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Announcements | Book News | Politics | Religion | Christianity | War | September 28, 2015

Rethinking ‘Hitler’s Pope’

A Q&A With Mark Riebling


Mark Riebling has been an architect of post-9/11 “intelligence-driven policing,” co-founding and serving as research director for the Center for Policing Terrorism. He received his degree in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and is the author of Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA. His latest book is Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler.

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Harris: Previously, you’ve written about problems of intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism. What inspired you to write about the papacy in the Second World War?

Riebling: Well, I was raised Catholic, and one of the things I learned before I left the faith was that nuns could nail me if I said something heterodox, because they had an awesome system of informants! So I didn’t find it implausible, or uninteresting, when I later heard from one retired spy that the Vatican ran the world’s oldest and perhaps best intelligence service. Or when another retired spy told me that the Church was so skilled in clandestine operations that the NSA couldn’t crack the pope’s codes. And I like the challenge of writing secret histories of powerful institutions—maybe because my academic training is in philosophy, and I’m interested in how our background theories come to bear when the data are severely limited but the stakes are high. I’d like to think I write about these things as exercises in mindfulness, not unlike what philosophers from Epictetus to Foucault have recommended—a self-check of my own intellectual hygiene. Less abstractly, I just thought that much of what had been written about the wartime Church was crap!

Harris: There’s a large literature implicating the Catholic Church generally, and Pope Pius XII specifically, in Nazi atrocities. You argue that this literature needs adjustment, because the wartime pope actually conspired, you say, to remove Hitler and the Nazis. On what evidence do you rest your case, and how did you uncover it?

Book News | Neuroscience | Philosophy | Physics | Podcast | Science | September 23, 2015

The Multiverse & You (& You & You & You…)

A Conversation with Max Tegmark

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark about the foundations of science, our current understanding of the universe, and the risks of future breakthroughs in artificial intelligence.


(Photo via )

Known as “Mad Max” for his unorthodox ideas and passion for adventure, Max Tegmark’s scientific interests range from precision cosmology to the ultimate nature of reality, all explored in his new popular book Our Mathematical Universe. Tegmark is a professor of physics who has published more than two hundred technical papers and been featured in dozens of science documentaries. His work with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey on galaxy clustering shared the first prize in Science magazine’s “Breakthrough of the Year: 2003.” For more information about his work, please visit his MIT website and the Future of Life Institute.


This panel discussion was held at Harvard’s Kennedy Forum on September 14, 2015.

Sam Harris
Neuroscientist; Co-founder and Chief Executive, Project Reason; Author, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, among others

Maajid Nawaz
Author, Radical; Founding Chairman, Quilliam

Juliette Kayyem (moderator)
Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; Former Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, US Department of Homeland Security


The Daily Beast

By Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris

It’s time to confront Islamism head on—without cries of Islamophobia. Holding Islam up to scrutiny, rationally and ethically, must not be confused with anti-Muslim bigotry.

Ours was an inauspicious first meeting. Nawaz a former Muslim extremist turned liberal reformer, had just participated in a public debate about the nature of Islam. Though he had spent five years in an Egyptian prison for attempting to restore a medieval “caliphate,” Nawaz argued in favor of the motion that night, affirming that Islam is, indeed, “a religion of peace.” Harris, a well-known atheist and strident critic of Islam, had been in the audience. At a dinner later that evening, Harris was asked to comment on the event. He addressed his remarks directly to Nawaz:

Harris: Maajid, it seems to me that you have a problem. You need to convince the world—especially the Muslim world—that Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by extremists. But the problem is that Islam isn’t a religion of peace, and the so-called extremists are seeking to implement what is arguably the most honest reading of the faith’s actual doctrine. So the path of reform appears to be one of pretense: You seem obliged to pretend that the doctrine is something other than it is—for instance, you must pretend that jihad is just an inner spiritual struggle, whereas it’s primarily a doctrine of holy war. Here, in this room, can’t you just be honest with us? Is the path forward for Islam a matter of pretending certain things are true long enough and hard enough so as to make them true?

Nawaz: Are you calling me a liar?

Harris: What?

Nawaz: Are you calling me a liar?

Read the rest at The Daily Beast…

Islam and the Future of Tolerance Book Cover

Atheism | Book News | Free Will | Podcast | Religion | Science | May 19, 2015

Faith vs. Fact

An Interview with Jerry Coyne

Jerry A. Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. He received a B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary and a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at Harvard University. After a postdoctoral fellowship at The University of California at Davis, he took his first academic position as assistant professor in the Department of Zoology at The University of Maryland. In 1996 he joined the faculty of The University of Chicago and has been there ever since. Coyne’s work has been largely concerned with the genetics of species differences, aimed at understanding the evolutionary processes that produce new species. He has written 115 scientific papers and more than 130 popular articles, book reviews, and columns, as well as a scholarly book about his research area—Speciation, co-authored with H. Allen Orr—and a trade book about the evidence for evolution—Why Evolution is True, which was a New York Times bestseller. His most recent book is Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. Coyne is a contributor The New York Times, The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Nation, USA Today, and other popular periodicals.

Book News | Ethics | Martial Arts | Self-Defense | Violence | April 13, 2015


A Conversation between Sam Harris and Jonathan Gottschall


Jean-Léon Gérôme, <a href=""><i>The Duel After the Masquerade</i></a>

Jonathan Gottschall is a Distinguished Fellow in the English Department at Washington & Jefferson College. His research at the intersection of science and art has frequently been covered in outlets such as The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, Scientific American, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nature, Science, and NPR. His book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice Selection and a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. His latest book is The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch.

Book News | Economics | Ethics | Health | Politics | Religion | April 7, 2015

A War Well Lost

Sam Harris and Johann Hari discuss the “war on drugs”


(Photo via Pete Zarria)

Johann Hari is a British journalist who has written for many of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, Slate, El Mundo, and The Sydney Morning Herald. He was an op-ed columnist for The Independent for nine years. He graduated from King’s College, Cambridge with a double first in social and political sciences in 2001.

Hari was twice named “National Newspaper Journalist of the Year” by Amnesty International. He was named “Environmental Commentator of the Year” at the Editorial Intelligence Awards, and “Gay Journalist of the Year” at the Stonewall Awards. He has also won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for political writing.

Hari’s latest book is the New York Times best seller Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. You can follow him on Twitter @johannhari101.

Announcements | Book News | Economics | Ethics | Publishing | February 27, 2015

The Art and Science of the Possible

An Interview with Mick Ebeling

Mick Ebeling is a film/television/commercial producer, philanthropist, technology trailblazer, author, entrepreneur, and public speaker. He was one of Advertising Age’s “Top 50 Most Creative People of 2014” and winner of the 2014 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award. Ebeling is CEO of Not Impossible Labs, an organization that develops creative solutions to real-world problems.

Ebeling’s first book is Not Impossible: The Art and Joy of Doing What Couldn’t Be Done.

Announcements | Book News | Ethics | Philosophy | Publishing | January 26, 2015

On Being Right about Right and Wrong

An Interview with Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His latest book is The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom.

Michael was kind enough to answer a few questions by email:

Atheism | Book News | Politics | Publishing | Religion | December 3, 2014

The Frontiers of Secularism

An Interview with Phil Zuckerman

Phil Zuckerman is a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He is the author of Living the Secular Life, Faith No More, and Society Without God. He has also edited several volumes, including Atheism and Secularity, Sex and Religion, and The Social Theory of W.E.B. Du Bois. Zuckerman writes a regular blog for Psychology Today titled “The Secular Life.” His work has also been published in academic journals, such as Sociology Compass, Sociology of Religion, Deviant Behavior, and Religion, Brain, and Behavior. In 2011, Zuckerman founded the first Secular Studies department in the nation. He earned his PhD in sociology from the University of Oregon in 1998. He currently lives in Claremont, California, with his wife, Stacy, and their three children.

Book News | Consciousness | Meditation | Publishing | Self | September 17, 2014

Taming the Mind

A Conversation with Dan Harris


(Photo via h.koppdelaney)

Dan Harris is a co-anchor of Nightline and the weekend edition of Good Morning America on ABC News. He has reported from all over the world, covering wars in Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, and Iraq, and producing investigative reports in Haiti, Cambodia, and the Congo. He has also spent many years covering religion in America, despite the fact that he is agnostic.

Dan’s new book, 10 Percent Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story, hit #1 on the New York Times best-seller list.

Dan was kind enough to discuss the practice of meditation with me for this page.


I once participated in a twenty-three-day wilderness program in the mountains of Colorado. If the purpose of this course was to expose students to dangerous lightning and half the world’s mosquitoes, it was fulfilled on the first day. What was in essence a forced march through hundreds of miles of backcountry culminated in a ritual known as “the solo,” where we were finally permitted to rest—alone, on the outskirts of a gorgeous alpine lake—for three days of fasting and contemplation.

I had just turned sixteen, and this was my first taste of true solitude since exiting my mother’s womb. It proved a sufficient provocation. After a long nap and a glance at the icy waters of the lake, the promising young man I imagined myself to be was quickly cut down by loneliness and boredom. I filled the pages of my journal not with the insights of a budding naturalist, philosopher, or mystic but with a list of the foods on which I intended to gorge myself the instant I returned to civilization. Judging from the state of my consciousness at the time, millions of years of hominid evolution had produced nothing more transcendent than a craving for a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.

I found the experience of sitting undisturbed for three days amid pristine breezes and starlight, with nothing to do but contemplate the mystery of my existence, to be a source of perfect misery—for which I could see not so much as a glimmer of my own contribution. My letters home, in their plaintiveness and self-pity, rivaled any written at Shiloh or Gallipoli.


(Photo via Bala Sivakumar)

I am often asked what will replace organized religion. The answer, I believe, is nothing and everything. Nothing need replace its ludicrous and divisive doctrines—such as the idea that Jesus will return to earth and hurl unbelievers into a lake of fire, or that death in defense of Islam is the highest good. These are terrifying and debasing fictions. But what about love, compassion, moral goodness, and self-transcendence? Many people still imagine that religion is the true repository of these virtues. To change this, we must begin to think about the full range of human experience in a way that is as free of dogma, cultural prejudice, and wishful thinking as the best science already is. That is the subject of my next book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.

Announcements | Atheism | Book News | Publishing | March 10, 2014

The Significance of Our Insignificance

An Interview with Peter Watson


Peter Watson is an intellectual historian, journalist, and the author of thirteen books, including The German Genius, The Medici Conspiracy, and The Great Divide. He has written for The Sunday Times, The New York Times, the Observer, and the Spectator. He lives in London.

He was kind enough to answer a few question about his new book The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God.

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