I like this piece. Its subject is about one of the contemporary thinkers of our time, and written by another fine thinker, the type that one wishes to have a debate with, at least for sheer pleasure and for a fascination about the workings of a rich and discipline mind.
I know Sam Harris as one of Horsemen of New Atheism, which includes Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. Sam always seem to me, among them, as the hippest; maybe because he's the youngest. He also seems like a charming demagogue that builds followership around an insularity that hurts than enriches. He ranks closely to Dawkins on intellectual arrogance that only proves their white privilege than anything that confirms their scientific open-mindedness. I know this because I've read most of their books and articles, and it's easy to come to this conclusion. Dawkins, especially, seems to hide some chronic insecurity by being deliberately feisty and bullish. I respect his elevation of science over theism but I'm easily disgusted by his arrogant dismissal of dissenting points of view - very unscientific. (But "The God Delusion" is still a classic). I prefer Hitchens' type of reasoning - leftist, centrist, and sometimes extremist - even though he does throw some harsh polemics at unreason but he does it with some sense of refinement that Dawkins or Harris can only aspire to. (Continue to rest in the Lawd's bosom, Hitch. ;))
I'm not surprised about the encounter that the writer of this essay narrates here. It confirms the intolerance that afflicts those who enjoy putting down other people and will not entertain anything that affronts their supposedly superior positions.
After reading this, I concluded that Sam, having failed to demonstrate tolerance and give room for "free speech", he should just stick to his version of Zen which he brilliantly explored in "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion", probably the richest spiritual & contemporary work from a non-religious mind.
The writer of this essay though:
"It intellectually excoriate religious creeds while defending rather than vilifying the actual human beings who belong to it. This is the tradition of Thomas Paine and Charles Darwin and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein. Sam Harris does not deserve their company."