Sam Harris and the Menace of Secularist Intolerance (2 of 2)
|October 15, 2013||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
Sam Harris has a strong incentive to “uproot” the ideas that “must” disappear—the salvation of the human race. Do I need to point out that the word “uproot” has connotations of violence? Sam Harris openly said people with dangerous ideas might justly be killed, and then, when questioned, said “Oh, I just meant a few terrorists.” He has identified theists, including Bible believing Christians, as people with dangerous ideas that menace the human race. That Christianity is dangerous is one of the main themes of his Letter to a Christian Nation. What is to prevent him, or those with his “values,” from believing that killing Christians, or any other believers, is necessary for the good of mankind?
“The world would be a much better place if we could just get rid of (a) the capitalists and kulaks; (b) the Jews; (c) people who believe in God. They are to blame for all our problems. They are enemies of humanity, and we are doing the world a favor by getting rid of them.”
Once an atheist accused me of “paranoia” on this point—but I am not the least bit paranoid about Sam Harris. I realize he may just be talking without knowing what he is saying—though I doubt it. I realize he will probably never get his hands on the levers of power. I only want to suggest that he may, like Hitler, be pointing at other people as the source of evil when he is a source of evil himself. Certainly the atheists Lenin, Stalin, and Mao make Osama bin Laden look like a Boy Scout. Hitler also gave plausible explanations to those who were concerned about his radical statements. Furthermore, Sam Harris’ ideas might be taken to extremes he does not foresee, just as the pernicious ideas of German philosophers and scientists fed the mind of Hitler. But then, maybe he does foresee extreme consequences, and intends them.
Perhaps, since the idea that bloodshed follows from secular ideas is one of the main ideas of this study, it might not be too much of a digression to look at another place where Sam Harris advocates a policy that could lead to the deaths of millions. Referring to the SARS scare that emerged out of China in 2003, Harris states that the consequences of China’s irrational and politically motivated policies did not lead to catastrophe—that time. He goes on to say that it is “not difficult to imagine” a situation where inability to properly handle such a health crisis would be too dangerous for the entire world. In that case, “There is little doubt we would ultimately quarantine, invade, or otherwise subjugate such a society.”
This is a remarkable statement. If a truly world-threatening epidemic were to emerge from China, the Sudan, Burma, Mexico, Rumania, or some other country whose health-standards were less than adequate, Harris thinks it might be necessary to “invade” or “subjugate” such a country. Oh, he allows for the possibility of a quarantine as well, but he can calmly and rationally advocate a policy—including subjugating China or, who knows, even Russia—that would cause unimaginable suffering and slaughter.
Sam Harris has a vision of an ideal world. In this world, there would be no irrational health policies and no security threats, because everyone would have basically the same ideas (his ideas naturally). In order to attain this vision, some people will have to go. Religious people have to go, and threats to the general well-being must be subjugated, by force and invasion and full scale war if necessary. Sam Harris is a good example of how the road to secular Utopias leads through swamps, bogs, and quagmires of human blood and bones—but in the end Utopia proves to be unattainable, so all of the suffering was in vain.
Even more genuinely peaceful advocates of New Age philosophies can make ominous statements. I recently came across a book that advocated finding inner peace and harmony through the ancient wisdom of the East. Discover the hidden potential of your mind, don’t allow yourself to be hampered by negative thoughts, find your true destiny—all of that sounds very innocuous. What is not so innocuous is the statement that we should shake off the shackles of reason and logic and rely only on our intuition. This was a key principle of National Socialism. It seems harmless in the American context—but if people lose their peace and prosperity and become desperate enough, angry enough, their previous abandonment of reason and logic and their devotion to intuition will leave them vulnerable to the false messiahs that will surely arise out of chaos. The basic human tendencies that underlay Hitler’s success are alive and well in America today.
This brings up another lesson that should be derived from the contemplation of the Hitler catastrophe. When people who reject God and his laws sit in their studies and begin to dream up new ideals for society, becoming intoxicated by humanly derived visions previously unheard of, thinking they can remake the world according to their liking, we are safe as long as no one tries to put their ideals into practice. When people do try to put those ideals into practice—be they French revolutionaries, Russian revolutionaries, Nazis, or modern secularists with their new ideas of a global paradise—disaster is sure to follow.
 Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (London 2006), p. 233.