Sam Harris is one of the self-described Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – a member of the so-called New Atheists; proselytizing, fervent believers in atheism intent on ridding the world of theism.
Sam Harris: the Unconverted appeals to two Russian writers to aid in an analysis of two pathological tendencies to be seen in the thinking and writing of Harris. One is Nikolai Berdyaev who brilliantly shows that without the idea of God there can be no idea of man. Since man occupies the “metaxy,” the middle space between beasts and God, taking away God leaves man careening between two extremes; self-deification – taking the place of God – and self-annihilation – regarding himself as beastly scum. Yevgeny Zamyatin in his novel WE describes the One State created a thousand years in the future devoted to human happiness achieved by reducing man to a machine and excising his power of imagination. Harris’ imagined ideal world resembles this One State. This relates to the second of Berdyaev’s claims that any ideal other than God demotes man to a means to be used to achieve this illusory goal. If God is instead the highest good and we are made in the image of God and partake in his divinity through our immortal souls, then man can never be regarded as a mere means to anything but must be cherished as an end in himself. Harris succumbs to both tendencies described by Berdyaev so many years before. His atheistic philosophy descends into the nihilism that is the end result of a denial of God.