The Good Atheist

by Michael Manto

I came across a line in Sam Harris’ book, The End of Faith, which goes like this:

“Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

Seriously?

When I first read that line, I had to re-read it several times just to convince myself that my eyes were not playing a trick on me. I re-read the surrounding context to make sure I was not somehow misunderstanding what he was saying. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ve got it wrong. He really does appear to mean what his words on the page are saying.

Notice he doesn’t say, ‘…ethical to kill people for what they do, or attempt to do.’ But for what they believe. Not what they’ve done, but for what they think.

He goes on to say, ‘This may seem to be an extraordinary claim…’ No kidding, Sherlock. You’ve got that right – it’s not only extraordinary, it’s crazy mad.

What I find difficult to believe is that Sam Harris is still being taken seriously by otherwise thoughtful, level-headed atheists. Since when has it become okay to kill people for what they believe?

And let’s not make any mistake, Sam isn’t talking necessarily about a terrorist who believes it would be okay to detonate a nuke in Times Square or something along those lines. He’s talking about people who believe in God. People who have faith, the sort of faith that Sam believes should be brought to an end. Apparently by whatever means is necessary.

Unfortunately there are terrorists out there who believe in God, and terrorism is a great evil  – no matter what beliefs and motives the perpetrators happen to have. But Sam Harris goes on to lump all believers with terrorists. In his childish imagination that makes them all the same – and therefore just as dangerous…

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