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Sam Harris Gets It Wrong on Christian Violence

Posted by libhom Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sam Harris certainly has a blind spot when it comes to Christian and Jewish violence and religious extremism. An rather glaring example of this can be found in his comments on the "Ground Zero" mosque that most New Yorkers support, but which is the target of fury from outsiders. (Daily Beast - date not listed - Hat Tip: Why Evolution Is True):

Thus, when Allah commands his followers to slay infidels wherever they find them, until Islam reigns supreme (2:191-193; 4:76; 8:39; 9:123; 47:4; 66:9)—only to emphasize that such violent conquest is obligatory, as unpleasant as that might seem (2:216), and that death in jihad is actually the best thing that can happen to a person, given the rewards that martyrs receive in Paradise (3:140-171; 4:74; 47:5-6)—He means just that. And, being the creator of the universe, his words were meant to guide Muslims for all time. Yes, it is true that the Old Testament contains even greater barbarism—but there are obvious historical and theological reasons why it inspires far less Jewish and Christian violence today. Anyone who elides these distinctions, or who acknowledges the problem of jihad and Muslim terrorism only to swiftly mention the Crusades, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the Tamil Tigers, and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, is simply not thinking honestly about the problem of Islam.

This is absolute nonsense. Israel is literally guilty of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians, and land claims in Judaism form the ideological basis for it. Oops!

It gets worse. How can Sam Harris pretend that there is far less Christian violence than Islamic violence today? Is he living in an isolation chamber? While it certainly is true that corporate greed and racism played huge roles in causing the war on Iraq, Christian religious extremism has played the primary role in building the plurality of public support for that war. The war on Iraq is literally a Christian crusade that has killed at least 1.3 million people and caused millions more people to be refugees. In fact, more Americans have been killed in this war than in the 911 attacks. So much for there being less Christian violence.

Of course, Christian religious violence can be found in other forms in this country. Lying about safer sex and needle exchange; attacking AIDS prevention programs; underfunding AIDS research dramatically compared to what it would be if it primarily affected heterosexual, Christian, white males; promoting heterosexism and racism, and sabotaging sex education all are forms of quite deadly political violence.

Christianity is literally guilty of genocide against hundreds of thousands of Americans, the vast majority of whom have been queer men or have been women of color. Yet, Sam Harris hasn't even noticed this form of catastrophic violence. It just breezes by him.

Of course, Islamic violence is dangerous. However, Christian violence is far more pervasive and more deadly. Harris' efforts to single out Islam serve to make atheists in the US look ignorant and ill informed. The corporate media have made him one of "our" spokespeople because he can reliably spew absurdities that can be used to fan the flames of hysteria against Islam, flames that help continue highly profitable wars which are, in nearly all other cases, fueled by violent Christian extremists.

I'm remind of the lyrics of The Police song, "Murder by Numbers." At the end, they are quite instructive on how people in positions of power and privilege can commit acts of violence without getting their hands dirty. They are some of the most profound political thinking in the history of pop music where such things are usually strenuously avoided.
Now you can join the ranks of the illustrious
In history's great dark hall of fame
All our greatest killers were industrious
At least the ones that we all know by name

But you can reach the top of your profession
If you become the leader of the land
For murder is the sport of the elected
And you don't need to lift a finger of your hand

Because it's murder by numbers, one, two, three
It's as easy to learn as your ABC
Murder by numbers, one, two, three
It's as easy to learn as your A, B, C, D, E

Sam Harris needs to join the Reality Based Community. He is starting to sound like an atheist version of Glenn Beck.



  1. Karlo Says:
  2. The idea of Christianity as the peaceful religion certainly requires a thorough case of historical Korsakov's syndrome. Beyond that point, American Christians need to be constantly reminded that Christianity isn't "our" religion. And when they talk about the progressive features of Western democracies (ignoring, of course, the extreme oppression running like a leitmotiv through much of Western history), all of these features (e.g., tolerance, protections for workers, scientific rigor, a non-anthopocentric world view) developed mostly in spite of Christianity (often pushed by historical movements associated with the political left and/or atheism).

  3. Dave Dubya Says:
  4. There would be even more global "Holy Crusades" if the numbers of dead Christians and Jews even approached half that of Muslim deaths.

    A large part of the problem is the "American Jesus" created in the image of a gun totin' white Republican hillbilly by the Radical Right.

    The Reich Wingers would toss Jesus into Gitmo if he dared to show up with his hippie/love/socialist talk in post-Bush/Cheney America.

    Of course we know it never really was about Jesus with those dolts. It is entirely about their delusions of superiority.

  5. you burst my bubble - i thought the christianists in amurikkka were good people that cared only about saving children

    are we at 80% of all deaths can be attributed to religion - or maybe it is 79%

    orgnaized religion is like god's way of maintaining population control



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