Atheist bigwig Sam Harris: “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.”

This has never occurred to Sam Harris

In an interview a few years back with The Sun magazine, atheist bigwig Sam Harris had this to say about the comparable (de)merits of religion and rape:

If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.

You can read the whole interview starting here.

And some people wonder why so many atheists have broken with Harris and the rest of the Old School New Atheist Boys Club to start Atheism Plus.

EDITED TO ADD: Hadn’t noticed that the interview was from 2006, so maybe this is old news to a lot of atheists. Still horrible.

About David Futrelle

I run the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, which tracks (and mocks) online misogyny. My writing has appeared in a wide variety of places, including Salon,, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and Money magazine. I like cats.

Posted on November 18, 2012, in are these guys 12 years old?, atheism minus, misogyny, narcissism, rape and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 513 Comments.

  1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    Oh, rotten hanging straps! The ones on our trains were made by some twits who seem to think that everyone is at least six feet tall. Worse than that, some of the trains have bars at the height the straps would hang from, and you’re expected to hold on to those. I can barely reach ’em on tiptoe (I’m 5′ 4″).

  2. @Katz: You mentioned (and, obviously, correctly) that you can’t convince people that something is good writing through quotes and excerpts. Do you think that writing can’t be evaluated from a small sample, or is it just that a skeptical audience is unlikely to be won over so quickly?

    Ooh, intriguing question. Probably both!

    Well, part of it is what Pecunium noted: “good” is subjective, so to argue that X writing is good, you need to explain what “good” means in this context, and, what the context is, including the genre: what is GOOD writing for a business memo–and there can be badly written memos, heh, is not likely to be the same as good writing for a sonnet. And I think the more expert with the genres the person making the claim is, the more likely they are to be able to develop a strong set of criteria AND to be able to muster the evidence.

    Second, yes, I do not think a small sample, just a few quotes, is likely to persuade anybody–well, except maybe somebody who agrees with the argument (if there is one), and who isn’t used to analyzing language (which most people aren’t–we respond to language, but most aren’t trained to analyze the rhetorical elements of texts). And a lot of people think that if they like something, it’s self-evidently good (which it is–for them!).

    A sceptical audience is generally likely to demand more in the way of evidence, I suspect (in my college writing courses, I tend to make it easier on students–especially in the first year courses. Write to a neutral audience, I say, those who have not made up their mind, and try to convince them of your point–and even then it’s hard for many of the students). In the upper level literary courses, the audience is someone who knows the primary text, but not the scholarship (although the kind of argument I teach aren’t focusing on whether the writing is “good” or “bad” — they’re analytical and interpretive).

    I am spacing out on the name of the scholar who did a sort of quasi experiment (decades ago, now). He gave college undergrads some famous poems by famous authors WITHOUT the names attached and asked them to evaluate the writing. The undergrads, not tipped off by famous name (and presumably not recognizeing them), evaluated them all as badly written.

    Dang, I hate forgetting names….

  3. But surely, given a known genre, you can evaluate an excerpt based on certain criteria without being too controversial. “Is it grammatically correct?” would be an obvious criterion, as is “Does the author make his or her point clear?”

  4. ithiliana: I remember that. I don’t recall who did it either.

  5. I haven’t heard of that study, but I’d believe it. My high school freshman English class had a bit of a revolt against The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, even though our teacher said it was the poem that made her want to study English😄

  6. @katz: The snobby part of me wants to say your class just didn’t get it.

    I’ve viewed Prufrock as a satire for as long as I’ve known it.

    Come to think of it, the first place I encountered it was in a book from the Pythons, in which context I thought “as a patient etherized upon a table” was just the Ps taking the piss.

  7. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    Ithiliana, that experiment reminds me of endless discussions I’ve had on an amateur writing site, and with friends who’ve been published. So much of the advice about what’s “good writing” or what are OMG DEADLY WRITING SINS ends up being about what’s fashionable rather than about effective use of English. There seems to have been a real “if it isn’t choppy faux-Hemingway, it isn’t good writing” idea among some US agents and publishers, and this gets reflected in the advice handed out. Friend of mine, the writer of the Griffin’s Daughter fantasy trilogy, had this sort of nonsense from her ex-agent, saying her next book (currently in publishing process) would never get a publisher, nobody reads this sort of thing, the writing style is wrong, blah blah blah.

  8. You know, nobody actually needs to have a good (i.e. “logical to Skydude or any other dude”) reason not to like ANYTHING.

    I’ve never read a word of Hitchens that I know of. I never will. I don’t need to justify that. There’s tons of stuff out there – literature, movies, music, food, travel destinations, types of cars, you name it – that I just don’t like. Sometimes I have reasons (I can’t stand the texture of beans), sometimes I don’t (No seafood). And I get to do that, without having people trying to compel me to change my mind, my habits, my likes and dislikes, and I don’t owe anyone an explanation.

    So dear Skytrolldude, I get to exist with my unique feelings about whatever, and I don’t have to justify my existence to you.

    Also? I have never read a word Hitchens wrote, and I never will, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.

  9. Bur drst, don’t you care that you’re condemning yourself to live in a stupid fartworld? DON’T YOU?

    About assessing good writing – the way I’d put it is that you often need quite extensive samples and a basic familiarity with the genre in order to determine whether or not a piece of writing is really good, but with bad writing short samples are often enough to be able to make that call.

    It’s interesting that the Hitchens sample that our petulant friend chose actually hit several of the markers for “wow this writing is fucking terrible”. I don’t think that proves that Hitchens was a terrible writer in general so much as that SkyTroll doesn’t have a good enough instinctive sense of how language works to pick a good sample.

  10. Cassandra: Did rimjob actually post it? I thought it was someone else pointing out what it was about Hitchens they didn’t like.

  11. Nope, the Harry Potter review was deliberately chosen by Skyrimjob’s to “prove” that Hitchens was a literary genius.

  12. Yeah, I just went back and found it.

    Sad, really, that his idea of “sublime” is so pedestrian an effort of affectation.

  13. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    Careful, people, only The Sublime Hitch is allowed to use big words.

  14. Kitteh’s…. I don’t care about words, I wanted him to use big ideas.

  15. Religion is the Cause of Horrific Abuse of Girls and Women All Over the World

  16. Apparently atheists never commit rape or abuse women. Someone should tell Michael Shermer’s victims.

  17. There are assholes who abuse and manipulate their victims in every theology, whether religious or not.

    To say that ALL religion is the source of ALL the evils of the world is a huge, HUGE exaggeration, and a potentially dangerous one at that.

    Religious organizations have contributed to abuse and manipulation of many women and girls, no one’s denying that, but to say that every person in EVERY religion that their belief system is responsible for it while atheists are somehow exempt is bullshit.

    To hear that this guy would rather take away everyone’s systems of belief rather than help out a great number of people is selfish and egotistical.

  18. RustyBertrand did not say either of those things. Saying that religion is the cause of horrific abuse of girls and women all over the world is not saying that ALL evils are caused by religion, nor is it saying that there are zero evil atheists.

  19. Technically Rusty didn’t say anything, since the entire comment is a link to an essay by someone else (and yes, I have read it). But the use of “THE cause” rather than “A cause” does in fact imply that there is only one cause (religion, in this case). And there are plenty of people who think all the world’s problems stem from and could be solved by eliminating religion. It’s a fairly common argument, especially from atheist feminists.

    I’d agree wholeheartedly that religion has been the cause of and justification for a great deal of oppression, but I’m not convinced it’s the source of it. I think what it’s done in most cases is to lend credence to biases that already existed and codify them, for the benefit of the oppressors.

  20. Someone necroed a 2 1/2 year old thread to drop a link?

  21. Yeah, I can see how it could be read that way, and sorry for coming off with that confrontational tone. Like you said, the answer to the chicken and egg question of religion and misogyny is hard to figure out. I don’t even know what kind of studies could be designed to figure it out.

  22. My god it’s been almost 3 years

    let it go

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,152 other followers

%d bloggers like this: