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Sam Harris – The Seriously Funny Project

On July 14, 2008 AD the homepage of Sam Harris’ website made one of the funnies statements you will ever read.

The homepage was describing a project to transfer Steve Wells’ “Skeptic’s Annotated Bible Qur'an, and Book of Mormon” to the Reason Project.


It is stated,
“Steve spent the better part of a decade annotating these holy books and highlighted all passages notable for their historical inaccuracy, internal contradictions, scientific errors, absurdity, injustice, cruelty, sexism, intolerance, etc. (he also flagged the good parts).”

The bottom line is described thusly,
“to refine Steve’s work in a section of our website entitled ‘The Scripture Project’ where we will have religious scholars, historians, scientists, and other qualified people continue to annotate these texts on a Wiki.”

And now comes the knee slapping, bent over in convulsions, comedy,
“With the input of the right scholars, we are confident that the Reason Project website will quickly become the preeminent place for scriptural criticism on the internet.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen this project can only succeed “With the input of the right scholars.”

Obviously, the logical questions are: “Who are the ‘right scholars’?” and “How is it determined who are the ‘right scholars’?”

These questions were not answered but I believe that an educated guess would be something to the likes of…
If you hold to an absolutely materialistic worldview – you might be the “right scholar.”

If your purpose in reading/studying the Bible is to cherry pick the bad and the ugly (ok, and perhaps the occasional rare good [according to whom?]) – you might be the “right scholar.”

If you would not know grammatical, historical or cultural context if your title as “scholar” or “skeptic” depended on it – you might be the “right scholar.”

If you make a living by expressing your personal prejudice against “religion” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If you believe that the standard for ascertaining the accurate history of the Bible text you are dealing with is anything that will contradict the Bible – you might be the “right scholar.”

If you believe that the church and the rabbinate were the last institution who could accurately establish their own cannon of scripture – you might be the “right scholar.”

If you believe that you, yes you, have finally uncovered the true meaning of the Bible – you might be the “right scholar.”

And just for further fun, I will borrow a few from the “Bible criticism” section of Tektonics’ “You may be a fundamentalist atheist if....
If “You dislike how liberal theists try to interpret the Bible for themselves, while you create your own interpretations of the Bible for yourself” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If “You can quote from the bible better than most least the parts where someone dies” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If “You label all scholars that actually believe the Bible as ‘biased fundies’ while those who don't believe it are known as ‘honest’ and ‘accepted scholarship’” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If “You think that Isaac Asimov was a world-class authority in Biblical Studies” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If you believe that “When a Christian's interpretation of a passage (based on the social/literary context) solves one of your favorite contradictions, it is only their personal interpretation, and can be dismissed as such. But your interpretation (based on a ‘plain’ reading of the text) to arrive at the contradiction in the first place is entirely objective, and is obviously THE correct interpretation” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If “Your only knowledge of The Bible comes from searching ‘bible contradictions’ in Google” or from your future searches of “The Scripture Project” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If “You consistently appear on discussion lists demanding that Christians accept your literal interpretation of various scriptural passages just so you can then launch into the usual ‘argument by outrage’ - despite being told over and over that no Bible scholar or school of Christianity shares your particular bizarre literal interpretation” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If “You pontificate about the Bible as if you are an expert in theology, textual criticism, ancient languages & cultures and much more besides, when your knowledge of the Bible is just cut and paste from atheist discussion lists which cut and paste it from atheist websites which cut and paste it from embarrassingly unscholarly rantings by the likes of Messer's Freke & Gandy and Acharya S, etc.” – you might be the “right scholar.”

If “Archaeology continually frustrates your attempts to find errors and contradictions in the Bible, but you continually use the same outdated accusations anyway since you're running out of material” – you might be the “right scholar.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen this project can only succeed “With the input of the right scholars.” Just send in your application along with a video showing you ripping a page out of a Bible*, following in the footsteps of PZ Myers, and will instantly be deemed the “right scholar.”

*This only works with Bibles, as ripping up of the Qur’an or any other scripture is politically incorrect and dangerous outside of the USA in which Christian tolerance allows you to besmirch Christianity and destroy the Bible at will.

If you are interested in seeing how today’s neo-atheist fare as “right scholars” please consult my following essays:

Sam Harris:
Sam Harris’ Mythunderstandings Sam Harris: Instigator At Large
Let Him Who is Without Faith Cast the First Stone

Richard Dawkins:
The Apostle Thomas: Patron Saint of Scientists?

Planting God More Firmly on His Throne

Dan Barker:
Dan Barker and Bertrand Russell: The Dynamic Duo of Demonstrably Deleterious Delusion, Part 3

Why Freethought?

Dan Barker’s Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications


  1. I would be very (pleasantly) surprised to see these skeptics throw up their dukes with the likes of an NT Wright.

  2. The right scholars would be nonchristians- these guys would do the trick

    You see, they can quantify the Bible and, in the end place God in his level for vs competitions.

    For a bible without contradictions, evils, etc, that has already been done. It is called the Jefferson bible.

    As for rejecting people because they are materialists and the like... well, when you read the Iliad do you assume the Gods were really involved? No, "It is differant" it is the exact same thing.

  3. I would be very (pleasantly) surprised to see these skeptics throw up their dukes with the likes of an NT Wright.

    Lol! Yea, do yourself a favor and don't hold your breath while we wait one of these guys to get drunk enough to actually volunteer for a shalackling like that.

  4. Mariano: well a comedian you are not. Let me see if I can clarify things for you by splicing together a paragraph that you split in two and inserted your commentary for comic effect:

    Sam Harris wrote: "... 'The Scripture Project' where we will have religious scholars, historians, scientists, and other qualified people continue to annotate these texts on a Wiki. With the input of the right scholars, ..."

    Also, it's a wiki. Any registered member of the Reason Project can participate and contribute, no need to feel left out.

  5. adonais,
    Your clarification changes exactly nothing. The "right scholars" still stands.

  6. You seem to be against them picking and choosing who does the work. Here is a hint- there is a reason we have diplomas in the first place- to pick and choose who is qualified. It is an integral part of the process. Harris seems to be insisting that he only has people who would treat the bible like any other book.

    You seem to think it is special- that is nice, but you happen to be wrong. Remember- this site is devoted to making that claim and so far it has FAILED.

  7. Adonais,

    Are you suggesting that Sam Harris simply meant "member of Right Reason" when he said right scholar? That would make the statement pretty meaningless.

  8. stan: What do you mean "The 'right scholars' still stands" — is this some sort of taboo phrase that one is not allowed to use unless supplemented with a list of names? What exactly is your accusation?

    Josh: All I'm suggesting is that the two sentences read together are self-explanatory, and that there is no hidden agenda to make a story out of. Looks to me like Mariano went on a sensationalism spree, trying to invent controversy where there is none. Indeed the statement may be meaningless - so what; are we forbidden to speak unless every sentence is designed to astound the whole room? It's not like he was expounding deep philosophy.

  9. Yes, and the "Right Stuff" was clearly in reference to something other than the "Left Stuff".

    When my daughter was four years old, I was careful when asking her which shoe went on which foot. I would ask, "Which is your right foot?". If her right foot was indeed offered, I'd say, "Correct." When she asked what "correct" means, I'd explain that she had chosen the "right" foot, as opposed to the "wrong" foot.

    Why make such a distinction? Because she was four. When I asked her for her left foot, and she offered it, I wasn't about to confuse her utterly by saying "That's right."

    You are as my four-year-old daughter.

    Clearly, Harris is referring to the "correct" scholars. It is not a judgment of their bias, but merely an attestation that where the goal is to become the "preeminent place for scriptural criticism on the internet", it will be necessary to court reputable, well-known, and possibly even controversial scholars.

    Do you think that when a coach determines that a particular free agent isn't "right" for his team, that he is making a judgment regarding that player's abilities, his ethic, or his selflessness?

    Nice try.


  10. That Harris thinks the SAB is a worthy foundation to start with indicates he is highly unqualified to find objective scholars.

  11. Thank you all very much for your comments, criticism’s and good points:

    Samuel Skinner,
    As to what this site is devoted to, please see our banner where the blog’s subtitle appears.

    I was attempting to be light hearted and, perhaps only to me, humorous. Yet, let us not fool ourselves as to whom Sam Harris et al consider to be the “right scholars.”

    Stan, the Half-Truth Teller,
    Glad to have you onboard, your statements were adorable, please do check back when you are ready to get the other half of your tales out.

    Adonis, et al,
    The biggest mistake that the neo-atheist made is going after the Bible because in doing so they demonstrate time and time again that they are delving into territory of which they are still shockingly unfamiliar.

    When it comes down to it what a persons thinks about what the Bible is (divine or manmade) is irrelevant to determining if someone is handling its contents properly. Are any of you even imagining that Sam Harris and others will consider orthodox-conservative-Christian scholars to be “right.”

    I must also state that I did not understand the project to be a wiki. Where they request volunteers it is for transferring the contents of Steve Wells’ website to the Reason Project. This is a purely mechanical undertaking.


  12. The right scholars would be nonchristians- these guys would do the trick

    A Star Wars fansite?


    The right scholars would be unbiased and objective, but you obviously don't know what those words mean.