Birthday: April 9, 1967
Age: 53 Years, 53 Year Old Males
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Samuel Benjamin Harris
Born in: United States of America
Famous as: Philosopher, Author
Spouse/Ex-: Annaka Harris (m. 2004)
father: Berkeley Harris
mother: Susan Harris
U.S. State: California
Founder/Co-Founder: Project Reason
education: University of California, Los Angeles, Stanford University
awards: PEN/Martha Albrand Award
Samuel Benjamin Harris is an author, neuroscientist, philosopher, blogger, critic of religion, and podcast host. He is the chief executive and co-founder of Project Reason, a popular non-profit group that promotes science and secularism. The son of TV producer Susan Harris and actor Berkeley Harris, he grew up in a secular atmosphere which greatly shaped his views on religion and spirituality. He is referred to as one of the "Four Horsemen of Atheism", the others being Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. An advocate of secular meditation practices, Harris has published numerous books till date. The most popular among them is his first book ‘The End of Faith’ that earned him the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. As a host, he is known for his association with the podcast ‘Waking Up with Sam Harris’. Harris has experimented with MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, and has spoken and written about the insights he experienced under the drug’s influence. In 2009, he obtained his Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles. Harris was a vegetarian at one point in his early life but gave it up after six years due to health issues. However, he returned to vegetarianism later on for ethical reasons. The American philosopher is a father of two daughters and has been married to editor Annaka Harris since 2004.
Childhood & Early Life
Samuel Benjamin “Sam” Harris was born on April 9, 1967 in Los Angeles, California, the USA. His mother is TV producer Susan Harris, a secular Jew, and his father is actor Berkeley Harris who belongs to a Quaker background.
Harris was raised by his mother after his parents divorced when he was two. He once stated that his upbringing was completely secular and that his parents hardly discussed religion.
He began attending Stanford University to study English. However, in his second year, he moved to Nepal and India where he studied meditation with Hindu and Buddhist religious teachers for eleven years. In 1997, Harris returned to Stanford, earning his B.A. degree in philosophy in 2000.
Later, he enrolled at University of California, Los Angeles from where he received his Ph.D. degree in cognitive neuroscience in the year 2009.
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Sam Harris’ first book titled ‘The End of Faith’ was published in 2004. It was well received and became a best-seller. Four year later, he published his second book. Titled ‘Letter to a Christian Nation,’ it is in the form of an open letter written in response to the feedback he got following the publication of ‘The End of Faith.’
Harris' writing mainly focuses on criticism of religion and neuroscience. He has formerly blogged for the ‘Huffington Post,’ ‘The Washington Post’ and ‘Truthdig.’ Moreover, his articles have appeared in numerous publications, such as ‘The New York Times,’ ‘Newsweek,’ ‘The Los Angeles Times’ and ‘The Boston Globe.’
Till date, the philosopher has made several radio and TV appearances, including on ABC News, The O'Reilly Factor, Tucker, NPR, Book TV, Real Time, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
In 2005, he made an appearance in the documentary movie ‘The God Who Wasn't There’. The following year, he was a featured speaker at the ‘Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival’ conference.
Harris has also appeared multiple times on the ‘Point of Inquiry’ radio podcast. In April 2007, he debated with Rick Warren for Newsweek magazine.
In 2010, his book ‘The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values’ got published. In this book, the author states that many people have confused the relationship between science, facts, and morality.
He then came out with a long-form essay book titled ‘Lying’ in 2011. The same year, he debated with William Lane Craig on the connection between God and objective morality.
In 2012, Harris published his short book ‘Free Will’ in which he states that the truth about the human mind cannot undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom.
In September 2013, Harris began hosting ‘Waking Up with Sam Harris,’ a podcast in which he responds to critics, discusses his views, and interviews guests.
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He published his book ‘Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion’ (2014) in which he discussed numerous topics such as secular spirituality, the illusion of the self, meditation, and psychedelics. He then came with another book ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’ in 2015.
Sam Harris serves as the chief executive as well as one of the founders of Project Reason. This non-profit foundation is dedicated to make society aware about secular values and scientific knowledge. Its advisory board consists of various scientists, atheists, and sceptics, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bill Maher, and Richard Dawkins.
Criticism of Abrahamic Religions
Sam Harris states that religion is one of the “most perverse misuses of intelligence” humans have ever devised. He believes that religion promotes bad ideas and even compares modern religious practices to the myths of the Ancient Greeks.
He also believes that the term “atheist” will become obsolete only when people achieve a level of intellectual integrity where they no longer have to pretend to be certain about things they are not certain about.
Views on Christianity
Sam Harris has described Catholicism as "ghoulish machinery set to whirling through the ages by the opposing winds of shame and sadism." He also asserts that the Catholic Church has demonized human sexuality to an extent unmatched by any other institution.
Harris has also condemned the Catholic Church's structure and has blamed its opposition to the utilization of contraception for shorter lifespans, poverty, and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS.
Views on Judaism
According to the American author, Judaism is basically discordant. It is absurd in its literalism and also “at odds with the civilizing insights of modernity as any other religion.” He also states that Jewish settlers who once exercised their "freedom of belief" on disputed lands are currently one of the chief obstacles to peace in the Middle East.
Views on Islam
Sam Harris thinks that Islam is more belligerent and unfavourable to the regulations of civil discourse than other religions. He says the belief that “Islam is a 'peaceful’ religion” is a dangerous fallacy. Harris has also criticized the usage of the term "Islamophobia".
Views on Spirituality
Harris’ concept of spirituality does not involve faith in God. He rejects the dichotomy between scientific rationality and religious spirituality and favors a middle pathway that preserves science and spirituality but does not involve religion.
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He feels that spirituality should be understood and practiced in the light of scientific disciplines like psychology and neuroscience.
Views on Western Feminists
Sam Harris says that Western feminists must fight against Muslim oppression of females rather than focussing much on abortion rights at home. He once stated in a podcast that Western feminists spend more time grumbling about “Gamergate” rather than actually fighting for women's rights.
Views on Meditation
Harris' mediation practice developed from Dzogchen and Vipassana. He says that the key purpose of meditation is to allow its practitioners to realize that the feeling of self is a mere illusion. He is also in the process of developing a meditation app for smartphones.
In a post titled ‘The Saga of Slippery Sam,’ the famous biologist PZ Myers made a sarcastic remark regarding Harris stating that Harris has an amazing talent for saying the most awful things. He also condemned his followers by saying that they will rise up in righteous fury and insist that he didn’t actually say ‘that’ thing.
Glenn Greenwald once claimed that Harris is one of those few intellectuals who do not own what they say. According to Greenwald, Harris publishes provocatively titled articles containing equally provocative assertions. However, when others criticize him for it, he will go on to insist that people did not understand what he was trying to say instead of owning up to what he actually said.
In 2004, Sam Harris got married to editor Annaka Harris. As of now, the couple has two daughters.
He is trained in martial arts (MA) and practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
He donates a significant portion of the revenue generated by each of his new podcast chapter to various charitable organizations.
He is reluctant to disclose his personal details, such as his address citing security reasons.