Sam Harris is a Jewish/Quaker-American atheist author born in 1967. Sam has written popular anti-God/anti-religion books and articles in an attempt to sway the public to his positions.
Wikipedia article on Sam Harris
In order to begin a discussion about Sam Harris, terms must be defined. There is no sense in arguing from terms that are not being used in the same sense by the other side of any issue. An argument may of course be about defining terms. Nevertheless, some commonality of language or meanings must be striven for or communication will not really exist.
I've recently read several things Sam Harris has written and said in behalf of forwarding his position. For instance, he has said, "We don't have a word for not believing in Zeus, which is to say we are all atheists in respect to Zeus. And we don't have a word for not being an astrologer." However, that is not the case. In addition, debunking Zeus in particular is not a reason to disbelieve.
To the first aspect of Sam's statement, when Jews or Christians or Hindus, etc., discussed the concept of God with Greeks while those Greeks were still using the name "Zeus," the Jews, etc., used the name Zeus to refer the Greeks to the concept of God. It was their starting place for discussing the nature of God. The God of The Bible has many words attached to him. His nature or personality is shown in different ways depending upon the mind apprehending the concept. This is not to limit God to human conceptualization but rather to say that human conceptualization is limiting or liberating, depending.
What is or was the true nature of Zeus? Was or is God as Zeus is depicted in Sam Harris's mind? Did all Greeks and others conceptualize Zeus as Sam Harris has when Sam has made his statements concerning Zeus?
The truth is that we have writings from the era where Zeus is conceptualized not as some idol, not as a literal giant man in the sky throwing lightening bolts but rather as the God of all that is. Of course, God is capable of being anthropomorphized into or manifesting as a giant human being in the sky throwing lightening bolts. Most often, however, it is figuratively intended. Literalists invariably will discard any attempt at conceiving the bigger and biggest picture. It's self-limiting.
Here is something I published back in August of 2007, in CHAPTER 60 BLACK SUN, NO LIGHT: SUPPLEMENT: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CONSERVATIVE-REPUBLICAN CHRISTIAN: JESUS IS A SMALL-C COMMUNIST:
The myth of Rama does tell a story of a being with many admirable traits. The name Ram can be used to begin speaking with Hindus about God in the same way Paul spoke to the Greeks about God starting with the name Zeus. God though is not Ram or Zeus as we have seen. The reason is neither Ram nor Zeus nor any other name derives Jesus Christ proper. There is overlap but insufficiency. Ram or Zeus don't get you all the way there. Jesus does.
Concerning the runes for instance, the runic "t" is and is called Tiwaz, which stands for Dyeus or God. He is God the father of all, the God of light, the God of heaven above. He is the spirit behind all creation. From him, the mother earth, our home planet, was formed: Adam to Eve. It is a combination of the Greek and Vedic: Zeus and Dyaus Pita. Now, the level of comprehension concerning these spiritual matters varied from person to person, tribe to tribe, and across time. Therefore, Tiwaz was morphed in the minds of men and women over time. The sublime nature of God is often lost to the very mundane.
The runic "t" is also the same shape as the Greek Tau, which is the shape of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. The shape is also the sign of lament for iniquity and for life as the ankh.
One can easily see how such morphing takes place since Christianity took on nearly all the trappings of Wuotanism in order to entice the Germanic peoples to Roman Catholicism. The Roman Empire conquered them via co-optation of paganism.
[Writing about the Nazis:]
They believed in Odin (a.k.a. Wotan, Woden) as the Anglo-Saxon, Norse God Most High. Wednesday is Woden's day.
Now, remember that God is God, and we are seeking God's true nature. The ancient Hebrews did not know the whole of God's true nature. Therefore, don't dismiss the different starting points, commonality in the languages of the various tribes (families, nations) of the world in discussing God's nature. Odin (Wotan, Thor) was perceived differently by each Norsemen, just as Zeus with the ancient Greeks and Yahveh by the ancient Hebrews.
Remember that Jesus fulfilled the divinely logical conclusions of all that is mystical in the world and not just of those real Jews who accepted him.
An example is with Thor killing the serpent JÃ¶rmungandr. It is the same as Heracles [Hercules] killing the Hydra and the archangel Michael killing the Leviathan and Jesus killing the seven-headed serpent, etc. The hero is the savior, the messiah. This is the yearning of the people fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
In addition to the Avesta of Zoroastrianism in Persia and the Veda of Hinduism in India, there were the mystery schools of Egypt such as Hermeticism, which is very much tied into the story of the messenger of God (Hermes, Mercury, the servant), son of God (son of Zeus, Deus pater "God the father": the Sky father in the Vedic tradition), the healer , and the resurrection of the dead, etc. Hermeticism comes from the Greek god Hermes (Hermes Trismegistus) after the Egyptian god Thoth. Hermes Trismegistus is the god or demigod of the three things: alchemy, astrology, and magic. Hence "Trismegistus" meaning thrice greatest.
"Demon" comes from the root "de-," "dae-," and "dai-," as in Deus (Zeus). It comes from the Sanscrit transliterated as "Devah" meaning divine or God, from which we have Devi, the feminine of God.
Now, naturally the words in the different languages that came down from the protolanguage all point to the same spectrum running from light to dark.
"Da-" is to divide. So we have God as one who then creates differences out of oneness. God is one, the "monad" (from the ancient understanding found in the various religions that divided from the proto-emotional), for humans, the intuitive grasping of existing in awe. The Elohim (pantheon of spiritual beings) is one Yahveh, one spirit really. That one spirit wants mercy, not evil that mankind (demons; souls possessed by unclean desires) brings forth.
The source of all, the indwelling spirit, the creator, and the destroyer (of evil) are all one God. Truth speaks evil out of this realm and saves. This is the meaning of the resurrection. The truth, the new commandment, that Jesus spoke from the Holy Spirit within him will remove evil (divide it away) and save the real world, bring it forth. Those who have been divided away from the first selfish act who see the light of unselfishness and return will become one again in the one spirit of the real, living spirit who is God, truth, love, peace, etc., the real, undeceived.
You will note that the Greek "demos" means the people in English.
The demon is the divider, the creator, the provider, the divine, etc. God is before nothingness, eternal, before Einsteinian time, before substance. "Demi-" means half. The one divides to create. The Demiurge is the one urging (forcing) division bringing forth the creation in which we find ourselves.
In CHAPTER 22: PROCEEDS TO TEACH AND DO: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CONSERVATIVE-REPUBLICAN CHRISTIAN: JESUS IS A SMALL-C COMMUNIST, also published in August, 2007:
Now as for quoting other works, we have Paul (in the New Testament) quoting the works of the Greek poets Epimenides and Aratus.
In his poem entitled, Cretica, Epimenides writes as follows:
They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever
For in thee we live and move and have our being
In his work entitled, Phaenomena, Aratus writes as follows:
Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus
Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus
For we are indeed his offspring
Paul wrote as follows:
One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. (Titus 1:12).
For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (Acts 17:28).
This is finding common language to communicate truth. It is the law so to do. Jesus opened up the language of the scripture, and the common people grasped it. The richest of the rich hated it, and still do, because their hearts were, and are, hard, cold, and small.
In addition to showing that Paul read more than Hebrew scripture, what's going on here? Is Paul saying that our Father is the pagan god Zeus? To answer this, one must be able to view it from both ends at the same time to avoid the paradox trap that really doesn't exist otherwise. The answer is both no and yes. What God is not is the idol Zeus. What God is, is the fulfillment of, and exceeding of, the very highest concept of righteousness that any Greek ever attributed to the divine under the name "Zeus" or any Roman the same under the name "Jupiter" or any Hindu under "Brahman," etc. What God is not is everything tacked on by human imagination that has nothing to do with what God wants us to do. Paul used the quotes to make contextual connections with those to whom he was preaching. Such devices are required in such verbal appeals.
God is the God of Jacob, because the God of Jacob actually answers. The God of Jacob is the real God Most High going back to the beginning and is the God that many others modeled their god or gods upon. Zeus, while conceptually having much in common with the real living God, just doesn't reach that point. He was a place to start, a highest common denominator so to speak, a context, a concept of supreme deity understood by the Greeks where Paul could begin to relate the message of Jesus as he preached it.
In Chapter 10: American Founding Fathers: Demigods: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CONSERVATIVE-REPUBLICAN CHRISTIAN: Jesus is a small-c communist, published Monday, August 27, 2007:
Epimenides was, however, not using his statement in that mundanely paradoxical sense only, if he intended it that way at all. He was in earnest that the Cretans were in error in burying Zeus (claiming that God is dead). He was saying of his own people that they were severely misled. That, of course, meant that they were liars. Concerning the concept of burying God, Epimenides broke the mold. He refused to go further into darkness with his kin folk. He rather wrote to shed light upon their error in direction.
It must be understood that the God conceptualized by Jacob was further conceptualized by Jesus. Jesus knew God more than did Jacob. In relative terms, the God of Jacob is Zeus, but the God of Jesus gets one all the way to being next to God, close to God, one with God, even God in the end.
So, I hope this helps in putting Sam Harris's limiting view in a larger perspective.
Most importantly in dealing with Sam's view though concerns his limiting everything known or knowable to that which may be gained (in his sense of the term gained) via what he considers the scientific method or experimentation or testing.
Sam is a semi-disciple of Karl Popper (Karl Raimund Popper). Popper was a philosopher of science. He said the only things that can be known are those that can be shown via testing. However, there is no physical experiment that can be done to either prove or disprove God to the satisfaction of those stuck in this philosophy. In Popper's philosophy though, the best science can ever do is work with odds (probability). No matter how often something is repeatable via an experiment, there is no way of finally knowing whether or not it would repeat as such eternally. For the Christian, God can repeat eternally for the tester or end it at any time for the believers. It's God's choice. God is free of the limitations of Popper's or Sam Harris's philosophy.
However, as is clear in the scriptures Sam has read, testing itself precludes further knowledge. It is the tester who is not given the knowledge, because the spirit of the tester is not trustworthy with the information. The evil one seeks to gain the knowledge God has to turn it against all that is righteous. Sam is working on behalf of that evil one whether Sam knows it or not. In fact, he doesn't know it.
Before the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus clearly warns his disciples against having hypocrisy in their hearts. Where there is hypocrisy, there is doubt. Also, Jesus makes clear that where there is hypocrisy even in the surrounding souls, God is more inclined not to grant what Sam would count as miracles. Yet, Sam demands rigid application of the scientific method to prove this. As I have written on this website before, he can use statistics after the fact. If everyone truly comes to believe in the real message of Jesus Christ, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy that will be statistically demonstrable. The miracles will occur. There just won't be any naysayers around to want to apply statistics to "prove" what everyone will already know in no uncertain terms.
We see the weapons makers now reaching and reaching for full-spectrum dominance. As I've written before several times, by that they don't mean a limited spectrum. They mean all that is. They mean controlling all matter to do with as they desire. They mean to setup their offspring as God but not for righteousness but for hedonism. Well, it is scary to most of their opponents. However, God has them in a bubble from which they will never learn how to escape, because the knowledge of how to escape and the rules for how to escape are set by God alone and are immutable. No amount of testing or spiritual evil will dethrone God who is righteousness. To get to the highest Heaven, one must be becoming, and finally arrive at, pure righteousness.
Now, Sam will contend that being a good person is not limited to those who know Jesus. However, as much of what I showed above, this is a matter of semantical limitations built into Sam's worldview. Sam's definition of "good" is not the same as mine. His falls short. Mine includes doing all the things for which Jesus calls. Sam's definition cannot possibly include all those things, since Jesus calls for loving God with one's all for starters. Jesus's religion is the religion of consistency. To love others as one ought to love oneself and to know thy self as one ought, requires loving God with one's all in the exact sense Jesus meant it. Sam doesn't go there. Consequently, there are many things that are required to be truly good that Sam will refuse to do.
Sam will also assert that the knowledge of goodness doesn't have to come out from God. He will say that the Golden Rule was there before Jesus stated it. Well, really, Jesus didn't come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He did fulfill the Golden Rule. He clarified it. He enhanced it. Jesus's New Commandment is that Golden Rule. All those who spoke the Golden Rule before Jesus didn't have Jesus's fuller and fullest revelation concerning its meaning and all the implications for life in the here and now. Also, Jesus says that the law that is the Golden Rule came out from the spirit of righteousness that is God by Jesus's definition. Sam argues against that, because Sam doesn't want to live up to all the implications of the New Commandment. He isn't prepared to love as Jesus loved and loves.
Sam's concern for his flesh is leading him to conclude that wrong religion needs to be at least self-censored and even disallowed. He thinks 9/11 was done by Islam. Well, what's his evidence? The investigation into the event certainly was intentionally lousy. Is he basing his position on that lousy investigation? Yes, he is. That's rather inconsistent of him. It smacks of his bloodline affinities. He has some Jewish nationalism in him that he's not fully acknowledging, at least not publicly enough. He's holding back, hiding.
Sam has to contend with the fact that if the people don't come to believe in the real Jesus, they will not come to doing what that Jesus says we ought to be doing. That would mean that Jesus's vision of Heaven would never come to the Earth by anything any human could do to bring forth and shine the light as Jesus says. Well, Jesus also says the time will come when most are not watching for it, as a thief in the night comes to those who are not vigilant. What happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany?
Sam Harris argues against this. He holds that because there is wrong religion, there ought to be no religion. However, he's offering up a belief system himself. He's offering up a substitute religion for all extant religions. How can he miss this? His religion is scientism. That's where he is asking everyone to place faith. Why should everyone place faith in Sam Harris's worldview? Is Sam offering something better than what Jesus Christ offers? Hardly. If we all do as Sam Harris says, we will all die into Hell as Jesus says. If we all do as Jesus says, we will all be transformed as Jesus says. Is this falsifiable? Sam will never know, because Sam will never see things from God's perspective. God won't give that to Sam or to anyone advocating what Sam wants rather than what Jesus wanted and still wants for souls.
Sam sets up a straw man (an opponent set up so as to be easily refuted) when arguing against Jesus. He redefines Jesus and then refutes that redefined Jesus. He does not refute Jesus proper. He claims that Jesus didn't repudiate the Old Testament barbarism. Sam says he's read the New Testament; however, there is reading and then there is reading. He didn't read them in the sense Jesus read them. Sam didn't comprehend the revelation of Jesus Christ. Of course Jesus repudiates the barbarism of the Old Testament. He does that by pointing out the hypocrisy in the Old Testament interpretation and vision and by clearly and plainly repudiating that hypocrisy. Does Jesus say that there is no barbarism to come? No, he does not. The Glory of God is inextricably tied in a certain sense to the wrath of Satan. Satan devours his own. That leaves God standing with his own and Satan nowhere to be found (in the bottom of the bottomless pit unable to come back out because none will accept his falsehood back into his or her heart). This is at once the duality of the spirit and the absolute righteousness of God.
Sam doesn't understand that sin is crime. He misses the semantical point. He doesn't understand the half-truth nature of the fallen condition. He points to the Scandinavians as examples of a highly secular, humanist society that is generous. However, it isn't the amount of goodness that defines. It is rather the absence of evil. Those same Scandinavians still do other things that they ought not to do. They still have not gone all the way to the unselfishness for which Jesus calls. In fact, they have been slipping lately the other way toward agreeing to do more harm in their societies and to allow for the more selfish spirit to enter in. They are being asked by the more libertarian-capitalistic types to open their doors and hearts to less egalitarianism and less compassion and to more self-centeredness and paranoia for the sake of the flesh apart from God.
To wholly agree with Sam, one must be a materialist, a matterist, only. When you die, you don't exist. You have no soul. There is no spirit. There is only matter. This he holds, because his system of belief, scientism, tells him so. It's his religion. Since all religion is bad in his eyes, he should dispense with his scientism. He's a hypocrite shown so by his own religious anti-religion.
Rick Warren makes a good point that "millions died under Mao, and under Stalin and Pol Pot." They were atheists. The absence of the religion of Jesus Christ and supposedly the absence of all religion certainly didn't result in anything close to the projection Sam Harris is dishing out.
People commit atrocities because of atheism and wrong religion. Under right religion, the religion of Jesus Christ, only Christlike actions are taken. Is Sam advocating Christlikeness without Christ as the exemplar?
I don't agree with all things Rick Warren, but he made another good point: "If life is just random chance, then nothing really does matter and there is no morality-it's survival of the fittest. If survival of the fittest means me killing you to survive, so be it. For years, atheists have said there is no God, but they want to live like God exists. They want to live like their lives have meaning."
I qualify this by saying that the fittest will survive and the fittest are those who believe in God and that God is righteousness and unselfishness.
Sam defines intellectualism and rationalism and reason, etc., as all being consistent with his worldview. However, I've pointed out his hypocrisy.
In his debate with Rick Warren, Sam attempted to make a logical point that because God likes certain things in the creation then "God also likes smallpox and tuberculosis." Now, is this intellectual honesty in evidence on Sam's part or ignorance? First, what is "likes" in this instance? Also, do those things (smallpox and tuberculosis) come out from God or Satan? Jesus calls them unclean things. Jesus does not also say that God is unclean.
Here's another telling statement by Sam Harris. "We got rid of slavery because we realized it was manifestly evil to treat human beings as farm equipment." Now consider the two words "manifestly evil" in light of everything else Sam has said. He's pointing to manifest evil. There is therefore evil that must be qualified as to when it becomes manifest or brought forth into the fleshly condition or state Sam can perceive. Where is evil when it is not manifest within Sam's realm of perception? Does it not exist beyond his level of perception? This evil, did it come out from matter only?
Sam asked the following:
How is it fair for God to have designed a world which gives such ambiguous testimony to his existence? How is it fair to have created a system where belief is the crucial piece, rather than being a good person? How is it fair to have created a world in which by mere accident of birth, someone who grew up Muslim can be confounded by the wrong religion? I don't see how the future of humanity is in good care with those competing orthodoxies.
He doesn't give ambiguous testimony to his existence. One cannot be a truly good person without believing as Jesus believes. There are no accidents of birth. There are no such things as "random" and chance from God's perspective. The souls of those who were place were they were placed at birth were placed there for a reason the wisdom of which is beyond Sam Harris to appreciate.
What constitutes sufficient evidence to Sam Harris? What would it take, what signs and wonders, to get Sam to believe, or would he always reject?
Just to finish out this post, Sam says he's altruistic, but he's altruistic in a half-truth sense only.
Rick Warren believes in the Fundamentalists view of Genesis. I hold with Theistic evolution. Rick is a businessman. He has applied consumerism to marketing his brand of Christianity. He's a man of commerce in mammon. I am not.