No sooner has Sam Harris established his reputation for intolerance and harassment of religious faith than he has now begun to lash out at those scientists who do show tolerance and respect toward religious folk. He is passionate that, as he titles it, "Scientists should unite against threat from religion." Imagine! The crime of not excluding people from scientific discourse because they are Christians, or even Muslims!
Sam won’t stand for it, and in his recent editorial to that massive organ of scientific literature Nature he blasts the scientists for — of all things — being too nice. Nature’s great sin of being "unfailingly tactful" Sam warns — saving us from almost certain peril — whitewashes religion and leaves us with nothing but "obscurantism."
The charge of dreaded "obscurantism" reminds me of some real scholarship I recently read, regarding the militant atheists of times past. I quote a bit at length:
"Interrelationship between science and religion is probably the most sensitive and most emotionally laden subject in the whole of Soviet atheism’s spoken and written output. Its aim is to prove that these are incompatible, that only science and the scientific method are true and pursue the truth, and that therefore the essential nature of religious faith is obscurantism and ignorance. . . .
Soviet literature focusing on the attempt to prove the anti-scientific and hence anti-progressive, obscurantist, intellectually reactionary character of religion, is immense in volume and, even on the ‘high-brow’ level, emotionaly [sic] highly charged." (Dimitry V. Pospielovsky, Soviet Studies on the Church and the Believer’s Response to Atheism: A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice, and the Believer, Volume 3 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988) 36, italics mine).
As I showed with case after case in Return of the Village Atheist, the outspoken modern atheists repeat the same charges that the earlier communist and murderous revolutionary atheists flung at Christians, only today Harris and his clan keep denying the consequences of trying to erase religion from culture. Well despite the denials, the parallels are there, and though Harris keeps sounding the keynote to disestablish all things religious, and keeps denying that atheism itself had anything to do with the Soviet atrocities, the quote above comes from the man who wrote the book (several actually) on the subject of Soviet Atheism. There is no reason why Sam’s supposed atheistic utopia could be any different than what Pospielovsky chronicles.
Such a minor digression in my topic may prompt our atheist to respond that I am playing a game of "guilt by association," where if I can pin the image of a murderous commie on Sam (not to be confused with "Uncle Sam"), then I have gotten by with a smooth but effective dishonesty. Well, personally, I believe the case is closed on the fact that atheism itself lay at the root, in the stem, and in the poisonous fruit of the violent Marxist tradition, but it would take more time to prove than I have right now. But look! It is not me but our atheist who is playing the subtle dishonesty game. To wit:
Sam Harris Against History
In order to cement his case that religion and science must never be mixed, Sam quickly slams down the Galileo card. He reminds us once again how wrong the church was, and how infallibly precious science turned out (precious if only because it was the church that turned out wrong), and all the standard anti-faith rhetoric is spouted all over again.
But, this time there’s a big problem. Sam, and I must stress, for those who have read my book, is once again so wrong about his historical facts that he should feel moved to publically recant and apologize to theists and atheists alike. He states incorrectly that in the year 1633, "Galileo was being forced, under threat of death, to recant his understanding of the Earth’s motion." Under threat of death! What?!? This claim has been known to be wrong for so long that to keep repeating it is evidence of pure ignorance, carelessness, or pure malice. Why in the world Nature published such nonsense without giving the writer a chance to edit his embarrassing error hints of some kind of agenda: either to further the slander of religion, or to allow Sam to publically discredit himself. One can only hope the latter, and hope that it succeeds, too.
The American Vision on Facebook
Truth is, according to real historians of the matter, Galileo was never threatened with death, nor even in danger of it, especially near the latter part of his story in 1633. At that time, even though he was under house arrest, the scientist was at leisure in a sunny Italian villa unharassed. He was once — seventeen years prior, in 1615-1616 — required to witness with the "on paper" threat of torture, but the respected historian Giorgio de Santillana informs us that even this "threat" was a mere formality which would never have been carried out due, if for nothing else, to Galileo’s age. (Giorgio de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1981 ) 322-3)
Well, as you can tell from just that little bit, actual facts are a bit boring; so Sam doesn’t bother with them. He apparently prefers to charge his story with emotion and fear of immediate "threat from religion" — just as Pospielovsky reminds us the Soviets did. The reason is simple: the facts don’t line up with Sam’s argument, philosophy and science neither line up with Sam’s agenda, so he has to dramatize the story, and hope that enough fear will help recruit atheists.
Let me be the first to congratulate Sam on his pure bravado: to take on a scientific journal the size of Nature is truly an exhibition of David vs. Goliath faith. But to make such blunders in the process must be a real disappointment. I suspect it doesn’t bother him; meanwhile, let us be wary of his quasi-commie threat for scientists of the world to "unite against religion."
Better, out of our hands, let the "beauty and majesty of God’s creation" continue to overwhelm our resistance (a phrase written by Christian and genetic scientist Francis Collins, and presented by Sam as a subject of ridicule). Real science is not afraid of God, His majesty, or His beauty; it’s all quite natural. But until faith, reason, and tolerance have a balanced sway, atheists like Sam will continue to oppose Nature, and, for that matter, Nature’s God, too.
Article posted July 29, 2009