2015-11-27

(“Misrepresenting”) Sam Harris On Progressivism, Torture, Religion & Foreign Policy

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by Neil Godfrey

Sam Harris is making the news circuit again. (Who is this Sam Harris guy, anyway?) He’d choose Ben Carson over Noam Chomsky for President apparently because Ben Carson has a better understanding of the Islamist threat to the West; Jerry Coyne writes that Sam Harris drains the intellectual cesspool at Salon and sees himself and Sam as the true inheritors of the Age of Enlightenment; and of course he’s being misrepresented by his critics as always. As for everybody who has ever criticized Sam Harris being guilty of misrepresenting him, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks analyses this proclivity masterfully in Nobody Understands Poor Sam Harris (h/t Pharyngula):

So I thought this would be an apropos time to dust off a draft post that has been sitting in my files for some weeks now. Recall back in mid October that Kyle Kulinski attempted to find a way for people like Glenn Greenwald and Sam Harris to come to a meeting of minds. Why can’t all atheists who agree Islamic terrorism is a serious problem just get along?

What I did was write notes on one of those conversations, the one published 17th October 2015. They’re too loose to be called a transcript but I have noted very approximate time markers throughout for relatively easy checking.

 

Kyle — There is so much agreement among us so why cannot we get along?

1:30

SH: — Says that Kyle’s attempt to establish a way New Atheists and others should be able to get along was destined to fail…..

He (SH) is going to explain why he agreed to come on KK’s show and “to nail down some basic facts”

SH says he also went on The Young Turks network where Werleman and Reza Aslan had been given a platform to “disparage me” (Sam Harris) “and lie about my views”.

He has come here on KK’s show to respond to Glenn Greenwald:

“Glenn came on your show and just ran me down for the better part of an hour. He misrepresented my views as he always does; he compared me to neo-nazis he’s known in his capacity as a lawyer; he called me a coward; he told the world that I changed my views where people find them offensive; and I falsely claim to have been misrepresented; and you more or less agreed with him on that point…..”

3:00

SH: “I want to take a few minutes to explain some background facts because it’s very easy for people to get confused about what’s happening here. . . . I want you and your listeners to understand why this debate is so poisonous.”

SH: To be unbiased “is a very good thing — most of the time. But it’s not such a good thing when you’re dealing with unethical and irresponsible people. If you came upon two people fighting in an alley you wouldn’t necessarily assume that each has a good reason for wanting to hurt the other. You’re aware that it’s perfectly possible that one of them is a psychopath who attacked the other for no good reason and the other’s just doing his best to defend himself. . . . ”

“Some people are in fact total arseholes. They’re unscrupulous, they’re dishonest, they’re self-serving, they’re powerfully self-deceived, they’re narcissistic, they’re unwilling to admit mistakes. Some people are just walking case studies in psychopathology and bad faith. Now, unfortunately I have managed to collide with a fair number of these people; and Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan are probably the most well-known. They have their minions: Glenn has Murtaza Hussain, I think he’s probably a psychopath from the way he behaves online. And Reza has Nathan Lean, who from my eyes is just aspiring to be the most ethically confused person on earth. And then there are people like Chris Hedges and C.J. Werleman. These are both famous plagiarists and loons. . . .

Many people assume that the criticising the character of one’s opponent as I’m doing now is to commit the ad hominem fallacy. It’s not. That’s only true if you’re failing to deal with their arguments. And insofar as any of these people have arguments, I’ve dealt with them. . . . But for the most part they but they just lie about my views. You are engaging with these people as though they are arguing in good faith. They aren’t. And my correspondence with them should prove that to you if you’ve been paying attention. . . .”

On KK with Werleman —

“you treat him like a perfectly moral intellectually honest person who just might have some interesting things to say about me and Dawkins and our alleged bias against Muslims. But who is C.J. Werleman? He’s a plagiarist who when caught, rather than apologize and spend a year in the wilderness ….. he created a sock puppet blog, literally a fake blog ostensibly by some woman in Brooklyn from which he accused me of plagiarism. . . . We’re talking about the most unprofessional behaviour imaginable, and yet you are taking him seriously.

“And who is Glenn Greenwald? GG is just C.J. Werleman after he won the lottery. Glenn is a totally unscrupulous defamer of people who just got handed the story of the decade because Snowden happened to like his political views. And if you think that’s unfair, you haven’t been paying attention to how Greenwald operates. Greenwald has his own sock puppet scam you might want to look into.

“I remain genuinely confused about Snowden. I honestly don’t know whether he’s a hero or whether he deserves to be in prison. I’m absolutely…. There’s a blank spot in my mind about the significance of what he has done. I simply don’t know the consequences of his actions now or what they will be in the future. But I know one thing to a moral certainty. Most people who fear government surveillance for obvious reasons and most people who are fond of what Snowden did are blinded to who GG actually is. Snowden simply handed him thousands of top secret documents and Greenwald leaked them and you seem to assume this makes him a brilliant investigative journalist. Greenwald doesn’t have a journalistic bone in his body. I have never seen someone so maliciously unconcerned about misrepresenting the views of his opponents …. apart from the other people we are talking about- Reza Aslan and Glenn’s deranged colleague Murtaza Hussain. These people are glorified cyber-bullies.
They’re not journalists. They’re not scholars. And they’re certainly not intellectuals. They almost never admit mistakes much less correct them. And practically everything they put out there is a half-truth at best. Yes, for the first time Greenwald corrected one false accusation he spread about me on Twitter — that Jerry Seinfeld business….. But he managed to do this in a totally dishonest way and it was only after he reaped a fucking whirlwind of criticism online — that was pure self-preservation on his part.

So generally speaking these people don’t admit errors, and when they do, when errors are pointed out to these guys, they just double down. They know their audience doesn’t care. Their audience just wants another partisan dog whistle about bigotry and white privilege and Islamophobia and U.S. crimes against humanity.

So when I’m dealing with these people the two sides are not equivalent. I’m not lying about their views or using stupid tricks to misrepresent them. If you ask me to restate Greenwald’s view on any of the points we’ll discuss I’ll be able to do it in a way that he’ll find no fault with. I don’t have to misrepresent his views to argue against them. These people seem to think that everything is fair as long as you’re quoting someone accurately. . . . .

Imagine I said the following….

Black people are apes. White people are apes. We’re all apes. Racism doesn’t make any sense.

……

Glenn Greenwald, Murtaza Hussain, Resa Aslan, Nathan Lean, Cenk Uygur, C.J. Werleman, Chris Hedges, — all of these guys, and literally thousands of their fans, would feel no compunction at all in summarizing my view as a shocking instance of racism saying that Sam Harris says black people are just apes. Full stop. This is how they operate.

In a million years I wouldn’t behave that way. If you don’t notice that crucial difference, if you don’t focus on how ethically and intellectually repellant that behaviour is, you have lost the plot and you are part of the problem when you give these people a platform.

Now the problem of the regressive left …. is separate from all of this. You can be a regressive leftist and treat your opponents’ views fairly. GG is a regressive leftist, yes, but he’s also an arsehole. He is an unethical arsehole. And this is not a fallacy of argumentation, ad hominem or otherwise, to point that out. …….

I want people to be aware of the asymmetry here. ….If you pay attention you will notice that the two people are not fighting in the same way. If you do a little digging you can find out how the fight started. And how it started will tell you a lot about the character of the people involved.”

12:00 —

SH asks KK what he thinks of the correspondence between him and GG …..

“Let’s take the fascism charge. So this is what happened. Murtaza Hussain wrote an article. I wrote an article back on 2007 about The End of Liberalism.

genocidal fascist maniac

19:00 —

On GG and MH: “these guys are deranged harpies”

23:00 —

KK “So when you hear Glenn talk you’re going ‘Okay, I think that he conspired beforehand to say untrue things about me.” Do you really think that’s what Glenn is doing?”

SH: “Absolutely. Absolutely. There are so many examples of this. . . . Glenn knows that I’m not a fascist; he knows that I don’t want to kill people for their beliefs; he knows that I don’t want to execute a nuclear first strike on the Muslim world. And C.J. Werleman knows this, and Cenk Uygur knows this, and Reza Aslan knows this, Chris Hedges knows this.”

KK: “Your follow ups have always been the most important part on these various issues”

SH: “No, No. … That’s just not true. …”

KK: “That’s honestly my view of those more inflammatory issues you just mentioned there that you’ve got a lot of backlash on…… Well the follow up is more reasonable and puts everything in perspective.”

SH: “Yeh, well, the follow up — I’m putting training wheels on it in most cases. And taking peoples’ false assumptions out of their heads. And so I’m doing damage control in a follow up. But none of my views have changed in these follow ups. And the actual view is clearly stated in the original. It’s just that people have a hard time reading….”

to take a specific example — “this is one way in which Glenn Greenwald and Islamist apologists generally are very slippery”

(25:00)

KK- – In all cases torture should be illegal, SH said in a follow up article … KK defended SH on what he said in that follow up that torture in all cases should be illegal so everything in the previous article had been a thought experiment

SH: “No, it’s not just a thought experiment. . .. ”

SH: — should be illegal but still right to do it… sometimes right to break the law….. some words are so loaded (e.g. torture, racial profiling) that “you are stigmatized for even raising the topic of conversation– but you’re not if you’re talking about collateral damage which is much worse….”

“Torture is deliberately making someone in your custody uncomfortable for the purpose of making them talk. That runs the full gammit from depriving them of sleep which is in fact torture…. If you deprive someone of sleep long enough, they die. Sleep deprivation is torture. So the question is, Are we ethically required to give members of Al Qaeda a full eight hours of sleep every night for the entirety of their time in prison? Is that an ethical requirement? I don’t get eight hours of sleep. So I think the answer to that is, No. So now already you’re on a slippery slope to . . . Well, just how uncomfortable are we going to make them and for what purpose? But people don’t want to talk about this. You feel like you’re participating in the inquisition of the fourteenth century even going down this road. But the reality is that good, well-intentioned people who are trying to keep open societies safe have to think these issues through. So everything I’ve written about torture is an effort to try to understand the ethics of this situation and my view on torture — though I’ve been slimed as if a pro-torture lunatic by people like Greenwald — my view on torture is exactly the view you get from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Now I just happened to discover that after I wrote The End of Faith but it is in fact exactly that view, that famous Handbook of Evil, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy enunciates the same ethical position on torture. And so in a context of thinking through the ethics I stand by everything I’ve said on torture. I do think it should be illegal for some reasons I’ve spelled out, but there are things that are illegal that in certain cases are not only ethical but you would have to be a monster not to do them. Right. And you can easily think of a situation where you, by refusing to get your hands dirty make the person in your custody at all uncomfortable, you would be a monster. Right. And the case in the Stanford Encyclopedia is a perfect case. . . . . “

Linked to the article on his blog in On Response to Controversy … http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/

(cf http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2010/04/28/a-family-unfriendly-aesop/ — why not show video footage to leave suspect under no doubt they knew it was him; and note the possibility that a beating might kill the suspect and then no hope….)

31:00….

“Smacking someone around is torture. Right. To slap someone across the face you are beginning to torture them. Right. Would you have slapped that guy across the face? . . . .

“My argument for torture here is that it should be illegal but these cops …. were clearly in a case where it was the right thing to do.. . . So they’re breaking the law…. “

KK protests that SH is focusing philosophically on some of the hardest cases, but we need to be more grounded in what we are dealing with now…. like Senate Torture Report where we learn 20% of those we tortured were totally innocent.

SH: “I’m trying to get down to ethical bed-rock on these issues”

We have to get the ethics straight first and then make the laws around that.

KK — you should state in your original piece that torture should be illegal …

SH: I have spelled all of this out in my writing.

KK: Yes, I defend you on the basis of your “training wheels” follow ups.

SH: “You’re giving my opponents too much credit here. No one has ever revised their take on my view based on the follow ups. Certainly Greenwald and… this rogues’ gallery and people I’m dealing with haven’t.”

KK — says Greenwald did say that the follow up on profiling was much more agreeable than the original pieces (e.g. don’t spend so much time on little kids and grandmothers)

SH: “No, no. He just used it as another springboard to attack me. … He said, Either he’s saying this very evil thing but that when people get outraged he says no no that’s not what I meant I’m saying this other thing which is totally prosaic which everyone already thinks. And so which is it? Are you saying the boring thing that everyone already thinks or are you saying this edgy evil thing that got everyone outraged? . . . . What the problem with Harris is that 1 he’s a bad writer or 2 he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions because when people push back on this stuff he just buckles and says no no that’s not what I meant. None of that is true. Right. That’s all happening in Greenwald’s mind. Right. Or he wants it to be happening in your mind.”

KK — likes SH’s follow ups better than the original pieces.

SH: “No, no, go back and read the original pieces. . . . . I’ve had to deal with objections and so my position gets more fleshed out and torture is actually one of those. . . . Profiling, that may be the case as well…. But my basic view hasn’t changed on any of these. ….”

My torture argument is part of collateral damage argument — we don’t bother when we kill half a dozen innocents to kill the bad guy.

ca 40:00 ….

SH: “This is an incredibly consequential and important area to be able to write about and think about openly without the fear that your reputation is going to be systematically destroyed by malicious people like Glenn Greenwald. And again it’s all of these guys. They know that a word like “torture” is so provocative and it’s shorthand for everything horrible about any person who can even raise the concept that they can slime me with a tweet and just do this endlessly….It’s not only lazy. It’s making it impossible to have conversations about, again, some of the most ethically important terrain we’ll ever stumble on. . . .. ”

“I’m dealing with people here who simply …. the most charitable case here is that they feel they are so in the right, they feel that their side is so important that they win that they think it is a fair tactic to simply attempt to defame the other side. . . . To call them fascists, to say that they want to turn immigrants into lampshades or support the people who do. And if you’re not going to draw a bright line between that behaviour and the actually dealing with the content of ideas, it’s hopeless.

44:00 —

“let’s deal with the issue of Islamism….” (sh)

GG is calling me a fascist and a neo-con (not right/not fair) and “I’m calling him an Islamist apologist.” — “Let me tell you why that is precisely fair. . . .

“Do I think Greenwald wants to live under sharia law? Of course not. He would be dead in a day under sharia law. But he does not have to want to live under sharia law to be effectively an apologist for Islamists. So follow this thread. Islamists use charges of racism and bigotry and Islamophobia to deflect criticism of their ideology and agenda. They’re theocrats. We’re talking about people who are intolerant of free speech, they’re intolerant of gender equality, they’re intolerant of gay rights. These are people who basically want to get back to the seventh century in some sense.”

ca 45:00

“These are people who cynically use liberal tolerance, the tolerance of open societies to advance what is a highly illiberal agenda. They’re working toward theocracy under the guise of asserting their own political rights and by making a very cynical claim on our liberal values of tolerance and pluralism. And so they’re claiming at every turn that they’re the victims of intolerance from people like me, from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, from cartoonists, and regressive leftists like Greenwald stand shoulder to shoulder with them making the same noises. Think about this…. It is not safe to be a cartoonist anywhere on earth at this moment if you’re going to satirize Islam. And people like Glenn Greenwald blame the cartoonists for this, accusing them of racism and intolerance. ….”

“The far left blames the cartoonists for their insensitivity. And Glenn Greenwald did this. This is who you’re dealing with.”

KK: point conceded. — to be clear, asks SH, “Does Glenn say “Hey, I hate these cartoonists and they’re racists but it obviously should still be legal for them to draw”?

SH: “Along with the herd of imbeciles he just didn’t understand what the cartoonists were doing. . . . He compared them with…. and blamed French culture for its treatment of Muslims…..

“The fact that you see him doing that should tell you a lot about the rest of what he is doing, the rest of his political and ethical sympathies here.”

KK — you say that should give me a hint to the rest of his work, but I’m saying of the rest of his work I’d agree with over 80% of what he does….

SH: “Free speech is a life and death issue. It is the foundation of everything we care about. ….. It has been destroyed by the topic of Islam….

SH says that he is worried about Muslims, the free thinkers and the gays and apostates and aspiring scientists and true liberal reformers like Maajid Nawaz — the most vulnerable …And the Left, Chomsky and Greenwald and many of the people you admire — has just abandoned them.

ca 52:00

“Murtaza Hussain, Greenwald’s crazy right hand man, called Maajid a porch monkey, a native informant, an Uncle Tom.– Where is Greenwald’s concern about racism and the denigration of Muslims there?”

KK – not all — Cenk is also hard on free speech (agrees with SH’s point here)

SH: Says that It’s very easy to say you support free speech. That doesn’t mean much when someone like Salmon Rushdie….. and your contribution is to criticise him for his insensitivity.

KK — need to be specific about each person — can’t generalize all do this.

SH: “…. Greenwald not only demand that we accept it — They try to destroy the reputations of those of us who complain about it by calling us bigots and Islamophobes. That is the dynamic here that is so ugly.”

KK — agrees emphasis is important in this debate.

56:00 —

KK — when you talk about connection between belief and action…. and there’s a spectrum where some people get radicalized as result of religious ideology becoming more attractive because they have terrestrial grievances (that’s the side that liberals like to speak about a lot) and on the other end is the purely religious terrorism…. What would you say is roughly the percentage of each?

SH: “I would say that most of the jihadism is ideological in that the behaviour makes no sense without certain beliefs which are at their very core religious. So yes, I admit there’s a spectrum there. And there are people who do have rational real-world grievances which get channelled in this area. But there’s an endless number of examples of people who have no intelligible grievance apart from what they believe to be true in religious terms.”

KK — Malala – is a good example….

ca 58:00–

SH: wants to drill down on the issue of the way people are denying the link between belief and behaviour with respect to Islamism.

SH: “So for instance in this area Greenwald made a big show on your show of understanding the problem of religious extremism. He admitted, Of course there are Muslim fanatics. Nobody denies that. A total straw man. But then he immediately goes to, But there are Christian and Buddhist fanatics too. Remember Christians kill abortion doctors. This is how he can be an Islamist apologist without wanting sharia law. This is rank apology for Islamism. These problems are incomparable on every level. First of all the problems are of a completely different scale. Islamism is destabilizing much of the world at this moment. And how many abortion doctors have been killed . . . in the last 50 years? Something like 10. And here’s another way they’re not comparable. The link between doctrine and behaviour is totally different. The link between the doctrine of Christianity and the murder of abortion doctors or even being against abortion is far from clear. There’s nothing in the Bible to give you a clear foundation for this behaviour. The link between Islamic doctrine and ISIS, the worst of the worst of Muslim behaviour, is direct. It is straightforward. An honest and comprehensive reading of the texts can get you ISIS. It is child’s play for Al Baghdadi to justify his behaviour in theological terms. What’s difficult to answer is the following question: What is ISIS doing that Muhammad didn’t do or would have clearly disapproved of? That is a genuinely hard question to answer in any meaningful way. The thing to realize is that it’s not hard for Jesus or Buddha. What’s ISIS doing that Jesus didn’t do or wouldn’t have approved of? What is ISIS doing that Buddha didn’t do? Everything, right! Now that difference is enormously important. Bring this back to Greenwald. Greenwald says that all forms of fundamentalism are dangerous, right? Bullshit. It matters what the fundamentals are. A fundamentalist Jainism….. is not dangerous. So Greenwald on your show emphasized we have to dedicate ourselves to criticizing all religion equally — as all fundamentalism is a problem, all religions have their extremists. Again, this is total bullshit. This is doing the work of Islamists for them.”

“That was moral core of Greenwald’s animus toward me in his interview. That was how he justified calling me a bigot — the fact that I did not criticize all religions equally. Go back and watch that interview. . . . That justifies all that what he’s doing. He says I’m a bigot, I’m a racist, I’m a fascist, because I have an emphasis on Islam in this area. But …. no-one is worrying about the Amish…”

KK — when they say you’re not criticizing all equally their point is that your criticism will be heard by more people….

SH: “Greenwald said on your show that I never criticize Judaism or Jews. That’s total bullshit. That is a lie about my record, about my books, about my public lectures. It’s just a misrepresentation of what I do. Here’s the reality. There are 15 million Jews on earth and most of them are secular. I hammer orthodox and ultra orthodox Judaism whenever it crosses my desk. But I get on stage with a conservative rabbi to debate and I find out in the middle of the debate that he barely even believes in God. There are probably a few million Jews on earth who are as religious as your average Muslim. There are just not that many Jews who believe much of anything. And still there are crucial differences between Judaism and Islam that makes Judaism more benign. It’s not a missionary faith. It’s not trying to conquer the world. It has no clear conception of Paradise, much less martyrdom. And the craziest Jews think that they’re hands are tied until the Messiah comes back. So there are many reasons why even if we had 1.6 billion Jews on earth it would be less problematic than Islam. So again, it’s essential to talk about the differences between religions. There are situations again where Christianity is scarier and more destructive than Islam…… embyronic stem cell research. . . Islam does not have a dog in that fight.”

Warren Jeffs — Mormons — Greenwald responsible for our moral and political confusion we have here …. polygamy and child marriage — no protests over right of their cultural beliefs being denied — though Muslim community has that in spades.

SH infuriated when Glenn Greenwald referred to SH’s claim that there are tens of millions of Muslims far scarier than Dick Cheney….

SH: paraphrase — Here we have to talk about intention and its ethical significance. It is conservative say… and Maajid Nawaz agrees with me on this as does the only research that’s been done in this area with all the opinion polls that you’ve ever seen come out of the Muslim community. . . . .2% of Muslim world is 32 million people.

“So yes, there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who have a vision of life that is far scarier than Dick Cheney’s. The fact that GG can demagogue this issue in the way that he did in your interview with him just proves that he’s not even following what’s happening in the world. He doesn’t care to know what we’re up against with political Islam. It’s a terrifying prospect because again at a certain point the only people who are going to have thick enough skins to talk about this are the demagogues on our side, the Christian fascists on our side. . . . Someone like me will just get out of the game because it’s too much of a fucking hassle and there are so many people who have reputations that they want to protect who agree with me on this but they can’t go near this. It’s too poisonous. They don’t want GG tweeting about them. That’s the problem.”

ca 1:10 —

KK

Hitchens found all fundamentalist religions equally dangerous because “any sacrifice of reason to dogmatism, plus any with teh tribalism taht comes along with that … any given time yes one religion is worse, but overall they are all latently equally dangerous.

SH: I think that is unreasonable … — “It’s clearly not true. I can prove that that’s not true to you. Because if that were true then it would in fact be impossible to improve any of these religions morally speaking. . . . But if you could just tinker with Islam for about five minutes and get all the stuff that treated women like chattel and all the stuff that vilified infidels and made it a very fuzzy warm and love everyone sort of religion, that would be an improvement…… The reason dogmatism is latently dangerous is that it leaves you unresponsive to realities. . . . .But it’s trivially easy to see how you could improve any of these religions ethically… and Jainism simply does not have the potential to spawn a death cult of suicide terrorists. …”

“The problem with religion is that it gives a rationale for tribalism and makes it so much more endurable . . . .”

— it matters not just for this world but for the next.

ca 1:15—

KK refers to GG’s ‘context matters’ …. someone in Egypt criticising Muslims… or for someone from the Muslim world doing it like Maajid Nawaz…. that’s one thing; we, however, should criticize our own govt first….

SH: “Well no it doesn’t which is witnessed by the fact that you’ve got Murtaza Hussain calling him a porch monkey and an Uncle Tom and a “native informing”. So no, they don’t even give ground to someone like Maajid.”

Re the Chomsky doctrine on criticizing your own govt …. or a telling sign of jingoism and tribalism…

SH: “I think this is totally dishonest and pedantic and morally irresponsible. The people who follow this principle — and I’ve met these people — …… you meet people who complain about gender equality among venture capitalists in Silicon Valley…. or they’re worried about the over-use of the masculine pronoun in academic writing . …. Yet when girls in Afghanistan are getting their faces burnt off with battery acid they say it’s none of our business. Who are we to judge? Who can say what is right or wrong?”

KK — what percentage would really say that? it’s none of our business. Who are we to judge?

SH: “Well no, but it’s implicit in the fact that my focusing on that summons cries of bigotry by people like Greenwald— It’s a sign of my bigotry against Muslim barbarians that I’m more worried about the mistreatment of women in Afghanistan than I am about the misogyny in my own culture. Well because the misogyny in my own culture is not even moving the needle even slightly when you’ve got half the population forced to live in bags and be beaten or killed when they try to get out. ….”

SH: GG is participating in a global war against free speech and he’s on the wrong side of it — with his stance on the Charlie Hebdo massacre…. “He’s making the world safe for theocrats and increasingly dangerous for their enemies in the Muslim world. I hear from Muslims in Pakistan, in multiple countries, always by email, who can’t tell their own mothers that they’re atheists. They’re afraid that they’re going to be murdered by their parents of by their neighbours. And they’re noticing the kind of push back I get from people like Greenwald….. [a nearly verbatim quote] “if even a liberal like you can’t make these obvious points about intolerance without having your reputation destroyed what hope is there for someone like me who is afraid to even describe her beliefs for fear of being murdered by her neighbours…. This is the situation. And this is why Maajid calls them regressive leftists, the so-called liberals are standing side-by-side with the bearded theocrats crying racism and bigotry and Islamophobia whenever we focus on how intolerable the status quo is throughout the Muslim community worldwide.”

KK — SH and Rich Dawkins are not bigots coz they are critical of the ideas, not the persons…. what they are concerned about is conservatism, ultra-conservatism.

SH: “People like Greenwald and the true Islamist apologists, the Muslim Islamist apologists make every effort to blur the line between those two things …. Greenwald knows that I’m not a bigot. He has to know I’m not a bigot at this point. And yet still he’s talking in his interview with you about my focus on Islam being a sign of my jingoism and bigotry. This is another example of how he is in fact an Islamist apologist.”….. the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) .. “This is an odious organisation, an organisation that has explicit ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, it attacks Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a bigot and gets her blacklisted from universities, it does nothing but blur the line between Islamism, this creeping theocracy I’m talking about, and the legitimate concerns for civil rights that you just described. This organisation looks for hate crimes against Muslims everywhere. When a Muslim girl gets murdered they try to whip up a tribal frenzy about it. ….. When it turns out to be an ordinary honour killing, when this girl’s deranged father just killed her based on his crazy religious beliefs, they just move on. There’s no acknowledgement of their error, and more importantly there’s no acknowledgement of the horror of honour killing and the other forms of intolerance that occur disproportionately in the Muslim community. This is an organization that systematically conceals this kind of backwardness and intolerance and yet searches for bigotry against Muslims everywhere. …. Occasionally finding it (there is real bigotry against Muslims) but more often than not pretending to find it, finding it with me, … finding it with the triple murder in South Carolina over the parking spot. There is no evidence at all that New Atheist Muslim hatred gave rise to Hicks’s behaviour there. ….”

SH says that Greenwald speaks at CAIR events and says there’s no group he’s prouder to collaborate with.

“You have to keep connecting these dots. This is where the centre of ethical gravity is for him. It’s in finding the tiniest shreds of …. bigotry and intolerance wherever he can possibly detect them, and more often than not they’re not even there – a fact that they never admit — then simply disregarding the true horror of Muslim intolerance the world over. And again it’s not just in Saudi Arabia. It is in neighbourhoods in the West. . . . “

(bigger problem in Western Europe but also problem in the US)

KK — My biggest area of agreement with GG is on US imperialism.

ca 1:28

KK Cheney — empiricism vs theory — Cheney did have more power than a lot of these terrorist leaders and did cause more deaths…

SH: “I’m not going to pretend to read Dick Cheney’s mind and pretend to know exactly what he thought he was doing”

KK: “I’ll send you an article that lays it out in pretty good detail from his own mouth.”

SH: “I don’t actually know, so let me say Dick Cheney is a kind of caricature, the golem that every liberal has made of him ….. I don’t actually know how culpable Dick Cheney is for [KK: Again I’ll send you that article — his own writing]. Right, so, This is why intentions matter. ….. Imagine a hostage situation”….

A sniper told to shoot terrorist but kills hostage by mistake… how do we judge?

Intentions are everything in this context. The sniper is trying to save lives. If he could capture the terrorist and put him on trial he would, but he can’t. So he’s attempting to do the only thing that would stop him from killing more innocent people. Now by the logic of people like Greenwald, he’s just another murderer. He says Forget about his intentions, he killed an innocent person there. And God help him if he’s white and the victim is black or then we’ll never be able to think about this in a rational way because then he must be a racist, right? This is just moral insanity. Now take a messier situation of what just happened in Afghanistan, the bombing of the MSF hospital…. So liberals reacted to this, and the one that I noticed was Abby Martin

(= paraphrase — another person who attacks me as a racist and an Islamophobe and a psychopath)….

The only way to make sense of her reaction is that she believed the new plan now was to intentionally murder the people who work for MSF, one of the most beloved charities on earth. The new plan now is that we are going to kill these doctors and their nurses and their patients because it does something good for our side and we just want to do it, right. Not that this was a tragic accident. ….. This is so obviously tragic… it is so obviously bad for us — the idea that we would have intentionally done this — it’s crazy. Now what is the difference between intentionally having done it and having done it by accident. That difference is enormous….. It is enormous because intentions are the only indication of what someone is going to do if they get the chance to do it. It’s the only indication of what someone would do if they had the power to do anything they want. You call this theoretical. I actually think that is a term of disparagement, right. …. “

KK: Not saying it is not reality — just saying that people like Bin Laden haven’t had the power that Dick Cheney has. .. We have to say for honesty’s sake that Dick Cheney is responsible for more deaths than some of the monsters who have worse moral beliefs.

SH: Okay.. What was Dick Cheney really trying to do? …. However bad Dick Cheney personally is, the people who got us into the war in Iraq, for the most part….. 99.99% of the people on our side of that ugly war — If you had given them the magical power to do anything they want in the Middle East, what would they have done? What would George Bush have turned the Middle East into if he had the power of God? Would he have just created Hellscape for people to suffer in? No. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that.

KK — Cheney seems to believe that by definition are the good guys so whatever we decide to do is right — american exceptionalism….

SH: But no, We the 99.99% are the good guys when you’re talking about ISIS, when you’re talking about Jihadism, when you’re talking about other cases like Nazism. ….. We have to nail down the role of intention here. We know exactly what Al Baghdadi — Al Baghdadi is doing exactly what he intends to do. The vision of life that they’re trying to instantiate on the earth has been advertised ad nauseam to us. We know exactly what they want. …. The crucial difference here is that I think someone like Dick Cheney unless he happens to be the absolute outlier – basically everyone else in the administration, if you had given them the magical power, they would have turned the Middle East into Nebraska, they’d put a Star Bucks on every corner.

KK: let me dig deeper — SH reduces it to either good intentions or bad intentions — black and white– thinks it’s a much more complicated thing — spectrum….

And the US — think it’s been proven historically — isn’t primarily concerned with altruism and humanitarianism and bringing freedom to people — with foreign policy it’s more about power and control and geopolitics and imperialism and having a hold on natural resources…. You see US exceptionalism and imperialism manifest as a kind of militaristic fundamentalist religion … if really concerned how did we support Saudi Arabia, Syrian rebels etc

SH: “Some of those have been marriages of necessity where we’re picking the lesser of two evils. ….. What do we want to see actually happen in Syria? We would like Syria to be again to be Nebraska. We want peace in Syria. “

KK: “Is that why we’re involved there though?”

SH: “Well yeh, we’re terrified of the level of terrorism and instability that that region of the world is now exporting to us. I mean this Diaspora to Europe, ..”

KK: Not cold war mentality where US is mad because Assad is allied with Putin and Iran — with world like chess board ….

SH: Paraphrase…. But this is not chess. We want to avoid nuclear war with Russian .. we are not cynically pursuing our own selfish interests… except if interest is to avoid nuclear war

“That’s not a moustached twirling evil guy at the Carlyle Group …. “

“Take the Iraq war

KK: I believe they truly believe they are humanitarian and rationalise their motives…..

“The irony here is that Greenwald supported the war in Iraq. . . . Why did he support it? He was complicit with Dick Cheney”….

KK– sure many people thought it was about self-preservation….

SH: So is Greenwald an imperialist?

KK — obviously have to make distinction between American people and people running the government.

SH: …. No, …. Hitch is endlessly disparaged for the case for war that he made in Iraq .. who knows how many people in admin he persuaded. . “People including Glenn Greenwald in an instance of Freudian hypocrisy — it’s incredible…..” Have you read the “I dance on your grave” obituary that Greenwald wrote about Hitch?

SH: Greenwald supported the war in Iraq, right, Is he guilty of imperialism, is he guilty of wanting to destroy Muslims, to commit genocide…

KK — tries to insist that people in govt had more information than others …

SH: No-one had all the information… who knows who was being spun by Chalabi…

Returns to the hospital bombing …

KK — now have audio of cockpits showing pilots knew it was a hospital….

SH: Again, I have written about the horror of collateral damage and I acknowledge it’s a horror and I spell out its horror, but I think the least moral stance a person can adopt here though it seems ethically pristine is the stance of Gandhian pacificism. . . . . What pacificism is …. just to stand by while your children are raped and murdered. . .. If you’re not going to use violence ever you’re a moral imbecile.

SH: So we debate now when violence is justified…..

ca 1:44…

KK: So what’s your ideal foreign policy then?

SH: “What you and Greenwald call foreign policy is often just pure Islamism. Greenwald concedes that some jihadis are motivated by religion …. when they target someone like Malala. … But when they pick an American target . . . well then they’re driven by just rational geopolitical concerns, right.. .So Jihadist says that he’s supporting his brothers and sisters everywhere — Greenwald thinks that proves his concerns are political … If invading .. proof his behaviour is blowback…. And he’s quick to say that doesn’t excuse it but that is its cause. We are culpable for this, right… Boston bombers – they received nothing but aid from US… because they said their motives were political — so we think their motives are political…. The only thing these brothers had in common with people of Afghanistan and Iraq was Islam. They were not the victims of anything. They should have had nothing but gratitude for the US. Yet they talk about Muslim Lands — a term of Islamism and global Jihad.

“By sanitizing obvious religious fanaticism among jihadis and Islamists as ordinary political behaviour, or as a rational response to US mis-steps — this is apology for Islamism”.

.. destructive .. more dangerous than the extreme voices on the right….Left has always had the virtue of self-criticism – what if I’m wrong?… what if my opponent has a point? — that is the core of intellectual honesty…

But the Greenwalds of the world, and I would argue the Chomskys of the world, have perverted this impulse. Rather than maintaining a healthy capacity for self-criticism and self-doubt, this has morphed into an ideology of masochism where we are always wrong, America is always to blame, and that it’s all blowback, right. …. “

You said this — how we made/were responsible for the mujahadeen etc.

KK I said we armed them, …

SH: “Yes, there’s a shred of truth there… That crumb of truth there is just enough to confuse people….. “

so the lesson we should learn is not to arm Al Qaeda in Syria, . . .

“but the rest is pure masochism and delusion. The idea that it’s all blowback… “

KK — I’m not saying it’s ALL blowback and I don’t think those guys say that either….

SH: “That is not true, okay”

KK: reminder of Malala….

SH: “But every time someone mentions foreign policy …. it is pure blowback. That is what is so crazy about this critique of American power.”

SH– “But when you start talking about the difference between us and ISIS, right, and you lose sight of the different vision of life we are trying to enact however ineptly, the world we want to build, the difference between Nebraska and the fucking seventh century — if you can’t get that straight you are just not part of a rational conversation about human well-being or about the future of global civilization. And Greenwald — 90% of what he says is undermining of the possible rational conversation, the necessary conversation we have to have on this topic. And he’s doing it in the most cynical and the most destructive way — and the price that people pay for this… that I have paid for this reputationally … that Ayin has paid for this— is intolerable, right. … … You see 5% of what I see directed at me. It is fucking incredible.”

KK– when there’s clear example of a genocide, I’m fine with an international movement to try to prevent it … Syria — I want nothing to do with that civil war….

SH: I agree in foreign intervention and we need some power to arrange that, but it’s obviously not the UN— UN is a joke, putting S. Arabia at head of Human Rights Commission

SH: These people summarize their views; e.g. the US is the worst terrorist state on earth .. and when I start talking about intentions — as in that exchange with Chomsky, that was taken as a sign of “my absolute confusion about what was important in this world”.

“The Left has lost its mind here”.

KK confused on the body count being part of the equation….

 

 

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-young-turks-interview
http://37g.tv/main/2013/04/05/arguing-fairly-sam-harris-murtaza-hussain-twitter-fights
http://www.islamophobiatoday.com/tag/murtaza-hussain/
http://www.salon.com/2013/10/19/sam_harris_slurs_malala_famed_atheist_wrongly_co_opts_teenagers_views/
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/03/sam-harris-muslim-animus
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/04/20134210413618256.html

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Neil Godfrey

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56 thoughts on “(“Misrepresenting”) Sam Harris On Progressivism, Torture, Religion & Foreign Policy”

  1. I’m just curious, Neil. Has Sam Harris ever said anything that you even remotely agree with, or could allow to have some legitimacy? It seems this whole anti-new atheism stance that many atheists have adopted (certainly not just you) is bordering on paranoia. I’m not sure I can understand it. When Harris protests (as he constantly does) that he is being at least to some degree misrepresented, why don’t his critics examine the claim with some degree of objectivity? Or is it preferable to simply Satanize him? (He seems to be put on a par with Jihadi John.)

    1. Incidentally, I caught Sam Harris on Bill Maher’s show (the latter has long been one of my heroes) recently, and what he said made a lot of sense and was to a great extent research-based. A couple of other guests at the time challenged him in a reasonable tone on a couple of points, and that’s OK, but another guest was Ben Affleck, who reacted to Harris as though he were evil incarnate, scowling and sputtering and burying his head in his hands and offering very little in the way of considered counter-argument. Really, what is it with this kind of reaction? Is anything really accomplished by it? (It has a curious parallel with the Palestinian vs. Israeli response by many.)

      1. Earl, I don’t know if you follow up these later comments but the reason I was wondering if that video is of the interview you saw I’d like to make some comments, because I can tell you that in that particular interview there were some remarks by Sam Harris that were spot on and other remarks by one of his critics, Affleck?, that I considered naive and ill informed. But there were other major concerns over the entire discussion that deserve analysis — if that is the program in question.

      2. Surely the best way to have confidence that we are being more reliably informed and gaining a more evidence based understanding of terrorism, Islam, Islamism is to consult experts and specialist researchers. I don’t see Bill Maher or Sam Harris as having any qualifications in these areas. I would think that should worry us a little when we find them appealing so strongly to popular feelings. I think it curious that we seek out the scholarly research in something like the Bible but bypass it when we are talking about life and death and human rights.

    2. Certainly. Recall my post, Sam Harris modifies . . . encouraging step forward. Sam Harris’s words here really encouraged me so I ordered asap the book he co-authored with Maajid Nawaz: Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz in Discordant Dialogue. Nawaz expressed a “like” for that latter post on Facebook, for what that’s worth.

      As for me being on some anti-New Atheist kick, recall that I initially welcomed the books of Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, and I also devoured the works of Dan Dennett and others. How can anyone not love Dawkins’ delicious description of the God of the Bible? And I loved those bus ads that came out promoting atheism as a viable alternative for public consideration and as an answer to the all too common ads for religion.

      But at the same time I did have some uneasy feelings at times at some of the statements by Dawkins and Hitchens about religion that appeared at some level to misunderstand how religion really “works” and that seemed too harsh on some believers. But I was prepared to overlook those as coming from people who had not had any deep experience with or knowledge of religion — on the basis of the positives that they were arguing. Besides, there was always some solid core of sense and truth even in areas where I felt they could have had a little more nuance.

      Hector Avalos has expressed some similar thoughts.

      But it was when I read Sam Harris’s polemic against Muslims that I was really disappointed. Harris demonstrated a complete lack of understanding history or even the Middle East, and sometimes flatly misrepresented the works of serious researchers as badly as McGrath misrepresents the works of mythicists. Harris really does demonstrate a near total ignorance of the actual research and published arguments of Scott Atran, (and even Robert Pape who was writing about terrorism at an earlier stage of development from where it’s at today) and others.

      Harris more particularly, and by this time I was seeing more of the same from Dawkins, and then Jerry Coyne, demonstrating that they have never studied the actual psychology of religion or the research on human violence, beliefs, etc. but that they were actually mocking complete (and dishonest or ignorant) distortions of what they were actually finding.

      If Harris sounds like what he is saying in relation to Muslims and Islamism is well researched I’d be interested in knowing exactly what he said and who he referenced and following it up.

      On ethics, Sam Harris is a consequentialist while I am a utilitarian. Harris has even said (The Moral Landscape, pp. 210-211) that if destroying the entire human race would result in the greater total happiness of a superior race of beings such that any loss to humanity would be outweighed by their increase in total happiness, then that would be justified.

      I have read quite a lot on not only Islam and Islamism (and of course terrorism) but also on religion more generally and the nature and psychology of belief, etc. and have posted some of it here. I have sought out the leading scholars in the field on these topics.

      It is because of that informed reading as my background that I am deeply disappointed to find the likes of Harris, Coyne and even Dawkins abusing their public intellectual status to fan public ignorance and bigotry. They evidently have not done their homework. They even — can I say “lie”? — about the works of those scholars and researchers.

      “Lie” is probably too strong since I cannot believe they even read much of what they attack — any more than Ehrman could possibly have read some of the mythicist books he claimed to have read in his critique.

  2. Because Sam Harris is one of the biggest liars out there.

    He accused Glenn of waging war against free speech, when NOTHING can be further from the truth. Glenn is a free-speech fascist, what I mean by this is that if you try and ban ANY speech by saying it is hate speech, Glenn will attack you as if he was a fascist.

    Glenn’s position is clear – you should NEVER be able to ban speech because it might constiute hate speech. Glenn defended Neo-Nazis even though he found thm objectionable. Glenn criticised an MP in the UK who tried to get a journalist who was being racist towards Pakistanis, saying even though the journalist’s views are abhorrent, you should never criminalise speech.

    Harris and Maajid also talk nonsense with their regressive liberals rubbish – liberals don’t excuse Muslims denying other Muslims the right to free speech and expression. I am yet to hear a liberal say that anyone who speaks out against Muslims committing human rights abuses is a racist or an Islamophobe or any of the other nonsense that Harris and Maajid claim. These are just plain lies that these idiots push for their own agendas.

    1. Harris and Maajid also talk nonsense with their regressive liberals rubbish – liberals don’t excuse Muslims denying other Muslims the right to free speech and expression. I am yet to hear a liberal say that anyone who speaks out against Muslims committing human rights abuses is a racist or an Islamophobe or any of the other nonsense that Harris and Maajid claim.

      So theres no regressive left involved in cases like these?
      http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2015/12/01/goldsmith-isoc/

      These are just plain lies that these idiots push for their own agendas.

      Pretty sure statements like these are part of the problem.

      1. So theres no regressive left involved in cases like these?

        Your post makes no sense.

        First of all, no one denied her her right to free speech. The Student Union just tried to block her from speaking at a university because they found some of her views to be objectionable.
        Trying to get people whose views you find objectionable from speaking at a campus isn’t blocking free speech, and it isn’t confined to the “regressive left” – I am sure gays will not want a homophobic individual to speak at their university, and women will not want a misogynist to speak at their university, and blacks will not want someone from KKK to speak at their university. Similarly, I am sure some Muslims didn’t want her to speak at their university because of her tendency to try and paint Islam as the cause of this and that, instead of looking at other factors.
        Now of course I abhor anyone trying to ban anyone else from speaking at a university because even though I am on the left, I am a free speech fanatic, and I think racists and homophobes and Islamophobes and all sorts of people should be allowed to speak at universities. The point however is that the overwhelming majority of people, including those who talk about the regressive left, will actually be happy to ban certain people from speaking at university – just look at Dawkins delight when a Creationist had his honourary degree withdrawn.

        Secondly, the Student Union actually apologised and reversed it’s decision. So she was allowed to speak at the university. So much for them being “regressive left”.

        DS had a good take on this:
        http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/01/university-of-warwick-maryam-namazie-activist

        “Regressive left” is basically a term coined by those who aren’t really on the left, like Dawkins, Sam Harris, Maajid Nawaaz to deflect away from their right-wing rhetoric when it comes to Islam.

    2. I would like to know what names along with what words are being identified as the “regressive left/liberals”. I understand that this debate is especially focused in the UK and less so elsewhere. Is that correct?

      Also for those who make the accusations: who are the persons they name and what is being said, exactly?

  3. It seems the religion is peaceable enough for most Muslims most of the time. But since there will always be some grievance for disadvantaged minorities to focus on it seems obvious that this religion provides the basis for a Jihadist response. We should do what we can to lessen the case for grievances and also show the fundamental errors of the religion. It seems to me that Sam Harris provides a platform for the latter. One would hope that he can appropriately acknowledge the former without attenuating his attention to the latter.

    1. It’s a difficult issue that too often seems to confuse two separate problems: conservative Islam and Islamism. The former needs the work of reformers — and often the conservative abusive practices really are tied to specific national/cultural/ethnic regions — and the latter needs range of strategies far more complex and that are more political and ideological and military than religious/cultural.

      Unfortunately Sam Harris, despite his brief acknowledgement of an understanding that these are two quite distinct problems, continues in his subsequent statements to conflate them. That conflation in the minds of so many of us is far from helpful and seems almost guaranteed to ensure those addressing the serious issue of conservative Islam are doing so with major handicaps.

  4. I am not a fan of SH. But the YT that you show of TYT is atypical and therefore very dishonest. Sam is very often taken out of context on this program and then ridiculed for what he did not in fact say. It would not take long to watch a few of these programs to see TYT in action against what they don’t like. Honesty is not their strong suit. I have long since stopped watching TYT regularly because of the distortion that they hand out as liberal thinking. Your coverage of SH is also rather selective

    1. I would appreciate a specific instance of dishonesty or misrepresentation or non-typical slant in anything said about Sam Harris in this post.

      I posted the entirety of SH’s response to a program in which he was criticized by Glenn Greenwald so both programs can be read here — I would be surprised if anyone could seriously say I have been “selective” in doing this.

      As for SH’s regular accusation that he is misunderstood by his critics, we have discussed this before with specific examples.

      1. I said your comments were selective, dishonest because of what it leaves out, and what is left out distorts the picture. You start with the TYT video, and then give a good synopsis of ther SH video.

        What I find selective here is that the TYT program has a proven track record of misquoting SH and a host of others that they do not agree with. Sam has said enough dumb things and wrong things that need to be criticised. The TYT video does this. But it leaves out all of the other times when they were not only unfair to Sam but deliberately misstate his views. Not just misundersanding but flat out misstating.

        When Sam was on TYT his comments were followed by a long analysis. When Greenwald was on there were no such analysis. When you agree with TYT’s Uygur you get a free ride. When you disagree it is not so pretty. This is why I do not form an opinion based on TYT but still watch it occasionally. ( Sometimes its good for a laugh.

        As I see it, Sam’s basic contention is that people do things (act out, behave) in agreement with their beliefs. Religion plays a major role in belief systems. ( It certainly did in my life). He further contends that the belief system of Islam is opposed to the western values of the enlightenment. He further contends that many Christian ideas are opposed to basic westen values. ( He spends far more words in TEOF criticising Christianity) He then often distorts Islam and Christianity.

        The Neo-liberals contend that beliefs have little to do with actions and the some one else, or some policy makes them do it. I have heard so many times that the Paris terrorist did not act out of a religious motive. This flies in the face of common sense and contradicts the statements given by the terrorists themselves. Yes they did say things before pulling the trigger and IS has also weighed in on the motives. (Political policies of France made them do it. We really do need a moral code of self-responsibility.)

        These are the ideas that need to be debated. Instead, on both sides we get a lot of name calling without facts to back it up. This is what the second video is about. Why has Grenwald and Co. chosen a name-calling strategy which has been backed up by TY? ( and why has JC added to this nonsens?) Why has SH countered with his own name calling?

        The TYT video is an example of selective information. If we just watch it, it seems a fair statement and should be food for thought. But by leaving out the fact that TYT has been the platform for a lot of unproven ad hominum attacts is a bit less than transparent.

        Jerry Coyne is a different problem.

        Please continue to blog about controversial topics. It helps us think but should take us back to the source and pose questions about what is said and what is not said. Thanks.

        1. I am sure SH’s argument is not so much that people act in agreement with their beliefs but that beliefs are sufficient (even if not the only factor) to explain behaviour. He sees a direct link of responsibility between Islam as a religion and every evil carried out in the name of Islam.

          I don’t know who the “neo-liberals” are but my smattering of reading of serious research in human behaviour (as well as the studies of terrorism themselves) tells me that the relationship between beliefs and behaviour is not always so simple.

          If one of the most pressing questions we want resolved is how to prevent terrorist attacks then it is imperative to understand the factors that are responsible for and that can predict terrorism. This is where SH is unhelpful and worse: he misrepresents and mocks the informed specialist research and substitutes ignorance.

          I do appreciate the positive comments.

        2. You don’t seem to know what a “neoliberal” is because what you describe as neoliberal has nothing to do with neoliberalism or neoliberals.

          1. Semantic arguments are like blind men fighting over a painting. We have to agree on what we mean as best we can before we can debate in detail. To be avoided: “neoliberal”, “fascist”, “racist”, “cisgender”….

            I can imagine that, in a century from now, when some Chinese historian writes a history of the world and comments on the decline of religious, i.e. supernatural, belief in the “western” world, he might say, for example, that the dispute between its New Atheists and the Old Atheists resembled the ancient quarrel between the Sunni and Shia sects.

            1. David,

              Neoliberalism is well defined. There is no room for “semantic arguments” unless you allow somebody to sloppily and/or randomly apply the word “neoliberal” to anything that strikes them as some new frontier for “liberals” generally, as Ronald appears to do. At the very least, you need to at least ask yourself when applying the term to something: “would Hayek, Mises and Freidman have agreed with this statement?” The answer here is no, and Ronald is really just replacing the term “bleeding heart liberal” with “Neo-liberal.”

              Historians will have no difficulty at all in understanding what Neoliberalism was, as its creators spent a great deal of time explaining what it is and how it differs from Classical Liberalism. In fact, there’s already a good history of the subject in Philip Mirowski’s The Road from Mont Pelerin.

              1. Since I didn’t know precisely what Neoliberalism meant I went to Wikipedia:

                The meaning of neoliberalism has changed over time and come to mean different things to different groups. As a result, it is very hard to define. This is seen by the fact that authoritative sources on neoliberalism, such as Friedrich Hayek,[87] Milton Friedman, David Harvey[88] and Noam Chomsky[89] do not agree about the meaning of neoliberalism. This lack of agreement creates major problems in creating an unbiased and unambiguous definition of neoliberalism. This section aims to define neoliberalism more accurately and to show how its evolution has influenced the different uses of the word.

                One of the first problems with the meaning of neoliberalism is that liberalism, on which it is based, is also very hard to describe.[90] The uncertainty over the meaning of liberalism is commonly reflected in neoliberalism itself, and is the first serious point of confusion.

                The second major problem with the meaning of neoliberalism is that neoliberalism went from being a purely theoretical ideology to become a practical and applied one. The 1970s onwards saw a surge in the acceptability of neoliberalism, and neoliberal governments swept in across the world, promising neoliberal reforms. However, governments did not always carry out their promised reforms, either through design or circumstances. This leads to the second serious point of confusion; namely, that most neoliberalism after this point isn’t always ideologically neoliberal.

          2. Context is always key. I am sure Ronald was referring to the complaint one hears from the supporters of SH and Jerry Coyne and co about those on the “regressive left” and “liberals” who are said to be apologists for Islam. Liberal is a highly ambiguous term with a range of meanings — even in the political sphere — depending very much on the context. It was clear to me that in the comment Neoliberalism as used in the contemporary economic sense was meant and that was made doubly clear by the use of quotation marks. I interpreted the expression as used here to mean those who like to think of themselves as liberals and revisionist heirs to the old liberals and who have emerged to be extremist type critics of the views of the likes of SH. I said I was not aware who Ronald had in mind because the potential field of those critics is so diverse.

            1. Maybe the term “neoliberal” was not the best term but I was trying to avoid the word “regressive.”
              There is really no good word for the political direction of the 20th century where individuals and groups using the word Liberal actually followed policies that were the opposite of clasisical Liberalism. (Truman, LBJ, Catholic church,Soviet Union, Clinton, Blair,etc).
              I use the term often to define those who, claiming to be Liberal, advocate and use policies that are directed towards authoritarin principals and away from personal freedom. I also use it to describe the preachers and pundits expecially in the internet who call themselves Liberals but, lacking a philosophy, often advocating rather inconsistent things. Their main tactic is name calling.
              Liberalism is complicated and diverse but not ambiguous. Neither is Conservativism. A good grounding in Locke, Hume, Pain, Jefferson, et al will produce a set a principals. In the Dec. of Indep. Jefferson did a good summarizing it. Indeed the application depends on context but the principals don’t.
              I appreciate Neil that when you criticize SH or others you give concrete examples. Not everyone does this.
              Maybe we need a new word for make-believe Liberals. Neo-con is such a good word, especially the “con” part. Maybe we could call the Lib-cons. They certainly are trying to con us.

              1. There has been a drift in political philosophy and practice under the “liberalism” rubric, notably in the UK as well as US, from libertarian minimal-state positions (Mill, Spencer &c) to welfare-state or partially “socialist”-state positions. In the history of ideas, one can often trace connections between this or that, or a synthesis of apparent oppositions.

                But precision in definition, accuracy of fact and reduction of “propaganda” is required by all concerned, even by those with an unusual angle, like (say) James Martin on WW2 revisionism or Jonah Goldberg on “liberal fascism”.

                Perhaps only Ezra Pound could see a link between Confucius, Jefferson, C. H. Douglas and Benito Mussolini, but one may be permitted, at least, to agree with Ole Ez that “Every man is entitled to have his ideas examined – ONE AT TIME”.

  5. I’m about 2/3 through and wouldn’t recommend anybody listen to it. Half because Kulinski isn’t up to the task of interviewing Harris and the other Harris’ tendentiousness. While perhaps Harris doesn’t only argue ad hominem, he definitely does frequently. And while he claims he always states GG’s positions accurately, I haven’t found one instance yet in this interview. Lots of projection going on.

  6. And yet, Neil, who are these experts we should be relying on, to the exclusion of supposed non-experts like Sam Harris? As you well know, in the case of the Jesus Mythicism issue, it is the New Testament experts who cannot automatically be trusted, and the non-experts often bringing their own research and fresh insights to the question who have opened up different points of view which can have their own validity. I’m not necessarily setting up a similar black-and-white situation in regard to, let’s say, Scott Atran and Sam Harris specifically, but we all know in general that so-called non-experts are quite capable of doing their own research and arriving at other points of view that can be quite legitimate. Certainly, I fail to see the basis on which Sam Harris can be dismissed as completely “without qualifications.”

    I am no expert in the field under discussion, but even I can seriously doubt the validity of the position that religion in no way, let alone an important one, has an influence upon creating Islamist extremists and their often barbarous behavior. If something is non-intuitive or goes against common sense I am not liable to readily embrace it unless the arguments and evidence are very strong, with no counter-case on the other side. And for me, the position that religious belief plays no significant part in Islamic terrorism doesn’t come close to winning me over.

    Take one thing as an example, as mundane as it might be, which even a non-expert like myself can grasp and come to some conclusions regarding (even allowing for some degree of naivete). What has the average terrorist or suicide bomber traditionally cried at the moment of his act, mowing down innocents with his AK47, or setting himself off as a sacrificial death device? For all his alleged grievances or political/social background, it certainly ain’t “I need a job!” or “I don’t get no respect!” No, it’s “Allahu Akbar!” “God is great!” I don’t need a volume of research into the minds and backgrounds of these misguided souls to realize that this tells us much of what we need to know and legitimizes the claim that religion is a primary factor involved.

    What, after all, does “Allahu Akbar” imply? It’s hardly just a throw-away line. It signals that the speaker regards Allah as supporting his actions, that those actions are performed on the Deity’s behalf and even at his behest. It’s a claim of legitimacy for those acts based on the religious beliefs of the speaker. It implies a faith that for those acts the perpetrator will be rewarded, if not in this life then in the next, especially if he becomes a martyr. I use the word “imply,” but in my books it’s more than an implication, it’s spelled out. I am not a complete idiot either, and thus I dismiss any stance that downplays if not dismisses religion as a major cause of the curse of Islamic terrorism in our times.

    Sam Harris may have made a couple of extreme or even unacceptable comments along the way. I’ve done the same myself a couple of times in my writings, when I’ve made too strong or broad a statement that others have caught me up on. I may not have intended to be that broad, but that was how it came across, and I’ve usually corrected or explained myself. Harris’ notorious statement that people who hold certain beliefs might deserve to be killed may not have been intended to advocate an action against one’s local imam, but to groups like ISIS or the Taliban, or captured terrorists guilty of inhuman acts (I’d cheerfully have executed Jihadi John, myself), I don’t know. But if he is willing to qualify or explain such statements when called on them, why not accept that? If the statement that as one believes so does one act (or words to that effect, I don’t have it in front of me) is too sweeping and is meant only as saying that one’s actions will usually reflect one’s beliefs, why continue to beat the guy over the head with it? That sort of thing, too, I have personally experienced.

    I confess that I cannot get into any nitty-gritty discussion of how Sam Harris uses (or possibly distorts) some of his sources or opponents, but that is a minor question in the face of the fact that he is a major atheist writer and researcher, and deserves a hearing, even if one doesn’t agree with everything he says. He has produced a lot of valuable work, not just on the subject of Islam. I would like to think that I myself, whatever the flaws or limitations in regard to Jesus mythicism I might suffer from, might similarly be accorded a hearing. Demonization is never a productive route to follow.

    1. I have been busy elsewhere and just catching up now, Earl, and have just come across this: “I am no expert in the field under discussion, but even I can seriously doubt the validity of the position that religion in no way, let alone an important one, has an influence upon creating Islamist extremists and their often barbarous behavior.”

      How you can possibly think that any serious researcher, let alone myself, thinks otherwise, I really don’t know. I can only assume you have been listening to no-one but Sam Harris and similar voices and are completely ignorant (and surely misinformed) of what the serious research itself demonstrates. (It appears you have not read my posts or earlier comments in response to your previous comments either.) Such a statement completely flabbergasts me and leaves me thinking it pointless even trying to discuss this with you if after all this time and our previous exchanges you can possibly think anyone seriously says religion is not a major factor in Islamist terrorism. Yet. . . .

      “If every time we mentioned women to a friend he started talking about their breasts, we’d be entitled to think that this was all he was interested in when it comes to women. The same goes for Coyne (and Harris’s) almost exclusive focus on religious beliefs in the context of Islamist terrorism.” — Dan Jones

      Sam Harris’s research? What sources of relevance to Islamic terrorism has Sam cited, ever? He has referred to Scott Atran and others and one might even say flatly lied about their findings — so completely misrepresented them that one might even think they deny that religion is an important factor in terrorism even though they say the exact opposite.

      That’s not comparable to a lay mythicist doing research. It’s comparable to the lies of McGrath.

      The real world is not so black and white and simplistic and just jumping on the anti-religion bandwagon every time we see or hear something bad associated with religion is not doing anyone any favours.

      Sam Harris has no idea at all about how religious belief works or of what researchers, anthropologists and psychologists and others have learned about it. Yes he’s a neuroscientist. He knows how to analyse the DVD that carries the software but has never to my knowledge demonstrated any knowledge of research into the “software” of how religious concepts are processed vis a vis other systems and behaviour.

      You complain about unfairly treating Sam Harris for over-statements but I have completely “transcribed” his statement in full without comment. We have had discussions in the past here on Sam Harris’s qualifications of his statements and why even those are problematic. Note his double-back-flip on those statements he said he regretted when in discussion with Maajid Nawaz. Against some other reader’s suspicions I had given Sam the benefit of the doubt.

      But forget Sam Harris. He’s not important.

      What is important is understanding terrorism. And if you have never read any serious research but only listened to anti-theists who have never read any of them either (but who lie about them) then that tells me serious give and take discussion where the parties actually invest a little in understanding the other point of view is not on your agenda.

      Of course religion is a significant factor. But it does not work in the way the likes of Sam Harris say it does. And making the sort of mistake Sam Harris is making is doing exactly what Islamic State and the terrorists want — they want the society polarized. They have said that repeatedly in their literature and speeches. That is playing right into their hands and feeding the problem. It is actually responding in a way that is going to make terrorism even harder to defeat.

      Who are these experts you ask — as if ….. I have listed them here several times. Some of them actually go out into the field and risk their lives meeting with their subjects. I have discussed their books. I have listed bibliographies. You can check their qualifications. More than that, you can consult the many, many reviews of their works in the scholarly journals.

      (Coyne seems to have done that — checked the reviews — with Robert Pape who wrote before the current mutation of terrorism and found, he claimed, about 3 critical reviews: I checked and saw over 20 positive reviews, and two of the reviews were not critical in the way Coyne implied, and one, just one, complained that Pape did not support his political agenda — despite the fact that Pape actually offers advice on how the US can maintain its power in the Middle East! I only mention that because it’s another example where Sam and Jerry lie about those who actually do the research. As I said, Pape’s book is about an earlier generation of terrorists anyway, but even he discusses the role of religion.)

      1. Once a daily visitor, I still pass by Vridar on occasion, but the long and tiresome discussions of “how to be an atheist” mean I’m just skimming for real content. I miss the once-informative Virdar. I did find the Lataster book description, which reminded me that there used to be interesting content here.

        1. Can’t please everyone. 🙂 But actually I don’t see the issue of the post having anything to do with “atheism”. That Sam Harris is an atheist in this post/topic is, to me, quite beside the point.

    2. Earl, you wrote:

      Sam Harris may have made a couple of extreme or even unacceptable comments along the way. I’ve done the same myself a couple of times in my writings, when I’ve made too strong or broad a statement that others have caught me up on. I may not have intended to be that broad, but that was how it came across, and I’ve usually corrected or explained myself. Harris’ notorious statement that people who hold certain beliefs might deserve to be killed may not have been intended to advocate an action against one’s local imam, but to groups like ISIS or the Taliban, or captured terrorists guilty of inhuman acts (I’d cheerfully have executed Jihadi John, myself), I don’t know. But if he is willing to qualify or explain such statements when called on them, why not accept that?

      I find it odd that so often we read of people trying to defend Sam Harris for things he never said. If you read the post or listened to the interview you would know that Sam Harris explicitly denies ever making “extreme or unacceptable comments” and that he insists that never at any time did he say anything he did not intend. That’s what he makes very clear in this interview.

      Yet you are the third person who just recently has tried to excuse Harris to me by saying he didn’t mean it come out the way it did and that he explained what he meant afterwards and there’s no problem. But Sam Harris himself disowns any such apologetics.

      I don’t understand why Coyne and Coel and others try to defend Harris by saying he meant something he explicitly denies — as you can see in this post/video interview.

      What upsets Harris is when others quote him word for word and repeat exactly what he said, in full context. When he hears his words like this in all their ugliness he cries “Foul!” and that he has been misrepresented. So he then says something he did not at first say and we think, “Okay — if that’s what mean now then I wish you said that at first, but I’m glad you’re saying something more sane now.” But he never withdraws the first comments and regularly refers us to them.

      And then he does an interview like this and denies ever sounding ugly at the beginning — only his jealous enemies think he sounded ugly — and he meant every word he said at the very first!

      No other speaker or writer I know so consistently and so often tries to say two different things at the same time.

    3. One more — I am taking this opportunity to clarify some of my own thoughts before further discussion in the near future. . . .

      Earl, you wrote:

      What, after all, does “Allahu Akbar” imply? It’s hardly just a throw-away line. It signals that the speaker regards Allah as supporting his actions, that those actions are performed on the Deity’s behalf and even at his behest. It’s a claim of legitimacy for those acts based on the religious beliefs of the speaker. It implies a faith that for those acts the perpetrator will be rewarded, if not in this life then in the next, especially if he becomes a martyr. I use the word “imply,” but in my books it’s more than an implication, it’s spelled out. I am not a complete idiot either, and thus I dismiss any stance that downplays if not dismisses religion as a major cause of the curse of Islamic terrorism in our times.

      As pointed out in my earlier comment, such a remark does dismay me because I cannot understand how anyone who has read my own posts and comments or who has read any of the scholarly and other serious research into terrorism (the stuff that Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne scoff at though clearly they have not read it) could think that the vital role of religion is denied in the terrorism we are witnessing today.

      What such critics usually mean, it seems to me, is that they insist that religion must be a sufficient factor (though not always the only one) to “cause” terrorist acts. The problem with this is surely self-evident. Many people have the “same religion” (according to these critics) yet they publicly condemn violence and terror.

      Nor can political grievance be a “cause”, because even though the terrorists more often than not make their political grievances very, very clear (they don’t only say “allahu akbar”), many others have the same grievances but again abhor terrorism.

      Surely it stands to reason that if religion were a sufficient cause then we would see many more terrorist acts.

      The response to this point often seems to be that Islam is potentially the cause and that those individuals who take their religion “seriously”, meaning they read the Koran literally and believe it totally, will act on their beliefs that they should kill infidels.

      But this argument again leaves us wondering why we don’t see so many more terrorist acts. Besides, the argument carries a number of baseless assumptions — assumptions relating to interpretations, and relating to the link between beliefs and actions, and the nature of religious belief vis a vis other types of beliefs.

      The argument also has serious social consequences since it leads us to hold all Muslims under suspicion of being a potential terrorist or potential supporter or facilitator of terrorism. At best, it leaves us unimpressed with reform and deradicalisation efforts of so-called “moderate Muslims”.

      Of course we cannot let the fear of undesirable consequences determine the truth or otherwise of any particular argument, but surely just a little knowledge of history, of Islam and Islamic culture, and knowledge of mainstream (non Wahhabist/Salafist strain) Muslims in a Western country casts major doubts on the idea. It is a simple fact that we never heard of Islamist terrorism when we were growing up or in our early and mid adult years. Something has happened since the 1980s/90s.

      Such “somethings” usually have a build up of some years, so there was something going on that we were oblivious to in the decades prior to the 80s and 90s.

      We are talking about very extreme and rare acts (I’m not diminishing their seriousness by saying they are fortunately relatively rare in Western countries) that defy all we have come to expect of any fellow human except for the literally deranged or sick. What we find is that these violent extremists are part of an ideology, a sub-culture, that is not Islam but is political Islamism. The two are quite distinct, and the latter especially needs to be well understood, along with the reasons some people, usually among the youth, in Western societies are attracted to it.

      If we don’t do this (acquire an understanding of this violent ideology — comparable to/worse than some ideologies in the late nineteenth century and again in the 1930s) but just blame all of Islam then we are blaming the wrong party and missing the guilty. Worse, we are reacing in a way that that Islamist ideology believes and expects and wants to us to react. Polarization and social division is what the ideology is seeking to create in the West. That environment is the perfect condition for the growth of those extremist groups.

    4. What, after all, does “Allahu Akbar” imply? It’s hardly just a throw-away line. It signals that the speaker regards Allah as supporting his actions, that those actions are performed on the Deity’s behalf and even at his behest. It’s a claim of legitimacy for those acts based on the religious beliefs of the speaker. . . . . I am not a complete idiot either, and thus I dismiss any stance that downplays if not dismisses religion as a major cause of the curse of Islamic terrorism in our times.

      Earl, you taught me years ago to be on the lookout or logical errors yet here you are less careful with a principle you are careful to apply rigorously in other areas. Correlation is not necessarily causation.

      One of the most fundamental and common of observations throughout history and contemporary society is that a professing religious person is not always motivated purely by their religious ideals despite their self-belief that their motives truly are pure and godly.

      And to pre-empt a commonly cited related come-back: it is just as true that grievance over perceived political wrongs is not cogent explanation for terrorism given that millions who have the same grievances also abhor terrorism.

      But at the same time none of the above means that neither religion nor grievance play no causal role in individual cases or terrorism.

      Simplistic answers to human behaviour are rarely adequate.

  7. Earl Doherty’s comments are a breathe of fresh air here among these anti-Sam Harris/Islam vridar blogs. I absolutely cannot agree with Neil Godfrey’s demonization of Sam Harris at all. Neil’s demoinization of Sam Harris reminds me of his demonization of Acharya S too. It would be great if Earl expressed his thoughts on that too because I know he doesn’t agree with that either.

    Here are a few things to consider about Islam, Neil.

    If you ever read the Koran for yourself (as I have) you would learn that the book was written mostly to create jihadi terrorists to spread Islam. The Sira (the life of Mohammed) has about 75% of its material devoted to jihad. I do not trust the ideology of Islam because there exists no credible reason that I should.

    “About 61% of the contents of the Koran are found to speak ill of the unbelievers or call for their violent conquest; at best only 2.6 percent of the verses of the Koran are noted to show goodwill toward humanity. About 75% of Muhammad’s biography (Sira) consists of jihad waged on unbelievers.”
    – Dr. Moorthy Muthuswamy

    It is reckless, irresponsible and dangerous to pretend muslims (many in positions of authority) are not making these types of comments regularly in the quotes below, and if you don’t know that then, you are not paying attention or not being honest or just out to confirm ones own biases or dhimmitude.

    Quotes from Muslims:

    “We are not here to adopt Western values, we are here to colonize the U.S. (and Canada) and spread Islamic sharia law… Canada has one of the easiest legal systems to penetrate and advance sharia from within … but if that doesn’t work, we won’t hesitate to use violent jihad.” “It should be us, with our understanding of Islam, our principles, colonizing positively the United States of America.”
    – Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University

    “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”
    – Omar M. Ahmad, founder of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

    “I want to see the U.S. become an Islamic nation.”
    – Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR Spokesperson

    “Ultimately, we (Muslims) can never be full citizens of this country … because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country”
    – Ihsan Bagby, CAIR

    “No we don’t want to democratize Islam, we want to Islamize democracy” “We love you, America – and we want your children for Islam”
    – Islam on Capitol Hill. com

    “The 9/11 hijackers should be honored as martyrs.”
    – Warith Deen Umar, Former Muslim Chaplain, New York Prisons

    “Muslims cannot accept the legitimacy of the secular system in the United States, for it “is against the orders and ordainments of Allah”
    – Imam Zaid Shakir, Former Muslim Chaplain at Yale University

    “Greater integration between Islam and the West depends on incorporation of Sharia law into the legal systems of Europe and the U.S.”
    – Ground Zero Mosque Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf

    “Should I act violently in defense of my religion, ABSOLUTELY” “Nothing can stop the spread of Islam”
    – Reza Aslan, the so-called “moderate” Muslim

    “I am a traitor to America because my religion requires me to be. We pledge to wage jihad for the rest of our lives until either we implant Islam all over the world or meet our Lord as bearers of Islam.”
    – Samir Khan

    If anybody has any problem with these quotes from muslims then, you need to take it up with the muslims who made those comments and the sources are easily found. Attacking me for providing a few quotes and facts only serves Islam. Now, watch these videos:

    Why did they hate us in 1783?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUuH2G7dPFk

    History of Hitler and Muslim Waffen SS
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3pq1KIUZb4

    Three Things About Islam
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgsrnmzxEUY

    I am sick and tired of Dhimwits defending the heinous ideology of Islam:

    Dhimwit: “A non-Muslim member of a free society that abets the stated cause of Islamic domination with remarkable gullibility. A dhimwit is always quick to extend sympathy to the very enemy that would take away his or her own freedom (or life) if given the opportunity.”
    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Pages/Dhimwits.htm

    ; )

    1. Freddy,

      I think those quotes carry little value if their source of origin is not stated.
      When the source of origin is known then their context can be established.

      Let me be clear that this observation is in no way taking sides in this current discussion but for such discussions to take place these basics must be adhered to (imho).

      Taking a random example from the many quotes you provided:

      “Should I act violently in defense of my religion, ABSOLUTELY” “Nothing can stop the spread of Islam” – Reza Aslan, the so-called “moderate” Muslim

      I traced down the source for this to(Google query – reza aslan intelligence squared transcript):

      intelligencesquaredus .. Transcripts/IslamDominatedByRadicals-041508

      http://www.google.com.jm/url?q=http://intelligencesquaredus.org/images/debates/past/transcripts/IslamDominatedByRadicals-041508.pdf&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwik8va26sLJAhWKXB4KHXLLDFMQFggTMAA&usg=AFQjCNGUuLBtgOamfGWSiby2E4m3wYdy6A

      What the source for the quote actually says (within the context of a spoken debate mine you)

      “REZA ASLAN

      Should I act violently in defense of my religion, absolutely. If
      the—if what that means is, that it’s my identity, that people are
      on the ground attacking me—”

      So your original quote is vastly misleading.

    2. When you demonstrate that you have actually read my own comments and posts and when you actually engage with what I have said then perhaps we can have a serious discussion. My impression so far is that those who disagree strongly with me have not appeared to have done more than merely skim a few sections of some of my comments and posts.

      I like to cite sources for all of my quotations and to engage in some serious research — something that involves a bit more serious effort than going to Islamophobic sites and copying and pasting meaningless and decontextualized quotations.

      Ditto for your nonsense about Acharya S.

      P.S. Do learn the meaning of the word “demonization” and try just a wee bit to see if there is a difference between honest, informed criticism and “demonization”.

  8. Without wishing to be drawn into a quotation scrap, I still think it fair to state that the Qur’an is not like a poem about sunshine or a newspaper report about a train delay. It contains some explicit or implicit instructions, more like the Ten Commandments or a fire-drill notice or a cookery book, more like Mao’s Little Red Book than even Mein Kampf. To be sure, it needs to be “interpreted” before it can lead to actions, and maybe parts should be re-interpreted or ignored in the present century, but it is not just some totally inert text.

    1. The more I learn about Islamist extremists the more I see Westerners bracketing all Muslims together — Islamists with other Muslims — as all being part of the “same religion”, the “same ideas” and united in their belief in the Quran as their common scriptures and authority, the more I realise that this Westerner perception is falling into line with what the Islamists themselves seek to achieve.

      They Islamist program is to eliminate “the grey zone”, the space of free exchange of ideas and co-existence, and to replace it with their own polarized view of the world — a clash of civilisations, the world versus the victimised Muslims.

      By embracing the extremists’ understanding and reading of the Quran, we are in fact giving legitimacy to the Islamists as the real authorities and true interpreters of their religion. This is exactly what the Islamists want us to think. Thus the vast majority of Muslims are relegated to the same place the Islamists relegate them — to those who are only lukewarm or not as truly committed or as understanding of their religion as are the Islamists.

      This attitude or perception actually robs the majority of Muslims of any outside support for reform efforts in their midst. It relegates the majority of Muslims to being part of the problem, the detritus giving some sort of cover to the extremists.

      Whatever you think of the Quran, that is quite irrelevant to any real progress towards a solution. What is needed is a human understanding of the people, and to accept the different groups of people for what they themselves believe and practice. They are the ones who get to define their own religious beliefs, not us.

      We ought to be robbing the Islamists of the satisfaction of falling in with their own way of interpreting their scriptures and acknowledging their being the true representatives of their religion.

    1. The peace I was speaking of was the peace between Muslims and non-Muslims in much of the world. Peace also means I have had and continue to have peaceful and tolerant and accepting relations with many Muslims.

      Maryam Namazie hits the nail on the head when she says we need to relate to people as people, to Muslims and non-Muslims as people, and not to subsume them under “ideas”. That latter approach dehumanizes them.

  9. Agreed. Whatever the reasons for warfare in history, most ordinary people do not want it, and support it only if they feel seriously threatened by others. Oh, for a world in which diverse peoples co-existence in universal abhorrence of mass-murder and dehumanizing ideologies. But this is not quite what is on offer from Islam and sharia legislation, although its (albeit themselves often warring) adherents think it must be so because authorized by Allah Himself through his Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Western “liberal” interventionism, like Marxism-Stalinism, has caused enormous strife, while and global problems – like overpopulation, runaway technology and climate change – need solutions, which do not exist in the Qur’an or Hadith. But our best starting-point all round, is surely: Live and let live. I shall now shut up

    1. I am constantly surprised at the number of people who at one moment apologize for Sam Harris but then in the next say he didn’t mean what he said and we all say things we don’t mean sometimes and we should go easy on him and take him at his “intended” meaning and not what he actually said the first time — once or twice, yes — but I have now come across at least four different people making the same apology. Yet of course SH himself regularly insists that his first words really were what he meant and we were all being bad for understanding them that way and finding fault.

  10. What is truly sad about the recent defamations of character towards the new atheists by progressive is that Sam Harris solution to the the problem of Islam is, more than likely, exactly the same as the progressive’s patriarch, Noam Chomsky.. I can also categorically guarantee he is the patriarch of the individual who wrote this article. Noam Chomsky started his demonization of the Western Powers in Viet Nam, when its arguable that he actually had a point.. ipso facto maybe a decade or two beyond that point as well.. However, this has, as of late, gone far enough. The United states is not a terrorist state. They cannot be indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court as their interventions in the middle east cannot be legally defined as genocide. They were humanitarian interventions of the classical nro-conservative variety, and were intended to defend the kurds, and bring democratic capitalism to an oppressed part of the world. What happened afterwards was a a very confused and batter people erupting into sectarian violence. The Untied States did not create Isis. Saddam Hussein may have been put into power by the united states, but this was not for the purpose of being a theocratic fascist. They truly believed it was the most even handed solution to a 1300 year old problem. When Huessein began to go off the rails, the bush’s decided that it was a mistake putting him in power, and they ousted him. What came out of that was pro-saddam loyalists creating ISIS.. and this has been misrepresented by people like the writer of this critique as “we created isis.” This is a lie.. and not only is it a lie, it is a destructively dangerous manifestation of confirmation bias.. the very same confirmation bias that believes that 911 was an inside job.. the same confirmation bias that Alex Jones shameless spouts every second of his life. This is disgraceful, it is a thankless display of lack of gratitude for a society that provided you a quality of life that is incomparable to any other time in recorded human history, and it is a display of intellectual dishonesty that makes the people who spout it a danger to everything that western society has come to stand for. The west did not make a virtue of martyrdom. He did not put oil beneath the palaces of saudi princes. We did not force women to live in bags. We do not cut the heads off of journalists and aid workers. We are not attempting to take freedom of speech and expression away from writers and artists alike. We are not subjugating women, gays, and free thinkers in foxhole countries. Where ever you hear people saying what the writer of this critque is writing, they are holding onto the Influence of people like noam chomsky with all of their might, and they are finally starting to see that their brilliant linguist, philosophy, and foreign policy critic is more and more every day being revealed to be a hysterical, senile geriatric that is leading them to certain disaster, and they’ve become such lazy socio-political critics in the meantime, they don’t even have counter arguments to reference, so they just lie, demonize, and purposely misrepresent people who dissent against them. If the ICC, the UN, the Human Rights Council, and the security council were allowed to properly function in the absense of US marriages of necessity with countries that directly oppose these organizations, Sam Harris would support them. This is the exact same argument as chomsky. The only difference is that sam harris is honest about the effect that theocracy can have on modern society, and chomsky almost refuses to comment on the subject entirely other than acknowledging that these dangerous and destructive governments exist. As a member of global civil society, I’d like to go on the record.. people willing to kill themselves and others simultaneously, willing to enslave the opposite sex, willing to indoctrinate children into martyrdom, willing to kill people for leaving their religion, willing to torture little girls at birth with genital mutilation for an iron-aged war god, and willing to do all of these things while simultaneously championing an opposition to a government, or a network of governments, that have simply tried to give them a voice and a place in our global economy where they would rather .. I do not support those people. In fact, I might go as far as to say they are my enemy.. and until people start being honest about this growing portion of the population, violence will continue to be inflicted on innocent people.

    1. I quote Sam Harris at length and someone responds to accuse me of demonising him!

      Why does quoting nearly 7,700 of Sam Harris’s own words with no comment* and supplying access to the entire interview with Sam Harris speaking in his own words elicit such vitriolic hostility among some readers?

      * — Apart from the brief introduction in which I address Sam Harris’s regular complaint that his critics consistently misrepresent him. (I thought he could not be misrepresented at all if I quoted him for approx 7700 words without comment!)

      Why do some people appear to be so quick to attack anyone who appears to disagree with Sam Harris and to be so reluctant to engage in a calm discussion of the ideas themselves?

      Clearly such Sam Harris defenders are engaged in something more than a mere intellectual debate.

      1. Because most of SH’s critics do two things. They engage in name calling (see Greenwald, TYT et al) and then throw out everything that Sam says on other subjects. I’m glad that you have not done this. But you did start this thread with a video made by Cent who has told us outrageous woppers about Sam and has been one of his greatest critics without criticizing the others.
        I don’t listen to one thing that SH has to say about Islam. But he has a very interesting take on morality that is worth examining. He has some very good insightsb on spirituality and the practice ogf meditation. He has some good thoughts on the necessity of atheism that can be debated.
        But in some circles Sam is imediately branded as a bigot and other are not discussed.

        1. “But he has a very interesting take on morality that is worth examining.”

          Please explain because I don’t see it. The man is as immoral a character as I’ve ever seen.

          Thanks.

          1. 1. Read his book on morality.
            2. Have you actually seen Sam Harris? Has he done something immoral that you have seem him do? Maybe he holds ideas that you do not like. Maybe he has statements that you would consider immoral if they were acted out. But is Sam immoral? You do not know that and to use an ad hominem remark about him is exactly what I was complaining about.

            1. Within the context of asking you to explain what you think Harris has to say about morality, remarking that Harris is an immoral character is not an ad hominem remark, it is merely an explanation as to why I need more information from you. I am not going to waste my time reading anything more from Harris unless somebody gives me a good reason to do so.

              Have I actually seen Harris? You mean, like, have I sat down and had a cup of coffee with him? No. I have read much of what Harris has written, though. Do I need to actually see him to understand what he meant to say?

              Has he done something immoral that I have seen him do? Again, do you mean, like, in person? I have seen his writings and what he advocates. While I suppose my objection could only be that his writings are immoral, but that does not seem right because it is what he advocates that is immoral, and I should be safe in assuming that he believes in what he advocates, particularly when he is consistent in his advocacy. One who advocates immoral acts and policies is immoral in my eyes, even if he is the nicest guy in person and otherwise means well.

    1. Interesting. This line stood out as totally in sync with what I have learned:

      He has passed himself off as a learned thinker despite being both ignorant of and incurious about the very issues on which he opines.

      Unfortunately his supporters in my experience remain just as ignorant and incurious of the issues they love him for. It has been called betrayal of the public by public intellectuals. (Though I’m not really sure why or how Sam Harris came by his public status.)

      It’s a murky world. I’ve learned that his prized torches Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are also liars.

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