"Our own religious lunatics are in a better position to understand that people really believe these things"

Sam Harris, in the above, often simplistic, interview, makes the argument that those on the political left are unable to properly comprehend religious fundamentalism:

They don’t know what it’s like to really believe in god… To be sure the book they keep by their bedside is the literal work of the creator of the universe and that death is a merely a passage to an eternity of happiness…
The inability to imagine or relate to such religious fervour, leads “liberals” to discount the motivational aspects of religious belief. When confronted with a Muslim suicide bomber, Harris argues, they are likely to discount the expressed motive and instead look for economic or political reasons to explain the act of violence.

Most of the people I know are religious moderates and secularists, to use Harris’s terms. As such, I do find it very difficult to comprehend a religious faith so strong that death is embraced.

But is Harris, because of his focus on religion, downplaying other causes?

Humans are complex and when a person takes the radical step of murdering strangers, while simultaneously killing themselves, multiple factors are likely at play.

His general point stands however. Those with little experience of religion, or religious fundamentalism, must be careful when dismissing the religious beliefs of violent extremists.

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