Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sam Harris is Wrong...Again.



Sam Harris is an icon of the atheist movement. We owe him much for his outspoken opposition to religious intrusion into our lives and the damage it does to society. I respect him immensely.   But Sam is not an icon of international diplomacy, nor is he infallible.  We’ll leave infallibility to the pope.

The same can be said for Chris Hitchens. He was and remains a hero of mine, but he was a misguided rabid supporter of the war in Iraq.  

I disagree with Sam Harris on a few things, not the least of which is his demonization of liberal Xtians.  You’d think a man of letters who firmly accepts evolutionary theory, would see liberal Xtians as part of, a stage in, the evolution of religion - leading ultimately to reason and the demise of religion over the long haul.  Sam, it seems, isn’t satisfied with that. 

To Harris liberal Xtians are cherry picking doctrine (and they are); accommodating myth with reality (which they do); creating a hybrid or bastardization of Christianity which prolongs religious belief (and it does) and enables fundies.  It seems that to Sam anything short of the immediate self extinction of fundamentalist belief, with no stage between total belief in myth and fable and complete atheism, is unacceptable and unworthy of nurturing or acceptance, but worthy only of disdain.  This is my summary interpretation of his perspective, not his precise words.

To me this is tantamount to despising Australopithecus for standing between his arboreal ancestors and the development of Homo sapiens. Heck, Australo was just delaying the inevitable.

Sam’s not much of a pragmatist in that regard, nor is he a diplomat nor politician if his latest screed is any indication. 

  
Today Sam Harris came out and accused the Obama administration of practicing “quivering lip diplomacy” based on the tweet issued by the US embassy in Egypt before the Libyan murders occurred, and based on subsequent government statements that seek to distance the US government from the act of a private US individual.
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/on-the-freedom-to-offend-an-imaginary-god

 But where Sam sees this as weakness I see it as diplomacy, civility, and an attempt to establish credible arms length distance between government involvement and private citizen's action; not at all indicative of an offer to relinquish our rights and freedoms or an admonishment against free speech by anyone of any kind.

Unfortunately, some Americans, Sam included, seem not to understand that every Muslim who lives in the Middle East lives in a culture where all media must be approved and sanctioned by their ruling government. It is unheard of for a private individual, under decades of autocratic / despotic rule, to be able to produce and air a film without government approval and blessing.  This then feeds the Muslim world’s assumption that this policy / reality extends to foreign countries because they know nothing else.  The failure to recognize this is symptomatic of the Western-centric mindset, and a failed educational system, or just a preference to remain ignorant of other cultural realities.  Mercifully, unlike Romney, McCain, Palin, my neighbor up the street and Sam Harris, the Obama administration understands this. 

If establishing that the US government does not endorse specific speech antagonistic to a billion or so foreigners, and seeks to maintain an arms length between a private citizen’s inflammatory speech and our body’s politic is some how weakness, it is only so in the minds of those who fail to understand this difference (or prefer to reject the difference ).  It speaks more to those Americans' knee jerk ethno-centric ignorance, or political agenda,  than to an administration kowtowing to Muslim indignation.

No...the private citizen does not speak for the US government.  His words and actions do not necessarily reflect our nation’s policy or perspective. While blasphemy, insult, and hate speech are our right, the government has no obligation to imply it endorses what is said, only to endorse our right to say it.   I'm glad we have an administration that knows the difference and did just that.  


That said:  Phuque the Profit Muhammad. 

(Note:  I was criticized by a fb friend for referring to Christopher Hitchens as "Chris" in this article, an abbreviated name Hitch despised.  A thoughtless oversight on my part. But I doubt "Hitch" is going to object. After all,  I've never received a complaint from Chuck Darwin)   

12 comments:

George West said...

I received "On the Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God" directly from Sam this morning and was left a bit clueless as to what he meant by his Liberal Christian and "quivering lips" statements.
Now, thanks to your euridite explanation, I have a clue.
I too have great respect for Mr. Harris and I've read and thoroughly enjoyed his "End of Faith" and "Letter to a Xian Nation." I follow his articles and blogs but occasionally find them bewildering and blisteringly harsh as you just mentioned.
That said, I find your "Camel" series (if 2 is considered as such) and subsequent articles much more interesting, humerous, entertaining and useful.
Thanks for all of your "Faithicide" support.
George West in ABQ

Carl said...

Well Hump I guess I will for the first time have to disagree with you. I think Sam hit this one out of the park.

gristleoflife said...

I fear some type of backlash from this in the form of many calling for enacting more "blasphemy" laws, preventing any negative speech toward any religion.

This will be done under the guise of initially not offending Muslims, and will be "for the safety of our troops and US citizens abroad" while the real motivation will be to prevent any negative speech against Christianity.

Hopefully, rational minds will prevail and keep the 1st Amendment intact.

Dromedary Hump said...

George, thanks so much for the nice words.

Carl..you disagree?? BLASPHEMY!! :)

Gristle... anyone proposing such a thing in this country would be an enemy of freedom. I am quite certain he/she would be tarred and feathered in the court of public opinion, and by the Supreme Court. Some may be thinking it, but no way would it get beyond their lips before they were soundly dismissed and declared unAmerican.

Joyce said...

1592 "To Harris liberal Xtians are cherry picking doctrine (and they are); accommodating myth with reality (which they do); creating a hybrid or bastardization of Christianity which prolongs religious belief (and it does) and enables fundies. It seems that to Sam anything short of the immediate self extinction of fundamentalist belief, with no stage between total belief in myth and fable and complete atheism, is unacceptable and unworthy of nurturing or acceptance, but worthy only of disdain. This is my summary interpretation of his perspective, not his precise words."

See, as a Christfollower and Bible believer, I don't agree that I'm 'cherry picking'. Jesus talked a lot in fables, so I'm not positive of what in the OT or NT is actually literal or figurative. I *do* know that the Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is figurative. That's obvious by the description of the human body, etc. I'm still working on (and struggling with) what exactly is literal and what is not. Some may simply be lessons; some may be literal. I'm not a new earther, for example, because there is so much evidence that the earth and universe is millions of years old, not thousands.

That doesn't make me a cherry picker; just trying to figure out what are stories told to help us who believe understand the story (moral?) behind the story and what is true.

I don't know what else to add right now (I haven't been to sleep yet), but I think that sums up some of what I think and believe (and may not).

Thanks for the blog.

Valérie said...

I can't believe what I am reading:

""

So you think that someone who "rabbidly" supported the murder of 4 million people can get away with it by just being "misguided" and so he can remain a "hero" of yours?

LOLLLL!

Dromedary Hump said...

Valerie,
If you want to equate war with murder, I suppose you can. The definitions are quite different, but I understand your perspective. I too opposed the war.

Many people supported that war. They weren't necessarily all evil people. Some were fooled, others simply misguided.

While Hitchens' support for the war was a disappointment to me, as were his more right wing political perspectives, his contributions to freethought, challenging religious untruths, and helping advance the cause of secularism and the demise of religious demegogury are deserved of his status as one of the great freethinkers in history. Thus a hero to "the cause."

I imagine, if you're consistant, you think of people who owned slaves and allowed slavery to continue as hideous people unworthy of respect and admiration irrespective of their genuine contributions so society. But inspite of this I call Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, a hero of mine as well.

This shouldn't be difficult to understand... your childish "LOLLLL" not withstanding.

Dromedary Hump said...

Joyce...of course you cherry pick, all Xtians do...but liberals moreso than fundies.
here...you accept the Old testament's 10 commandments as the law of God (still valid, even though Paul claims Jesus fulfilled the law thus negating requirements to follow the 613 laws of the OT...anyway).
But while you acknowledge the 10 commandments as being god's will, you "choose to ignore", this commandment:
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven…earth ... water.”Exodus 20:4

That's because you cherry pick what laws, what doctrine, what admonishments you accept as convenient or valid, or still in force and which you decide are not.

It's why you accept homosexuals, while other Xtians want them imprisoned or killed. The latter are being more true to the bible... but obviously THEY cherry picked those verses and ignored the other admonishments in the OT like keeping kosher, circumcision, not wearing mixed fiber clothes etc.

Anonymous said...

Boy is Joyce ever lucky she didn't live in earlier centuries.

And Chris and Chuck may not have retributed, but I heard (voices) that Yahweeee is not too happy.


WhyNot said...

Hey Camel,

thought you might find this interesting; it's a quote of What Valérie wrote on my blog:

"I think Atheist Camel is becoming nearly as stupid as fundamentalist religious crazies like Jeanette.

It’s funny that I get shit on by Christian nutcases like Barb and Jeanette because I am catholic, and then I get shit on as much by nutcase atheists like that fuckhead also because I am catholic and I often defend atheists."


Gee, dude, you really have a talent to incite/entice religious ppl to become atheists, right? Lol.

PS: EVERYBODY at PP (i.e. my blog, i.e. http://ppblog.free.fr) is atheist. That is, EVERYBODY except Valérie. And yet, guess what? EVERYBODY loves Valérie. She is a young courageous disabled woman who works a hard physically demanding job (waitressing in a busy fast restaurant in Paris), always laughs at anything she can find remotely funny and gay - and generally, any occasion to feel happy. She has a heart of gold, loves animals, etc etc ..., the list of her qualities is endless.

Oh well, I guess some ppl dig their own graves, right?

Dromedary Hump said...

I can't imagine how my article on Harris, nor my reply to Valerie above equates to her being "shit on", or how it tags me as a "fuckhead." I doubt you can either, without some tortured stretch of reasoning.


But my guess is Valerie assuming the role of put upon martyr makes her feel good.

I do not, never have, attempted to entice people to become atheist. I simply point out the negative impact their delusion has on society. If it stimulates activism among the reasoned, good.

Dromedary Hump said...

Whynot,
in reply to your second comment. No, I won't post it here. I have zero interest in promoting your blog. Nor do I have interest in learning more about one of your deluded followers. If you had a reasoned retort to anything I wrote here, I'd be happy to post it. But you don't. How could you?

You may want to recommend to that she unsubscribe from this blog to save herself the angst of reading about my criticism of Harris, admiration for Hitchens, and my reasoned objections to religion. She obviously needs a lot less stress in her life.

As for yourself, if thine eye offends thee, pluck it out.