Sam Harris Discusses Death and the Present Moment

Here’s something optimistic for your Sunday afternoon: Death!

In his talk at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Sam Harris gave a talk on “Death and the Present Moment“:

As always, if there are any bits we should pay special attention to, just leave the timestamp and a summary in the comments.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    Start at 18:40 -> “The one thing people realize is that they wasted a lot of time…”

    Mr. Harris does a great job of crystallizing how we live our lives, and how most of us -atheists included- live our lives as if religion has it correct.

  • Sprawn

    I am thankful that Sam is on “our side,” because he would be such a good cult leader… He always seems to me to be one pair of aviator sunglasses away from living on a compound in rural Oregon. But I think he’s great.

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    I love how a guy who has rationalized racial profiling, nuclear first strikes against Islamic nations, and torture continues to be featured on this blog.

    Funny, but when you challenge others who promote various forms of oppression, your hypocrisy shows.

    • NogahdzNoughmasters

      I agree Sam is wrong about things (such as what you just mentioned) and does that make him wrong about the topic of the video? Serious question here, how much can a person be wrong about and still be worthy of listening to.  What becomes too much error (or disagreement) is allowed before you can  wave away all their ideas?  I certainly wouldn’t take Ken Ham’s advice on anything but I still think Sam is worth listening to.  Am I wrong?

      • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

        Endorsing racially prejudiced security inspections, torture, and killing large numbers of people aren’t enough to disqualify a person’s participation in the atheist movement? 

        That’s an interesting commentary on your values… and this blog’s values as well.

        • http://mattgbush.me/ mattgbush

          “An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.”

          Yeah, I got that from Wikipedia.

        • Castilliano

          1.  Sam isn’t pro-torture.  In “The End of Faith”, he laid out the question that if bombing (and killing/maiming) innocents is ‘acceptable’, then why is torturing non-innocents ‘unacceptable’?  He was reflecting on paradoxical military/political values, but not advocating either way.
          His statements are often taken out of context so he’s since strongly stated he believes torture is inhumane (and ineffective.) 
          2.  Sam doesn’t advocate racial profiling, he advocates religious profiling.  Small diff, but most importantly, he includes himself in the profile.  And he’s open to debate about the topic as seen on his website, where he posts an essay only every month or so, but one of which is an informed counterargument against his own statement.
          3.  Nuclear attacks were, if I recall, was framed as an ‘if’ statement, in this case the ‘if’ being ‘knowing we will be struck by a nuclear bomb from a terrorist-supporting government, then we should strike first.’   Yes, an awkward statement (and paraphrased, not quoted), but how would one ‘know’ we will be struck?
          Given Sam’s advocacy of empathy and understanding, it’s hard to imagine him saying ‘preemptive strikes are my thing.’  But, if the attack is a given (in a ‘perfect knowledge’ sort of way), then it’s true.

          Oh, and Newton was a crank who supported alchemy and much more crazy BS, so in the end, it’s the ideas that matter, not the source.
          So if you have anything constructive to say about the ideas, please do so.

          • http://twitter.com/OlsonKevin Kevin Olson

            so sick of these fucking morons enthusiastically taking SH out of context.

    • http://twitter.com/OlsonKevin Kevin Olson

      this is a complete mischaracterization of Sam’s position, and it’s been debunked many many times… ad nauseum

  • M Swift

    11:38-12:28 “What does Atheism have to offer…?” “Atheism is just a way of clearing the space for better conversations.”

    I like that he speaks of replacing religion with science, art and philosophy. I think it’s really important to figure out what we DO believe in as well as what we don’t. To realize that you can’t replace religion with Atheism, which I think a lot of people try to do.

    It’s also something I’ve been thinking about a lot, which (not so coincidentally) especially strikes a chord with me as an artist who thinks a lot about my place in the world…

    Thanks for posting this!

  • GregFromCos

    Another brilliant talk by Sam. 

    His point that some of our more wasted moments, only make sense in light of eternity, was especially thought inspiring.

    Sorry no time stamp, I got lost in what he was saying.

  • NogahdzNoughmasters

    Somebody help me out here.  So watching Sam’s talk and about halfway through it strikes me that his discussion of “now” is basically the same bit that certain mystics will go on about.  Why is it that I find myself agreeing with Sam but my WOO-meter starts pinging when I see a video of Eckart Tolle or somebody like that? Is it just the frame?

  • M.L.

    Well, at least we finally have an atheist/rationalist/whatevertermfloatsyourboatist who is ready willing and able to discuss what is truly humanity’s greatest burden, and one that both the religious and the rational seem to live in constant denial of – death.

    The religious deny it outright, asserting the existence of an ‘afterlife’ while most atheists, in my experience, deny it by denying its sting.

    He raises the right questions here but his answer is inadequate. Science, art, and philosophy can provide much of what religion provides and do so much better, but religion’s edge isn’t that it’s good at providing what science, art, and philosophy provide; its edge is in its very good at denying the finality of death. Afterlife may be implausible but so is the claim by many secularists that death is ‘no big deal’. Where Sam loses it is in the suggestion that mediation is the solution to death angst. The sad fact of existence is that there is no solution to this conundrum. That’s why we will always be vulnerable to the soothing lies of religion.


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