We’re up to Chapter 5 of The Irrational Atheist, but if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to go back and revisit something from Chapter 3 again. Sam Harris, you may recall, had made the argument that with the development of nuclear weapons and other catastrophic devices, it was no longer safe to let people run around thinking God had commanded them to smite unbelievers. Vox responded with a kind of gun control argument: guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people, so if you just deprive people of their guns, then everyone else will be safer.
Of course, Vox said “science” instead of “guns,” but the principle is the same: deprive people of the means (i.e. guns, bombs, science) and the motive (religion, etc) will no longer matter. Of course, the reverse could also be said, since violent crimes require both motive and means, so eliminating any of the contributing factors is bound to be an improvement. As I’ve suggested, the most prudent thing is not necessarily to throw the baby out with the bath water either way, but to specifically identify the significant risk factors on both sides, and try to eliminate or at least minimize them. But there’s another reason why I think Sam Harris’ proposition, while arguably too extreme, nevertheless makes more sense than Vox’s, and I’d like to illustrate that point via the analogy of a jealous husband.