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Atheist bigwig Sam Harris: “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.”

This has never occurred to Sam Harris

In an interview a few years back with The Sun magazine, atheist bigwig Sam Harris had this to say about the comparable (de)merits of religion and rape:

If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.

You can read the whole interview starting here.

And some people wonder why so many atheists have broken with Harris and the rest of the Old School New Atheist Boys Club to start Atheism Plus.

EDITED TO ADD: Hadn’t noticed that the interview was from 2006, so maybe this is old news to a lot of atheists. Still horrible.

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meltydali
meltydali
8 years ago

wow, I’m speechless. Just fucking speechless

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

it’s almost as though privileged, thoughtless intellectuals don’t give a shit about anything that doesn’t affect them directly.

Hmm.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Why did he even think it was necessary to say this?

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

He is an asshole. But I’m sure he feels soooooo oppressed as a white male atheist. We just don’t know his pain.

I really wish dudes would stop talking about rape (unless they’re a survivor). They’re not helping.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Grrraaaaah. Must… not… hit self in head with brick…

cloudiah
8 years ago

I am not a violent person, but I hope Sam Harris, while walking barefoot, steps on a bunch of Legos, and then while trying to get away runs into a dark room where the floor is littered with thumbtacks, and once he finally gets outside he gets stung by a wasp.

Too much? I am kind of a crankypants right now. But tomorrow I am going to Disneyland with my favorite 6-year old, so I think that will cheer me up.

aworldanonymous
8 years ago

I’m so mad right now that I’m going to go make myself a second cup of hot cocoa to make me happy again. Seriously though, Sam Harris is a douche. The douchiest of douches. He is Captain McDoucheson of the SS Douchecanoe, powered fully by douchenozzle douchethrusters. He sails the sea of douche in search of people to be a douche to.

johnnykaje
8 years ago

So right after this was posted, someone told me the date the interview took place. :-/ Old interview is old.

Still, I hadn’t heard of it all these years, and I’ve been into the atheism movement since high school. It gives me another reason to hate Sam Harris other than his blind spots to certain woo and his own ego.

Karalora
8 years ago

@cloudiah

Yay Disneyland! I was there last weekend. It should be in full Christmas mode by now.

amandajane5
amandajane5
8 years ago

If I could get rid of something that is unlikely to affect me personally, or something that effects me personally, I’m going to go with the former. Way to take one for the team fuckneck.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

It’s like one has a page marked “Sam Harris, Scumbag” and hits Refresh every so often.

Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III
Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III
8 years ago

Gah.

That’s it. Just ‘gah’.

Hippodameia
Hippodameia
8 years ago

I hope a large pack of Labradors eats spicy chili and shits all over his house.

Nepenthe
Nepenthe
8 years ago

@ cloudiah

Definitely not too much. I was rooting for several wasps myself.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

And a white-tailed spider bite. Not fatal but serious pain.

reymohammed
reymohammed
8 years ago

Hound dogs make better plops.

cloudiah
8 years ago

I would like to amend my curse to include several wasps, Hippodameia’s labradors-with-chili-runs suggestion, and a white-tailed spider bite. Perhaps not all at once, but spread out over the course of a month. And maybe at the very end he could trip and fall into a pit full of porcupines. (NOTE: No porcupines would be harmed during the fulfillment of this curse.)

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

I hope Sam Harris gets squirrels in his attic, can’t find them and they keep him from sleeping well for a month.

I hope Sam Harris makes a pot of coffee only to discover that it’s decaf and he doesn’t have any regular coffee in the house.

I hope Sam Harris gets an itchy rash on his butt and when he goes to the doctor for it, they tell him that there’s nothing wrong with him.

Have fun at Disneyland, cloudiah!

katz
8 years ago

I move for him to get shut in a closet for hours, and then at the end realize that it wasn’t locked.

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

Sorry y’all but I’m gonna go with the cruelest option so far stated:

I hope that in time, it dawns on Sam Harris just how badly he represented himself and his cause, and how futile his actions were. I hope he comes to realize that those who criticized him were right, and his efforts to uplift the things he believes in damaged the cause more than religion ever could have.

I hope Sam Harris comes to understand — deeply, comprehensively, and irrevocably — what his impact on the world really was.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Squirrels in the attic? That’s just cruel!

–the guy who lives in an attic

popcornculturejunkie
8 years ago

I’m no fan of Sam Harris anyway, but this is beyond ridiculous. Being atheist myself, and if I had to choose only one, I would gladly get rid of rape. I’m no fan of religion, but I’d rather see rape go away first. Between Sam and The Absolute Asshole, I mean, Amazing Atheist (in his own mind), they’re not doing much for the rest of us everyday atheists. We don’t all look up to these douche-buckets. 🙁

Unimaginative
Unimaginative
8 years ago

Hmmm, if I could get rid of something that is real, tangible, measurable, and harms countless people daily and does absolutely no good for anyone, anywhere OR something I consider to be a delusion, but doesn’t always lead to harm… Gosh, what a dilemma. For a douchebag.

katz
8 years ago

Inurashii wins, of course.

But I hope he gets attacked by a hamster and then at the emergency room they laugh at him.

thebewilderness
thebewilderness
8 years ago

I heard him give a talk on PBS years ago and his argument was reasoned and so I bought his book. His argument was not reasoned in the book. That was the point when I realized he is yet another con man. There sure are a surfeit of those d00dz.

cloudiah
8 years ago

inurashii’s curse should be the ultimate curse, of course, but can the other curses be the minor curses that Harris has to live through before he comes to that stark realization?

aworldanonymous
8 years ago

I hope that Sam Harris’ house gets visited by an increasingly long line of Jehovas Witnesses. A curse tailored to specifically annoy him.

popcornculturejunkie
8 years ago

I hope Mormons break into Sam’s house and force him to wear the magic underwear, after the Jehovah’s Witnesses visit him.

Nathan Hevenstone
8 years ago

I hope as more atheists come out of the atheist closet, establishment figures become more and irrelevant, before eventually fading away to nothing more than a historical joke.

If I had a choice between doing away with rape or religion, I wouldn’t even think once, let alone twice. “Rape” would come out of my mouth too fucking fast to let me think. And I wouldn’t regret it. I’d rather live in a world free of rape than in a world free of religion.

katz
8 years ago

I hope he finds a Chick tract under his windshield wipers every day.

katz
8 years ago

AND I hope that he goes Trick-or-Treating and gets nothing but Chick tracts.

Nathan Hevenstone
8 years ago

Also… Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” simply sucks. “The God Delusion” was better, and I’m not even a fan of that.

themisanthropicmuse
8 years ago

Meh. Considering how dangerous he thinks religion is to the human race, color me unsurprised. Seriously, once you paint something an an ultimate evil of course you are going to get rid of it before anything else.

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

Invective aside, I’m with clairedammit: Why the fuck did he decide that this false dichotomy even needed to be propped up?

One of the things that us poly people get every once in a while is some genius being like, “If you had a gun to your head and had to choose to dump Partner A or Partner B, which one would you choose?”

and it’s like, wtf, do you ask this question of people who have multiple children? What is wrong with you?

Even if you think that religion is ghastly, you are not going to find yourself suddenly faced with the choice of which of the world’s personally perceived ills you get to cure. These questions are pointless and onanistic, serving only to let some blowhard stroke his engorged, turgid ego and pretend that he’s making a statement.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

He’s always been the most asinine of the Four Horsemen, and in a quartet featuring the supremely overrated Hitchens and post-’80s Dawkins that’s saying a lot.

*adds a healthy dose of AMURRICA to “logic and reason”*

Anyway, now none of you have to read him.

WeeBoy
WeeBoy
8 years ago

As a theist and a survivor I find this particilarly upsetting. Great dude, you’d vanish the thing which helped save my life when I was depressed but not the thing which contributed to me wanting to die in the first place? Get the fuck off my planet.

Molly moon
Molly moon
8 years ago

I hope he gets life in prison and his cell mate is a friendly evangelist

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

I’d like to repeat the bit from Katz’s hamster bite curse: everyone laughs at him.

Stuffed Fantod
8 years ago

Sam Harris is a shallow POS, and as much of an embarrassment to atheists as Pat Robertson must be to most Christians out there. Hitchens and Dawkins were/are somewhat better, but both were/are pretty obvious and unashamed misogynists

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

And pompous with it – at least, Dawkins and Hitchens; I don’t know enough about Harris to say.

I must say the look on Dawkins’s face when Andrew Denton (Oz interviewer) asked him “What’s your star sign?” at the end of an interview was priceless.

katz
8 years ago

Hitchens is also a jackass conservative.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

Yeah, Harris doesn’t seem to think torture’s so terrible. Charming fellow.

Dvärghundspossen
8 years ago

I was already annoyed with Sam Harris for his book on free will. I mean, there are lots of philosophers out there who discusses the issue, and everyone agrees these days that the term “free will” is ambiguous. Different philosophical schools use it differently, and there is much evidence that lay people also use it differently. Some people use it to mean something like the ability to think through various alternatives and then choose the one you really find best and act on it, in which case we obviously have free will at least sometimes. Others use it in a fancier way. Basically, if you’re gonna discuss whether we have free will or not, you have to pick a definition, argue why this particular definition is interesting/worth caring about, and then present your case as to whether we have THIS kind of free will or not.

Sam Harris defines “free will” as meaning you have the god-like power of omniscience regarding your own psyche and the ability to create your own mental life out of nothing. He then proudly declares that this power does not exist (duh, really?). He says over and over again that all regular people BELIEVES that they have this impossible god-like power (no, there’s no evidence whatsoever that they do), throws in some neuroscientifical findings (don’t know why, since you don’t need neuroscience to know that we don’t have omniscience and the ability to create ourselves out of nothing), and finally manages to completely misrepresent what various philosophical schools have to say about the subject.

So, I already disliked the man. And now this. Oh well.

Noadi
8 years ago

One the list of douchey things Harris has said this isn’t even at the top of the list. I’m not sure what goes at the top, coming just short of advocating genocide in the middle east or thinking torture is a good thing.

Even things I agree with him on in the abstract (like free will is an illusion) he manages to screw up spectacularly. You don’t even need to argue the broad Cartesian dualism form of free will (a caricatured version of it is what he was using for a definition) and that he does is just lazy. Neuroscience already has a lot to say about how we aren’t in conscious control of all our decisions (brain scans showing a decision made before we have rationalized it to ourselves) and of course that we are the product of our life experiences which set us up for making the decisions we do (conscious or not).

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Only the most hardcore New Age types believe in that definition of free will. WTF does Harris think he’s on about? He basically wrote an entire book attacking a strawman.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Also, I hope that he gets stuck between two very aggressive evangelists on every flight that he ever takes for the rest of his life, and that all the flight attendants refuse to move him because they remember this quote.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

And that there’s a small child behind him who keeps kicking his seat so that he can’t sleep.

Dvärghundspossen
8 years ago

@Noadi: The point is, you still have to pick a definition of free will, since it’s not the case that “events in our brain caused the decision and action” or “we’re the products of our life experiences” disproves every popular definition used by various philosophical schools. It was the case hundreds of years ago that many scientists AND philosophers, despite not having brain scan devices, were completely convinced that the psyche is basically some kind of mechanism where a certain input gives a certain output. Some people has seen this as proof that we can’t be free, because they think freedom’s gotta be freedom from causation. Others have thought this is compatible with freedom, because they think the word only makes sense as “freedom from compulsion”, but causation isn’t compulsion. And if the term “free will” is gonna mean anything, it’s gotta be the will being free from INNER compulsion like neurosis – but once again, causation isn’t compulsion.

But the point is, it’s not like brain scans have revealed something completely unexpected about ourselves. A large part of philosophy has been convinced for ages that this is most likely the way we function: Something causes decisions and actions, they don’t just appear. And then they’ve argued from there; can we still be free? Can we have free will?

Both camps have been certain that they have the general public on their side, but only recently have philosophers actually started to investigate what the general public thinks of the matter. And it seems like opinions differ a lot, and are often easily swayed this way or that by how the question is phrased.

So you really can’t skip the stage where you define what you mean by free will and say something about why this meaning is the one you’re interested in, before you start digging into empirical evidence one way or another.

Dvärghundspossen
8 years ago

@Cassandra: Yes, he makes a strawman of “the general public”, and he also makes strawmen of “libertarians” (philosophical school) and “compatibilists” (other philosophical school). The weird thing is that famous free will philosopher Galen Strawson apparently read the draft… He should have been able to point such stuff out? I guess that either Strawson just skimmed the whole thing, saw that Harris conclusion agrees with his own (since Strawson has argued that we don’t have the kind of free will necessary for desert-entailing moral responsibility), and just gave it back to Harris with an “looks alright”. Or else he actually critisised stuff, but Harris couldn’t be bothered to listen to him since he’s just a philosopher and not a SCIENTIST like Harris.

Skyrimjob
Skyrimjob
8 years ago

Um, what? Hitchens wasn’t a conservative, he was a genius, and by far the greatest of the “New Atheists” or whatever you want to call them. Partially because he wasn’t, you know, just an atheist, he was a lot of things. Seriously, talk about dismissiveness. Probably some of the green-eyed monster going on too. I’ve actually found that’s usually the case with the Hitchens haters. The man spent his adult life chronically drunk and was still a far better writer than any of his detractors.

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