Indeed, is there a problem with Sam?
His most fervent critics have concluded there is. Their hostility towards him is difficult to ignore. He has been accused of mission creep in stating people ought to be killed for their beliefs, of condoning torture, supporting preemptive war and necessitating a first nuclear strike on muslims. These attacks are not for the faint of heart.
One of his most scathing critics is Theodore Dalrymple who wrote a review of the “New Athiests” in the City Journal at http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_4_oh_to_be.html
TD is a self-proclaimed atheist who takes on similar undertones and nuances of Sam’s numerous religious critics. If you missed his words, here are a few choice ones aimed directly at Sam:
Harris reaches an apogee of “sloppiness and lack of intellectual scruples with the assumption of certainty where there is none, combined with adolescent shrillness and intolerance ” in the End of Faith.
I suppose TD would propel warm fuzzies towards Sam if he toned down his explicitness, if he simply played along with the ritual drone of atheists and religious moderates who embrace metaphysics—or cow tow to those who do—-as eagerly as children gobble up ice cream on a hot day. Moderates who explain and justify religion as the end-all-and-be-all of goodness and greatness bestowed upon humanity and civilization, as TD willingly does.
TD quotes some of Sam’s most heated and controversial statements in the End of Faith about nuclear first strikes, collateral damage and torture and preemptive war. One similarity I have noticed in all of Sam’s critics is their tendency to ignore the context in which the words were written.
I am taking a personal stand here in defense of Sam’s arguments. But I am also willing to state that while I have read both of his books several times, I may not understand completely what he means. How can a reader ever claim to fully understand what a writer has written? As much as I would like, I don’t have the opportunity to interview Sam, to have a conversation with Sam or to question Sam about his thoughts, intentions and meanings. So, I am left, albeit a tad unsatisfied, with simply my own thoughts and those of others to help fill in the blanks.
While I can make no claims about knowing Sam’s mind, I can make my own claims as to how I have interpreted his words as a reader—- that his comments about the above-mentioned topics came from a person who envisioned the worse-case-scenario-end-of-the-world thought games stemming out of the events and his own witness to the 9-11 catastrophe. I can only imagine (not having lived in NY) what sights, sounds and emotional trauma were experienced on that day and the never-to-forget-memories that are now stored indefinitely in (his) their minds.
What is intolerant about a man who wants a world that disgraces errant beliefs without evidence? Or beliefs inclined towards violence, oppression, racism and sexism? What is ignorant about “enunciating ordinary facts about the world” (Sam’s words) that result in atrocities against women and children? And what is adolescent and shrill about having conversations criticizing those atrocities instead of blowing each other to smithereens?
My favorite critic of Sam is Chris Hedges. A man known for his own “intolerance” against the Christian Right. A man who calls them fascists and destroyers of democracy. Yet he throws negatives at Sam as diligently as the ant prepares for winter. He admittedly has not read all of the EOF because of Sam’s “facile attack on a form of religious belief I detest, his childish simplicity and ignorance of world affairs, as well as his demonization of Muslims, made the book tedious at its best and often idiotic and racist..”
Hedges also claims we are not “morally advancing as a species or that we will overcome the flaws of human nature” and calls Sam onto the carpet for suggesting that we are and that science is the reason for it.
You can read Mr. Hedge’s scathing report of Sam at http://www.alternet.org/rights/80449/ and I will not spend any more time on it, only to question the credibility of a man who criticizes another man’s writings whom he hasn’t read.
Again, what is the problem with Sam?
Comments, questions or counter thoughts are welcome. Lindajean