Prominent atheist and UCLA-educated neuroscientist Sam Harris slammed National Health Institute director Francis Collins in his latest podcast, pointing out the doctor's continued allegiance to Christian teachings despite his extensive background in the sciences.
According to Raw Story, Harris began by criticizing the continued proliferation of religious doctrines among young people, issuing a harsh denunciation especially of the notion of Hell and eternal punishment.
Harris said, "There are people who have really been terrorized by their parents, and people who terrorize their kids with a fear of hell, for instance. I hear from people who their entire life — they're in their 40s and they're only now just coming out of the prison of having spent their entire lives being afraid of being tortured (for) an eternity by Satan. This is in the 21st century, in the United States."The neuroscientist then continued his critique against "sophisticated nuanced people" who, despite their intelligence and education, continue to embrace religious teachings. Sam Harris used accomplished doctor Francis Collins as an example.
"Now, this is not to say that people don't have great experiences that they want to capture in religious language. But when you look at someone like Francis Collins, who is running the NIH, who is a medical geneticist and obviously a very smart guy who has made real contributions to science — but he is also a bit of a Bible-thumper, he's an evangelical Christian," Harris said
"He believes in evolution, thankfully, but he also believes that immortal souls and free will were just downloaded onto the hard drive of only one species of primate at some point in history by an almighty God," Harris added.
Sam Harris has been dubbed by members of the secularist circles as one of the "four horsemen of new atheism," joining ranks with other prominent atheists, such as biologist Richard Dawkins, journalist Christopher Hitchens, and philosopher Daniel Dennett. His book, The End of Faith, has been described as one of the most essential atheism literatures of the modern-day era.
Before taking the boss job at the National Institute of Health, Collins was the former head of the Human Genome Project. Aside from his work in medicine and genetics, Collins has also dabbled on matters of religion and spirituality, having authored the New York Times bestseller Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence Of Belief. Collins has not yet responded to Harris' opinions on his beliefs.
Collins has been vocal about his Christian views before to other secularists. In an interview with Bill Maher, Dr. Collins attempted to reconcile his beliefs in Jesus with his scientific work.Sam Harris is one of the youngest figures in the secularist circles right now. With over 250,000 followers on Twitter, Harris is also one of the most followed. Despite being well-liked within his groups, Harris has attracted ire from conservative circles, criticizing his statements as lacking political correctness. Here is his encounter with Ben Affleck during a segment in Bill Maher's Real Time.[Image from Steve Jurvetson/Flickr]