Monday, December 18, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Sam Harris


American author, philosopher, public intellectual, and neuroscientist, as well as the co-founder and CEO of Project Reason.
Sam Harris
It is time that scientists and other public intellectuals observed that the contest between faith and reason is zero-sum. There is no question but that nominally religious scientists like Francis Collins and Kenneth R. Miller are doing lasting harm to our discourse by the accommodations they have made to religious irrationality.
Harris quotes
If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology. I would not say that all human conflict is born of religion or religious differences, but for the human community to be fractured on the basis of religious doctrines that are fundamentally incompatible, in an age when nuclear weapons are proliferating, is a terrifying scenario.
Harris
This is a common criticism: The idea that the atheist is guilty of a literalist reading of scripture; and that it’s a very naive way of approaching religion; and there’s a far more sophisticated and nuanced view of religion on offer and the atheist is disregarding that. A few problems with this: Anyone making that argument is failing to acknowledge just how many people really do approach these texts literally or functionally - whether they’re selective-literalists, or literal all the way down the line. There are certain passages in scripture that just cannot be read figuratively. And people really do live by the lights of what is literally laid out in these books. So, the Koran says “hate the infidel” and Muslims hate the infidel because the Koran spells it out ad-nauseum. Now, it’s true that you can cherry-pick scripture, and you can look for all the good parts; You can ignore where it says in Leviticus that if a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night you’re supposed to stone her to death on her father’s doorstep. Most religious people ignore those passages, which really can only be read literally, and say that “they were only appropriate for the time” and “they don’t apply now”. And likewise, Muslims try to have the same reading of passages that advocate holy war. They say “well these were appropriate to those battles that Mohammed was fighting, but now we don’t have to fight those battles”. This is all a good thing, but we should recognize what’s happening here; People are feeling pressure from a host of all-too-human-concerns that have nothing, in principle, to do with God: Secularism; and human rights; and democracy; and scientific progress; These have made certain passages in scripture untenable. This is coming from outside religion; and religion is now making a great show of its sophistication in grappling with these pressures. This is an example of religion losing the argument with modernity.




Harris Sam quotes
It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently—though isn't it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed?
Harris Sam
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.
Sam Harris quotes
Atheism is just a way of clearing the space for better conversations.
Sam Harris
Principle #1: Avoid dangerous people and dangerous places.
Principle #2: Do not defend your property.
Principle #3: Respond immediately and escape.
Harris Sam quotes
His passion was for deep philosophical questions, and he could talk for hours and hours... Sometimes you'd want to say to him, 'What about the Yankees?' or 'Look at the leaves, they're changing color!'
Harris
One could surely argue that the Buddhist tradition, taken as a whole, represents the richest source of contemplative wisdom that any civilization has produced. In a world that has long been terrorized by fratricidal Sky-God religions, the ascendance of Buddhism would surely be a welcome development.
Harris Sam
The problem with faith, is that it really is a conversation stopper. Faith is a declaration of immunity to the powers of conversation. It is a reason, why you do not have to give reasons, for what you believe.
Sam Harris
Nothing that I've said makes social and political freedom any less valuable: having a gun to your head is still a problem worth rectifying, wherever intentions come from. So the freedom to do what one wants is still precious. But the idea that we as conscious beings are deeply responsible for what we want I think needs to be revised: it just can't be mapped onto reality, neither objective nor subjective. And if we're going to be guided by reality, rather than by the fantasy lives of our antecessors, I think our view of ourselves needs to change.




Sam Harris quotes
I have visited both extremes on the psychedelic continuum. The positive experiences were more sublime than I could have ever imagined or than I can now faithfully recall. These chemicals disclose layers of beauty that art is powerless to capture and for which the beauty of Nature herself is a mere simulacrum. It is one thing to be awestruck by the sight of a giant redwood and to be amazed at the details of its history and underlying biology. It is quite another to spend an apparent eternity in egoless communion with it. Positive psychedelic experiences often reveal how wondrously at ease in the universe a human being can be—and for most of us, normal waking consciousness does not offer so much as a glimmer of these deeper possibilities... But as the peaks are high, the valleys are deep. My “bad trips” were, without question, the most harrowing hours I have ever suffered—and they make the notion of hell, as a metaphor if not a destination, seem perfectly apt.
Sam Harris
We are, even now, killing ourselves over ancient literature. Who would have thought something so tragically absurd could be possible?
Harris quotes
Some researchers have speculated that religion itself may have played an important role in getting large groups of prehistoric humans to socially cohere. If this is true, we can say that religion has served an important purpose. This does not suggest, however, that it serves an important purpose now. There is, after all, nothing more natural than rape. But no one would argue that rape is good, or compatible with a civil society, because it may have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors. That religion may have served some necessary function for us in the past does not preclude the possibility that it is now the greatest impediment to our building a global civilization.
Harris Sam
Religious faith is the only area of discourse where immunity through conversation is considered noble. It's the only area of our lives where someone can win points for saying, "There's nothing that you can do to change my mind and I'm taking no state of the world ultimately into account in believing what I believe. There's nothing to change about the world that would cause me to revise my beliefs."
Harris Sam quotes
There are ideas within Buddhism that are so incredible as to render the dogma of the virgin birth plausible by comparison.
Sam Harris
There are ways to really live in the present moment. What's the alternative? It is always now. However much you feel you may need to plan for the future, to anticipate it, to mitigate risks, the reality of your life is now. This may sound trite... but it's the truth... As a matter of conscious experience, the reality of your life is always now. I think this is a liberating truth about the human mind. In fact, I think there is nothing more important to understand about your mind than that if you want to be happy in this world. The past is a memory. It's a thought arising in the present. The future is merely anticipated, it is another thought arising now. What we truly have is this moment. And this. And we spend most of our lives forgetting this truth. Repudiating it. Fleeing it. Overlooking it. And the horror is that we succeed. We manage to never really connect with the present moment and find fulfillment there because we are continually hoping to become happy in the future, and the future never arrives.
Sam Harris quotes
So you can't take credit for your talents, but it really matters if you use them. You can't really be blamed for your weaknesses and your failings, but it matters if you correct them. Pride and shame don't make a lot of sense in the final analyses. But they were no fun anyway. These are isolating emotions. What does make sense are things like compassion and love: caring about well-being makes sense; trying to maximize your well-being and the well-being of others makes sense. There is still a difference between suffering and happiness, and love consists in wanting those we love to be happy. All of that still makes sense without free will.
Sam Harris
You are happily being misunderstood in your use of the word "god."
Harris Sam
Even when we think we are in the present moment we are in very subtle ways looking over its shoulder anticipating what's coming next. We're always solving a problem. And it's possible to simply drop your problem, if only for a moment, and enjoy whatever is true of your life in the present... This is not a matter of new information or more information. It requires a change in attitude. It requires a change in the attentiveness you pay to your experience in the present moment.


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