I just finished reading "I Don't Believe in Atheists" by Chris Hedges. It's a pretty interesting book about the risk of atheists taking their ideas too far and winding up just as narrow minded and ignorant as the current religious fundamentalists. I found myself agreeing with a lot of his "he who fights monsters" argument, but there was one point about the war on terror that didn't sit right with me:

"Those who externalise evil and seek to eradicate this evil lose touch with their own humanity and the humanity of others. They can no longer make moral distinctions. They are blind to their own moral corruption. In the name of civilisation and great virtues, in the name of reason and science, they urge us to become monsters. It is this inverted logic that allows these atheists to sign on for the worst curtailment of our liberties, the broad abasement of basic human rights, permanent war and the use of torture."
(pages 154-155)

Is this 'signing on' really happening? Is it likely to? I was under the impression that the applause for Bush's wiretapping and waterboarding crusade stemmed almost exclusively from the Christian conservatives who put him in power. I personally would not have expected to find much support among the atheist community, with it's left-leaning political slant and weary knowledge of times when human dignity has been trampled in the name of ideology.

My question then: How many atheists really support the methods of the war on terror?

Tags: Bush, on, terror, terrorism, war

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I have not read the Hedges book but I have heard of it. Does he not claim that there are "new atheists," and that the leaders of these "new atheists" are Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris? I think that this premise is invalid. Atheists all like and respect Dawkins, but he's a Brit and not particularly associated with any critique of US policy. Hitchens, however, is an outspoken hard-liner on the war against Islam, and Harris is called a "Cheney atheist." They are big draws at conventions like AAI and FFRF because of the books that they have written, but they have no support at all for their foreign policy positions. When I saw Hitchens at theFFRF in 2007, he insisted on talking about politics, and his advocacy for a military elimination of the threat from Islam. There were hundreds of people in attendance, but no one at all seemed to support him in these views.

I do think that oranized atheists in the US have a political identity, beyond rigorous support for separation of church and state. But that political identity is overwhelminly plain vanilla Democrat.
Yes, I really should have specified that. "These atheists" refers to "new atheists", and Hedges cites Harris before and after the segment I quoted. I brought it up here as it seems like a good place to find people who back Hitchen, Dawkins, and Harris, and I have observed some views on the forums that could be interpreted as secular fundamentalism.

So would you say from your own experience that Hedges is making an unfair generalization about the political beliefs of atheists, even the hardline "new" atheists?
I think that most oranized atheists in the US are opposed to the "War on Terror" becaise Democrats generally oppose it, and because of our military misadventures. My own opinion is that Islam is the reatest threat to secular government around the world, but that a military approach alone cannot defeat it. We must defeat the threat from Islam militarily, but also with policework, diplomacy and propaganda.

I think that "new atheists" is a misnomer. I do not consider Hitchens and Harris to be leaders of any constituency of atheists. As a matter of fact, I think there are no atheist leaders.
I have seen a few fundie atheists, I remember there was a website I briefly visited once, however, I cannot remember the address of course, so I am not sure whether Google would be your best friend here. Anyway, they were rather militant in their approaches, dealing out flyers and the like, very aggressive. Of course, I didn't agree with them and while they certainly are entitled their views I believe they are taking it too far and indeed they turn out to be just as sheepable as the Christians they claim to despise. With that said, I doubt one will ever manage to get rid of all the idiots in the world and these idiots are everywhere regardless of political ideology, ethnical groups and religious affiliations or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, it's always the idiots making the good people look bad, but hey, that goes for Christianity as well as there is a fair amount of more liberal Christians out there who have managed to get away of their religion's conservative grip of mankind; sadly, the good voices are never heard and when they are they are utterly ignored (this applies to atheists too, of course).
I just finished reading it yesterday (although my copy is the updated one, When Atheism Becomes Religion).

I take the same position, when you say that Hedges writes a great deal with which I agree. Fundamentalism is itself a greater evil that can infest any particular ideology. I am fond of saying that I've never seen a gun float up off the surface it is resting upon and pull its own trigger to shoot someone. It takes a person with will and intent. In this same vein, I reject Dawkins', Harris', and Hitchens' blanket arguments that religion is dangerous, that it should be eliminated. It CAN be dangerous, just the same as atheism (or any other ideology or faux ideology composed of a lack of beliefs), when taken to its extremes.

Even an ideology such as Social Darwinism isn't necessarily evil in and of itself; it's what people will take this ideology and use it for, what goal they try to utilize it in pursuit of. It's the inferences people can and do draw from it. Otherwise, it is not a valid reflection of reality, i.e. it is pseudoscience.

If I could, mostly for my own benefit, reword your selection of Hedges' speech: he is saying that because the new atheists and those like them have pointed 'out there' at evil, instead of forgetting or denying the inherent corruption of human nature, that this has allowed them to endorse or commission great evils because executing these evils is in pursuit of the greater good and the moral advancement of the human race and/or civilization.

I would have to agree that it is an error to do this. I am familiar with Harris' terrorist time bomb scenario. But I do not support the war in Iraq; I think it is and was wrong for us to have gone over there, and though we've done a great deal of good over there, the good and bad we've done, directly and indirectly, is immeasurable and it could very well be the case that we've done more harm than good. And I do not think it a valid line of reasoning to say that "if we don't fight them over there, we've have to fight them over here". I've heard so much about rates of Islamic fundamentalism and the dangers (or non-danger) of Islam,...that I no longer know what to think. But evil done to smite evil isn't valid; it makes you what you are trying to fight.

I think that most atheists do not "sign on for the worst curtailment of our liberties, the broad abasement of basic human rights, permanent war and the use of torture." I think this because I would say that most atheists are not militant, not in their approach to religion nor their views towards warfare. However, this is speculative. You COULD find ones who are. But embracing this idea that we should preemptively strike out at these enemies, for whatever reason, could lead one to this, inadvertently, ignorantly, or however.
Anti-Embryonic Stem Cell Research (other stem-cell lines have been shown to be just as viable)

Clearly you're not a Ph.D. Chemical Engineer or someone working in a lab with stem cells, or you'd know this is nothing but right-wing propaganda invented by people who don't even understand F=ma much less real complicated science.

It's akin to a janitor or a bus driver offering his/her opinions on your upcoming gall bladder surgery. They are invalid when compared with the opinion of a surgeon who has performed 15,000 of them.
Chris, I agree with everything Ralph said. Your comment apparently unloaded the entire array of your philosophical and political positions in brief, so it's hard to know where to begin to respond. I disagree with many of your positions, but since you seem to want others to stick to a topic you didn't, here goes.

The "War on Terror" was, of course, a propaganda war, just like any other irrational war on a noun. The US was not at war until we invaded Afghanistan, which deserved it, for willfully harboring, aiding, and abetting the criminals that attacked us, and Iraq, which emphatically did not deserve it. We had no justification whatsoever for the invasion of Iraq, and we knew it at the time, but the Cheney/Bush administration convinced enough people to go against their instincts through fearmongering. We knew Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 because Hussein was a secular tyrant with no use for religious fanatics. Bin Laden was a religious fanatic who had no use for secular tyrants. We knew Iraq had no WMD because we had an inspection regime scouring the country for years and serious import sanctions in place. Iraq was completely bottled up after the Gulf War. Yes, they found a way around the Oil for Food program to enrich Hussein, but there was never evidence of WMD technology imports. These things were obvious to me and many others well before the invasion. I have always held these positions, and resent it when people accuse me of revising my stance post hoc. And I am obviously not a pacifist.

The Iraq War was illegitimate, and the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent Iraqis killed by our weapons were therefore essentially murdered. We compounded this crime by torturing suspects (often innocents betrayed by their neighbors for reward money) and denying them the protections of the Geneva Conventions. Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, et al, are war criminals and traitors to the US.

The US betrayed its own ideals with the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but the Geneva Conventions also require an aggressor nation (that would be us in this case) to fix what they break. As such, we are legally and morally obligated to put Iraq back together again. We owe them that. We cannot simply trash the place and leave, as disgusted as I am by the fact that we invaded in the first place.

But that doesn't mean we should have ever opened the prison at Guantanamo Bay, tortured people, used rendition to disappear them to other countries for torture or execution, or denied them due process and rights accorded them by the Geneva Conventions, to which we are a signatory. We in no way needed to sacrifice our principles in order to protect ourselves. In fact, by betraying our principles, we have opened ourselves to new hatred and opposition throughout the world. The War on Terror and its abandonment of principle has been profoundly counterproductive.

The only atheists I am aware of who supported this slide toward fascism were Harris and Hitchens. Harris let his fear of fundamentalism blind him to the reasons for due process. Hitchens let his hatred for tyranny in the person of Saddam Hussein blind him to the illegitimacy of the invasion of Iraq. His writings on the subject are delusional, full of the sort of wishful thinking he rightly eschews amongst the religious. Dawkins opposed the invasion of Iraq and the Cheney/Bush administration's approach to terrorism generally. As George Kane noted earlier in the thread, most atheists in the US are Democrats, because the Republican party has been taken over by theocrats, plutocrats, and autocrats. In my discussions with atheists, I encounter very scant support for the Cheney/Bush cabal, apart from some who lean Libertarian. Harris and Hitchens are not atheist thought leaders in this area. To extrapolate from them is to plot a line using too few data points.
Hear, hear!

I'd only like to add that if the US governemnt really wanted to end terrorism, it would have done something about the "Pro-Life" terrorists that harass, threaten, bomb, and murder on US soil.
Hmm. I read The End of Faith and was deeply disturbed by his apparent embrace of extrajudicial methods in the fight against terrorists. I'm not saying he wasn't quote-mined as well, but his own words were pretty damning. They were trying times, and I can understand some overreaction. I had a conversation about 9/11 with a friend in the fall of 2001 that I'm not proud of. But I've apologized to my friend. If Harris has changed his position, I'd like to see what he thinks now, but this HuffPo column from 2005 suggests he hasn't.
Hmm. I read The End of Faith and was deeply disturbed by his apparent embrace of extrajudicial methods in the fight against terrorists. I'm not saying he wasn't quote-mined as well, but his own words were pretty damning. They were trying times, and I can understand some overreaction. I had a conversation about 9/11 with a friend in the fall of 2001 that I'm not proud of. But I've apologized to my friend. If Harris has changed his position, I'd like to see what he thinks now, but this HuffPo column from 2005 suggests he hasn't.


Sam Harris

Response to Controversy
Version 1.8 (August 11, 2009)

A few of the subjects that I raised in The End of Faith continue to inspire an unusual amount of malicious commentary, selective quotation, and controversy. I’ve elaborated on these topics here:

My position on preemptive nuclear war:

Chris Hedges has repeatedly claimed (in print, in public lectures, on the radio, and on television) that I advocate a nuclear first-strike on the Muslim world. His remarks, which have been recycled continuously in interviews and blog-posts, generally take the following form:

I mean, Sam Harris, at the end of his first book, asks us to consider a nuclear first strike on the Arab world.

(Q&A at Harvard Divinity School, March 20, 2008)

Harris, echoing the blood lust of Hitchens, calls, in his book The End of Faith, for a nuclear first strike against the Islamic world.

(The Dangerous Atheism of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, Alternet, March 22, 2008)

And you have in Sam Harris’ book, “The End of Faith,” a call for us to consider a nuclear first strike against the Arab world. This isn’t rational. This is insane.

(The Tavis Smiley Show, April 15, 2008)

Sam Harris, in his book The End of Faith, asks us to consider carrying out a nuclear first-strike on the Arab world. That’s not a rational option—that’s insanity.

(A Conversation with Chris Hedges, Free Inquiry, August/September 2008)

Wherever they appear, Hedges’ comments seem calculated to leave the impression that I want the U.S. government to start killing Muslims by the millions. I will let the reader judge whether this award-winning journalist has represented my views fairly. Below I present the only passage I have ever written on the subject of preventative nuclear war and the only passage that Hedges could be referring to in my work (The End of Faith pp. 128-129). I have taken the liberty of emphasizing some of the words that Hedges chose to ignore:

It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen. Indeed, given the immunity to all reasonable intrusions that faith enjoys in our discourse, a catastrophe of this sort seems increasingly likely. We must come to terms with the possibility that men who are every bit as zealous to die as the nineteen hijackers may one day get their hands on long-range nuclear weaponry. The Muslim world in particular must anticipate this possibility and find some way to prevent it. Given the steady proliferation of technology, it is safe to say that time is not on our side.


My position on torture:
In The End of Faith, I argue that competing religious doctrines have divided our world into separate moral communities and that these divisions have become a continuous source of human violence. My purpose in writing the book was to offer a way of thinking about our world that would render certain forms of conflict, quite literally, unthinkable.

In one section of the book (pp. 192-199), I briefly discuss the ethics of torture and collateral damage in times of war, arguing that collateral damage is worse than torture across the board. Rather than appreciate just how bad I think collateral damage is in ethical terms, some readers have mistakenly concluded that I take a cavalier attitude toward the practice of torture. I do not. Nevertheless, there are extreme circumstances in which I believe that practices like “water-boarding” may not only be ethically justifiable, but ethically necessary. This is not the same as saying that they should be legal (e.g. crimes like trespassing or theft may sometimes be ethically necessary, while remaining illegal).

I am not alone in thinking that there are potential circumstances in which the use of torture would be ethically justifiable. Liberal Senator Charles Schumer has publicly stated that most U.S. senators would support torture to find out the location of a ticking time bomb. Such “ticking-bomb” scenarios have been widely criticized as unrealistic. But realism is not the point of such thought experiments. The point is that unless you have an argument that rules out torture in idealized cases, you don’t have a categorical argument against the use of torture. As nuclear and biological terrorism become increasingly possible, it is in everyone’s interest for men and women of goodwill to determine what should be done if a prisoner appears to have operational knowledge of an imminent atrocity (and may even claim to possess such knowledge), but won’t otherwise talk about it.

My argument for the limited use of coercive interrogation (“torture” by another name) is essentially this: if you think it is ever justifiable to drop bombs in an attempt to kill a man like Osama bin Laden (and thereby risk killing and maiming innocent men, women, and children), you should think it may sometimes be justifiable to “water-board” a man like Osama bin Laden (and risk abusing someone who just happens to look like Osama bin Laden). It seems to me that however one compares the practices of “water-boarding” high-level terrorists and dropping bombs, dropping bombs always comes out looking worse in ethical terms. And yet, many of us tacitly accept the practice of modern warfare, while considering it taboo to even speak about the possibility of practicing torture. It is important to point out that my argument for the restricted use of torture does not make travesties like Abu Ghraib look any less sadistic or stupid. I considered our mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib to be patently unethical. I also think it was one of the most damaging blunders to occur in the last century of U.S. foreign policy. Nor have I ever seen the wisdom or necessity of denying proper legal counsel (and access to evidence) to prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

Some people believe that, while collateral damage may be worse than torture, these are independent evils, and one problem does not shed any light on the other. However, they are not independent in principle. In fact, it is easy to see how information gained through torture might mitigate the risk of collateral damage. If one found oneself in such a situation, with an apparent choice between torturing a known terrorist and bombing civilians, torturing the terrorist should seem like the more ethical option. And yet, most people’s intuitions seem to run the other way. In fact, very few critics of the collateral damage argument even acknowledge how strangely asymmetrical our worries about torture and collateral damage are. A conversation about the ethics of torture can scarcely be had, and yet collateral damage is often reported in the context of a “successful” military operation as though it posed no ethical problem whatsoever. The case of Baitullah Mehsud, killed along with 12 others (including his wife and mother in law), is a recent example: had his wife been water-boarded in order to obtain the relevant intelligence, rather than merely annihilated by a missile, we can be sure that the coverage of the event would have been quite different.

It is widely claimed that torture “does not work”—that it produces unreliable information, implicates innocent people, etc. As I argue in The End of Faith, this line of argument does not resolve the underlying ethical dilemma. Clearly, the claim that torture never works, or that it always produces bad information, is false. There are cases in which the mere threat of torture has worked. As I argue in The End of Faith, one can easily imagine situations in which even a very low probability of getting useful information through torture would seem to justify it—the looming threat of nuclear terrorism being the most obvious case. It is decidedly unhelpful that those who claim to know that torture is “always wrong” never seem to envision the circumstances in which good people would be tempted to use it. Critics of my collateral damage argument always ignore the hard case: where the person in custody is known to be involved in terrible acts of violence and where the threat of further atrocities is imminent. If you think such a situation never pertains, consider what it might be like to capture a high-ranking member of al Qaeda along with his computer. The possibility that such a person might really be “innocent” or that he could “just say anything” to mislead his interrogators and implicate innocent people begins to seem less of a concern. The fact that such people exist and occasionally get captured brings us closer to a “ticking bomb” scenario than many people seem ready to admit.

While I think that torture should remain illegal, it is not clear that having a torture provision in our laws would create as slippery a slope as many people imagine. We have a capital punishment provision, for instance, but this has not led to our killing prisoners at random because we can’t control ourselves. While I am strongly opposed to capital punishment, I can readily concede that we are not suffering a total moral chaos in our society because we execute about five people every month. It is not immediately obvious that a rule about torture could not be applied with equal restraint.

It seems probable, however, that any legal use of torture would have unacceptable consequences. In light of this concern, the best strategy I have heard comes from Mark Bowden in his Atlantic Monthly article, “The Dark Art of Interrogation.” Bowden recommends that we keep torture illegal, and maintain a policy of not torturing anybody for any reason. But our interrogators should know that there are certain circumstances in which it will be ethical to break the law. Indeed, there are circumstances in which you would have to be a monster not to break the law. If an interrogator finds himself in such a circumstance, and he breaks the law, there will not be much of a will to prosecute him (and interrogators will know this). If he breaks the law Abu Ghraib-style, he will go to jail for a very long time (and interrogators will know this too). At the moment, this seems like the most reasonable policy to me, given the realities of our world.

The best case against “ticking-bomb” arguments appears in David Luban’s article, “Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb,” published in the Virginia Law Review. (I have posted a PDF here.) Luban relies on a few questionable assumptions, however. And he does not actually provide an ethical argument against torture in the ticking bomb case; he offers a pragmatic argument against our instituting a policy allowing torture in such cases. There is absolutely nothing in Luban’s argument that rules out the following law:

The Harris Law of Torture: We will never torture anyone under any circumstances unless we are certain, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the person in our custody is Osama bin Laden.

It seems to me that unless one can produce an ethical argument against torturing Osama bin Laden, one does not have an argument against the use of torture in principle. Of course, my discussion of torture in The End of Faith (and on this page) only addresses the ethics of torture, not the practical difficulties of implementing a policy based on the ethics.

While my remarks on torture span only a few pages in a book devoted to reducing the causes of religious violence, many readers have found my views deeply unsettling. (For what it’s worth, I do too. It would be much easier to simply be “against torture” across the board and end the discussion.) I have invited readers, both publicly and privately, to produce an ethical argument that takes into account the realities of our world—our daily acceptance of collateral damage, the real possibility of nuclear terrorism, etc.—and yet rules out a practice like “water-boarding” in all conceivable circumstances. No one, to my knowledge, has done this. And yet, most people continue to speak and write as though a knock-down argument against torture in all circumstances is readily available. I consider it to be one of the more dangerous ironies of liberal discourse that merely discussing the possibility of torturing a man like Osama bin Laden provokes more outrage than the maiming and murder of innocent civilians ever does. Until someone actually points out what is wrong with the “collateral damage argument” presented in The End of Faith. I will continue to believe that its critics are just not thinking clearly about the reality of human suffering.

My discussion of killing people “for what they believe” (pages 52-53 of The End of Faith):

The following passage seems to have been selectively quoted, and misconstrued, more than any I have written:

The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.

This paragraph appears after a long discussion of the role that belief plays in governing human behavior, and it should be read in that context. Some critics have interpreted the second sentence of this passage to mean that I advocate simply killing religious people for their beliefs. Granted, I made the job of misinterpreting me easier than it might have been, but such a reading remains a frank distortion of my views. Read in context, it should be clear that I am not at all ignoring the link between belief and behavior. The fact that belief determines behavior is what makes certain beliefs so dangerous.

When one asks why it would be ethical to drop a bomb on Osama bin Laden or Ayman Al Zawahiri, the answer cannot be, “because they have killed so many people in the past.” These men haven’t, to my knowledge, killed anyone personally. However, they are likely to get a lot of innocent people killed because of what they and their followers believe about jihad, martyrdom, the ascendancy of Islam, etc. As I argued in The End of Faith, a willingness to take preventative action against a dangerous enemy is compatible with being against the death penalty (which I am). Whenever we can capture and imprison jihadists, we should. But in most cases this is impossible.

My views on the paranormal: ESP, reincarnation, etc.:
My position on the paranormal is this: While there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized. If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out. And if it is true that toddlers occasionally start speaking in ancient languages (as Ian Stevenson alleges), I would like to know about it. However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. The fact that I have not spent any time on this should suggest how worthy of my time I think such a project would be. Still, I found these books interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claims of religious dogmatists. (Here, I am making a point about gradations of certainty: can I say for certain that a century of experimentation proves that telepathy doesn’t exist? No. It seems to me that reasonable people can disagree about the data. Can I say for certain that the Bible and the Koran show every sign of having been written by ignorant mortals? Yes. And this is the only certainty one needs to dismiss the God of Abraham as a creature of fiction.)

My views on Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, etc.:
My views on “mystical” or “spiritual” experience are extensively described in The End of Faith (and in several articles available on this website) and do not entail the acceptance of anything on faith. There is simply no question that people have transformative experiences as a result of engaging contemplative disciplines like meditation, and there is no question that these experiences shed some light on the nature of the human mind (any experience does, for that matter). What is highly questionable are the metaphysical claims that people tend to make on the basis of such experiences. I do not make any such claims. Nor do I support the metaphysical claims of others.

There are several neuroscience labs now studying the effects of meditation on the brain. While I am not personally engaged in this research, I know many of the scientists who are. This is now a fertile area of sober inquiry, purposed toward understanding the possibilities of human well-being better than we do at present.

While I consider Buddhism almost unique among the world’s religions as a repository of contemplative wisdom, I do not consider myself a Buddhist. My criticism of Buddhism as a faith has been published, to the consternation of many Buddhists. It is available here:

Killing the Buddha

My criticism of Islam:
Especially unscrupulous critics of my work have claimed that my critique of Islam is “racist.” This charge is almost too stupid to merit a response. But, as prominent writers can sometimes be this stupid, here goes:

My analysis of religion in general, and of Islam in particular, focuses on what I consider to be bad ideas, held for bad reasons, leading to bad behavior. My antipathy toward Islam—which is, in truth, difficult to exaggerate—applies to ideas, not to people, and certainly not to the color of a person’s skin. My criticism of the logical and behavioral consequences of certain ideas (e.g. martyrdom, jihad, honor, etc.) impugns white converts to Islam—like Adam Gadahn—every bit as much as Arabs like Ayman al-Zawahiri. I am also in the habit of making invidious comparisons between Islam and other religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Need I point out that most Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains are not white like me? One would hope there would be no such need—but the work of writers like Chris Hedges suggests that the need is pressing.

As I regularly point out when attacking Islam, no one is suffering under the doctrine of Islam more than Muslims are—particularly Muslim women. Those who object to any attack upon the religion of Islam as “racist” or as a symptom of “Islamophobia” display a nauseating insensitivity to the subjugation of women throughout the Muslim world. At this moment, millions of women and girls have been abandoned to illiteracy, forced marriage, and lives of slavery and abuse under the guise of “multiculturalism” and “religious sensitivity.” This is a crime to which every apologist for Islam is now an accomplice.

My position on the war in Iraq:
I have never written or spoken in support of the war in Iraq. The truth is, I have never known what to think about this war, apart from the obvious: 1) prospectively, it seemed like a very dangerous distraction from the ongoing war in Afghanistan; 2) retrospectively, it has been a disaster. While much of the responsibility for this disaster falls on the Bush administration, one of the administration’s great failings was to underestimate the religious sectarianism of the Iraqi people. Whatever one thinks about the rationale for invading Iraq and the subsequent prosecution of the war, there is nothing about the resulting conflict that makes Islam look benign—not the reflexive solidarity expressed throughout the Muslim world for Saddam Hussein (merely because an army of “infidels” attacked him), not the endless supply of suicide bombers willing to kill Iraqi noncombatants, not the insurgency’s use of women and children as human shields, not the ritual slaughter of journalists and aid-workers, not the steady influx of jihadis from neighboring countries, and not the current state of public opinion among European and American Muslims. It seems to me that no reasonable person can conclude that these phenomena are purely the result of U.S. foreign policy, however inept.


http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2/
Chris Z: Are you not satisfied with the findings displayed by http://www.stemcellresearch.org/index.html?

No I'm not. Why are you citing a xtian astro-turfing group ?

Stemcellresearch.org

Please explain. I insist.
I think that most atheists are Democrats because we are sensible people. Republicans are controlled by the religious right, with all of their weird pro-life hawkish beliefs. I just hope Holder goes after Cheney, which, apparently he is able and willing to do.

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