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Sam Harris: Searching for spirituality without religion



Well-known member
Mar 23, 2009
I first met Sam Harris, the American writer, neuroscientist and proponent of “New Atheism”, nearly four years ago, when he was in London to promote his book “The Moral Landscape”. By then, Harris’s reputation as one of the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism (the others were Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens) was secure.

“The Moral Landscape” was both a response to critics of “militant” atheism of the Dawkins-Harris variety and a defence of the claim that there could be such a thing as a “science of human flourishing”—that, pace the adepts of the world’s great monotheisms, science does have significant things to say about “morality and human value”. “Questions about values,” he wrote, “are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures.”

When we met in 2011, Harris reiterated the argument of his first book, “The End of Faith”, that “religion and science are in a zero-sum conflict with respect to facts.” But his latest book, “Waking Up”, strikes a rather different, much less belligerent tone. And that has a good deal to do with its subject matter. He is engaged here, as the book’s subtitle puts it, in “Searching for spirituality without religion”. “Waking Up” begins with Harris giving an account of an adolescent experiment with Ecstasy. The drug induced states which he saw could plausibly be described as “religious”. Religions, he still believed, were “mere intellectual ruins,” but he now thought that “important psychological truths could be found in the rubble.” The rest of the book is devoted to elaborating and articulating those truths, which he thinks are more accurately described as “spiritual” rather than “religious”.

When I spoke to him recently on the phone from the United States, I began by asking him whether the book was intended as a kind of provocation to his fellow atheists and skeptics.

Sam Harris: Searching for spirituality without religion | Prospect Magazine


Nov 24, 2014
No longer posting
"Among the repulsions of atheism for me has been its drastic uninterestingness*as an intellectual position. Where was the ingenuity, the ambiguity, the humanity (in the Harvard sense) of saying that the universe just happened to happen and that when we’re dead we’re dead?"

John Updike


Well-known member
Sep 29, 2013
Interesting interview with him on the Huffington Post...

If one were to describe what, exactly, Sam Harris does, I think one would be hard-pressed to capture all of it with a single label. He's a neuroscientist, for one, which is certainly a tangible career title; he has studied the way belief activates certain parts of the brain. He's an author, of course, of books of a wide and bizarre range of subjects. He's a social critic, definitely. But he's also a philosopher, and a provocateur, though the latter seems to be incidental - he starts many of his public talks with a disclaimer that his goal is not to be deliberately provocative. He's also a "public intellectual," whatever that really means. He has said that he is merely "interested in the mind and consciousness," and in beliefs and their consequences in particular, and this seems to be the hub through which all the strands of his work - religious/social criticism, neuroscience, moral philosophy, political criticism, political philosophy, spirituality - connect. He has also said that he represents, very generally, the values of intellectual honesty and scientific rationality.

The more I read of him, the more I like him. People who stand up for intellectual honesty and rationality are far too rare, in my opinion.

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