"BOGUS ATHEIST" Sam Harris Touts "Spooky Stories" of Reincarnation
Hands Up, Mr. Harris
January 10th, 2007
Bestselling author Sam Harris and emergency response team
There is a bogus atheist on the loose, and as a Californian I feel responsible. It’s a real problem out West, where moony-eyed mystics deliver windy lectures on “scientific” soul magic.
Sam Harris oughtn’t claim to be provocative when the steady creep towards cruelty and superstition in America is anything but taboo. In our conversation, Harris showed disarming gusto for smearing fake menstrual blood on detainees — “It’s not torture,” he said — and flirted with religious job discrimination. I left these out of the article for balance.
There’s been an angry response to my piece on the bestselling author of The End Of Faith and advocate of torturing Muslims for Buddha. I hope you get a chance to watch this video of the crusading rationalist blowing minds at the recent “Beyond Belief” debate on religion and science.
At about 4:38 is a jaw-dropping instant in which earnestly informs a roomful of professors there are “some spooky stories” of reincarnation. I haven’t seen anything like it since the meeting with the mayor in Ghostbusters.
[Update: Harris peddles his “spooky stories” again on a Net radio show. I discovered this in a Digg flame war, of all places, in which someone puts it better than I could have: “You guys are retarded, on the Infidelguy show, Sam Harris tries to argue that theres evidence for Reincarnation. Now who’s rational bitch.” Plus new responses from Skeptic’s Dictionary and Majikthise.]
Some readers mistook me for a Christian shadow agent. Unfortunately, I’m a secular humanist specializing in Religious Right lunacy. The problem is that the man on TV proposing new intolerance for “preposterous” beliefs is himself gullible when it comes to “spooky stories,” the evidence for which is shockingly corny (i.e., eerie birthmarks).
As for the context of my article, I relied on huge swaths of it in Harris’ book: passages sanctifying truthiness itself. You can discover facts while meditating, he claims. He still hasn’t answered for the passages in which he claims Shankara and the Buddha put Western philosophers (Newton? Jefferson?) in the shade.
And those toddlers! In his response Harris clings tenaciously to the chance there really might be an outbreak of Bengali moppets speaking in tongues. Like a Bible flood scientist, he repeatedly insists that things for which there is zero evidence are “interesting,” but won’t dismiss them. If there’s compelling data for eternal souls, that should be the most urgent subject of study possible, as slain “Islamofascists” could stalk us from beyond the grave, so I don’t understand his apathy.
I’m also waiting for an explanation of what this “End Of Faith” excerpt means:
“Indeed, the future looks like the past … We may live to see the technological perfection of all the visionary strands of traditional mysticism: shamanism, Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Hermetism and its magical Renaissance spawn (Hermeticism) and all the other Byzantine paths whereby man has sought the Other in every guise of its conception. But all these approaches to spirituality are born of a longing for esoteric knowledge and a desire to excavate … the mind — in dreams, in trance, in psychedelic swoon — in search for the sacred (p. 290).”
Addled by this solipsism, Harris even misuses statistics in a way normally associated with hate sites like Stormfront.org, suggesting that a 70 percent rate (it’s 50, actually) of Muslims in French jails means Muslims themselves are a crime wave.
Just as any American shouldn’t fall for the first thing that comes along wrapped in a flag, a liberal angry about the Religious Right shouldn’t be so desperate as to follow the first guy who comes along with trite lines about talking snakes and sky gods. I’ve seen better ridicule of the Old Testament in forwarded e-mail jokes.
The sad thing is that this is the way we talk about the mistreatment of Muslims. Instead of debating whether innocents are going mad in island dungeons, we have have dreamy debates about whether we should slap around Osama Bin Laden if we catch him. With a reincarnating mystic.
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