The Lies of Sam Harris

Another Doper has asked me for a thread exposing the malicious lies that Sam Harris tells about Christians. Well, seek and ye shall find. Unfortunately the lies that Mr. Harris tells are too numerous to list and debunk all of them, so I’ll focus on chapter 3 of his book The End of Faith. Unfortunately the lies that Mr. Harris tells in that chapter are also too numerous to list and and debunk, so I can only pick a few.

He begins the chapter with a second person narrative of a torture victim at the Spanish Inquisition. In a relatively short space, he runs through almost every common myth and misconception about the Inquisition. For example, he maintains the myth that the most common form of torture was “foot roasting”. (page 81) Real historians have rejected this nonsense for a long time. A 1994 BBC Production called The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition puts a lot of this nonsense to rest, including the foot roasting myth. Harris, like his pal Richard Dawkins, can’t be bothered to provide cites for most of his claims, so we’ll never know exactly where he got his misinformation. Nevertheless, he’s either using history that’s way out of date, or else recycling legends that never had any basis to begin with.

Harris also says that everyone involved in the running of the Inquisition was a member of the Roman Catholic Clergy. (page 83) Wrong again. Many were not members of the clergy. (In fact they were mostly lawyers–not that that implies anything.)

Later Harris accuses the Catholic Church of “torturing scholars to the point of madness for merely speculating about the nature of the stars”. (page 105) Once again, a citation is sorely missing. Having recently debunked the myth that Galileo was tortured or murdered by the Church, I see no need to repeat that here. I will point out that the Catholic Church has never tortured or executed any scientist. The first scientist to be murdered for political reasons was French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who was a practicing Catholic. He was killed during the Reign of Terror by the proudly secular Jacobin Regime.

Apparently wanting to go out with a bang, Harris decided to repeat the mythical claim of Papal infallibility. “No Pope can criticize the actions of his predecessor”, says Harris. (page 106) Since this comes after repeating the usual lies about Pope Pius XII and his actions during the Holocaust, he clearly wants us to believe that this was something related to Pius XII. In reality, the Church holds that Papal Infallibility holds only when the Pope invokes it with regards to certain doctrines. Most Popes never invoke it. I don’t think Pius XII ever did, though I could be wrong.

In short, Sam Harris: big, fat liar and hatemonger.

I like some clarification. Without agreeing with the details you mention I’d like to know if you make any distinction between a mistake, an incorrect fact, believing a popular myth, and lie?

I might add, that all Christians are liars if believing a popular myth is grounds to be a liar.

Question the teachings or opinions of the ITR and you must be a big fat liar. There can be no other explanation.

Having read The End of Faith, I’d have to say that the “lies” you’re trumpeting don’t deflect the thrust of his argument by much.

For you to say “the Catholic Church has never tortured or executed any scientist” speaks volumes to that point.

Um, yeah that was kinda my point.

Why doesn’t Bruno qualify when he was burned at the stake as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition even if he may not have been executed for his Copernican views?

I had never even heard of Sam Harris until i opened this thread, and certainly had no brief for or against him. But your post got me intrigued, and i did a bit of digging.

Firstly, while he does talk about foot roasting, nowhere on page 81 does he claim that it was “the most common form of torture.” Here’s what he says:

Basically what he’s saying here is that, if you were in Spain, two of the possibilities were the foot roasting, or the belly-burrowing mice. I make no claim to any knowledge about the prevalence of foot roasting, but that passage, which is all he has to say about foot roasting on page 81, does not claim that it was “the most common form of torture.”

The link i give above goes to the Google Books scan of End of Faith. If you scroll down, you’ll see that page 83 is the last page available from this section of the book.

As far as i can tell, nowhere on that page does Harris claim that “everyone involved in the running of the Inquisition was a member of the Roman Catholic Clergy.” If you can point out the relevant passage to me, i’d be most appreciative.

Are you exposing the lies of ITR?

Well then, as you were. :smiley:

Was that before or after I cured cancer?

Champ, your attention please.

So if I understand Mr. Harris’ arguments correctly, the crimes of some people of a group are translatable to all members of the group, and I as a 21st century Christian am responsible for the actions of bad Christians several centuries previously, not to mention all other crimes attributable to Christians? Do I have that right?

Does that mean that atheists are responsible for all the crimes committed by atheists throughout history? They do share a common lack of belief.

The logic seems to be lacking. While some crimes are connected to later crimes by normal causation, most are bad acts committed by people unconnected to others in history. This logic is contrary to what Christians claim. Matthew Chapter 25, verses 31-40 says:

Good things that are done in the name of God are attributable to God. Bad things are attributable to the bad people that do them, the devil and his agents.

Those who do evil and claim it for God are rejected by God in those works.

Pick a few more…

These aren’t lies, these are you not reading what is there (or perhaps, reading what isn’t there?)

I don’t believe he ever says anything close to this or any other blanket statements for that matter (could be mistaken; no cite; been a while since I read any of his work). He merely argues how the Christian belief system can lead to serious consequences and presents specific, historic examples to back up his claims.

Actually, according to a document found in the Vatican’s archives in 1940, his conviction and execution was at least in part due to his unwillingness to recant his belief in the plurality of worlds, i.e. that there are many inhabited worlds in the universe.

Personally, I don’t hold such things against Christianity, and I don’t subscribe to popular ‘root of all evil’-views – but revisionism isn’t going to make them go away. There have been horrible, dreadful mistakes made in the name of Christianity, and today’s Christians need to learn from them, not try to contort history into some convenient fantasy of universal benevolence – this just serves as a foundation for making those mistakes all over again. As I said, I don’t believe Christianity – or even religion in general – to be the ‘root of all evil’, but it can be, like every dogmatic, authoritative system, a ready conduit for it, and originally well-meaning ideas and undertakings can too easily become corrupted and perverted from their original intentions. All it takes is someone at the top to go flaky.

Shouldn’t this thread be called “The things Sam Harris has said that contradict what I’ve previously heard and which must therefore be wrong my post is my cite fuck you!”?

The Second Stone

You have that 100% wrong. Sam harris doesnt say anythng like that in any of his books.

No you don’t have that right.

Sam’s point as I understand it is that because of how religious belief systems have a very real effect on the lives of others they should lose any protected status and unwarranted respect that holds them above detailed examination and challenging. I wholeheartedly agree.

People are free to believe whatever they want but when their religious beliefs spill out into real world actions that affect the lives of those who don’t share their beliefs then they deserve to be directly challenged. When religious leaders launch campaigns to deny gays equal rights then those of us who disagree have a right and even duty to challenge them to explain themselves and show a valid reason for their actions. If all they point to is their personal interpretation of a 2000 year old book they ain’t got much.

This , according to Sam, applies to all religion not just Christianity. People must be held responsible for how their actions affect others and they cannot claim protected status under the banner of religion.

Does that mean **Champ ** is a big fat liar {by his definition} or is he merely bearing false witness?

Stupid rhetorical question of the day:

Why do christians always have to be laying their trip on everybody else? Why can they not accept that there is going to be a segment of the population that aren’t buying what they’re selling and just move on? I realize there’s probably some cryptic blurb in the bible that they took to mean they should do this, but I should think that TPTB at God, Inc. would not be so keen on having their salesmen spending so much time on cold calling (and I mean really, really cold calling). I think most of them are just doing something like unemployment surfers who call companies to apply for jobs they know don’t exist just so they can say they did.

ETA: Oh, it seems that the OP is doing one of those fart-and-leave-the-room type deals. How christian.