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Member since: Thu Oct 17, 2013, 08:51 AM
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Deconstructing the Ben Affleck-Sam Harris cage fight


by Guy P. Harrison

Don’t you love it when actors and neuroscientists scrap? There certainly was a good round of action last week when Ben Affleck and Sam Harris squared off on Real Time, Bill Maher’s HBO show. The dustup clearly touched a cultural nerve, sparking widespread coverage and commentary. Unfortunately, virtually everything that has been written and spoken about it missed the mark and added little to the important issues raised. (If you missed the Affleck-Harris blowup, view a clip here)

The problem with the aftermath is that most people seemed to have simply picked a side in lieu of listening and thinking. The result is that 99 percent of the commentary I’ve seen boil down to either, “Ben Affleck is an idiot”, or “Sam Harris is a bigot”. Few seem to have recognized that both men hold sensible positions on very important points and that the key problem that night was a failure to communicate, nothing new when religion is being discussed.

Affleck was right to be indignant. There really are many irrational bigots who slander and condemn every Muslim for the actions of some Muslims. He is justified in vigorously attacking such a stupid position and all who are shallow enough to promote it. But Affleck tripped up in thinking that Harris is one of these people. I am very familiar with Harris’s work and have never seen reason to suspect him of being a racist or bigot. And I pay close attention to such things, having written a book about the concept of race and the problem of racism. I'm confident that Sam Harris is not a racist. Here is one of the first things he said during his appearance on Real Time:

“We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every critique of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people and that’s just intellectually ridiculous.”

Affleck failed to listen and immediately demonstrated Harris’s point by calling the critique of Islam “gross and racist”. This was, of course, “intellectually ridiculous”. I am very familiar with Harris’ work over the years and he does not attack “all Muslims”. In fact, he has consistently called for moderate, peaceful and sensible Muslims to push back against those who oppress, terrorize and kill in the name of Islam.

More at link
Posted by Alittleliberal | Sun Oct 12, 2014, 10:43 PM (6 replies)
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