Improving Sam Harris – Why “religion” is NOT a Word Like “sport”.

Over the past few years, we have often heard Sam Harris, when discussing on the problem that Islam poses for us today, deliver the following point, which he uses tune his audience in to the comparative dangers of different religious worldviews :

We have this one word “religion” which names this truly diverse spectrum of fascinations and ideological commitments. And “religion” is a nearly useless term. It’s a term like “sports”. There are sports like badminton, and there are sports like Thai boxing, and they have almost nothing in common apart from breathing. There are sports that are just synonymous with the risk of physical injury or even death. There are sports that are just synonymous with violence. Now if you get injured playing badminton, you’re just embarrassed.

Having made this useful point about the comparative dangers of badminton and Thai boxing both being unhelpfully contained by the term “sport”, Harris then goes on to draw a conceptual analogy to different religions, juxtaposing Jainism with Islam. At first, this analogy appears to be quite useful, and indeed it does get the point across in a way that helps his audience understand how vastly different the problems posed by different religious worldviews can be. However, this analogy has a fatal weakness: when we start to think about what happens when two religions clash with one another, the analogy with sports no longer applies. This is because he practice of Thai boxing will never eliminate the practice of badminton. The two are not locked in a zero-sum contest to be the One True Sport for All Mankind.

Rather than employ the term “sport” to draw an analogy with “religion”, we should choose instead the term “weapon”. In this way, we can make the same point that Harris wants to make, but in a way that conveys the dangers of two religions crossing paths, while at the same time conveys the uselessness of having a single term to name both Jainism and Islam. In our new analogy, Harris’ point looks like this:

We have this one word “religion” which names this truly diverse spectrum of fascinations and ideological commitments. And “religion” is a nearly useless term. It’s a term like “weapon”. There are weapons like brass knuckles, and there are weapons like hydrogen bombs. They basically have nothing in common apart from the risk of injury or death. There are weapons that are just synonymous with the risk of the collapse of global civilization. There are weapons that are just synonymous with mass death. Now if your people are subjected to a successful attempt at genocide with brass knuckles, you’re just embarrassed. Just as rock beats scissors, in a contest between hydrogen bombs and brass knuckles, hydrogen bombs win every time, and the use of hydrogen bombs can eliminate brass knuckles entirely from the face of the Earth.

Islam is the H-bomb of religions. It is the most successful imperialism in all of history. What other imperialism can boast that its conquered peoples around the world bow – with a full forehead to the ground prostration – to its capital five times a day? What other imperialism has successfully imposed its language on so many peoples, to the point where some %80 of Muslims pray in a language that cannot understand a modern dialect of?

Like brass knuckles melting from the heat of a nuclear explosion, many religions and even whole civilizations appear to have nearly vanished from the Earth in face of the onslaught of Islam. The Coptic Christian societies of North Africa. The Sassanid Empire of Persia and Afghanistan. The practice of Buddhism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The practice of Hinduism in those same lands. The numbers of Parsis who practice Zoroastrianism have dwindled so greatly that the Indian government has created a fertility program for them. All of these have fallen before Islam, unable to resist its totalitarian creep.

Who will stand up for threatened Infidel populations in places like Kenya, Southern Sudan, Indonesia and elswhere? When will the tide turn?

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One thought on “Improving Sam Harris – Why “religion” is NOT a Word Like “sport”.

  1. Mohammedanism is destined to conquer the whole earth. It is the Forth Beast of Daniel which will only be finally destroyed by ‘The Stone cut without hands from heaven’.

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