Sam Harris

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Sam Harris

Sam Harris (born 1967) is an American author. His book The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.[1]


  • Reason is nothing less than the guardian of love.[2]
  • It is time that scientists and other public intellectuals observed that the contest between faith and reason is zero-sum.
  • "The Politics of Ignorance" (2005)[3]
  • Nothing is more sacred than the facts.
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 225[2]


  • It is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window.[2]
  • It is difficult to imagine a set of beliefs more suggestive of mental illness than those that lie at the heart of many of our religious traditions.[2]
  • Most religions have merely canonized a few products of ancient ignorance and derangement and passed them down to us as though they were primordial truths.[2]
  • The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.[2]


  • A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person's life.[2]
  • Beliefs are scarcely more private than actions are, for every belief is a fount of action in potentia.[2]
  • To believe that God exists is to believe that I stand in some relation to his existence such that his existence is itself the reason for my belief.[2]
  • We are no more free to believe whatever we want about God than we are free to adopt unjustified beliefs about science or history, or free to mean whatever we want when using words like "poison" or "north" or "zero."[2]


  • Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; where we have no reasons, we have lost both our connection to the world and to one another.[2]
  • Faith is what credulity becomes when it finally achieves escape velocity from the constraints of terrestrial discourse.[2]
  • The idea, therefore, that religious faith is somehow a sacred human convention—distinguished, as it is, both by the extravagance of its claims and by the paucity of its evidence—is really too great a monstrosity to be appreciated in all its glory. Religious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of the power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity—a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible.
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 25[2]
  • Religious faith is the one species of human ignorance that will not admit of even the possibility of correction.[2]
  • We must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it.[2]
  • Faith is rather like a rhinoceros, in fact: it won't do much in the way of real work for you, and yet at close quarters it will make spectacular claims upon your attention.[2]


  • We have been slow to recognize the degree to which religious faith perpetuates man's inhumanity to man
  • It is imperative that we begin speaking plainly about the absurdity of most of our religious beliefs.[2]
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 11[2]
  • The idea that any one of our religions represents the infallible word of the One True God requires an encyclopedic ignorance of history, mythology, and art even to be entertained.... Whatever their imagined source, the doctrines of modern religions are no more tenable than those which, for lack of adherents, were cast upon the scrap heap of mythology millennia ago.
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 16[2]
  • Religion is nothing more than bad concepts held in place of good ones for all time. It is the denial—at once full of hope and full of fear—of the vastitude of human ignorance.[2]
  • Because most religions offer no valid mechanism by which their core beliefs can be tested and revised, each new generation of believers is condemned to inherit the superstitions and tribal hatreds of its predecessors.[2]


"We are, even now, killing ourselves over ancient literature."[2]
  • The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology.[2]
  • Not only do we still eat the offal of the ancient world; we are positively smug about it.[2]
  • How do we know that our holy books are free from error? Because the books themselves say so. Epistemological black holes of this sort are fast draining the light from our world.[2]
  • We have Christians against Muslims against Jews. They're making incompatible claims on real estate in the Middle East as though God were some kind of omniscient real estate broker parsing out parcels of land to his chosen flock. People are literally dying over ancient literature.
  • Debate with Reza Aslan (2007)[4]
  • A close study of these books, and of history, demonstrates that there is no act of cruelty so appalling that it cannot be justified, or even mandated, by recourse to their pages.[2]


  • Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings.[2]
  • The Creator who purports to be beyond human judgment is consistently ruled by human passions—jealousy, wrath, suspicion, and the lust to dominate.[2]
  • The deity who stalked the deserts of the Middle East millennia ago—and who seems to have abandoned them to bloodshed in his name ever since—is no one to consult on questions of ethics.[2]
  • The God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.[2]
  • Words like "God" and "Allah" must go the way of "Apollo" and "Baal," or they will unmake our world.
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 14[2]


"The treatment of women in Muslim communities throughout the world is unconscionable."[5]
  • Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.[2]
  • As a matter of doctrine, the Muslim conception of tolerance is one in which non-Muslims have been politically and economically subdued, converted, or put to sword.[2]
  • The penalty for apostasy is death. We would do well to linger over this fact for a moment, because it is the black pearl of intolerance that no liberal exegesis will ever fully digest.[2]
  • What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry?[2]
  • [M]uch of the world's population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman.[2]
  • There are other ideologies with which to expunge the last vapors of reasonableness from a society's discourse, but Islam is undoubtedly one of the best we've got.[2]
  • The truth that we must finally confront is that Islam contains specific notions of martyrdom and jihad that fully explain the character of Muslim violence.
  • "Sam Harris on the Reality of Islam" (2006)[6]
  • We are now in the 21st century: all books, including the Koran, should be fair game for flushing down the toilet without fear of violent reprisal.
  • "Bombing our Illusions" (2005)[5]

Other religions

  • Mormonism, it seems to me, is—objectively—just a little more idiotic than Christianity is. It has to be: because it is Christianity plus some very stupid ideas.
  • "The Problem with Atheism" (2007)[7]
  • Judaism is as intrinsically divisive, as ridiculous in its literalism, and as at odds with the civilizing insights of modernity as any other religion.[2]
  • Mahavira, the Jain patriarch, surpassed the morality of the Bible with a single sentence: "Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being." Imagine how different our world might be if the Bible contained this as its central precept.
  • Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), page 23[8]
  • There are ideas within Buddhism that are so incredible as to render the dogma of the virgin birth plausible by comparison.
  • "Killing the Buddha" (2006)[9]

Moderation and tolerance

  • To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world—to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish—is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it.
  • The End of Faith (2004), pages 22-23[2]
  • I've read the books. God is not a moderate. There's no place in the books where God says, "You know, when you get to the New World and you develop your three branches of government and you have a civil society, you can just jettison all the barbarism I recommended in the first books."
  • Lecture at the New York Society for Ethical Culture (2005)[10]
  • It is time we acknowledged that no real foundation exists within the canons of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any of our other faiths for religious tolerance and religious diversity.[2]
  • [T]he very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 15[2]
  • By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 21[2]
  • It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently—though isn't it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed?
  • Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), pages 11-12[8]
  • Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world, because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed.[2]


  • There is no question but that nominally religious scientists like Francis Collins and Kenneth R. Miller are doing lasting harm to our discourse by the accommodations they have made to religious irrationality.
  • "The Politics of Ignorance" (2005)[3]
  • A person can be a God-fearing Christian on Sunday and a working scientist come Monday morning, without ever having to account for the partition that seems to have erected itself in his head while he slept.
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 16[2]
  • The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments, and a passionate unwillingness to do so.
  • "Science Must Destroy Religion" (2006)[11]
  • Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution; 68 percent believe in Satan.
  • "The Politics of Ignorance" (2005)[3]
  • 120 million of us place the big bang 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Sumerians learned to brew beer.
  • The End of Faith (2004), page 17[2]

Stem cell research

  • Our present policy on human stem cells has been shaped by beliefs that are divorced from every reasonable intuition we might form about the possible experience of living systems.[2]
  • The point at which we fully acquire our humanity, and our capacity to suffer, remains an open question, but anyone who would dogmatically insist that these traits must arise coincident with the moment of conception has nothing to contribute, apart from his ignorance, to this debate.[2]
  • Those opposed to therapeutic stem-cell research on religious grounds constitute the biological and ethical equivalent of a flat-earth society.[2]
  • In this area of public policy alone, the accommodations that we have made to faith will do nothing but enshrine a perfect immensity of human suffering for decades to come.[2]
  • The moral truth here is obvious: anyone who feels that the interests of a blastocyst just might supersede the interests of a child with a spinal cord injury has had his moral sense blinded by religious metaphysics.
  • Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), page 32[8]


"People who harbor strong convictions without evidence belong at the margins of our societies, not in our halls of power."[2]
  • Unreason is now ascendant in the United States—in our schools, in our courts, and in each branch of the federal government.
  • "The Politics of Ignorance" (2005)[3]
  • Ignorance in this degree, concentrated in both the head and belly of a lumbering superpower, is now a problem for the entire world.
  • "The Politics of Ignorance" (2005)[3]
  • Our circumstance is abject, indefensible, and terrifying. It would be hilarious if the stakes were not so high.
  • "There is No God (And You Know It)" (2005)[12]

September 11

  • All pretensions to theological knowledge should now be seen from the perspective of a man who was just beginning his day on the one hundredth floor of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, only to find his meandering thoughts—of family and friends, of errands run and unrun, of coffee in need of sweetener—inexplicably usurped by a choice of terrible starkness and simplicity: between being burned alive by jet fuel or leaping one thousand feet to the concrete below.[2]
  • The men who committed the atrocities of September 11 were certainly not "cowards," as they were repeatedly described in the Western media, nor were they lunatics in any ordinary sense. They were men of faith—perfect faith, as it turns out—and this, it must finally be acknowledged, is a terrible thing to be.[2]
  • A significant percentage of the world's Muslims believe that the men who brought down the World Trade Center are now seated at the right hand of God.[2]

Prophecy and Armageddon

  • If Jesus does come down out of the clouds like a superhero, Christianity will stand revealed as a science. That will be the science of Christianity.
  • Lecture at the New York Society for Ethical Culture (2005)[10]
  • Fundamentalist Christians support Israel because they believe that the final consolidation of Jewish power in the Holy Land—specifically, the rebuilding of Solomon's temple—will usher in both the Second Coming of Christ and the final destruction of the Jews.[2]
  • Millions of Christians and Muslims now organize their lives around prophetic traditions that will only find fulfillment once rivers of blood begin flowing from Jerusalem.[2]
  • We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation, or any of the other fantastical notions that have lurked in the minds of the faithful for millennia—because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.[2]
  • It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ. It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves- socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically.
  • Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), page xii[8]


  • There is clearly a sacred dimension to our existence, and coming to terms with it could well be the highest purpose of human life.[2]
  • Spirituality can be—indeed, must be—deeply rational.[2]
  • Mysticism, to be viable, requires explicit instructions, which need suffer no more ambiguity or artifice in their exposition than we find in a manual for operating a lawn mower.[2]
  • Clearly, it must be possible to bring reason, spirituality, and ethics together in our thinking about the world. This would be the beginning of a rational approach to our deepest personal concerns. It would also be the end of faith.[2]

Quotes about Harris

  • Mr. Harris argues cogently, pithily, wittily, passionately, that religious "faith" is leading humanity straight to a very earthly hell.
  • ~Nina Burleigh, "Forget About Christ, Get God out of Christmas First" (2005)[13]
  • In your zeal to end the harms caused by religion, don't be driven by blind faith down a course of intolerance. Sam, in the name of reason, please turn back.
  • ~RJ Eskow, "Blind Faith: Sam Harris Attacks Islam" (2005)[14]
  • The End of Faith is one of those books that deserves to replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in the land.


  1. The PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. PEN American Center. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi Harris, Sam (2004). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0739453793.
  3. a b c d e Harris, Sam (2 August 2005). "The Politics of Ignorance". The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  4. Sam Harris, "Debate between Sam Harris and Reza Aslan", February 12, 2007, C-SPAN
  5. a b Harris, Sam (10 October 2005). "Bombing Our Illusions". The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  6. Harris, Sam (7 February 2006). Sam Harris on the Reality of Islam. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  7. Harris, Sam (September 2007). "The Problem with Atheism". On Faith. Retrieved on 2008-07-08.
  8. a b c d Harris, Sam (2006). Letter to a Christian Nation, 1st edition, 96 pages, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-307-26577-3.
  9. Harris, Sam (March 2006). "Killing the Buddha". Shambhala Sun. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  10. a b Lecture at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, Nov. 16, 2005
  11. Harris, Sam (2 January 2006). "Science Must Destroy Religion". The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  12. Harris, Sam (6 October 2005). "There is No God (And You Know It)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  13. Burleigh, Nina (8 December 2005). "Forget About Christ, Get God out of Christmas First". The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  14. Eskow, RJ (11 October 2005). "Blind Faith: Sam Harris Attacks Islam". The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  15. Eskow, RJ (4 August 2005). "Coming Out Against Religious Mania". The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.

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