Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction.
Mr. Harris' writing has been published in over ten languages. He and his work have been discussed in Newsweek, TIME, The New York Times, Scientific American, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Nature, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.
Mr. Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and holds a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, where he studied the neural basis of belief with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). He is also a Co-Founder and CEO of Project Reason.
Question:What motivates your work?
Sam Harris: Well it seems to be a moral and intellectual necessity for me to call a spade a spade. I mean, to argue against . . . ignorance. I mean there’s a certain species of ignorance that we call religion, that we call faith, that is just given a free ride in our society. And it’s not that it just thrives in a benign way. You know, it’s not like astrology where millions of people are into it, but nothing really matters. Nothing really turns on their astrological beliefs. This is really . . . I mean you could not get elected to high office in this country without pretending to believe that one of your books was authored by the creator of the universe. That, it seems to me, is a problem. And it’s a problem . . . Even if we didn’t have to worry about the conflict that we have in the Muslim world, which is explicitly theological . . . Even if our only problem was the role that religion is playing in our society; the way in which it’s blocking medical research; the way in which it’s causing us to debate things like gay marriage as if it’s the greatest moral issue of the time. Meanwhile we have huge problems like global warming, and a variety of merging conflicts, and nuclear proliferation. I mean we’re not spending . . . We don’t spend the same kind of emotional energy on nuclear proliferation that we spend on abortion and gay marriage. That is a . . . It really is a psychotically strange subversion of our better interest. I mean, you know, we have some real problems in this world that we could creatively solve. And yet we’re debating things like gay marriage. That is a legacy of faith . . . that is a legacy of Christian religion, in this case. And so it’s something that I feel that public intellectuals really have to be moved to speak honestly about.
Recorded on: July 4 2007