E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene

Sam Harris, Ultimate Fighter

Sam Harris likes Brazilian jiu-jitsu, apparently because it lacks all those religious connotations of the other kind. But he then proceeds to turn the fighting itself into a religious experience–inflected in a very violent key–proving once again that man is indeed homo religiosus and that Sam Harris, too, has Calvin’s sensus divinitatis. The fighting may also have a Girardian twist for Harris, who, Graeme Wood suggests, perhaps displaces his frustration with debate opponents onto the surrogate victim, his sparring partner.

Given this religious cast to Harris’ life and leisure-time, some of it explicit, some of it implicit even in the secularized forms it takes, one would think that Harris would be self-aware enough of the potential irony of his words not to say of his Christian opponents:

“They are wrong—just as demonstrably as you’re wrong when you’re being choked to death in a triangle choke.” (Which raises the possibility that, however calm and well-spoken Harris appears onstage with, say, Rick Warren, he may be silently imagining strangling the pastor into unconsciousness.) “It’s like they’ve turned into a zombie,” he continued. “You rarely get the satisfaction in intellectual life where the person who is wrong has to acknowledge and grow from the experience of having been self-deceived for so long.”

I guess he isn’t; but maybe some day he will be. Hope, like religion, springs eternal.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.