Sam Harris

TPPP Episode 18 : Social Justice with Sincere

Greetings, and welcome to another episode your mother told you not to listen to, The Podunk Polymath Podcast! This week on the pre-ramble, I talk about the news that a CIA report has confirmed that Russia was complicit in hacking the Clinton emails and releasing them to Wikileaks, and how Obama has ordered a full-scale investigation into the matter. I express my fear of the outcome, and what can be done if the election is shown to be compromised. I also talk about a great book I read “The PC Lie : How American Voters Decided I Didn’t Matter” by Marissa McCool. It is a stinging indictment of those who voted for Trump and how she fears for her very existence as a transgender woman, as well as other topics, such as what we can do to stand up for those who are most vulnerable to the policies that will be enacted by the Trump administration. Finally, I introduce a song composed and performed by two-time guest and friend of the show Matthew O’Neil named “Atheistmas”, and I play it during the break! I think y’all will really enjoy it!

On the palaver I speak with Social Justice Coordinator for American Humanist Association, blogger, activist, and one of my favorite writers Sincere Kirabo. We talk about social justice, humanism, his involvement at the DAPL protest camp, as well as how we met at a conference in East Tennessee and how I took him to his first Sonic! Sincere is an extremely passionate advocate for social justice and humanism, and I was honored to have him on the show. Thank y’all for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!

Download the show here.

CIA Concludes Russian Interference Aimed To Elect Trump

The PC Lie: How American Voters Decided I Don’t Matter on Amazon

Inciting Incident Podcast

Sincere’s Profile on the AHA Website

An Official Non-Apology To Village Atheists and Faux Humanists

What Sam Harris Gets Wrong About Racism And Violence In America

Sincere Kirabo’s Writer Page on Facebook

Sincere Kirabo on Twitter

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The Cenk Uygur Interview with Sam Harris : Why Reasoned Debate is Important for Atheism

Recently Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks had Sam Harris on for a marathon 3-hour interview. This interview comes on the heels not only of the Maher/Harris controversy, but also appearances by Reza Aslan and CJ Werleman on The Young Turks. Werleman appeared on a panel discussion where he compared Harris to Sarah Palin, and called him dangerous because of a passage in his book “The End of Faith” regarding nuclear first strike and Radical Muslims.Werleman, who recently was caught plagiarizing in his articles (I speak about that on this post), is known for his polemics, and is not shy about saying so, but he seems to purposely misunderstand Harris’ meaning on this particular point. Reza Aslan did an interview with Cenk where he denigrates Harris as just a blogger sitting in front of a television, and thus can not possible understand the complexities of religion, especially Islam. Sam Harris is not a religious scholar, true enough, but he does have a B.A. in philosophy and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, which I personally think qualifies him more to speak about crazy dogmatic bullshit that people come up with than does Reza’s questionable credentials (which are exposed ably on the Friendly Atheist blog here.) Of course Reza also injected himself into the controversy by going on CNN and playing the role as official Apologist for Islam (my thoughts on that here). While many lauded him for his “smackdown” of Maher and Harris, there were also plenty of others who called him out on his misrepresentation of facts, as well as just outright wrong information (A good example of these refutations is here.)

The interview itself was definitely interesting, and even at three hours, did not ever drag, although I will admit it took me two sittings to watch the entire interview, but that’s just due to my busy schedule. I thought Sam did well in explaining his position in a thoughtful, rational way. I have always thought he was a bit thin-skinned and thus easily offended, a conclusion I came to while following the tiff between him and Glenn Greenwald over a year ago, but I think perhaps some of his criticisms are justified. One point on the mechanics of the interview which I noticed, and which frankly pissed me off, was Cenk’s frequent interruptions while Sam was trying to make a point. If you watch his interview with Reza Aslan, you will notice that Cenk allows him to go on at length with nary a peep. Cenk does not seem to extend the same courtesy to Sam, cutting in on several occasions. Another point is that while Cenk came across as rather brash, often jumping to conclusions before Sam could finish his point, Sam came off as very thoughtful and deliberate, always seeming to think through every point he makes and being careful to use the proper words to convey whatever point he was trying to make.

I won’t go into a full summary : you can watch it for yourself here and come to your own conclusions. I for one think Sam did an excellent job in putting forth his arguments and “clearing the air” in regards to his views on Islam and extremism. Cenk did an adequate job as the interviewer, but I think he tried to inject himself too much into the dialogue, and Sam was perhaps too timid in asserting himself when it was necessary. All in all though, I thought this interview was a win for expressing some of the views and ideas behind Atheism, and getting those ideas out to a wider audience. And Sam Harris is as good a spokesman as could be asked for.

Harris, Christina, and the Need for Atheist Unity

Initially, this post was going to be about the recent Twitter feud between Greta Christina and Sam Harris (You can find a recap of that battle at Greta’s blog here.) However, after listening to the Noah Lugeons’ diatribe on the latest episode of The Scathing Atheist, I had a change of heart, and have decided to instead expound on the need for some strain of unity in the “Atheist Movement”.
Noah’s main point was that despite any differences Atheists have among themselves, these are nothing compared to the to the actual, demonstrable damage caused by the words and actions of religious nutjobs on a regular basis, and that Atheists are shooting themselves in the foot by airing our dirty laundry on Twitter for all the world to see.
Obviously, I’m not implying that these disagreements are not substantive or important. Misogyny is a real problem not only in the movement, but in society as a whole. I absolutely agree with Greta on this issue, and I thought Harris’ defensiveness on the issue to be another example of his aversion to criticism, even when he is mentioned only indirectly (Take a look at his feud with Glenn Greenwald if you want to see another example of this). Atheists need to take a hard look at themselves and figure out how to confront this issue honestly, and we need to come up with concrete solutions.
We must, however, put our internecine conflicts aside when faced with the larger goal of confronting the destructive influence of religion in our world, and the best way to achieve this is for all of us to concentrate our efforts on exposing religion and its dangerous dogma for all to see. I see this as one of the most important battles we can engage in, and I honestly fear for our species if we fail.
So, in the spirit of reconciliation, Sam Harris should write a blog post apologizing to Greta for his overreaction and thoroughly lambaste those misogynists in our ranks (He actually did tweet and apology, which to me was tepid and forced. Greta, however, thanked him for even that acknowledgement.) We then need to get back to the important work of educating people, each in his or her own way, on the pitfalls of religion and the importance of maintaining a impenetrable wall between Church and State. This is our duty to our fellow man, regardless of whatever disagreements we may have among ourselves.