Friday, February 20, 2015

A short letter to Sam Harris

This is my first open letter to the neuroscientist Mr. Sam Harris./1/
(Updated March 3, 2015, and May 2, 2015)

Thank you Mr. Sam Harris for your interesting apology for atheism as you at least imagine about./2/ I am neither theist nor atheist, but agnostic. My religion, if any, is the religion of Loving Kindness, and my religious holy song is IMAGINE of John Lennon, and my Holy Book is the Open Night Sky filled with trillions of beautiful stars to be read and interpreted by all the intelligent organisms inhabiting the Earth and the universe. 

If the mission of atheists like you is, among others, to reveal the destructiveness of “terrible ideas” (Sam Harris) in theism, I support you wholeheartedly. If the mission of the New Atheism movement (of which you are one of the defenders) is to promote “open societies” (Sam Harris), I am in line with it and with you. All of the good, noble and great deeds and thoughts of atheists and the New Atheism should be endorsed by any people of good conscience.

But, I apologize, I have some serious difficulties with your contention that it is “incredibly unlikely” (Sam Harris) that people like the atheist Mr. Craig Stephen Hicks (46) employed atheist notions about religions and religious believers as the ideological sources for his killing of the three young innocent Muslims in Chapel Hill, NC, USA, recently. You clearly deny that the “basis of hatred” (Sam Harris) Mr. Hicks had when killing the three Muslims can be atheist notions concerning religions and religious believers.

So far as I can monitor, atheists all over the world, my country included, are using abusive, barbaric, cruel, harsh and uncivilized languages when dealing with, or criticizing, religions and religious believers. Is this not violence, according to you? I call it symbolic or discourse violence, that is, doing violence by using abusive and uncivilized speech, or, hate speech. Are you sure that hate speech is not violence expressed and carried out via languages? You say that religious fanaticism is a “plain reality” in the modern world. IMHO, symbolic violence is currently a plain reality too in the world of atheists, and in the New Atheism movement as well. Are you sure that humans suffer only from physical violence, and not from cognitive violence? I am very sure that you, as a neuroscientist, know the fact very well. 

I hope you can see that the distance between discourse violence and acts of violence (as done by Mr. Hicks) is only 0.9999999 mm. Discourse violence can very easily change into acts of violence or terrorism, for the sake of any ideology, or due to any ideology. If Mr. Hicks (and other future atheist believers) had been routinely indoctrinated by his teachers about religions and religious believers as being destructive, cruel, harsh, uncivilized, barbaric, then he could easily imagine that killing religious people or burning Holy Books is a virtue carried out in the name of Holy Atheism. Under the strong influence of this imagination, he murdered the three innocent Muslims very easily.

If atheists all over the world are claiming that the reason of the killing Mr. Hicks did is only a parking place quarrel, in my opinion, Mr. Hicks is then a revealing example of a stupid, short-sighted, unconscientious and harsh atheist. But this is very likely not the case. His case is a very strong proof that atheism clearly cannot make atheist believers good, kind, gentle, humane and moral. In the case of this harsh and fierce atheist, Holy Atheism sadly did not succeed altogether to enlighten and make holy a human being, let alone the whole world. And don’t label him lunatic or insane or mad atheist. His mind is not defective. His posts on his Facebook page unveil that his mind works well, but he feels very, very angry toward religions and religious believers. He is an atheist acting out his convictions about religions and religious believers by murdering three good religious people. The realm of discourse violence and the realm of acts of violence are separated by a very thin layer that easily can be broken through. And Mr. Hicks did it successfully! I am very sure too that you know very well that the change from violent mental activities into physical violent activities is a neural process that can very easily be understood and explained in terms of neuroscience. 

So, I hope you are not living IN DENIAL, and therefore I hope you don’t try to explain the fact I am saying to you now away. Don't try to separate or quarantine or remove the fierce atheist Mr. Hicks from the rest of all atheists in the world. He is one of your faithful and beloved flock. Dont betray him. He needs you now much more than ever before. 

And I hope you seriously follow the daily development of Mr. Hicks case. According to Jonathan M. Katz in his most recent report concerning Mr. Hicks case published in The New York Times March 3, 2015, Chapel Hill killers rage went beyond parking dispute. Katz writes, There is no question Mr. Hicks had a problem with religion. His Facebook page was full of quotations and memes denigrating Christianity. On Jan. 27, he shared a graphic that may have made reference to Islam: ‘People say there is nothing that can solve the Middle East problem ... I say there is something. Atheism.”/3/ According to the news uploaded on the web Crimesider, April 6, 2015, in relation to Hicks case The FBI is conducting what it has called a parallel preliminary inquiry to the homicide investigation to determine whether any federal laws were violated, including hate crime statutes./4/ 

Perhaps you have read the good book of William T. Cavenaugh, entitled The Myth of Religious Violence (2009). According to the author, accusing religions as the only cause of violence and terror acts is the myth liberal societies and secular states are embracing. For him, the liberal secular states, endorsed and imitated by the people of those states, are doing violence and acts of terrorism too, in the name of liberal and anti-religious or secular values. This contention is based by the author on thorough historical studies./5/ So, I hope you do not think that secular atheism cannot become the source of violence and terror acts.

Of course you know the famous political activist, linguist and philosopher who was born on December 7, 1928, in Philadelphia, US, named Noam Chomsky. Most recently in the interview conducted by Isabelle Kumar, published online April 17, 2015, Chomsky states that the USA is the worlds biggest terrorist. I cite here his intact statement, Remember the worst terrorist campaign in the world by far is the one that is being orchestrated in Washington. Thats the global assassination campaign [i.e., the drone campaign]. Theres never been a terrorist campaign of that scale./6/ Three days ago (April 30, 2015), together with my wife I watched the movie titled Good Kill. This movie illustrates very graphically what Chomsky calls the drone campaign as the global assassination campaign conducted by the USA.   

Finally, it is good to now remind all of you inhabiting the atheist camps all over the world. By using intentionally the cruel and brutal and uncivilized languages when confronting religions and religious believers, you and your pupils are spreading many time bombs the world over. These bombs are awaiting the time to mature to explode everywhere in our currently broken world. The clashes of civilizations between atheist world and theist world are currently the realities of our life. It will become more lethal and brutal in the next few days, with or without the brutal murders Mr. Hicks has done.

I do hope, if there are serious things atheist believers wish to say to religious believers, say it persuasively, politely, kindly, friendly, in the spirit of the sisterhood of man, in the spirit of mature accountability. If you want to say anything, say it with flowers, not with time bombs! The future of our planet Earth belongs not only to atheist believers, but also to theist believers.

If you deny that atheists, not only religious believers, should be introspective too, you are disseminating a “moral hoax” (Sam Harris) too. If you keep spreading your moral hoax, where is the moral and intellectual enlightenment atheists all over the world claim they have?

Warm regards, 
Jakarta, 20 February 2015 
ioanes rakhmat


/1/ The original link to this short letter is this

/2/ The apology is presented by Sam Harris here

/3/ Jonathan M. Katz, “Chapel Hill Killers Rage Went Beyond Parking Dispute”, The New York Times, March 3, 2015, on

/4/ Crimesiders staff, Man charged with killing 3 Muslims can face death penalty, Crimesider, April 6, 2015, at

/5/ William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2009).

/6/ Isabelle Kumars interview posted April 17, 2015, on News. The Global Conversation, titled Chomsky says US is worlds biggest terrorist, at