Making Sense of Belief and Unbelief

Episode 6 of The Essential Sam Harris

Episode Companion

Each episode includes a workbook with illustrations, background information on each guest, references, suggested books and films, and more.

March 17, 2023

In this episode, we examine a series of Sam’s conversations centered around religion, atheism, and the power of belief. 

First, we hear the stories of three guests who have fled their respective oppressive religious organizations. We begin with Sarah Haider, founder of the advocacy group Ex-Muslims of North America, who details how her encounters with militant atheists catalyzed her journey to secularism. Then our narrator, Megan Phelps-Roper, walks us through her story of abandoning the Westboro Baptist Church. Finally, Yasmine Mohammed presents her harrowing account of escaping fundamentalist Islamism and Sam’s role in inspiring her public advocacy work.

We then tackle the concept of belief more broadly, diving into Sam’s understanding of atheism and what sets it apart from the views of other atheist thinkers like Matt Dillahunty and Richard Dawkins. We also revisit an infamous conversation between Sam and Jordan Peterson, wherein they attempt to come to some universal definition of the word “truth.”

The episode concludes with two Q&A portions from life events in which Sam addresses some real concerns about purpose and meaning in the absence of religion.


About the Series

Filmmaker Jay Shapiro has produced The Essential Sam Harris, a new series of audio documentaries exploring the major topics that Sam has focused on over the course of his career.

Each episode weaves together original analysis, critical perspective, and novel thought experiments with some of the most compelling exchanges from the Making Sense archive. Whether you are new to a particular topic, or think you have your mind made up about it, we think you’ll find this series fascinating.