Chomsky takes Harris to task on “intent” in acts of terror and war

Left: Noam Chomsky, right: Sam Harris.

Left: Noam Chomsky, right: Sam Harris.

Sam Harris, the prominent secularist and neuroscientist, recently exchanged a series of heated emails with Noam Chomsky, a linguist and leading social and foreign policy critic since the 1960s. Their discussion was buzzworthy because both men are well-known public commentators with occasionally overlapping subject matter who have never shared a forum before. Unfortunately for Harris, who reached out to Chomsky initially, the conversation didn’t go as well for him as he seemed to hope it would when he embarked on it. Continue reading

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Atheism is not the best alternative to religion

atheistlogo

The “A” is a logo often used by atheist groups.

There are a seemingly infinite number of ways a person can define him or herself in relation to the spiritual world. Regardless of your views on religion, the supernatural and the metaphysical, there is likely a word to describe you – believer, agnostic, atheist, deist, spiritual, and all manner of subcategories in between. A tragedy is buried here, though, and it’s the fact that people must identify as one of these or another in the first place. Continue reading

Condemn the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, but remember that satire should always punch up

Hundreds of thousands marched at unity rallies in and around Paris to show support for free expression in the wake of the murders at Charlie Hebdo.

Hundreds of thousands marched at unity rallies in and around Paris to show support for free expression in the wake of the murders at Charlie Hebdo.

It’s hard to find much room for cynicism in the outpourings of solidarity, sympathy and defense of free expression that have emerged following the slaughter of 12 innocent people at the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The crime committed there in the name of religious extremism is one of the most heinous and intolerable anyone can imagine. Nonetheless, there’s an important element to the story that’s missing from most of the discussion, and it has to do with the power dynamic of cultures and the messaging of satire. Continue reading

Harris omits crucial context from the discussion on Islamic violence

Last week on Real Time with Bill Maher, a panel featuring one of the nation’s most prominent anti-religious voices, Sam Harris, discussed radical Islam. Harris made quite a few valid points, as he often does, and so did the rest of the panel – but they all managed to leave some important context out of the discussion that is crucial to understanding the hatred and violence consuming so many in the Arab world: a century of imperialism. Continue reading