Does Sam Harris Understand an Appeal to Authority?

I’m sure by now you’ve seen that idiotic interview on Fox News with Reza Aslan about his new book about Jesus. The interviewer, who is Fox’ religion correspondent FFS, seems absolutely baffled why a Muslim would write a book about Christianity and Aslan rightly shows how ridiculous she’s being:

But as absurd as this video is, the reaction of Sam Harris is just as bad. He decided to attack Aslan and claim that he was making an appeal to authority:

@rezaaslan perhaps it is time you realized that the argument from authority is always embarrassing… (even with kosher credentials)

No Sam, perhaps it’s time you understood what an argument from authority is. Aslan did not say that you should believe everything he had to say in the book because he’s an academic with degrees and expertise on the subject, he said that the fact that he is an academic expert explains why he would write a book about Jesus. The only one embarrassing themselves here is you.

56 comments on this post.
  1. daved:

    Blockquote fail, Ed.

  2. andrewryan:

    It’s a bit rich to accuse to accuse someone of an appeal to authority when they were defending themself against an ad hominem.

  3. CaitieCat:

    Wow, for a movement-leading genius*, he sure doesn’t know much about logic and reasoning, does he?

    * For some value of this appellation.

  4. Reginald Selkirk:

    1) FauxNews treatment of Aslan was assy in the extreme, and they do not apply the same standard to (for example) Christian scholars writing about Islam.
    2) Aslan as a Jesus scholar makes unwarranted assumptions that undercut his work – as do many New Testament scholars.*
    I can believe both of these things with no cognitive dissonance.
    .
    * Aslan uses the religious books of the New Testament to support the existence and crucifixion of Jesus H. Christ, which he refers to as a “fundamental fact that is universally agreed upon.” But then he refuses to accept the resurrection and other supernatural elements of the Gospels, and acknowledges the lack of historical support for events in the Gospels in any secular records. This is a topsy-turvy position, but Aslan is correct that it is a common position amongst New Testament scholars.

  5. Raging Bee:

    What did Sam Harris do to be worth our time at all? All I see is yet another pompous twit hogging attention by saying things that are inexplicably stupid, and sometimes downright bigoted.

    PS: I’m still getting warnings about “cross-site scripting” attacks when I come here. Is anyone at FtB looking into this?

  6. doublereed:

    “Even with kosher credentials”?

    Uhm. Isn’t that anti-intellectual?

  7. raven:

    Wow, for a movement-leading genius*, he sure doesn’t know much about logic and reasoning, does he?

    No he doesn’t.

    I gave up on Sam Harris long ago. Started reading one of his books The End of Faith or some such. Gave up halfway through. Which is really rare for me

    Everything I’ve seen since from Harris has only reinforced my lack of respect for his intellectual efforts.

    IIRC, what bothered me in his book was how he spent most of the time Moslem bashing. It probably wasn’t even wrong. But it isn’t our problem!!!

    The Moslems are Over There, screwing up their society. The fundie xians are Over Here screwing up our society. It’s as simple as, I live Over Here, not Over There.

  8. slc1:

    Re Reginald Selkirk @ #4

    Aslan uses the religious books of the New Testament to support the existence and crucifixion of Jesus H. Christ, which he refers to as a “fundamental fact that is universally agreed upon.

    I would point out that there is a blogger on this network who accepts no such thing. Richard Carrier, who argues that the person known as Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth probably never existed.

  9. Artor:

    Why is Sam Harris considered an atheist leader, and one of the “Four Horsemen?” I haven’t read his writings directly, but every reference to him seems to be overflowing with his rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth Islamophobia. Don’t get me wrong, I have little to zero respect for Islam myself, but it doesn’t make me abandon all rational thought. Why does Harris get a pass?

  10. composer99:

    Sam Harris does a herp derp. Will he own up or double down?

  11. raven:

    * Aslan uses the religious books of the New Testament to support the existence and crucifixion of Jesus H. Christ, which he refers to as a “fundamental fact that is universally agreed upon.”

    It’s not.

    The actual existence of jesus has been debated for well over a century. The fact that it never gets settled is because the data to settle the point doesn’t exist. It’s been too long and the evidence is lost in the sands of time.

    I’m a historical agnostic myself. Probably he did but this isn’t provable or falsifiable.

    but Aslan is correct that it is a common position amongst New Testament scholars.

    They assume that because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have much to write about. And they would all have to go out and get other jobs.

    Most NT scholars who aren’t fundie Presupposionalists, also agree that most of the NT is fiction. It’s blatantly obvious to anyone not a cultist. To cite one example, quite a few of “Paul’s” Epistles are forgeries.

  12. Modusoperandi:

    Reginald Selkirk “1) FauxNews treatment of Aslan was assy in the extreme, and they do not apply the same standard to (for example) Christian scholars writing about Islam.”
    Look, you know darn well that only white, Christian, heterosexual males (like the white, Christian, heterosexual males who chose the style and angle, or “attack”, of the story that they gave to Lauren Green to use) can be objective. Probably because everybody else, like that Muslin, Reza Aslan, has an axe to grind against white, Christian, heterosexual males.

    Worse, Aslan here is a person. Everybody knows he’s a lion. Basically what I’m saying is that this Reza fellow has got his storylines crossed. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy must be ever so confused.

  13. pacal:

    Fox news can be so ignorant. Why should a Muslim write about Jesus? why not just read the Koran where Jesus is mentioned repeatidly. Hell Muslims even accept the virgin birth! Jesus is considered in the Muslim faith a prophet of Islam and second in importance among the prophets to Mohammed. And that is why Fox fool why a Muslim would write about Jesus.

  14. slc1:

    Re Artor @ #9

    If Artor thinks that Harris is pretty beastly towards Islam, he should read the blogs of Taslima Nasreen and Marynam Namazi on this network, both ex-Muslims who are a lot tougher on Islam then Harris is.

  15. slc1:

    Re Raging Bee @ #5

    Bee lacks the intellectual heft to carry Sam Harris’ brief case.

  16. Reginald Selkirk:

    Harris has a tendency to see things in black and white.

  17. raven:

    Jesus is considered in the Muslim faith a prophet of Islam and second in importance among the prophets to Mohammed.

    Jesus’s mother Mary, is also a revered and important figure in Islam.

  18. Modusoperandi:

    raven “To cite one example, quite a few of ‘Paul’s’ Epistles are forgeries.”
    Nuh uh! Not Paul’s Epistle to the Returns Department of JC Penny!*
     
    * “Faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, this toaster that I purchased from your 15th street location on December the seventh of last year is most truly a lemon…”

  19. thomasmorris:

    slc – It’s probably best that you avoid throwing stones from that glass house of yours. After all, you are the most consistently brainless regular commentator on this site.

    Let’s make this very clear for you, slc1, so you never fall under the mistaken impression that you’re not intellectually inferior to everyone else on this site: You’re an asshole AND a genocidal fuckwit. You’ve made it abundantly clear that you long ago gave your mind over to propagandists.

    When you try to lecture anyone on intelligence, or morality, or anything else of importance, you only reveal your own hypocrisy, as well as your utter lack of intellectual integrity and self-awareness.

  20. Steve Morrison:

    Actually, doesn’t “Aslan” mean “lion” in some Asian languages? Time magazine’s interview with R.A. spent its last two questions on the Narnia bit without seeming to realize it was more than a coincidence that his surname was also the name of a Lewis character.

  21. alyosha:

    I bought Harris’ book ‘End of Faith’ under the impression that it would be an easy read replete with a lot of mental high fives. For the most part it satisfied this desire but the criticism of Islam contained therein was my first exposure to the kind of anti-Moslem attitude that I feel uncomfortable with. And it wasn’t even a matter of disagreeing with his core argument. Like most religions, Islam is based on a book extolling values no decent person would follow to the letter. That such people exist is undeniable and those people are objectively bad. But, whereas the mind-enslaved and death-obsessed fanatics are evil, Harris weakens his point by suggesting that political commentators, including Noam Chomsky, are guilty of moral ignorance for painting the US in its overseas actions as criminal. Instead we are invited to understand the stated motives for war (this, in the age of Bush) since America is at bottom well-intentioned. I wasn’t swayed, needless to say.
    Oh, and there’s also a sub-chapter in there titled, ‘A Loophole for Torquemada.’ A plea for those of us rational enough to read his book to accept that torture can be a good way to combat terrorism given certain conditions. Slightly distasteful.

  22. Raging Bee:

    If Artor thinks that Harris is pretty beastly towards Islam, he should read the blogs of Taslima Nasreen and Marynam Namazi on this network, both ex-Muslims who are a lot tougher on Islam then Harris is.

    Those two bloggers write from ACTUAL EXPERIENCE, which Sam Harris doesn’t have; and (so far at least) I haven’t seen anything in either of their blogs that’s as blatantly stupid or dishonest as Harris is known to be. Comparing those two to Sam Harris is a fucking insult to the former.

  23. Raging Bee:

    Oh, and if our two ex-Muslims are “tougher on Islam then Harris is,” that’s probably because their accusations are true and better-aimed, and thus actually hit a target, while Harris’ bullshit has no more credibility than the mosquephobic crap spewed by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.

  24. iknklast:

    I would point out that there is a blogger on this network who accepts no such thing. Richard Carrier, who argues that the person known as Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth probably never existed.

    Are you sure Richard Carrier really exists? Because if Aslan can demonstrate that he doesn’t (and that the other historians who doubt the reality of Jesus’s existence don’t exist), then he can maintain the universality of acceptance.

    I believe Richard Carrier exists. I met him in person, talked to him, shook his hand. But that would just be touting my credentials as “person who met Richard Carrier”, and therefore an argument from authority. So you don’t have to take my word for it.

  25. Thumper; Atheist mate:

    Wow, how utterly insulting. The clear implication of her questions was “You’re a Muslim, so all your ideas about Jesus must be biased and wrong”. They set out in that interview to discredit the book. What a bunch of arsewipes.

  26. sigurd jorsalfar:

    To me, Sam Harris should be best known for his lectures on the existence of god. Many of these are available on youtube and are quite good. He has a clear, down to earth style when speaking on this subject.

    I’ve never read one of Harris’s books, but I’ve read a lot of his online writing on topics other than the narrow one of existence of gods, and I find almost none of it worth while. He shares with Hitchens the mindset that America’s wars in the middle east have something to do with defending ‘secular’ culture from the depredations of Islamic barbarism. It’s a viewpoint that requires one to ignore most of the evidence.

  27. slc1:

    Re thomasmorris @ #19

    Gee, I’m all shook up because morris doesn’t like me. I may lose a nanosecond of sleep tonight over his comment.

  28. Reginald Selkirk:

    iknklast #24: But that would just be touting my credentials as “person who met Richard Carrier”, and therefore an argument from authority.

    According to Lauren Green, a-Carrierists would not be qualified to comment on the existence and nature of Carrier, so you have the field to yourself.

  29. alanb:

    Modusoperandi @18,

    Thank you for that information. It helps to affirm my Christian faith. I don’t know why the heathens on this site don’t see the Truth as clearly as you and I do.

  30. slc1:

    Re thomasmorris @ #19

    There there tommy, feel better now?

  31. Jeff D:

    I purchased and read Aslan’s book No God But God, but for me, its general good quality was undercut by Aslan’s bizarre contention that it doesn’t matter whether the substantive claims made by a religion are true (i.e., supported by real evidence). I think this explains a lot about the assumptions that he allows himself to make. It might also explain, in part, his conversion from Christian to Muslim. I have decided to steer clear of anything else that he writes, but I did hear the first 15 minutes of a recent radio interview he did on Fresh Air.

  32. matty1:

    quite a few of ‘Paul’s’ Epistles are forgeries

    I’m curious what this means in the context, it seems to imply we know of an author using the name Paul who these epistles are not by. The fact that the writer who used Paul as his pen name may not have done any of the things attributed to the Bible character doesn’t make them forgeries any more than Arthur Conan Doyle forged the work of John Watson.

    Do you mean that some of the epistles are by a single author and the rest by different people or something else?

  33. a2audrey:

    I’m reading Zealot now. Aslan does put forward the hypothesis that Jesus was a real person. His viewpoint, quite similar to the one that Hitchens had held as I understand it, is that while it’s far from a certainty, Jesus having been real person provides the best explanation for what is known about the events and people in the early Christian movement.

    I do think that he does a great job of explaining how an insignificant messianic figure could be “reimagined” by later evangelists to be the Christ. He provides a deeper level of the political and relgious climate that led to doing so than I had read before.

    I am really enjoying it.

  34. Area Man:

    “The actual existence of jesus has been debated for well over a century. The fact that it never gets settled is because the data to settle the point doesn’t exist. It’s been too long and the evidence is lost in the sands of time.”

    My understanding is that there’s a consensus among historians and scholars that Jesus really did exist. It’s regarded as a settled issue, and people like Richard Carrier are outliers. That doesn’t mean that they’re right and he’s wrong, only that the people who study the issue believe that the evidence strongly points in the direction of a historical Jesus. (It’s not something I’ve personally studied so I have to take their word for it.)

    Of course it’s neither here nor there.

  35. laurentweppe:

    Wow, for a movement-leading genius*, he sure doesn’t know much about logic and reasoning, does he?

    Sam Harris is an authoritarian douche who managed to con some american atheists by playing the Tribe Card.
    Then again, a cynical person might say that a succesfull conman is a genius compared to his suckers.

  36. alanb:

    @matty1,

    There are several epistles for which the authorship is questioned: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians 1 & 2, Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews. The others are agreed to be from a real person named Paul. Most fundamentalists either ignore the question of authorship* or claim they were sent with Paul’s knowledge and permission. If sent with Paul’s permission they aren’t forgeries, but, if not, it would be more like Arthur Conan Doyle forging a letter from King George than John Watson.

    *Even most Fundies agree that Hebrews is non-Pauline.

  37. Jeff D:

    Unless one applies a “majority vote wins” principle, there is NOT a consensus among biblical scholars and historians that Jesus existed . . . One needs to ask, which Jesus?

    I side with those scholars (e.g., G. A. Wells, and to some extent Robert Price) who have concluded that the Jesus character in the 4 canonical Gospels is a fictionalized composite character, blending (1) aspects of the sketchily-described Jesus of the earliest extant Christian writings, the 6 or 7 genuine Pauline epistles, and (2) sayings and stories about a real but obscure Palestinian rabbi / Cynic philosopher whose teachings were preserved with embellishment and distortion, but who disappeared or died an obscure death, and (3) invented details borrowed from Hellenistic and other pagan sources, to make the Jesus character more appealing and familiar (as a demigod) to pagan audiences.

  38. felidae:

    I believe Mr Harris was being facetious here, saying that the true believers have no use for academic credentials or objective evidence and trying to have a rational conversation with then is pointless–so lets cut him a little slack

  39. raven:

    I’m curious what this means in the context,

    Forgeries = Forgeries.

    It’s not complicated.

    Wikipedia has a good discussion on who wrote Paul’s Epistles and so does Google sources. Some of them are written by one person named Paul, the later ones by a variety of people who signed his name to them, long after he was dead.

    This is well known among anyone who has cared enough to look for it.

  40. Michael Heath:

    Ed,

    I would be very happy to see you take on more of Sam Harris’ arguments, especially those that rile up some liberals.

    The referenced tweet is an obvious failure on Mr. Harris’ part, but I observe no one more capable of getting some liberals to rant incoherently in response to particularly well-crafted arguments.

    Unfortunately for all of us, the world is full of arguments where one side makes a respectable case and the other side at best demonstrates idiocy coupled to wingnuttery. Since this venue is one that isn’t populated with wingnuts, we’d all improve if we spent some time considering great arguments that challenge our own positions rather then predominately watching Ed shoot ducks in the barrel.

    I think perhaps that’s probably infeasible, it’d take too much time and energy, which is why it’s so rare to find great debates anywhere. But I’d gladly give up reading four or five blog posts on a day where you took on Sam Harris.

  41. EnlightenmentLiberal:

    To add to the other commenters in the thread, I also really like Sam Harris’s work regarding moral facts. I’ve seen several lectures of him talking about his book The Moral Landscape, and it’s good stuff, even though I disagree with some of his choices of terminology.

    And yes, he has made some rather stupid statements. The top of the list is still his “non-racial” screening at airports for Muslims, whatever the hell that might be. I like how the security expert he had on take him apart, and I still like Harris for being honest enough to allow that conversation to take place and consult with a real security expert.

    I think Harris does do some stupid stuff, but I also think others misunderstand sometimes and overreact sometimes.

  42. Michael Heath:

    Enlightenment Liberal wrote:

    And yes, he has made some rather stupid statements. The top of the list is still his “non-racial” screening at airports for Muslims, whatever the hell that might be. I like how the security expert he had on take him apart, and I still like Harris for being honest enough to allow that conversation to take place and consult with a real security expert.

    I’m a little confused. What you refer to here was a pretty long written debate between Sam Harris and Bruce Schneier, it wasn’t a statement. If you are referring to a particular statement within that debate, than please, quote it here so we too can see how stupid it supposedly is.

    As for who won that debate, please quote the losing points Harris made that Schneier convincingly overcame. I’m supremely confident you can’t. It’s been my observation that Harris distinguishes himself above all others in one regard. No one seems to have so convincingly lost a debate more than Harris where he takes a position some liberals oppose where some liberals report he was trounced;while simultaneously failing to refer to the actual content of Harris argument and that of his opponents that supposedly validates their claim he lost.

  43. jaybee:

    Reza Aslan did a reddit AMA interview a few days ago. He came off as a rather good humored guy, sharp and witty and, knowledgeable without being pompous. It made me want to read his book, although I already have a 1.5 foot tall stack of books in my queue.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1jal04/i_am_reza_aslan_scholar_of_religions_author_of/

    I don’t follow biblical scholarly work, but one thing which shocked me was when I read that one “fact” which is true is that Jesus was most certainly crucified. This is “known” because such a detail would be embarrassing, and it makes no sense for a group to claim something embarrassing about their founder. Really, that was the strong evidence that this must be true.

  44. sc_72717b0d8dc4053e632b6512091cef73:

    I was listening to a fundamentalist radio program a couple years ago where an ‘expert” on the “new atheism” was chatting with the preacher who hosted the program. This “expert” actually said that “Harris and the others” attack Christianity but give Islam a pass because they are afraid of Muslims. I couldn’t believe my ears. Obvious that the “expert” had never read Harris, or Hitchens for that matter. Of course, I’m sure that none of the show’s listeners had either, so she was displaying her ignorance in a safe environment. Sometimes it is stunning to reflect on the amount of disinformation that is out there, and the number of clueless people that think they are “well informed” because of what they hear from broadcasters or on the Internet. The founding fathers that the tea party zealots worship believed in a representative democracy of critically thinking, well read, skeptical citizens. How far we have fallen from that ideal. If Jefferson saw what was going on in his name today, I’m afraid he would throw up his hands and say we were better off with a monarchy, where you could at least hope that a few of the king’s advisers were thinkers.

  45. slc1:

    Re jaybee @ #43

    I don’t follow biblical scholarly work, but one thing which shocked me was when I read that one “fact” which is true is that Jesus was most certainly crucified.

    Well, the Muslims certainly don’t accept this “fact”. According to Islam, the man who was crucified was Judas Iscariot, not Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth. They’re not totally clear as to what happened to Yeshua, other then he was advised by Pontius Pilate to get out of Dodge and stay out.

  46. sarenkongstad:

    Oh yea – the principle of embarrassment.

    I’ve had a discussion with an apologetic who used that. It would be so humiliating for someone in the time to worship a criminal who was crucified.

    He then went on to claim that the fact that Jesus was executed as a common criminal was contrary to what the jews were expecting based on their scriptures and the fact that Jesus did not fulfill their expectations was evidence that the story was real.

    Only reading of the scriptures with Jesus dead in mind exposes the fact that Jesus and his dead was described in the scriptures before he lived, and thus he fulfilled what the prophets said.

    So no one expected him to die as he did – based on the prophets, but his dead was foretold by the prophets.

    At that point we abandoned our argument. I could not accept that the two facts in contention . that the prophets did not foretell Jesus dead and that his dead was foretold by the prophets weren’t in direct contradiction with eachother.

  47. peterooke:

    Sam Harris is an odious individual. Dawkins, Hitchens have nothing on him in terms of pure bigotry…

  48. Michael Heath:

    peterrooke writes:

    Sam Harris is an odious individual. Dawkins, Hitchens have nothing on him in terms of pure bigotry…

    Another perfect illustration of a Sam Harris critic maligning Mr. Harris without providing any compelling evidence to support their assertions.

    What I continually observe from those liberals who disparage Harris is: antipathy towards his arguments, no compelling argument of their own to offer as a rebuttal, and yet an entrenched attachment to their own position in spite of not having a valid counter-argument. That failure to adapt when confronted with a superior argument is exactly what we observe from creationists and AGW denialists; where they too are stuck deploying some combination of the following behaviors: denying, avoiding, dependence on rhetorical and logical fallacies.

    Sometimes we see a slight variant from the Harris critics, .e.g. “Person X took down Harris on his assertions on Topic Y, therefore my competing position justifiably holds.” Where the critic fails to cite the specific text where this supposedly (didn’t) happen. See post 41 for a perfect illustration of that logical failure.

  49. Raging Bee:

    Heath, if you want evidence of Harris’ bigotry, you could start with an interview he gave Salon, where he flatly stated that the worst events in the most backward, isolated, and war-torn part of the Islamic world — Afghanistan — constituted “THE true face of Islam.” Like the entire rest of the Muslim world, from Morocco to Malaysia, somehow didn’t count. His blatantly dishonest screeds against Islam, and his support for torture, aren’t exactly new revelatins here.

    You’re a regular here, Heath, so you have no excuse to pretend you’ve never seen any evidence of Harris’ bigotry — we’ve discussed it here before, several times.

  50. Michael Heath:

    Raging Bee,

    First off, failure to provide a link to an exact quote within context. Second, I am a regular where I’ve repeatedly noted that all of Harris’ critics fail, as you do here as well, to provide actual cites in this forum. In fact Harris’ liberal critics continue to do exactly what I predict they’ll do and what you demonstrate here as well, in spite of pointing out the bad behavior in advance, i.e., walking into a telegraphed punch. And that bad behavior is to vaguely reference some supposedly horrible behavior by Harris where if we actually investigate what he really stated, it’s not representative of what his critics described.

    Lastly, rarely does one supposed quip represent someone’s entire position or reveal the character of a person. Neither Ed, me, or you come close to passing such a test. Anecdotal evidence is hardly ever compelling.

    Here’s is Harris’ nuanced point from the Salon interview, in context:

    Salon: You’re saying with monotheism, the whole notion of the heretic or the infidel is much more of an issue than it would be in other religions where there is not just one god.

    Harris:

    Yeah. When you look at the doctrine of Islam, and you consider the state of Muslim discourse in the 21st century, it is hard to imagine a doctrine that is less susceptible to modernity and pluralism. There are many apologists for Islam saying it’s a religion of peace and Muslims are tolerant of other religions. I really think we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to be very clear and rigorous about what is actually believed by mainstream Muslims. What we recently saw in Afghanistan — this man who converted to Christianity and was up for execution, and then got spirited away to Italy as the only accommodation that could be made — that really is the true face of Islam. It really is punishable by death to wake up one morning and decide you no longer want to be a Muslim. The crime of apostasy, the disavowal of your religion, is a capital offense. We’re not waging a war of ideas that’s even addressing issues like this.

    Salon: But doesn’t it matter where we’re talking about? I mean, Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, for the most part doesn’t have this more extreme version of Islam.

    Harris:

    For the most part. There are cells in Indonesia that are considered al Qaida affiliates. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a Muslim country, even Turkey, that does not have elements that should be troublesome to us. But it’s true, the character of Islam is different in different societies. And that’s a good thing. I think we can attribute that to the fact that most people do not take their religion as seriously as they might. But when you look at the theology, the truth is, the Quran really does nothing more eloquently than vilify the infidel. It’s absolutely plain in the pages of the Quran that the responsibility of Muslims is to convert, subjugate or kill the infidel. This is not a document that’s well designed for a pluralistic world or a global civil society. Unless the Muslim world can find some way of reforming this theology, or find some rationale by which to ignore the better part of it — as Christians have tended to do, albeit imperfectly — we have a recipe for disaster on our hands.

    Harris’ non-bigotry here is equivalent to my criticisms of Christian behavior and theology not being bigotry though heddle argues it is, while heddle also always failed to provide one statement of mine that demonstrates bigotry (I don’t recall his ever trying). Here’s Sam Harris’ context is not all of Islam as you dishonestly assert, but instead many of those countries where Islam theology dominates government policy. Where Harris’ premises regarding those countries, and the Quran, are factually true.

  51. Raging Bee:

    Hath: quoting Harris’ bit about “the true face of Islam” in context does not make it any less bigoted or false — especially when said context includes an admission that not all Muslims think the same way.

    First he says “mainstream Muslims” all believe one thing, and we “owe it to ourselves” to know what that is; then he admits they don’t all believe the same thing. Quoting Harris “in context” doesn’t make him more coherent, it just highlights his hypocricy and simplemindedness.

  52. EnlightenmentLiberal:

    @Michael Heath
    You misunderstand, and/or I misspoke. I have some quibbles with Sam Harris, but for the most part I don’t think he is racist, and I do not think he is unreasonably critical of Islam. I think I said I’m a rather large fan for the most part.

    Still, I think his overall position on “screening for Muslims” is unworkable and a bad policy for the reasons the security expert laid out. He’s trying to make a salient but pedantic point. However, I think he went a little too far trying to support an unsupportable example.

    @Raging Bee
    I remember this one TV show with Dawkins and a leader of a prominent Muslim group in Britain / England. Dawkins asked him several times, and finally got an answer to the question “What is the punishment for apostasy?”. The answer Dawkins finally received? “Death.” You might say that there are nice reasonable Muslim groups out there, but they’re quite hard to find if they even exist at all.

    So, let’s unpack the word “bigoted”.
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bigot

    a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

    Are Sam Harris and myself obstinate on this issue? Maybe. We’re very confident in our positions, and it would be hard to change our mind. Are Sam Harris and myself intolerant of Islam (and Christianity)? You bet! The whole both religions is rather vile, and I reserve at least the right to be intolerant in speech towards vile people and vile ideas. Are these opinions? Yes. Are these prejudices? No. We have no “pre-judged”. We have not made judgments before all of the relevant facts are known. These opinions are the result of careful analysis of the known facts with the values of humanism. Do Sam Harris and myself treat members of a particular group with hate or intolerance? Again, you bet.

    Overall, I would argue that “bigot” is not an accurate characterization of the views of Sam Harris and myself on this subject.

    You see, the difference between “bigot” and acceptable intolerance is whether you happen to approve of the group in question. For example, would you call me bigoted if I showed intolerance and hatred towards child rapists? Of course not. Yet, when I show that same intolerance and hatred towards a particular religious group, then you have a problem. For example, the Catholic church can be accurately described as an international child rape ring. Going to Islam, it’s only downhill from there.

    It is true that the central teaching of Christianity is that people are wicked and evil, are born sick, and only by submitting yourself as a slave to a celestial tyrant can you live a happy-ish life – as a slave. This is a vile philosophy that deserves nothing but disrespect, ridicule, and scorn. Islam is only worse.

    Drop your belief in belief. It’s bullshit.

  53. Raging Bee:

    You might say that there are nice reasonable Muslim groups out there, but they’re quite hard to find if they even exist at all.

    Bullshit. They’re out there, and they do speak out — and every time they do, morons liek you ignore them and keep on shouting “LALALALALALALALA I can’t hear any moderate Muslims ’cause I’m too busy shouting ‘where are the moderate Muslims?!’ over and over again!!!”

    And since that one sentence of yours pretty much blows your credibility, I won’t bother with your dictionary argument.

  54. EnlightenmentLiberal:

    @Raging Bee
    I’m sorry. Most of the so-called moderate Muslim groups still say the Koran calls for the killing of non-believers. It’s hard to find a large Christian group which says that the bible commands that non-Christians should be killed, and it’s hard to find a large Muslim group which does not say that the Koran commands that non-Muslims should be killed.

    At least most Christians have the decency to invent completely bogus interpretations of their holy book which are more moral. It’s trivial to Christian groups who bend over backwards trying to make excuses about or outright deny that their god and prophets ordered and committed mass rape, pillaging, genocide, slavery, etc., It’s hard to find Muslim groups who do the same.

    Sorry. The last time that someone tried to do this by linking to some sights, a simple cursory examination showed that he was wrong, and that his chosen Muslims groups do say that their Koran says those horrible things.

    Find me a large Muslim group which says that it should be legal in every country to not only not be a Muslim (so-called mere apostacy), but also that it should be legal in every country to openly blaspheme Islam and to openly call for people to convert away from Islam. I’ll be waiting.

  55. EnlightenmentLiberal:

    @Raging Bee
    You know, I fell into your trap. Ignore that side-issue. You might be able to meet that challenge, but it doesn’t matter.

    The fact is that the Koran is a horrible book, and nearly all practiced versions of Islam are horrible, just like the Christian bible is a horrible book, and nearly all practiced versions of Christianity are horrible. I reserve the right to treat any person who calls themself a Christian or a Muslim with ridicule, scorn, contempt, and outright (verbal) hostility. Those religions are a blight upon this planet. Some kinds of Judaism, although it is a common practice to call yourself an atheist Jew which simply isn’t present in Christianity and Islam. However, if the Jew clarifies that he is a theistic Jew and believes in the god of Abraham, then I again reserve my right to treat that person with ridicule, scorn, contempt, and outright (verbal) hostility.

    This is not bigotry. This is no more bigotry than discrimination against rapists and murders and assholes.

    Most of the people are “nice” people. Most of them are well intentioned. But good intentions pave the road to hell. I will not give them a pass because of their good intentions. However, invariably the central teachings of all of those religions is morally obscene, and a proper response to morally outrageous behavior and beliefs is ridicule, scorn, contempt, and hostility.

  56. Michael Heath:

    By any objective moral standard that has a standard decrying human suffering, those adult Muslims and Christians who believe in the Abrahamic god, celebrate his supposed existence, and believe that god will condemn some to Hell are effectively immoral. In addition, I think the case is convincing all of these adult believers are also some combination of evil, deluded, ignorant, juvenile, and irresponsible.

    The case for evil grows as it becomes increasingly difficult for humans to remain in the epistemic bubbles past societies created and defended in order to promote religion and their respective hierarchies. It becomes increasingly absurd to believe in dogmatic religious claims.

    Sam Harris makes a compelling case for these religionists’ immorality for promoting beliefs that cause others to needlessly suffer. But the case for their immorality is convincing when we instead consider these religionists reaction to their beliefs regarding their god and the Hell he supposedly created or will create.

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