It’s tricky wordplay and not fair to the mindset Harris is trying to describe.
Harris’s true obsession, then, is not God but consciousness, the idea that the human mind can be taught—trained, rationally—to be more loving, more generous, less egocentric than it is in its natural state. And though he knows that he can sound like a person who believes in God, he thinks that God is the wrong word to describe his beliefs. “There’s a real problem with the word,” he says, “because it shields the genuinely divisive doctrines and believers from criticism. If the God of the 25 percent is incredibly valuable, which it is; and it’s actually worth realizing, which it is; and it’s something we can talk about rationally, which it is; then calling it ‘God’ prevents you from criticizing all the divisive nonsense that comes with religion.” Believing in transcendence is not the same thing as believing that you’ll get virgins in paradise if you blow yourself up—and Sam Harris wants to be clear about that.
He’s on tour promoting his new book, The Moral Landscape. Based on other parts of the article, what he’d really like to see is humanity reaching a point where compassion and bliss and awe and all those other words and feelings often reserved for religious experience and expression could be uttered and felt by everyone equally. Whether the feelings come out of faith or meditation or a walk in the woods or whatever.. have the experience and come out of it peaceful and willing to share that experience with others. If those who manage that can help others find the way to those feelings and those actions, and if those people would help more, we’d all be better off.