The Face of a Secular Fundamentalist
Introducing Sam Harris.
The Washington Post calls Sam Harris an Atheist Evangelist.
Others may call Sam Harris a cranky atheist.
While I do not believe in the secular humanist boogeyman, I believe Sam Harris is a Secular Fundamentalist.
The 39-year old Harris already has two New York Times bestsellers - The End of Faith and most recently Letter To A Christian Nation.
From the Washington Post article entitled Atheist Evangelist...
There are really just two possibilities for Sam Harris. Either he is right and millions of Christians, Muslims and Jews are wrong. Or Sam Harris is wrong and he is so going to hell.This seems obvious whenever Harris opens what he calls "my big mouth," and it is glaringly clear one recent evening at the New York Public Library, where he is debating a former priest before a packed auditorium. In less than an hour, Harris condemns the God of the Old Testament for a host of sins, including support for slavery. He drop-kicks the New Testament, likening the story of Jesus to a fairy tale. He savages the Koran, calling it "a manifesto for religious divisiveness." Sam Harris has written two books in which he says religion fosters divisiveness. Theologians dismiss his arguments as crude and oversimplified.
Nobody has ever accused the man of being subtle. Harris is straight out of the stun grenade school of public rhetoric, and his arguments are far more likely to offend the faithful than they are to coax them out of their faith. And he doesn't target just the devout. Religious moderates, Harris says in his patient and imperturbable style, have immunized religion from rational discussion by nurturing the idea that faith is so personal and private that it is beyond criticism, even when horrific crimes are committed in its name....
Instead, it has landed him on the bestseller list. His first book, "The End of Faith," won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction and sold more than 270,000 copies, making Harris a very high-profile voice of the godless. Now there is a follow-up, "Letter to a Christian Nation," a 96-page shiv inspired by the reaction to his first book, which apparently included a heap of hate mail."Letter," which is No. 11 on the New York Times bestseller list, doesn't drill many new theological wells. Harris is the first, though, to retrofit the case against "Old Book" religions in readable form for the post-Sept. 11 world. He is also among the first to indict religious liberals, and he might be the first man to be anointed "Hot Atheist" in Rolling Stone magazine.
The un-gospel according to Sam has found a huge audience, but every bit as striking is the counter-reaction to Harris among religious scholars. Mention his name to academics of just about every religious persuasion and you can almost see their eyes roll. Oh, that guy.Harris has grossly oversimplified scripture, they say. He has drawn far-reaching conclusions based on the beliefs of radicals. As bad, his stand against organized religion is so unconditional that it's akin to the intolerance he claims he is fighting.
If there is such a thing as a secular fundamentalist, they contend, Harris is it. Even some who agree with his conclusions about the dangers of fanaticism find his argument ham-handed....
"The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" contain plenty to outrage just about everyone. Harris assails political correctness, evangelicals, liberals, right-wingers and even Judaism, which often gets a pass in such debates. (Harris charges that Jews have been complicit in their centuries-long persecution because they have insisted on setting themselves apart from the rest of the world.) The one constant in these books is Harris's absolutism about reason. If an idea can't survive rigorous testing and scrutiny, he thinks it ought to be tossed....
...Behind him is Louis Perry, a 61-year-old with a Southern drawl. As he hands Harris a copy of "Letter to a Christian Nation," Perry gushes about how the book changed his life. In a brief chat on his way out the door, Perry explains why.
Thanks to Sam Harris, he had a religious epiphany in reverse. He was raised a Southern Baptist but never really connected to any of the doctrine. Everyone around felt a deep spiritual nourishment from church services, and Perry always left feeling as though he'd missed the point.
"For years, I thought there was something wrong with me," he says. "I was always asking 'Why don't I get this? Why don't I get this?' And then last year I read 'The End of Faith,' and Sam basically explained it to me -- there is nothing to get."
The entire article is worth reading.
Sam Harris is also a contributor to the Washington Post/Newsweek sponsored "On Faith" project. Other contributors include Al Mohler, Richard Land, Desmond Tutu, Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Marcus Borg, and many many more. Harris writes regularly for the Huffington Post and has quite the following. Unfortunately, Harris is not the only "cranky atheist" on the Left.