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Quotes of the day: Sam Harris
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Published Wednesday, April 09, 2014 @ 4:31 AM EDT
Apr 09 2014

Samuel B. Harris (b. April 9, 1967) is an American author, philosopher and neuroscientist, and is a contemporary critic of religion and proponent of scientific skepticism and the "New Atheism". He is also an advocate for the separation of church and state, freedom of religion, and the liberty to criticize religion. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)

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Today is also Tom Lehrer's birthday. Mr. Lehrer, who always gives his age in Celsius, is 30. (That's 86F.)

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Atheism is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a 'non-astrologer' or a 'non-alchemist.' We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle.

Atheism is just a way of clearing the space for better conversations.

Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma.

Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn't care to, or he doesn't exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.

Faith is a declaration of immunity to the powers of conversation.

Faith is what credulity becomes when it finally achieves escape velocity from the constraints of terrestrial discourse.

Faith is, really, the permission that religious people give one another to believe things strongly when reasons fail. There is no other area in our discourse where we consider this to be an acceptable practice.

From my point of view, compatibilism is a little like saying: a puppet is free so long as it loves its strings.

I've read the books. God is not a moderate. There's no place in the books where God says, 'You know, when you get to the New World and you develop your three branches of government and you have a civil society, you can just jettison all the barbarism I recommended in the first books.'

If someone doesn't value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn't value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?

If we expect God to subscribe to one religion at the exclusion of all the others, then we should expect damnation as a matter of chance. This should give Christians pause when expounding their religious beliefs, but it does not.

Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows. Could anything- anything- be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.

It is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window.

It is time we recognized that those who claim the "right not to be offended" have also announced their hatred of civil society.

Mahavira, the Jain patriarch, surpassed the morality of the Bible with a single sentence: 'Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.' Imagine how different our world might be if the Bible contained this as its central precept.

Nothing is more sacred than the facts.

Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world, because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed.

Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance.

The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology.

The deity who stalked the deserts of the Middle East millennia ago- and who seems to have abandoned them to bloodshed in his name ever since- is no one to consult on questions of ethics.

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

The moral truth here is obvious: anyone who feels that the interests of a blastocyst just might supersede the interests of a child with a spinal cord injury has had his moral sense blinded by religious metaphysics.

The only angels we need invoke are those of our better nature: reason, honesty, and love. The only demons we must fear are those that lurk inside every human mind: ignorance, hatred, greed, and faith, which is surely the devil's masterpiece.

The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.

The problem is that religion, because it's been sheltered from criticism in the way that it has been, allows people- perfectly sane, perfectly intelligent people- to believe en masse what only idiots or lunatics could believe in isolation.

Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings.

We are now in the 21st century: all books, including the Koran, should be fair game for flushing down the toilet without fear of violent reprisal.

We have Christians against Muslims against Jews. They're making incompatible claims on real estate in the Middle East as though God were some kind of omniscient real estate broker parsing out parcels of land to his chosen flock. People are literally dying over ancient literature.

When considering the truth of a proposition, one is either engaged in an honest appraisal of the evidence and logical arguments, or one isn't. Religion is one area of our lives where people imagine that some other standard of intellectual integrity applies.

You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm.

You are not in control of your mind- because you, as a conscious agent, are only part of your mind, living at the mercy of other parts.

You don't get anything worth getting by pretending to know things you don't know.


Categories: Quotes of the day, Sam Harris


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