Sam Harris on Mormonism 

In the run up to the 2012 election, Mormon candidate Mitt Romney had won the Republican nomination and this was enough reason for Sam Harris to weigh in Mormonism. While hilarity ensued, Harris closes his position in his distinctly controversial way.

“Mormonism it seems to me, objectively, is just a little bit more idiotic than Christianity is. It has to be. It is Christianity plus some very stupid ideas.”

Here Sam is referring to Mormonism’s belief in all of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon. The latter being a book Joseph Smith claims to have “discovered” (long story) which claims, among other things, that Jesus stopped by America on his ascension to be with God and will return in a very specific way, which Sam gets into in the subsequent passage.

“For instance the Mormons think that Jesus is going to return to Earth and administer his thousand years of peace, at least part of the time, from the state of Missouri. Now why does this make Mormonism objectively less likely to be true than Christianity? Because whatever probability was assigned to Jesus’ coming back, you have to assign a lesser probability to his coming back and keeping a summer home in Jackson County, Missouri.”

The aforementioned land is Jameson, MO, roughly here (see map below) which, according to Joseph Smith, is the birthplace of the human race. Now, the mormon church ones roughly 3,000 acres of rolling farm land along the Grand River. However (looking past the map), it’s the last part of the video (at the bottom) where there’s a debatable point.

Harris closes out by saying:

“Mitt Romney, if he wants to be the next president of the United States, should be made to feel the burden of our incredulity. We can make common cause with our Christian brothers and sisters on this point: just what does the man believe. The world should know about it and it is almost guaranteed to be embarrassing even to most people who believe in a biblical God.”

The common mantra of Sam Harris, and to a large extent the New Atheist, is that “ideas influence other ideas” and thus public officials who hold religious beliefs (especially objectively stupid beliefs) should not hold public office. This was the case Sam made in his 2009 case against the appointment of Francis Collins (an intensely religious Christian) to be the head of the National Institutes of Health

The problem as we see it is that 1) humans show immense ability to hold contradictory beliefs, and 2) I think most scientists (if not most Americans) would kill to have Mitt Romney in office in 2020. 

Yes. A Mormon in the highest office in the land probably isn’t ideal. But when will we ever have an ideal option? 

As always, should we become aware that Dr. Harris has changed his opinion or should new evidence be submitted that we have either misconstrued his opinion or failed to include important statements from him, we will 1) make the correction, 2) note the correction here, 3) issue a mea culpa that attempts to explain and improve on how we missed this. 


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