Aspen Ideas Festival – Believing Reason


Recorded by the AIF – Sam Harris’ full lecture at the Aspen Ideas Festival in July of 2007.

Harris’s basic message is that the time has come to freely question the idea of religious faith. He feels that the survival of civilization is in danger because of a taboo against questioning religious beliefs.

While often defined as an atheist, Harris asserts that the term is not necessary. His position is that “atheism” is not a worldview or a philosophy, but the “destruction of bad ideas.” He states that religion is especially rife with bad ideas, calling it “one of the most perverse misuses of intelligence we have ever devised.” He compares modern religious beliefs to the myths of the Ancient Greeks, which were once accepted as fact but which are obsolete today. In a January 2007 interview with PBS, Harris said, “We don’t have a word for not believing in Zeus, which is to say we are all atheists in respect to Zeus. And we don’t have a word for not being an astrologer.” He goes on to say that the term will be retired only when “we all just achieve a level of intellectual honesty where we are no longer going to pretend to be certain about things we are not certain about.”