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Sam Harris

Birthdate: 9. April 1967
Other names: سم هریس

Samuel Benjamin Harris is an American author, philosopher, neuroscientist, blogger and podcast host. He is a critic of religion and proponent of the liberty to criticize it. His articles discuss topics including religion, morality, neuroscience, free will, terrorism, and self-defense, and his first book, The End of Faith , is a critique of organized religion. He is described as one of the "Four Horsemen of atheism", alongside Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens.

In The Moral Landscape , he argues that science answers moral problems and can aid human well-being. He published a long-form essay Lying in 2011, the short book Free Will in 2012, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion in 2014 and, with British writer Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue in 2015. Harris is a proponent of secular meditation practices.

Works

„I don’t know what happens after the physical brain dies. I don’t know what the relationship between consciousness and the physical world is. I don’t think anyone does know.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Big Think Sam Harris On Death http://bigthink.com/ideas/3127 (July 4, 2007)
2000s
Context: We just don’t teach people how to grieve. You know, religion is the epitome, the antithesis of teaching your children how to grieve. You tell your child that, “Grandma is in heaven”, and there’s nothing to be sad about. That’s religion. It would be better to equip your child for the reality of this life, which is, you know, we... death is a fact. And we don’t know what happens after death. And I’m not pretending to know that you get a dial tone after death. I don’t know what happens after the physical brain dies. I don’t know what the relationship between consciousness and the physical world is. I don’t think anyone does know. Now I think there are many reasons to be doubtful of naïve conceptions about the soul, and about this idea that you could just migrate to a better place after death. But I simply don’t know about what... I don’t know what I believe about death. And I don’t think it’s necessary to know in order to live as sanely and ethically and happily as possible. I don’t think you get... You don't get anything worth getting by pretending to know things you don't know.

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

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, "The View From The End Of The World" (9 December 2005)
2000s
Context: The problem with faith, is that it really is a conversation stopper. Faith is a declaration of immunity to the powers of conversation. It is a reason, why you do not have to give reasons, for what you believe.

„It is time we admitted that we are not at war with "terrorism". We are at war with Islam.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, "Mired in a religious war", Washington Times (1 December 2004) http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/dec/1/20041201-090801-2582r/
2000s
Context: It is time we admitted that we are not at war with "terrorism". We are at war with Islam. This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims, but we are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran. The only reason Muslim fundamentalism is a threat to us is because the fundamentals of Islam are a threat to us.

„Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.“

—  Sam Harris

Source: 2000s, Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), p. 51
Context: Atheism is not a philosophy - it is not even a view of the world. It is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

„Most of us do our best not to think about death. But there’s always part of our minds that knows this can’t go on forever.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, "Death and the Present Moment", speech at the Global Atheist Convention (April 2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTxTCz4Ums&t=17m52s
2010s
Context: Most of us do our best not to think about death. But there’s always part of our minds that knows this can’t go on forever. Part of us always knows that we’re just a doctor’s visit away, or a phone call away, from being starkly reminded with the fact of our own mortality, or of those closest to us. Now, I’m sure many of you in this room have experienced this in some form; you must know how uncanny it is to suddenly be thrown out of the normal course of your life and just be given the full time job of not dying, or of caring for someone who is... But the one thing people tend to realize at moments like this is that they wasted a lot of time, when life was normal. And it’s not just what they did with their time – it’s not just that they spent too much time working or compulsively checking email. It’s that they cared about the wrong things. They regret what they cared about. Their attention was bound up in petty concerns, year after year, when life was normal. This is a paradox of course, because we all know this epiphany is coming. Don’t you know this is coming? Don’t you know that there’s going to come a day when you’ll be sick, or someone close to you will die, and you will look back on the kinds of things that captured your attention, and you’ll think ‘What was I doing?’. You know this, and yet if you’re like most people, you’ll spend most of your time in life tacitly presuming you’ll live forever. Like, watching a bad movie for the fourth time, or bickering with your spouse. These things only make sense in light of eternity. There better be a heaven if we’re going to waste our time like this.

„So the problem is not religious extremism, because extremism is not a problem if your core beliefs are truly non-violent. The problem isn't fundamentalism. We often hear this said: these are euphemisms… The only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDMOxjHIt0U at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley (November 10, 2010)
2010s
Context: "Religion" is a nearly useless term. It's a term like "sports". Now there are sports like Badminton and sports like Thai Boxing, and they have almost nothing in common apart from breathing. There are sports that are just synonymous with the risk of physical injury or even death … There is, I'm happy to say, a religion of peace in this world, but it's not Islam. The claim that Islam is a religion of peace that we hear ceaselessly reiterated is completely delusional. Now Jainism actually is a religion of peace. The core principle of Jainism is non-violence. Gandhi got his non-violence from the Jains. The crazier you get as a Jain, the less we have to worry about you. Jain extremists are paralysed by their pacifism. Jain extremists can't take their eyes off the ground when they walk lest they step on an ant... Needless to say they are vegetarian. So the problem is not religious extremism, because extremism is not a problem if your core beliefs are truly non-violent. The problem isn't fundamentalism. We often hear this said: these are euphemisms... The only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam.

„Now Jainism actually is a religion of peace. The core principle of Jainism is non-violence.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDMOxjHIt0U at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley (November 10, 2010)
2010s
Context: "Religion" is a nearly useless term. It's a term like "sports". Now there are sports like Badminton and sports like Thai Boxing, and they have almost nothing in common apart from breathing. There are sports that are just synonymous with the risk of physical injury or even death … There is, I'm happy to say, a religion of peace in this world, but it's not Islam. The claim that Islam is a religion of peace that we hear ceaselessly reiterated is completely delusional. Now Jainism actually is a religion of peace. The core principle of Jainism is non-violence. Gandhi got his non-violence from the Jains. The crazier you get as a Jain, the less we have to worry about you. Jain extremists are paralysed by their pacifism. Jain extremists can't take their eyes off the ground when they walk lest they step on an ant... Needless to say they are vegetarian. So the problem is not religious extremism, because extremism is not a problem if your core beliefs are truly non-violent. The problem isn't fundamentalism. We often hear this said: these are euphemisms... The only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam.

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

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, in
2000s
Context: If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology. I would not say that all human conflict is born of religion or religious differences, but for the human community to be fractured on the basis of religious doctrines that are fundamentally incompatible, in an age when nuclear weapons are proliferating, is a terrifying scenario.

„In a world that has long been terrorized by fratricidal Sky-God religions, the ascendance of Buddhism would surely be a welcome development.“

—  Sam Harris

2000s
Context: One could surely argue that the Buddhist tradition, taken as a whole, represents the richest source of contemplative wisdom that any civilization has produced. In a world that has long been terrorized by fratricidal Sky-God religions, the ascendance of Buddhism would surely be a welcome development.

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„Death is, in some ways, unacceptable.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Big Think Sam Harris On Death http://bigthink.com/ideas/3127 (4 July 2007)
2000s
Context: Death is, in some ways, unacceptable. It’s just an astonishing fact of our being here that we die. But I think worse than that is if we live long enough, we lose everyone we love in this world. I mean people die and disappear, and we’re left with this stark mystery: just the sheer not knowing of what happened to them.

„The principal tenet of Jainism is non-harming. Observant Jains will literally not harm a fly.“

—  Sam Harris

Q&A with Sam Harris (2005) http://www.samharris.org/press/Q&A-with-Sam-Harris.pdf
2000s
Context: The principal tenet of Jainism is non-harming. Observant Jains will literally not harm a fly. Fundamentalist Jainism and fundamentalist Islam do not have the same consequences, neither logically nor behaviorally.

„The crazier you get as a Jain, the less we have to worry about you. Jain extremists are paralysed by their pacifism.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDMOxjHIt0U at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley (November 10, 2010)
2010s
Context: "Religion" is a nearly useless term. It's a term like "sports". Now there are sports like Badminton and sports like Thai Boxing, and they have almost nothing in common apart from breathing. There are sports that are just synonymous with the risk of physical injury or even death … There is, I'm happy to say, a religion of peace in this world, but it's not Islam. The claim that Islam is a religion of peace that we hear ceaselessly reiterated is completely delusional. Now Jainism actually is a religion of peace. The core principle of Jainism is non-violence. Gandhi got his non-violence from the Jains. The crazier you get as a Jain, the less we have to worry about you. Jain extremists are paralysed by their pacifism. Jain extremists can't take their eyes off the ground when they walk lest they step on an ant... Needless to say they are vegetarian. So the problem is not religious extremism, because extremism is not a problem if your core beliefs are truly non-violent. The problem isn't fundamentalism. We often hear this said: these are euphemisms... The only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam.

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

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Big Think Sam Harris On Death http://bigthink.com/ideas/3127 (July 4, 2007)
2000s
Context: We just don’t teach people how to grieve. You know, religion is the epitome, the antithesis of teaching your children how to grieve. You tell your child that, “Grandma is in heaven”, and there’s nothing to be sad about. That’s religion. It would be better to equip your child for the reality of this life, which is, you know, we... death is a fact. And we don’t know what happens after death. And I’m not pretending to know that you get a dial tone after death. I don’t know what happens after the physical brain dies. I don’t know what the relationship between consciousness and the physical world is. I don’t think anyone does know. Now I think there are many reasons to be doubtful of naïve conceptions about the soul, and about this idea that you could just migrate to a better place after death. But I simply don’t know about what... I don’t know what I believe about death. And I don’t think it’s necessary to know in order to live as sanely and ethically and happily as possible. I don’t think you get... You don't get anything worth getting by pretending to know things you don't know.

„I can think of no political right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one’s own consciousness.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Drugs and the Meaning of Life http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life/ (5 July 2011) <nowiki>[audio version https://soundcloud.com/samharrisorg/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life</nowiki>]
2010s
Context: The “war on drugs” has been well lost, and should never have been waged. While it isn’t explicitly protected by the U. S. Constitution, I can think of no political right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one’s own consciousness. The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time.

„There is, I'm happy to say, a religion of peace in this world, but it's not Islam.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDMOxjHIt0U at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley (November 10, 2010)
2010s
Context: "Religion" is a nearly useless term. It's a term like "sports". Now there are sports like Badminton and sports like Thai Boxing, and they have almost nothing in common apart from breathing. There are sports that are just synonymous with the risk of physical injury or even death … There is, I'm happy to say, a religion of peace in this world, but it's not Islam. The claim that Islam is a religion of peace that we hear ceaselessly reiterated is completely delusional. Now Jainism actually is a religion of peace. The core principle of Jainism is non-violence. Gandhi got his non-violence from the Jains. The crazier you get as a Jain, the less we have to worry about you. Jain extremists are paralysed by their pacifism. Jain extremists can't take their eyes off the ground when they walk lest they step on an ant... Needless to say they are vegetarian. So the problem is not religious extremism, because extremism is not a problem if your core beliefs are truly non-violent. The problem isn't fundamentalism. We often hear this said: these are euphemisms... The only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam.

„The illusion of free will… is itself an illusion.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris at Sydney Opera House Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2012, Discussion on Free Will http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM3raA1EwrI.
2010s
Context: The illusion of free will... is itself an illusion. There is no illusion of free will. Thoughts and intentions simply arise. What else could they do? Now, some of you might think this sounds depressing, but it's actually incredibly freeing to see life this way. It does take something away from life: what it takes away from life is an egocentric view of life. We're not truly separate: we are linked to one another, we are linked to the world, we are linked to our past, and to history. And what we do actually matters because of that linkage, because of the permeability, because of the fact that we can't be the true locus of responsibility. That's what makes it all matter.

„Every time you scratch your nose, you have committed a Holocaust of potential human beings.“

—  Sam Harris

Source: 2000s, Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), p. 30
Context: Perhaps you think that the crucial difference between a fly and a human blastocyst is to be found in the latter's potential to become a fully developed human being. But almost every cell in your body is a potential human being, given our recent advances in genetic engineering. Every time you scratch your nose, you have committed a Holocaust of potential human beings. This is a fact. The argument from a cell's potential gets you absolutely nowhere.

„People are literally dying over ancient literature.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris. Harris, Sam, and Reza Aslan. 2007. “Religion Reason Debate, Jan 25 2007 | Video | C-SPAN.Org.” January 25. https://www.c-span.org/video/?196385-1/religion-reason-debate.
2000s
Context: We have Christians against Muslims against Jews. They're making incompatible claims on real estate in the Middle East as though God were some kind of omniscient real estate broker parsing out parcels of land to his chosen flock. People are literally dying over ancient literature.

„These chemicals disclose layers of beauty that art is powerless to capture and for which the beauty of Nature herself is a mere simulacrum.“

—  Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Drugs and the Meaning of Life http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life/ (5 July 2011)
2010s
Context: I have visited both extremes on the psychedelic continuum. The positive experiences were more sublime than I could have ever imagined or than I can now faithfully recall. These chemicals disclose layers of beauty that art is powerless to capture and for which the beauty of Nature herself is a mere simulacrum. It is one thing to be awestruck by the sight of a giant redwood and to be amazed at the details of its history and underlying biology. It is quite another to spend an apparent eternity in egoless communion with it. Positive psychedelic experiences often reveal how wondrously at ease in the universe a human being can be—and for most of us, normal waking consciousness does not offer so much as a glimmer of these deeper possibilities... But as the peaks are high, the valleys are deep. My “bad trips” were, without question, the most harrowing hours I have ever suffered—and they make the notion of hell, as a metaphor if not a destination, seem perfectly apt.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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