Sam Harris spanks Karen Armstrong

Religious apologists have a powerful ally in Karen Armstrong. If you recall some of the articles I’ve written about her, Karen is the founder of Charter for Compassion, a rather naive attempt to create a dialog between people of various faiths.

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.

Karen is a smart woman, but this statement is both false and misleading; compassion may occasionally be part of a religious institution, but it certainly is not its heart. If it was, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and the modern Jihadist movement would never have been possible. How can a religion be based on compassion when it’s so violently opposed to any foreign system of belief?

Karen has often accused the “new atheist” of not knowing enough about religion, a statement I find both insulting and ludicrous (I would wager Christopher Hitchens knows more about Christianity than most Bishops). Sam Harris agrees with me, and he’s written a short article deriding Karen’s foolish opinion that all atheists need is to do is study a little bit more religion to see how compassionate it is. Here’s an excerpt:

And how could we have been so foolish as to connect the apparently inexhaustible supply of martyrs in the Muslim world to the Islamic doctrine of martyrdom? In my own defense, let me say that I do get spooked whenever Western Muslims advocate the murder of apostates (as 36 percent of Muslim young adults do in Britain). But I now know that these freedom-loving people just “want to see God reflected more clearly in public life.”

read the rest of the article here.

Comments (2)

  • avatar


    Armstrong is an interesting read. She defends religion in its most primitive form – tribesman dancing around a campfire, in awe of the heavens above. However, she equates that mystical religion with the highly structured and dogmatic modern religions, and it doesn’t work. Her work on the history of religion is outstanding, however.

  • avatar


    Second paragraph… Karen is a smart “woman”, not “women”.

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