religious fundamentalism certainly and
scientific rationality many of us many well-meaning well-educated people
especially in the West have created a kind of accommodation to modernity and
we call it religious moderation now in my book I say some very critical things
about religious moderation that’s actually been some of the most
controversial aspects of my arguments I want to I want to say those things now
so you get a taste of my heresy in full the first thing to concede up front is
that religious moderation is better than religious fundamentalism it nobody flies
a plane into a building because he’s a religious moderate the religious
moderates are not organizing their lives around apocalyptic prophecy and this is
a very good thing but religious moderation has some real liabilities and
the first is that it gives an extraordinary amount of cover to
religious fundamentalism because it because moderates also have made it
taboo to criticize religious faith itself to criticize the basic project of
thinking that you’re a Jew or a Muslim or a Christian of raising your children
to think believe that they are Jews or Muslims or
Christians because because religious moderates are still attached to that
that obeisance to to tradition they have they don’t want anything too critical
said about the people who really really believe in the literal word of their
holy books and this is not serving us at this point it is even taboo among
religious moderates to notice the differences among our religions that all
our religions don’t teach tolerance and compassion to the same degree and where
they do teach it they don’t teach it equally well this is the fundamentalist
understand this you know our own fundamentalist demagogues when when
Muslims start flying planes into our buildings they say Islam as an evil
religion they don’t have a problem that noticing the differences among religions
moderates are the ones who have given us these euphemisms this idea that Islam
for instance is a religion of peace that’s been hijacked by extremists and
that Osama bin Laden is is the the Reverend Jim Jones of the Muslim world
or the David Koresh of the Muslim world Osama bin Laden is articulating a very
plausible version of Islam that has more subscribers than we would like to admit
but the doctrines of martyrdom and jihad are not fringe doctrines in in Islam
this idea that that death in defense of the faith is the best thing that could
possibly happen to another human being this really is a deal breaker and this
really is believed by millions of Muslims maybe to linger on this point for a
moment because it really is of excruciating relevance to us at this
point where are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide
bombers I mean if if occupation were enough if being conquered by an outside
power and being hauled off to jail and tortured were enough to so deranged a
society that it would form a death cult like we see brewing in the Muslim world
we should see Tibetan Buddhists blowing themselves up on Chinese buses we should
see Tibetan Buddhists in thronging in the streets calling for the deaths of
Chinese non-combatants we do not see this and and we are we’re profoundly
unlikely to see it it’s abettin Buddhists believe a lot of wacky things
about the nature of the universe they don’t believe those wacky things
that you have to believe to form a death cult it’s not that it’s impossible that
Buddhism could could inform at this kind of behavior and actually Zen Buddhism
did to some significant degree and form the worldview of the kamikaze pilots
during World War two it’s interesting to know it over just as
a Buddhist scholar that that one of the things then can be criticized for is not
really focusing on compassion to the degree that other schools of Buddhism do
and there’s this whole martial spirit and tons of martial metaphors in in Zen
Buddhism that lent themselves rather readily to Japanese nationalism but
there are differences among our religions we are never by any stretch of
the imagination going to encounter Jain suicide bombers so Jainism is just it’s
a religion of non-violence the more deranged you become as a Jain by your
religious dog dogmas you will become less and less violent I mean the really
fundamentalist Jane’s wear cheesecloth over their mouths so they won’t inhale
bugs the core of Jainism really is non-violence but by no stretch of the
imagination can you say that the core of Islam is non-violence religious
moderates are uniquely ill placed to concede this
so when the religious moderate sees the jihadist on the videotape say things
like we love death more than the infidels love life and then he blows
himself up it’s the religious moderate who was left
thinking no that couldn’t be religion I mean that’s not that’s propaganda that’s
that guy must have lacked economic opportunities or I mean my only the the
United States are misadventures in the Middle East must explain that that’s not
faith okay religious moderates don’t know what it’s
like to be certain of paradise religious moderates don’t know what it’s like to
really believe in the god of the Quran or of the bomb of the the Bible the Old
Testament or new if all you have to do to satisfy yourself on this subject is
consider the biographies of the nineteen hijackers who were these guys who woke
up on September 11 and decided to fly planes into buildings the they were
college educated many of them had PhDs they were middle class they were they
were not people who had histories personal histories of political
oppression they were not spending inordinate amounts of time at a ting for
regime change in the Middle East but what they were what they were spending
inordinate amount of time doing is hanging out at their local mosque in
Hamburg talking about the pleasures that await martyrs in Paradise and the evils
of infidel culture these were true believers and you can get their
worldview out of the Koran very readily but we are at war with Islamic
fundamentalism but not terror a terrorism is a tactic and you know it’s
a separate conversation to talk about what percentage of the Muslim world fits
this description and we’re certainly our policy now is not doing anything but
alienate more Muslims and create more jihadists but we have an extraordinary
problem because the doctrine of Islam really a bit we’re at war with with
Islamic fundamentalism but the the fundamental we’re only at war with
Islamic fundamentalism because the fundamentals of Islam really are a
problem and I just want to make clear that I’m not talking about a race here
I’m not talking about Arabs I’m not talking about an ethnicity I’m talking
about John Walker Lindh the white guy from Marin who went to fight with the
Taliban I’m talking about the logical consequences of ideas one study actually
of known al-qaeda operatives found that two-thirds of them were college
graduates and middle class well only 52% of Americans have been to any college
okay this is this is not merely a problem of Education I don’t know how
many more architects and engineers need to fly planes into our buildings before
we realize this is not merely a problem of Education our situation is far more
sinister than that it is possible to be so well educated that you could build a
nuclear bomb and still think you’re going to get the 72 virgins in paradise another problem with religious
moderation is that it is it represents a fundamentally unprincipled use of reason
it really is intellectually bankrupt at least fundamentalists talk about
evidence you ask a fundamentalist why he believes that Jesus is coming back and
he’ll give you a an evidentiary story he’ll give you an argument it’s not a
good argument but he’ll say things like the New Testament confirms all of Old
Testament prophecy or all of the prophecies in the Bible have actually
been come true in history these are not good reasonable claims but if these were
true if this this was true this would be an argument for the you know maybe the
Bible is emanating from some omniscient source okay what do moderates talk about
when you ask them why they believe in God moderates talk about meaning this
belief gives their lives meaning they talk about the good consequences of
believing as they do I want you to appreciate for a moment just what a non
sequitur this is when you transfer to some other subject some other consoling
proposition this is it’s actually there’s an example in my book imagine if
your neighbor claimed to believe that there was a diamond buried in his
backyard that’s the size of a refrigerator can you ask him why you see
him out on his lawn digging every Sunday with his family imagine how you would
feel about his mental faculties if he said well this belief gives my life a
tremendous amount of meaning you know you don’t understand my family and I
really enjoy digging for this on Sundays and it has a remarkable bonding effect
on us or what if he said I wouldn’t want to live in a universe where there wasn’t
a diamond buried in my backyard it’s it’s pretty clear that these
responses are inadequate I’m deeply inadequate they’re worse than that they
really are the responses of a madman or an idiot and it’s so easy to see and yet
change the subject to the existence of God who can hear your prayers who’s
looking out for you despite all of the other devastation we see in the world
going on each day God is protecting you and your family you change you change
the subject to that proposition and all bets are off in fact you could not
possibly get elected to office in this country unless you endorsed that kind of
thinking about the existence of God another problem with the religious
moderation is that it is it’s not only intellectually bankrupt
it is theologically bankrupt it’s not like a closer look at the books delivers
religious moderation I’ve got news for you I’ve read the books God is not a
moderate and there’s nowhere you read certainly let’s just take Christianity
and Judaism for a moment you read the Old Testament I mean that that is a the
worldview urged upon us the the kind of society urged upon us is so needlessly
horrible that the truth is most fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox
Jews can’t take God at His Word you think the killing never stops if you if
you were gonna draw your worldview you’re gonna draw your to-do-list out of
books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Exodus you’re gonna make mullah omar of
the Taliban look like Franklin Delano Roosevelt I mean it is if your children
talk back to you you kill them you kill homosexuals you keep your neighbors
working on the Sabbath you kill him if a if a woman’s on a virgin on her wedding
night take her to the edge of town and stone her to death
if you come if you come into a town and you see someone praying to a foreign god
you kill him you kill his family kill every man woman and child in the town
you kill wizards you kill mediums you kill fornicators and kill adulterers but
the list is long and preposterous and there are actually some groups in this
country that want to return to that style of life there there’s this
movement it’s probably not no probably not well known to you all but the
Christian reconstructionists also known as dominionists actually just bite the
bullet here and say yeah well that is what God wants that law has not been
rescinded and they’re right the law is not
rescinded but many Christians are living with this idea that Jesus somewhere in
him in his ministry fundamentally repudiated all of Old Testament law
there are a few lines where you can get Jesus to say something seemingly like
that but there’s there’s so much else in the New Testament that ramifies Old
Testament law and these Christian Reconstructionist by the way are are
amazingly influential that the the level of activism we see in in the
fundamentals community now has largely been seeded by them because they another
thing Christian Reconstructionist believe is that Jesus is not going to
come back until after a millennium of Christian beatific domination of the
globe so we have to fully establish a Christian world before Jesus comes back
there in a minority believing this but but their their energy the energy with
which they have approached that task has been contagious and they these are not
people believe in this stuff are not fringe characters in our society there
are people who can get Karl Rove on the phone who want to practice the worldview
of Leviticus killing homosexuals for instance you’re just to linger on this point of
what they what Christianity to take a specific subset actually advocates a
it’s it’s not an accident that st. Augustine and st. Thomas Aquinas that
two of the great lights of the Christian tradition both thought heretics should
be tortured actually Augustine thought they should be tortured and his argument
for the use of torture actually laid the foundations for the Inquisition Aquinas
thought they should just be killed outright these are these are the great
lights of the Christian tradition these these guys are still taught in every
great book seminar in this country and and it’s important to point out that
this is totally reasonable given certain rather ludicrous ideas if you but if you
think that the creator of the universe really wrote this book it’s it’s insane
not to live by it and living by it gets you by no accident the kind of life we
saw for five hundred years in medieval Europe we were burning people alive for
heresy again we look from our perch in the present we look back on this and we
think well this these people were just deranged you know this is just a whole
culture plunging into psychopathology it’s really not true it is it just think
about this if your neighbor can say something to your child that is so
spiritually wayward that it could put your child in peril for eternity but
literally just drive your child into eternal torment that person next door is
far more dangerous than a child molester so really believing this stuff has
consequences and we secularists and moderates have fundamentally lost touch
with the fact that millions and millions of people really believe this stuff the final problem with religious
moderation in my view is that because most of us most moderates are content to
merely relax their hold on all of these superstitions and taboos
that are coming to us from these traditions because it’s just because
moderation is just a hewing to these traditions into these texts into these
dogmas but just kind of relaxing the literalism and it’s believed that that
is good enough in fact that is somehow necessary and redeeming and we did
that’s indispensable for us as a culture it prevents us from developing rational
creative 21st century alternatives to religion the search for better
alternatives has stopped because we’re Jews where Christians were Muslims and
all of that is terrifically important it’s important to point out that we
decide what’s good in the good book but we take our ethical intuitions to the
texts and when we read the golden rule for instance we decide yet that is a
great distillation of our ethical intuitions do unto others as you would
have them do unto you okay that’s a keeper okay we decide that
if this is the if the Bible is the best book we have on moral questions you know
if you’re a fundamentalist it’s the best book we have because it’s literally been
inspired by the Holy Ghost or it’s literally been dictated by the creator
of the universe if you’re a moderate is the best book we have because the the
wisest people and the wisest tradition that has ever existed has has delivered
us this text if either of those claims are true well consider consider what
kind of morality falls out of that and consider a moral question that has been
solved to everyone’s satisfaction consider the
question of slavery slavery was an abomination we are all we are we are
relieved of a terrible moral burden no longer practicing slavery Thomas
Jefferson would have been a better man had he freed his slaves absolutely if
this is the best book we have the Bible is the best book we have old or new
testament by the way we should be practicing slavery the creator of the
universe clearly expects us to keep slaves he simply tells us not to beat
them so badly that we knock out their eyes or their teeth because then we have
to set them free but he otherwise tells us how to keep slaves Jesus clearly
expects us to keep slaves he never repudiates the institution of
slavery he talks about he refers to slaves in his parables he talks about
slaves being beaten by their masters and and never puts this into question Paul
in first Timothy admonishes slaves to serve their masters well and to serve
their Christian masters especially well so as to partake in their holiness if
this is the best book we have the abolitionists were on the wrong side of
the argument and it should be no surprise to no one that the slave
holders of the south for many long years justified their practices by resort to
the good book so my argument and really one of the
central conclusions of my book is that all we have is human conversation all we
have is our own ethical intuitions exercised in conversation with other
human beings you can either put your faith in a 21st century conversation
with all of our intellectual resources available to us or you can put your
faith in some other century’s conversation as enshrined in one of
these books you can put your faith in an in an Iron Age conversation you take the
Bible or you can put your put your faith in a seventh century conversation – if
you take the Quran the problem with faith is that it really is a
conversation stopper it the moment you faith is a declaration of immunity to
the powers of conversation it is a it is a a reason why you do not have to give
reasons for what you believe this is really a problem because when the stakes
are high we have a simple choice between conversation and violence at the level
of societies we have a choice between conversation and war the faith religious faith is the only
area of discourse where immunity to conversation is considered noble but
it’s the only area of our lives where someone can win points for saying
there’s nothing that you could say that would change my mind I mean just imagine
a medical doctor saying there’s nothing that could be said that will change my
mind that is that claim is synonymous with saying I’m taking no state of the
world ultimately into account in believing what I believe there’s nothing
that could change about the world – that would cause me to revise my
beliefs this is it should be clear this is intrinsically divisive I mean the
only thing that guarantees that our collaboration with one another is truly
open-ended is our willingness to have our core beliefs revised through the
power of conversation now that there are two kinds of conflict born of faith and
and it’s mode as a conversation stopper there there are a lot of people dying in
the name of faith and they’re not explicitly theological grievances being
exercised if you take something like the violence in Northern Ireland or the the
fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia these are these are conflicts that that
are when these societies got stressed they broke along religious lines but
it’s not like the Irish we’re fighting over the the the doctrine of the
transubstantiation but still what the problem is their moral identities were
organized around this this adherence to a tradition and there are they’re
clearly there are other forms of division in our world there is
nationalism there’s tribalism generally there’s racism but but religious faith
is the most articulate layer of human difference is really it is really the level at
which you you can learn to demonize other human beings so there’s that
violence and it is it is pervasive in our world but then there’s also the
added violence that is explicitly theological where people would not
otherwise be behaving this way at all but for what they believe about God and
this is and jihadism and the the the daily explosions we see or read about in
the world is the preeminent example here so my argument really and and the the
the central argument of my book is that to make religious war unthinkable the
way that things like slavery and cannibalism seem poised to become to
make it unthinkable we have to undermine the dogma of faith we have to to repudiate this idea that beliefs can be
sanctified by something other than evidence and argument now I’ve just said
many nasty things about religion this is this is not to say that religion is
merely a shell game that it’s just a tissue of lies and self-deceptions and
cognitive errors that are designed to inner us to the threat of death it’s it
is that to some significant degree but it is not merely that there is no doubt
that human beings have spiritual experiences for lack of a better word I
use these words use words like spiritual and mystical in my book and have
received much grief from atheists on this subject but there’s no doubt that
there’s a wing there’s an end of the spectrum of positive human experience
that very few people explore and that has traditionally been explored in a
religious content of context and it is fantastically interesting it should be
of interest to us scientifically and personally every culture has produced
people who have wandered off into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights or
spent 20 years in a cave and come out talking about how human experience our
moment-to-moment experience of the world can be deliberately transformed through
introspection through meditation through prayer through through deliberate uses
of attention the problem is that these claims have always been made in a
religious context and are now in our world virtually always cluttered with
religious dogma to a greater and lesser degree the one
in the spirit of violating the taboo of noticing are the differences among our
religions the wisdom of contemplative life spiritual mystical wisdom is by no
means been evenly distributed throughout the world no more so than scientific
insight has been evenly distributed the East really does have something over the
West when when it comes time to talk about an empirical non-dogmatic
first-person science of it an approach to introspection that really delivers
the goods it’s not that there have been extraordinary individuals in the West
there have been the meister eckhart sand other people who transcended the limits
of their of their doctrine but the disparity is rather extraordinary
between eastern and western mystical wisdom it’s it’s every bit into in my
view it’s every bit as as extraordinary as the difference between Western
Western medicine and Eastern medicine and maybe there are some conditions for
which Eastern medicine is better but you know if you have an appendicitis you
better hope you can get to a western-style hospital and get a Western
strain surgeon to work on you incidentally if you get do get an
appendicitis you might consider the fact that you’ve been intelligently designed
the appendix is proof positive that this is a bogus idea so I want I’ve lost track of time how
are we to have a is anyone keeping the clock okay yeah yeah well briefly I just want to
say what I think are the the messages of our contemplative traditions that we we
can incorporate into our 21st century worldview that we must incorporate
really because the burden is upon us to develop a thoroughgoing science of human
happiness and approach to human happiness that addresses questions of
human happiness at every level biochemically psychologically
economically politically every level and one of one necessary level I would argue
is contemplative we have to make sense of the fact that it’s possible to go
into a cave for ten years and be perfectly happy this is not to say that
that that’s a path to happiness for everybody then no doubt there are people
who go into caves who are completely deranged or deranged by the experience
but it the one of the core insights of our contemplative traditions is that
there is something about human consciousness that can be recognized in
the present moment the very part of you that is hearing the sound of my voice
there’s something that can be recognized about what it is to be conscious in this
moment that transcends the vagaries of pleasant and unpleasant experience but
there’s a kind of mystical well-being that we can discover it’s interesting to
note that you know solitary going into a cave solitary confinement is considered
a a punishment even inside a prison for most people this is what it’s like to be
the prisoner of one’s thoughts and we in the West we have a really impoverished
conception of sanity we we think all day long from the from the moment we were
chased out of bed by our thoughts in the morning we think think think think think
all day long and very few of us and certainly very few exemplars in in the
Western tradition have have talked intelligently about
possibility of not being lost in thought what would a human mind be like that was
not continuously colored by this this discursivity and in in the east and in
Buddhism especially they have spent millennia on this and delivered some
very compelling insights and just to let this seem like a crazy eruption of
speculative philosophy I just want to try to tie this down for a second
because there it’s I want to make sense up to you of the claim that it’s
possible to there’s something to be glimpsed about the nature of your
consciousness right now that is not obvious to you and yet is right on the
surface and by analogy I want you to reflect on the existence of the of the
blind spot the optic blind spot we all know we have a blind spot in both visual
fields it’s it’s it results from the transit of the optic nerve through the
retina of each eye we’ve all I’m sure all of you have had it pointed out to
you you draw a spot on a piece of paper and you move that piece of paper until
the spot disappears and that proves there is something there’s an area in
your visual field that you’re not getting information from though your
visual field seems seamless to you now most people in this world probably don’t
know about the blind spot and most of us who know about it go for decades without
thinking about it we certainly don’t notice it but it is there to be noticed
to be if you look out across this room somebody is probably missing a head it’s there to be seen and it takes some
doing to see it there is an analogous fact about the nature of human
consciousness and and the and the fact is this consciousness does not feel like
a self it does not feel like what we take ourselves to be moment to moment
most of our lives that the sense that we are the thinker of our thoughts the the
experience of our the experiencer of our experience and most of us feel like we
don’t feel identical to our sphere of experience we feel like we are having an
experience we feel like we’re riding around in our head somewhere behind our
eyes not identical to our body not identical to the contents of
consciousness this is a kind of cognitive error that really can be seen
through and it takes some doing it takes some study it takes some meditation to
you it can take a lot of work but it holds immense implications for us as a
species and it holds immense implications for our conception of human
happiness and what is norm normative human behavior and and finally science
is starting to to turn its attention on this and now I’m sure many of you know
that that there’s a very fruitful dialogue happening between
neuroscientists and and contemplatives mostly Buddhist contemplatives but
contemplatively and what it links up to in neuroscience is this idea that that
our brains really are plastic that we that there they are there’s a
neuroplasticity there that allows the brain to change itself based on how it
is used the brain is really an instrument that changes based on how it
is played and positive mental states are our skills essentially just as you can
learn to play the piano you can learn to feel differently about other human
beings you can learn to feel compassion where you otherwise wouldn’t and this
this dialogue is just beginning but it’s it’s something that it’s a dialogue we
need to have completely trained by religious dogmatism so to
wrap up I just want one way of summarizing what I’ve said is that
everyone really is a scientist in that everyone is making claims about the way
the world is and everyone is a mystic in the sense that everyone is seeking
happiness in a context that is in some basic sense hostile to the terms of our
search we are seeking happiness seeking durable happiness in the context of an
ever-changing experience so what I’m asking you to imagine is what would it
be like to have a culture where we we came to terms with this fact where we
came to terms with the reality of death did this astonishing fact that all of us
are gonna die this is this astonishing fact that living long enough all of us
will witness the death of everyone we love maybe if it is possible to find
true well-being in the midst of this circumstance we should be desperate to
find it and we should be desperate to use all of our tools all of our 21st
century tools and and articulate these truths in terms that are not divisive in
terms that are that do not demand belief in the preposterous so my argument
really is that the endgame for civilization as we’re talking about
long-term thinking the endgame is not political correctness it is not the mere
toleration of patent absurdity it really is reason and
reasonableness and an openness to conversation thank you very much I’ll
talk about end times and the question thank you so the end times
this is seminar sponsored to encourage long term thinking but it seems as if at
least in the fundamentalist variety of religion there’s a lot of emphasis on
the end times meaning that we’re about to have the end times
we’d have no future can you say anything about what you’ve learned about this
idea of the end times yeah yeah well there’s as I said at the beginning
something like forty five forty four percent of us subscribe to this basic
view that the end is very near it’s somewhere in the next 50 years and it
should be clear that this has geopolitical consequences this has an
amazing number of people are narrowly focused on literally one building in the
Middle East and we have the the al-aqsa mosque built upon the site of the the
old temple and many fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews Orthodox
Jews think the Messiah will not come until that mosque is raised and the
temples rebuilt fundamentalist Christians think Jesus won’t come back
until that mosque is raised and the temple is rebuilt and Muslims the world
over take a an exquisite interest in the integrity of that mosque is considered
the third holiest site in the Muslim world it really is not an exaggeration
to say that that if anything happens to that building the wheels come off I mean
this is it it really could be there’s there’s a there’s a piece of
architecture that could precipitate World War three it is considered so
sacred and the Muslims incidentally have the same kind of eschatology there’s
slight differences incidentally Jesus is going to come back and preach Islam but this this idea that
the world is gonna end and it is gonna end in your generation very likely and
that is ending somehow is a good thing because it is the necessary precursor to
the best thing that that’s a very scary belief and it is it is not a fringe
belief perhaps you you guys remember this but
Reagan brought Hal Lindsey a religious lunatic of the first order and Jerry
Falwell a lunatic of the second order perhaps it in to brief the the Pentagon
on the the implications of Biblical prophecy for our strategic situation
visa V the Soviet Union okay this is this is not the and and the current
administration well I you know I’m not a fan of of the president’s I don’t think
he we who knows what he believes but he doesn’t strike me as a Pat Robertson
character the fact that Pat Robertson could even aspire to to launch a
presidential campaign should terrify us and the fact that people like him and
and Dobson more relevantly at the moment have the ear of those in power and can
exact concessions from those in power and we have people like Tom DeLay who
say that they came to into the business of government to to forward a biblical
worldview these these beliefs are operative and they are fundamentally
hostile to our creating a durable future for ourselves now it’s true we had a
speaker maybe three speakers ago who came from a scientific point of view and
it was offering a different kind of endtime so what do you think of the
faith that a coming technological singularity will be a buck elliptic
event in the next fifty years you must be speaking about Ray Kurzweil yes I
have not read his book so I can’t really comment on
that thesis the idea that our exponential advances in technology could
transform human society in a way that is presently unthinkable it seems to me
there are good reasons to believe that and it’s what the timeframe in is and
what what transformations are likely that’s that’s certainly a subject for
for reasonable debate the issue though is that there there are many scientific
ideas that are fantastically strange far even stranger than the idea that
somebody was born of a virgin or is coming back or that there’s a there’s a
mission being who can hear your prayers I mean that those are strange ideas but
you know Martin Rees the the the Royal astronomer recently wrote that because
this this in this thesis in physics of inflation this idea that we hit there
could be myriad bubble universes and all functioning by different laws and that
basically everything that could be tried has been tried this gets this bequeaths
the notion that you should expect that there are with this many universes that
there are going to be many many civilizations far more advanced than our
own and that these super intelligent beings will have invented computation
and that their computation will be so powerful that that they’ll be able to
simulate whole universes in their computers and almost by definition these
new these simulated universes will outnumber real universes and therefore
we should expect to find ourselves in a simulation rather than in a real
universe now this is a very weird idea and maybe it’s it suggests one thing
that it suggested me is that physics has now become so rarefied that it’s almost
impossible to know when a physicist is joking but the important thing to point out is
that there is a difference between having reasons to believe this and
having no reasons and to end and one thing we we maintain in scientific
discourse no matter how weird it gets at the peripheries is an intellectual
honesty where we when we’re certain about something we claim we’re certain
when we’re not certain we don’t claim or certain and and and the pressure to vet
ideas and to jettison Dogma wherever you can find it is exquisite in science and
it is non-existent in Orthodox religion by the way that question was from Mark L
we kind of like to use names here this is a question from amber if you want to
raise your hand you can from all the feedback you’ve received on your book or
in person at a talk like this one what comment or question has shifted your
perspective the most from what you originally wrote or said that’s that’s
interesting question I don’t know if there’s one comment one thing that I did
just before the book was published is I created a website and the the difference
between having done that and not doing it it was so extraordinary because I’ve
just had thousands of emails and but for the website I would have no idea who was
reading the book and what their their response was and the emails have just
come from the most the craziest range of people I mean there there are the
ministers in the South still practicing as ministers but have completely lost
their faith and just can’t figure out what other job they’re qualified for
they’ve written me then they’re there are people who me one thing that’s
interesting and this is I didn’t have to write my book to discover this you spend
long enough in academia you discover this in fact you discover this nowhere
so readily is in a philosophy seminar people
very rarely change their minds maybe there you can I can count on one hand
the number of times I’ve seen someone undergo a full change of perspective
just fully blown in real time oh my god I didn’t see it that way i repudiate
everything I was talking about a moment ago no those are like supernova
explosions in the universe rarely happen and and bearing witness to them and just
seeing how intractable our attachment is to religious mythology even by by very
smart people I mean I get the same objections over and over again it’s it’s
it’s really the whole notion of a meme is very compelling when you see the same
language and the same why why is not coming to you from very disparate
sources coming reflexively and yeah I mean that’s I don’t know if that’s
adequate answer that question so have you changed your mind about anything oh
good question well I’m open-minded and the one thing
that’s come to me that is a doubt that is creeping in to my discourse on this
subject is I don’t know what the normative response would be to our
situation I’m advocating something I’m advocating what I’ve come to call a
conversational intolerance where we apply the same standards of
reasonableness on on questions about God and ethics and the afterlife that we
apply on every other subject but I clearly would not want the President of
the United States to speak the way I just spoke you know that would be that
would be so inflammatory I’m just just take the Muslim world as let’s say we
completely put our house in order domestically and the 260 million
Americans who claim to be certain that they are in they have a relationship
with God change their minds and thought just the way I thought then we still
have an immense problem how do we speak reasonably in the face of the religious
polarities in our world and I’m starting to feel that I might I simply die simply
don’t know and I don’t know how steep the the honesty curve should should be
and I and I’m the first to admit that I am not the face of diplomacy on this
subject and so that I mean that has been brought home to me it’s been hammered
into me over these many months here’s a question from Wayne Welch again if you
want to identify what accounts for the resurgence of religious literalism
fundamentalism in the US since the era the Scopes Monkey Trial say since 1920s
yeah it’s well there’s certainly the perception that there’s a resurgence and
I think there is a there is a political empowerment even under the current
administration that is appears to be new I can’t untangle just how much
I’m just paying attention to it more and how much it’s always been there but the
as far as what people believe that has been remarkably stable ever since scopes
the Gallup polling goes back about 70 or 80 years and on questions like do you
think Satan literally exists do you think Jesus was literally born of a
virgin many many questions the the the percentages just tick you know within
the margin of error through the decades it’s not like we have suddenly produced
many fundamentalists who weren’t there 70 years ago this is a question from I
can’t read the writing as maybe Anoa whatever else can be said about religion
it does provide an emotional component happiness and hope science does not have
as much emotional impact because we dismissed emotions as irrational what
can we do to focus a discussion on the emotional benefits of science instead of
the irrational drawbacks of religion yeah that’s a good question
well the first thing to point out is that science has just fundamentally not
addressed questions of human happiness for most of its career now there is a a
conception of positive psychology now people are asking questions about human
happiness and normative states in neuroscience and in psychology they’re
people doing neuroimaging work on compassion for instance but this is a
really recent development and therefore religion has seemed to be the only game
in town all these years even with even with the steady encroach of a scientific
worldview that that has beaten back religious ignorance on every other
subject there was a time where you could you know you have epilepsy really but
nobody knows what epilepsy is so you’re the diagnosis is demonic possession
right well now that’s not such a common diagnosis and we understand that when
when people are having seizures there’s another reason for it there has to be an
analogous breakthrough on questions of happiness and on questions of spiritual
it’s and it’s just you know it’s in it’s in
the offing because the effort simply has not been made another another thing I’d
like to to say in address to that question is that this idea that somehow
our religious affiliations our religious beliefs are doing a lot of work for us
they’re really consoling and they’re underwriting morality in some way this
this is a this is largely disproved by just a character of belief in Western
Europe I mean Western Europe is there’s almost no resemblance to the United
States in terms of the level of religious adherence and if you look at
the the the UN indices of societies health you look at at per capita income
literacy homicide rates rates of other violent crime every index of a society’s
health the most atheist atheistic societies in the world are the best off
I mean societies like Iceland and Sweden and Australia and Denmark and the
Netherlands I mean these are these are in Sweden something like eighty percent
of people claim to be atheists you know here eighty-three percent claim to
believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead so the idea that somehow this
belief system is giving us is paying such great dividends in terms of our
treating one another well in this society that that is that remains to be
proven that said it is true that if you really believe that death is only a
parent and you’re going to be reunited with everyone you love after you die
really believing that has consequences and it takes the sting out of death I
mean it has to if you think that you just have to wait a few years until you
die and then you’re going to see your kid again and everyone else who you who
you otherwise would be terribly agree to lose in this life one real problem
with that is that we on the geopolitical level we want the sting very much in
death I mean we are now confronting people who have taken the sting out of
death and we have destructive technology proliferating we have to anticipate a
time where we may have the functional the psychological equivalent of the
nineteen hijackers as a regime with long-range nuclear weapons and that is
in that situation you don’t want the sting out of death you want that you
want deterrence you want people who are afraid to die or otherwise don’t are not
eager to die and so anyway so this could be a long conversation about what
positive virtues perhaps come out of religious thinking and what the
alternatives are clearly we want rational alternatives this is a question
from Dorian you can identify yourself if you want to the news maybe it’s a San
Francisco question the New Age scene especially the psychedelic angle
consisted of people very interested in technology and science and spirituality
what do you think about this fusion of spirituality and science and tech well
one way into this is that at the level of the brain which we’re talking about
the fact that our nervous system is perturb a ball its perturb a ball based
on how we consciously use our attention its perturb Obul based on ingesting
various compounds that that either act like neurotransmitters or modulate our
own neurotransmitters and neuromodulators but this is this is a as
an organism we can intervene in our experience and and and certain
interventions are normative and really interesting and worth pursuing
and others carry serious liabilities I mean one problem but speak specifically
about drugs for instance we have one word we have this word drug to name this
range of compounds that some of which bear absolutely no resemblance and their
effects to others the word drug is a word like religion you know there’s a
very different religions and there are very different drugs and you know like
I’m sure many people in this room I’ve had psychedelic experiences that have
been extraordinarily useful and there’s also something about psychedelics in
their current state which which seems rather imprecise and haphazard and you
know I happen to think that meditation and meditation retreats you know very
deliberate weeks and months spent practically practice various techniques
of meditation is a much more systematic and mulai abilities and and some of the
same state certainly can be experienced that way okay I have two questions
remaining here here’s one of them from Pat you describe some of the emotional
experiences of being an elf’s book and promoter of reason well it’s a new it’s
my career as a heretic essentially just started so it’s I guess by the in large
part it’s been it’s been amazingly gratifying I mean the the the reception
despite how in politic my message is that the reception has largely been a
totally positive and supportive and I do get the occasional scary email and and
many people who are praying for me but it’s it’s really you know it’s it’s
very gratifying it’s it’s a it feels necessary and it’s not it’s not really there’s something effortless about it
because I just feel compelled to do it at this point it’s not it’s not like I I
feel like I’m continually making choices to open my big mouth somebody like
Stewart invites me and it’s it’s it just feels like an essential thing to be
doing so it’s there’s there’s not too much friction in me at this point and
I’ve had a lot of to overcome in order to be able to do it but it’s it’s
gratifying to just feel like I’m doing something that is necessary to do at
this point so so the last question is host prerogative
so it’s a question for me I believe in God and the more I think about my belief
this strange idea the more I use my reason the more I believe in God and
actually I would like not to believe because it was actually easier as an
atheist when I was in a sea it was actually easier took less work and now
that I had do have a belief it takes more reason on my part so can you help
me not believe what would you what which is one of those surprising questions
that you have me do well I would want to know what you meant by God I mean
precisely you’d have to unpack that belief for me because the again there’s
a range we’ve got there’s one word God and when you dig into the details with
people you get very there are people who just just want to assert that there’s
something bigger than ourselves you know that there’s that there and that it has
a kind of moral component to it that there’s there is love in the universe or
that it matters that that we treat one another well and those aren’t and those
are and and and they wrap that all of that up in the term God and it has
nothing to do with a God who could possibly hate homosexuals for instance
so I would need to know I mean if you actually want to have this conversation
I’m happy to but I wouldn’t I would need to know many other things about what you
actually believe so so it’s not about belief in God per se but more about
religions what was that it’s less about a belief in God and more about the
dangers of a faith in or in every religion you mean my argument yes well
it’s it’s about the dangers of dogma essentially it’s it’s the danger the
danger of pretending to be certain about things that you’re not certain about
it’s the danger of this double standard we’re in every other area of our lives
we maintain an intellectual honesty and we and we demand that others do likewise
and yet on this subject we just rewrite the rules and I think that we can have
we certainly can have ethical and moral experience we can have strong
communities and we can even have the most esoteric mystical experience
without ever asserting anything on insufficient evidence

Otis Rodgers



  1. HighPoweredLasers Posted on April 30, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Thanks for uploading! When was this?

  2. HighPoweredLasers Posted on April 30, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Never mind 5 years 4 months ago

  3. Doggo Willinks Posted on January 22, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    @UnionGarside Haha I know. I was like, "I've never seen this before"? The funny thing is that we've heard it all before and yet we STILL sit through the entire video haha.

  4. Masenko Posted on February 24, 2012 at 2:18 am

    Thanks for the upload.

  5. Andizottel Posted on March 17, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I think the only difference in this talk to his other talks with this topic is the "I'm also a percussionist" line. Fucking worth it!

  6. telegramsam11 Posted on April 26, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Lol you're right

  7. consciousnez Posted on May 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    wow i think this is the first sam harris comment thread not being mucked up by religious comments trying to defend the floundering faith! maybe we are progressing. long live logic and reason

  8. charlesvan13 Posted on June 4, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Although religous adherence is lower in Northern Europe and Australia the living standard is just comparable not better than America. Some things are worse. The grocery stores in the US are better stocked with vegetables. You would be a little better off if you got cancer in America than Australia.
    So Harris is right about most things. But the US is actually a counter example to any theory that religious adherence = lower living conditions.

  9. ev0lv3n0w Posted on June 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    The host's "prerogative question" wasn't so much a question as some statements and a request. If he has to work harder as a believer, it's only because it takes more effort to defend the indefensible or to believe what is unbelievable. His ignoble request for help was annoyingly disingenuous. Reason and rational thought takes time and effort, a dogmatic theistic world view does not.

  10. Raiduhrob Posted on June 22, 2012 at 1:42 am

    This guy is wrong about Tibetan monks.theres atleast 4 or 5 self immolation cases every year.

  11. Key Arthur Posted on June 24, 2012 at 8:35 am

    yeah, there really isn't a harmless religion if you look at it.

  12. Key Arthur Posted on June 24, 2012 at 8:37 am

    At least when you guys get sick you don't go bankrupt with hospital bills.

  13. Key Arthur Posted on June 24, 2012 at 8:39 am

    CONTD also the US has the tradition of "separation of church and state"

    The encroachment of religious right has been a more recent phenomenon. WE never even had " in god we trust" nonsense engraved on our coins until mid 20th century.

  14. memoryhero Posted on July 3, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    The ringing feedback from his mic stops around 11:00.

  15. CdrRogue Posted on August 17, 2012 at 11:29 am

    The thing is, the US is a big place, the civilised areas on the east and west coast are more than comparable and probably exceed Europe in quality of life, but the redneck religious states are close to third world countries in some places. And that's where religion is at its strongest in the US.

  16. Tim Keller Posted on August 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Self immolation is not the same thing as blowing yourself up on a bus full of people.

  17. Marcus Tavares Posted on September 20, 2012 at 6:17 am

    0:31:10 pretty good.

  18. dirkschuitsma Posted on October 14, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Did he talk about Tolle, naming him "the great Eckhart"? Eckhart believes in an afterlife and doesnt dare to critcize any religion, out of commercial opportunism.. strange..

  19. Loc Huu Posted on October 22, 2012 at 7:53 am

    In Arsene Wenger we trust…

  20. moon4647 Posted on November 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    aggression does not have faith you fool, it was proven in the lab !

  21. moon4647 Posted on November 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    there is no need for heaven or 79 virgin girls to want to fight a psychopathic policy !

  22. Al Ditomaso Posted on November 15, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Religion truly Poison's Everything

  23. Gunter Raffel Posted on December 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    On the positive side, I believe that human beings are basically rational beings and are thus inclined or predisposed to make rational decisions and to act rationally, unless "handicapped" by mental aberrations and bad education. Irrational and oppressive religious dogma taught in early life has stultified the ability of generations of fundamentally decent people to think freely. Nevertheless, the social malady can be overcome.

  24. Gunter Raffel Posted on December 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Google "Islamic fundamentalism" and read in the Wikipedia article on it. That gives us quite a different picturet than the one that Sam Harris wants us to believe is correct.

  25. Gunter Raffel Posted on December 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Islamic fundamentalism, as far as I can make out, is a problem for the Muslim world and Islam as a whole, not just for us.
    And if that is the problem then how does one deal with it? It has been said many times that American foreign policy for many years has been aggravating the problem instead of finding ways to overcome it by peaceful means and diplomacy.

  26. Gunter Raffel Posted on December 10, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    No, he did not. He was referring to Master Eckhard, (Master being an acedemic title) who lived n the 13th century, He was convicted of heresy in his teachings by the Roman Inquisiton.
    Google it ad find out more.

  27. Fadaourl Posted on December 15, 2012 at 1:08 am

    And the prize for dumbest question of the night goes to….. the host!
    After an hour and a half of talking by Harris, the host jumps out and says "I didn't understand shit of what you talked about…" :p Brilliant.

  28. Fadaourl Posted on December 15, 2012 at 1:13 am

    That's called being brainwashed by dogma in the religion of reason and logic. Open your eyes man!


  29. VC1 Posted on December 16, 2012 at 10:05 am

    One of the "problems" of fundamentalists (of whatever religion or politic) is that they can also be very useful to governments, so whilst at times they can be a problem they are at other times very handy, so its not about getting rid of them, more about keeping them at arms length.

  30. Gunter Raffel Posted on December 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Of course you are right there, and I agree. The current scenario does not look like rational behaviour at all, and in that one would be a pessimist. But I said "basically rational". Otherwise one would not have much co-operation in improving things and build a better future. And things can be improved as you well know if one keeps working at it. That's why I am optimistic. I am now 75 years old, and I have to be optimistic. That keeps me going.

  31. Gunter Raffel Posted on December 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    I don't think you are addressing or stating the problem correctly. Ignorance and superstition in whatever form are the problem and have been so for a very long time. We had the Golden Age of Greece. And then later we had the Dark Ages. And then we had an Age of Enlightenment. People do co-operate if they can be shown good solutions to the problems of life. And if you do it well people do listen, One needs to keep on working at it, and expose falsehoods wherever it shows its ugly head.

  32. Gunter Raffel Posted on December 19, 2012 at 6:41 am

    No, certainly it isn't. So we have to work at it a bit harder and 10 X our efforts.

  33. VKM2F Posted on December 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    We meet again, 240p.

  34. Irfan Samad Posted on December 25, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Very nice talk. Sam Harris has profoundly influenced me.

  35. jeffreydebra1 Posted on January 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Sam Harris also has influenced my life.

  36. DLAMusic1 Posted on January 25, 2013 at 9:58 am

    The fact that faith is so prevalent in spite of the absence of so called evidence, which would be necessary in other instances, is in itself a strong indication of the authenticity of faith! For me, the existence of the created is evidence of the creator!

  37. grant93321 Posted on January 28, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    But any rational person would see how that's a non-sequiter.

  38. Baby Harvesting Demon Maggot Posted on January 29, 2013 at 12:20 am

    A rational person would not try to defend faith in the first place. Or use the watchmaker argument for the (infinity+1)th time.

  39. grant93321 Posted on January 29, 2013 at 1:10 am

    What the hell does that have to do with what i just said?

  40. Baby Harvesting Demon Maggot Posted on January 29, 2013 at 1:18 am

    You mentioned that a rational person wouldn't use that kind of argument because it is a non-sequitur. And just added two more reasons to point out that his argumentation is flawed 😉

  41. Henk van der Laak Posted on February 9, 2013 at 1:22 am

    This is getting sooo old, but here goes:

    Then who created the creator? The creator-creator?
    And he was created by the creator-creator-creator?

    And why would every animal/plant in the world have the same creator? We all look different, right? So by your flawed logic you might as well state that that's proof of 500 billion separate creators…

  42. Henk van der Laak Posted on February 9, 2013 at 1:24 am

    And by the way: Yo Momma and Yo Poppa were your real creators.

  43. LeBigBangTheory Posted on February 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    If you still believe in the invisible boogie man in the sky after this brilliant explanation, then you are delusional or a child.

  44. George Moncayo Posted on March 5, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Jesus said "So it will be at the end of the age,the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous,and will throw them into the furnace of fire,in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."Matthew 13:49-50.Jesus also said "You are my friends if you do what I command you." John 15:14. Jesus taught that the only way to be saved is to choose him as your Lord and Master, repent and believe that he died for the sins of his people on the cross see John 14:6.

  45. ArticulatedHypernova Posted on March 7, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Holy Shit!…
    Then, because of evolution, there will have to be more creators springing up now and then to create the newly developed species that was created from a previous species! MAYBE!! The creators of previous species create new creators that then create the newly created species, and these newly created creators develop the next creators who will continue the evolutionary development of the next species!?

  46. da5dent Posted on March 11, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Yes exactly like the belief that the earth is flat, which held sway for thousands of years. And there are still some people who believe that.

  47. 9fifty5 Posted on March 12, 2013 at 2:55 am

    Gotta say, I love Hitch, but find Sam more accessible.

  48. malectric Posted on March 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    I want to know how "God" picks winners (something conservative politicians are apparently loathe to do). We know that if God exists he/she/it picks winners because each side in a battle in various wars have prayed for victory and in the end only one side wins. I would like a religious person to tell me where the side that lost got it wrong.

  49. whynottalklikeapirat Posted on March 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Sorry – I just had to go somewhere to write how such an overwhelming amount of the pro-religious, anti-atheist vids have comments disabled. Just like religion itself they want their input sealed, and fixed in time, something to subject to, not to discuss, something to impose on people, offering no freedom to reply, something to end dialogue and investigation, something to hold up as an unassailable icon, deliberately isolated from reality yet so clearly moved there and enforced by human hands.

  50. whynottalklikeapirat Posted on March 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Sorry – I just had to go somewhere to write how such an overwhelming amount of the pro-religious, anti-atheist vids have comments disabled. Just like religion itself they want their input sealed, and fixed in time, something to subject to, not to discuss, something to impose on people, offering no freedom to reply, something to end dialogue and investigation, something to hold up as an unassailable icon, deliberately isolated from reality yet so clearly moved there and enforced by human hands.

  51. whynottalklikeapirat Posted on March 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Sorry – I just had to go somewhere to write how such an overwhelming amount of the pro-religious, anti-atheist vids have comments disabled. Just like religion itself they want their input sealed, and fixed in time, something to subject to, not to discuss, something to impose on people, offering no freedom to reply, something to end dialogue and investigation, something to hold up as an unassailable icon, deliberately isolated from reality yet so clearly moved there and enforced by human hands.

  52. stevie68a Posted on March 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    jesus is imaginary, jesus is imaginary. Shout it from the rooftops!

  53. Mikhail Man Posted on March 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    oh my I'm so scared? What am I going to do??? oh wait… there is no evidence for it. its just a book..

  54. Mikhail Man Posted on March 21, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    nope. Its a strong indication of a fact that people are terrified by death and would believe anything to make them feel better.

  55. DeusDevoid Posted on April 3, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    The truth doesn't change 😉

  56. BrianDgreat123 Posted on April 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    The fact that faith is so prevalent, in spite of evidence just seems to indicate to me that most people are stupid. It doesn't say anything about the 'truth' of those claims, other than that there is no good argument in favor of it.

  57. avedic Posted on April 11, 2013 at 10:44 am

    The truth does change. 5 billion years ago, the Earth did not exist. Now it does. Change.

  58. avedic Posted on April 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Mohammed said, "various things." – The Koran 5:17

    So what?

  59. DeusDevoid Posted on April 11, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    hardy har har, that's not at all what I meant. And I think what I meant was pretty obvious.

  60. Crooked Crock Posted on April 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Wish I could stream audio from my brain to my mouth like Sam does! I certainly agree with Sam but can't help wondering how frustrating it must be at times!

  61. Saint Barthélemy Posted on April 13, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Sam HARRIS @ 1:58

  62. Parris Koumouris Posted on April 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

    When I saw SALT I thought of Christine O'Donnell's "Saviours Alliance for Lifting the Truth"

  63. souldry Posted on April 24, 2013 at 12:04 am

    We meet again, we meet again quote

  64. souldry Posted on April 24, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Religion is a poison that has retarded the growth of the human species for thousands of years. It is not a coincidence that the most developed areas of the world are the least religious just as the least developed are the most religious.

  65. avedic Posted on April 27, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Actually…I don't see what you meant at all…how is it obvious?

  66. Uttam Acharya-qcon81 Posted on April 28, 2013 at 2:14 am

    Hmmm…So you think United States is the least developed? The country where majority of Bible thumpers live.

  67. souldry Posted on April 28, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Without question, cut away the east and west coasts(which are not surprisingly the least religious by far), and all you have left is a country entirely filled with bible thumpers and a country that will barely make a mark in the world of economics and progress.

  68. Artjoms Pugacovs Posted on May 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Sam Harris is my savior now.

  69. 1981Mog Posted on May 5, 2013 at 1:40 am

    Hitch is the wrecking ball you send in to clear out the slums, Harris is the architect that puts solid houses up afterwards.

  70. Seth Murray Posted on May 22, 2013 at 6:49 am

    I got 8 minutes into this and all I heard was Harris demonstrating his own ignorance of the issues and constructing straw men (which he no doubt will spend the remainder of his time burning down). I can understand why those who hate and/or misunderstand Christianity (or religion of any kind) love him. He is eloquent, but his arguments are so incompetent that they just aren't worth taking seriously.

  71. dannyrcdw Posted on May 26, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Can you qualify how he is ignorant, which constructions you construe as "straw men", and which of his arguments are incompetent?

  72. Littlerift Posted on May 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Eight minutes in Sam has only really discussed the poll results from America regarding religion and the apocalypse, and the stupendously dumb idea of intelligent design. That entire part is based on poll results, and so it's not at all a straw-man.

  73. James Bulmer Posted on May 27, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Like Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Largely atheist, and all offer their citizens a fantastic quality of life.

    Bigup science and Engineering

  74. avedic Posted on June 4, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Sam is probably the most calm cool collected even-tempered person I've ever seen. I'd pay good money to see him drunk and dancing without a care in the world. I'd even pay good money to hear he's done that before.
    He is a great voice for reason though. And super kind….I started a website last year and randomly emailed him for an interview…and he actually replied and gave an excellent interview, much to my surprise. If anyone is curious, you can read it at ANIMA dot CANNON dot CC 🙂

  75. zumbalady1000 Posted on June 14, 2013 at 3:10 am

    George Moncayo had the correct comment of all of these! There is now way of getting around this no matter what! Truth is truth.

  76. Cyxixs Posted on July 10, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Sam Harris……Great Man

  77. rith5 Posted on August 5, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Hahaha cheers for the 2 minutes of my life comrade.

  78. Crappy HR Posted on October 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    In some countries Ive heard they have that. Which is insane. Talk about pouring fuel on the fires of idiocy

  79. Don Ziolkowski Posted on October 14, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    really that's like only Isreal (i think) and Germany (I know).

    Those are unique situations, Germany outlaws it because it was the way the German people felt they could show remorse and make sure the world and they themselves could break away from the lingering effects of nazism. It's not enough to remain silent, you need to actively speak out against nazi sympathy because of the horrible affect it had, if your germany.

  80. Crappy HR Posted on October 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Well, it's kind of the point of what I'm trying to say:

    people who deny the holocaust ( downright question whether or not any jews at all have died ) or people who meerely argue about the death toll, the best way to deal with them is absolutely to put all the facts on the table and let them have their way. If you forbid them from arguing on the issue, you just give them enough space to behave like a marginalized minority.

  81. Faye Hayes Posted on December 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm


  82. Steve Harvey Posted on January 3, 2014 at 5:27 am

    "Everyone's a scientist and everyone's a mystic." Sam Harris.

  83. Steve Harvey Posted on January 3, 2014 at 5:35 am

    44% of Americans believe Jesus will return within the next 50 years. The implications of this world view is that these people will rejoice at the destruction of the world, they will rejoice in a WWIII, they will rejoice in the death of millions of people and all the horrific suffering because the greatest thing will happen- Jesus will save them. This also means they will not prevent any destruction of any kind and instead will advance the destruction to ensure Jesus will return.

  84. Amir Basheer Posted on February 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Really great way of thinking my dear friend Steve Harvey,

    only an atheistic person can think this way. When a person believes in god and expects jesus to return he/she never wants the world war 3 to happen. He/She becomes very hurt when innocent people are attacked. If he/she does not condemn the attacks on the innocent people they are going to be treated as enemy by jesus christ himself.
    So your statement is completely wrong and has no reasoning.

  85. zenman5910 Posted on March 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Not knowing the bible might still make you into a religious liberal, sometimes reading the bible often makes you a moderate, having it read to you in church can result in being fundamentalist, but a serious critical reading usually makes you an atheist. 

  86. The Lakewind Posted on March 26, 2014 at 12:46 am

    I am having a very hard time getting Harris` vids to load lately. And I am aqsked eachtime I want to make a comment, to open a new "channel", none of which I want. Anyone else?

  87. The Lakewind Posted on March 26, 2014 at 12:57 am

    Amir, I believe Steve harvey is correctly describing a segment of American Christians.

  88. MillerTurnerGrinder Posted on March 27, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    the refridgerator sized Diamond in the backyard story brings insanity of believers on the Point. 29:36

  89. Titus Gray Posted on August 8, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    "I wouldn't want to live in a Universe in which there wasn't a diamond buried in my backyard."  LOL @30:10

  90. Phelan Posted on June 4, 2015 at 10:04 am

    1:19:48 – "The more I use my reason, the more I believe." That would mean the host actually has reasons to believe. That's the meaning of "being reasonable" afterall. I hope we can agree that there are good reasons and bad reasons, and that bad reasons only very rarely lead to something positive, and far more often to something negative. So whatever those reasons for believing are – how has he worked out whether his reasons are good or bad?

  91. mike weston Posted on February 14, 2016 at 9:17 am

    No other preacher has ever so been good pointing why all religion is a noble threat.

  92. TheAtheist Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Sam Harris is amazing.

  93. Eric Hughes Posted on May 12, 2016 at 12:50 am

    There is almost nobody who is right as frequently, as fully, and as devastatingly as Sam Harris.

  94. billthegenericguy Posted on May 20, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    When I clicked on this I assumed it was talking about the strategic arms limitation treaty

  95. Roger Olsen Posted on May 30, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Please Lord, freee us from religion!!!

  96. Deborah Cassidy Posted on July 28, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    love this guy

  97. Green Brain Seaside Posted on August 15, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    "Faith trumps rational argument". well, it's 2016 and not just faith, but Trump trumps rational argument too 🙂

  98. Doug Zembiec Posted on May 16, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I love Sam Harris, but have you noticed he has about 50 paragraphs he repeats on every speech about religion