Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Sam Harris on the Dangers of Religion

Question: When you read the newspaper or watch the news, what issues stand out for you?

Sam Harris:  Well what astonishes me when I read the newspaper or watch the news is how many problems are the direct result of what people believe about God.  I mean there are days when I open the New York Times where fully half of the stories – in a way that’s unacknowledged by the paper – relate to people’s religious convictions.  It’s a matter . . .  I mentioned the Virginia Tech shooting.  The role that religion played in providing a context for this shooting was never really discussed in the media. But we just hear that the mother happened to be a devout Christian, and schlepped her child from church to church in search of an exorcism.  I just see continually our attention bound up in these competing ideas about God.  At best, this is often just a waste of time.  But at worst, it is just . . . it is manufacturing violence, and unnecessary conflict, and misuses of our resources.  And what’s more, it is very rare that we acknowledge . . .  I mean now we’re beginning to acknowledge the role that Islam is playing in Muslim terrorism; but even that has been very slow to come.  I mean it has been obvious for many, many years – long before September 11th – that a certain style of Muslim infatuation was leading to this kind of jihad-y behavior.  We’re . . . Because of the respect we afford religious faith, we are very slow to acknowledge its cause or role in conflict.

Question:  What is the struggle in what you do?

Sam Harris:  Well I think the biggest challenge as a matter of discourse and debate – and certainly the most frustrating challenge – is what comes from otherwise secular and even non-believing people who are just reluctant to admit how much mad work is being done because of religion in this world.  I mean they either can’t believe that people really believe this stuff . . .  So when a suicide bomber blows himself up in a crowd of children, this secular type of person will imagine, “That wasn’t religion.  I mean it had nothing to do with a belief in paradise and 72 virgins.  Who could believe that?  This is a . . . some kind of psychological aberration.  Or it’s caused by economic desperation, or policies in the region.  I mean it’s not a matter of metaphysical beliefs.”  I think the jury is in on this, and we know that people really do believe these things.  They are telling us ad nauseum that they believe these things.  And I don’t think there’s any more powerful rhetorical device for emphasis than blowing yourself up or flying a plane into a building.  And I mean these people are really willing to die for what they believe.  And we know it’s not a matter of economics.  I’m gonna speak specifically to the Muslim word for a moment.   We know it’s not a matter of economics and education, because this recent plot in the U.K., these are all doctors who are . . . who are aspiring suicide bombers.  And you know, how much more education did these doctors need?  One was a neurosurgeon.  You find me a neurosurgeon suicide bomber, and you tell me the problem is education and economics, it clearly isn’t.  And . . . but the deeper problem, and I think a far more sinister problem, is that it is possible to be well educated – so well educated that you can be a neurosurgeon – and still believe that you can get 72 virgins in paradise.  And this is made possible by the fact that we have allowed a certain mode of thought – religion – to thrive in a cocoon of this sphere of protection from criticism.  It is just taboo to criticize people’s religious beliefs.

Recorded on: Jul 4 2007 

Again this year, the New Atheist is giving up God.

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

The dangers of the chemical imbalance theory of depression

A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.

Image: solarseven / Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
  • Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
  • Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

Videos
  • The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
  • Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
  • Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

New guidelines redefine 'obesity' to curb fat shaming

Is focusing solely on body mass index the best way for doctor to frame obesity?

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • New guidelines published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argue that obesity should be defined as a condition that involves high body mass index along with a corresponding physical or mental health condition.
  • The guidelines note that classifying obesity by body mass index alone may lead to fat shaming or non-optimal treatments.
  • The guidelines offer five steps for reframing the way doctors treat obesity.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast