Table of Contents for Critical Analyses:
I would respectfully ask that you read this to its entirety before responding. I will attempt to keep it as concisely as possible due to the character limit, but the focal reason I stopped believing in Sam Harris’s views is an in-depth legal matter and so depressing to me that I can only give very general information and not the full extent. If anyone’s interested in further information, I made a blog post a few months ago and added citations at the bottom of the blog post to more thoroughly explain the ongoing human rights injustices that still exist to this day insofar as I understand them. Also, while I would like to believe this would provide convincing evidence, I think the way we as humans disassociate, detach, and rationalize factual evidence will make that highly unlikely. For anyone who has read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I’d like to point out the aspect of the book where he explains that studies have shown that people subconsciously substitute complex questions for how they feel about the questions and respond to even serious issues with real world consequences in what would appear a thoughtless way, because they’re not actually thinking over the questions presented, but rather how they feel about the questions. Please keep that in mind while reading this to completion.
Before I go into my reasons why I stopped believing in the superiority of Western values, I want to be clear that this is not an anti-Sam Harris hate rant and I do agree with him on some other issues. He’s fully convinced me that freewill is a myth, reading counterarguments to freewill being a myth only strengthened my belief that freewill was a myth, and I think he’s the only one in public celebrity circles speaking honestly about it. His detractors erroneously try to argue on the consequences of what that would mean and how it makes people feel, but that isn’t an argument based upon honesty and evidence. His arguments specifically against religious superstition are superb, he’s completely right based on evidentiary methods and rational inquiry, and nothing further really needs to be said there. When it comes to topics that are generally in the realm of his expertise, he’s amazing. When I was in high school, I believed him to be just as intelligent and articulate about the superiority of Western values due to the enlightenment, the focus on human wellbeing based on utilitarian principles of the most good for the most people, and more specifically, Christopher Hitchens arguments in favor of the values of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Voltaire. In college, I had some internal disagreements based upon what Chris Hedges argued in his various books, news articles, and blog posts. Hedges “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” was required reading for one of my Political Science classes in college and that’s how I learned of him. A few years after college, after listening to various discussions by the nonprofit group, Ex-Muslims of North America and comparing it to how nihilistic Hedges eventually became, I eventually changed my mind to support enlightenment values with less disagreements to Sam Harris’s views. However, as of now, I completely reject all his arguments about Western values in their totality. I view it as equally harmful as neologisms like Islamophobia to shut down criticism of Islam and I feel disgusted with myself for ever having believed it. His views on the superiority of Western values are what I find to be called “Western Triumphalism” and I believe it is harmful; ironically, I first learned of this term and its application from a bemused reading of Christian missionary pamphlets in the 2010s attempting to rationalize the over 500 years of failed conversion attempts in India to Christianity. I agree with some of Sam Harris’s other views and I would go so far as to say that the New Atheist movement and main advocates like Harris, the late Hitchens, and Dawkins should be considered the most prominent and influential Western philosophers of the early 2000s. I believe it was their cultural influence that has led to the rapid decline of Christianity and religious superstitions more generally throughout the Western world. Nevertheless, I believe Western Triumphalism is built on a falsehood. I wanted to make all of that clear so that I’m not misperceived as some ignoramus that isn’t familiar with Sam Harris’s views.
The reason I’ve given up on believing in the superiority of Western values is because of the most successful and ongoing genocidal conditions imposed upon Native Americans living within the United States of America. These conditions are solely due to unilateral US legal policy forced upon Native Americans living in reservations and which have emboldened sex offenders throughout the United States to rape and murder Native Americans who live outside of the reservations too. In the Supreme Court decision of Oliphant vs Suquamish (1978), Supreme Court justice William Rehnquist in the majority decision stated that Native American reservations, upon becoming domestic dependent nations to the United States, had no jurisdiction to arrest and prosecute non-Native people coming into reservations. It also stated that the plenary power of the US Congress extended to being able to limit, modify, or remove any legal powers that Native American reservations had. In effect, non-Natives could not be arrested or prosecuted by Native American “tribal” court systems. This has led to widespread rape epidemics and murder sprees of Native American women and even men by predominately white male registered sex offenders for over forty years. These rape and murder sprees are not some bygone era of the past, they still occur to this day and have never stopped. The Supreme Court of the United States under Rehnquist effectively legalized rape upon Native Americans living in reservations because only Federal prosecutors were allowed to prosecute non-Native registered sex offenders coming into reservations to harm Native Americans. Indigenous court systems and Native American police could not arrest or prosecute them for over forty years and I’ve read articles where Indigenous police essentially admitted that if they did attempt to, then registered sex offenders could call on local police in their towns outside reservations to shoot and kill Indigenous reservation police because it isn’t a crime to harm Native Americans living in reservations and Indigenous police are committing a crime by trying to stop registered sex offenders from raping and murdering Indigenous people.
As I read more deeply into this issue, it sickened me how they’ve imposed legal decisions on reservations for crimes between Native Americans too; please bear in mind, bad actors exist in all groups and I’m not trying to disparage any person or ethnic group. Nearly a century prior to this decision, the Major Crimes act of 1885 passed by the US Congress effectively stated that only the US Congress had unilateral rights to define punishment for crimes like rape and murder on Indigenous reservations; the US Congress limited crimes of murder and rape upon reservations to six months prison or a $500 fine. In 1986, they updated it to one year in prison and a $5000 fine, and only in 2010 has the US Congress updated this to $15,000 fine and a three-year prison sentence. As many of you may know, that is far short of a 25 to life sentence for murder and five or more years in prison for rape. Native American court systems have no legal ability to update their own court systems even on crimes within their communities between their community members. Even outside of the issue that predominately white male sex offenders can come in to rape and murder an Indigenous child, Native American groups have protested and begged for over forty years for there to be updates in the penal code or for federal prosecutors to visit reservations only for prosecutors not wanting to make the trip and closing cases pre-emptively allowing no legal recourse to hold registered sex offenders accountable throughout the United States when they rape and murder Indigenous people living in reservations. There’s a disincentive for Federal prosecutors to pursue these cases due to there being more legal challenges as a result of the jurisdictional nightmare created by Oliphant vs Suquamish of 1978 and Federal prosecutors have discretion on cases they can choose to pursue. Vast majorities of cases were not prosecuted throughout the forty years of rape and murder sprees upon Indigenous people and the US federal government didn’t have a systematized measurement of cases until 2020, despite criticisms over this by Amnesty International back in 2007. Amnesty International’s own research between October 2002 and September 2003 found that Federal prosecutors declined 60 percent of cases of sexual assault in reservations where the perpetrator was a non-Native man who sexually assaulted an Indigenous woman according to their first Maze of Injustice research publication back in 2007. The updated 2022 report found nearly 57 percent of Indigenous women are likely to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, it is usually multiple times in their lives, and approximately 30 percent of those sexual assaults were rape. In other words, approximately one in two Indigenous women will be sexually assaulted and approximately one in three Indigenous women will be raped in their lifetime throughout the United States. In both the first Amnesty International report and the local news reports by KX News of North Dakota found that approximately between 84 – 86 percent of the sexual violence comes from non-Native men; KX News of North Dakota clarified that the non-Native perpetrators are overwhelmingly violent sex offenders who use reservations as safe havens to rape or rape and kill Indigenous women.
If not for the studies by Amnesty International USA, US news agencies that originate from Great Britain, independent news organizations like Reveal News, and local news reports from various US State locales; I would never have learned of or known any of this. The majority of US-based national news agencies like NBC News deliberately obfuscate and try to re-contextualize the information as a Native-on-Native problem to protect predominately white male, registered sex offenders. They claim that Indigenous reservations are sovereign territories when they’ve been legally defined as domestic, dependent nations since Cherokee Nation vs Georgia (1831). In Johnson vs McIntosh (1823), Supreme Court justice Marshall legally defined Native Americans as “wards” of the US government and what that meant was that US penal code and US law define Native Americans as having no legal ability for rational thinking faculties. The basis of this was the Christian doctrine of discovery which Thomas Jefferson had reinterpreted into secular terms. Even as recent as City of Sherill v. Onedia Indian Nation (2005), Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited the Doctrine of Discovery as the reason for why the Oneida nation had to pay taxes for land it had legally re-purchased that was lost to it during colonial expulsion by white settlers. The reason the Supreme Court would decide on that basis is because currently the two competing legal theories defining US law is the originalist or textualist theories of law. What that means is, the Supreme Court of the United States can only interpret the laws on the basis of either a literalist reading of the text of the law or on the basis of the original intent of the Founding Fathers of the United States in accordance with the US Constitution and US Constitutional amendments. Therefore, because Thomas Jefferson supported the Doctrine of Discovery for all non-Christians, due to legal affirmations like the two Supreme Court cases in the early 1800s, and the Founding Fathers own racist writings such as the Declaration of Independence referring to Indigenous people as “merciless Indian savages” which was written by Thomas Jefferson himself; the Supreme Court of the United States can only pass judgments based upon that and that means the US legal system is deliberately organized to violate the human rights of Native Americans. Unless there’s a Constitutional amendment allowing genuine self-determination or simply allowing Indigenous court systems to prosecute non-Native sex offenders, these horrific conditions will not change at all. In more recent times there have been piecemeal efforts to bandage this barbaric legal system that the US created, the Supreme Court decision of United States vs Cooley (2021) now allows Indigenous police to hold and detain perpetrators while waiting for non-Indigenous police to come and arrest them and the Supreme Court decision of Oklahoma vs Castro-Huerta (2021) allows local non-Native police to arrest and prosecute non-Natives going into Indigenous reservations to harm Indigenous people. However, as Amnesty International USA reiterated, the core problem is the Supreme Court decision of Oliphant vs Suquamish (1978) which allowed registered sex offenders carte blanche access to assault, rape, and murder Indigenous people for over forty years and remains in legal effect to this day. The most recent analysis by the US House of Representatives in the Violence Against Women’s Reauthorization bill of 2021, that seems to have been killed in the US Senate’s Committee of the Judiciary, is that 86 percent of Native American men and 96 percent of Native American women have been physically or sexually violated by a non-Native offender.
I feel utterly ashamed of myself for having believed in the superiority of Western values after learning all of this. The first time I had heard of this issue was back around the early 2010s and I had misunderstood the Violence against Women’s Reauthorization act of 2013 for having covered non-Native perpetrators and not solely domestic partners; imagine my surprise when years later, I re-read the information and the actual applicable law to find out how wrong I was after reading about how rapes and murders of Indigenous people had increased throughout the years. The Republican majority Congress and President Obama had only focused on the 15 percent of sexual violence in Indigenous reservations and not the 84 – 86 percent of registered sex offenders coming in to rape and kill people including innocent kids. I feel ashamed of myself for living in ignorance thinking that Republican and Democrat politicians of the US Congress had come together to fix a pertinent human rights issue. My thinking was: why would a first-world, Western country that I’ve lived in and believed in all of my life allow registered sex offenders to rape and kill innocent women due to their ethnic background just because the Founding Fathers had antiquated beliefs? Why would a bunch of dead people’s bigotry matter more to US politicians, US court systems, and the US public than Indigenous people living here and now fearing for their lives of being raped and killed? It was irrational to me to believe that the US legal system could ever operate in such a way, but as I delved deeper after learning it still continued, I learned just how stupid I was. I couldn’t help but think of all the times I believed in and supported Sam Harris’s views on the superiority of Western values; I recall how he claimed, without any hint of irony or humor, that Christianity had modified itself to not be as violent as Islam and yet, there is an ethnic minority group – the Indigenous peoples of the Americas – being raped and killed because of a modified form of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery as a core component of US law and US legitimacy over the modern form of the US today. Even worse, this doesn’t cover the litany of historical abuses upon Native Americans even prior to Oliphant v. Suquamish (1978) that the US still legally defends in modern times: the downright genocidal boarding schools of the 1870s – 1960s which brutalized Indigenous children, the US government legally owning the Indigenous reservations and not allowing Indigenous people to legally hold them, the dumping of toxic waste that has increased child mortality among Indigenous mothers, the failed “Termination Era” policies by the US Congress trying to end Indigenous reservations by forcing Indigenous people into cities which began a legacy of sex trafficking with pimps forcing Native American women into prostitution with local law enforcement penalizing Native women after they were drugged and pimped out by non-Native men, the sterilization campaign by several US State government agencies upon Indigenous women along with other minority women and even lower-income white Americans, and the ongoing legal justification for violations upon the human rights of Native Americans today. There is so much to this legacy of abuses that undermine Sam Harris’s arguments about the superiority of Western values.
When rethinking the arguments and beliefs of Sam Harris in his blogs about the superiority of Western values in consideration with my lessons in Political Science; I’ve come to understand that human rights is just used as a tool of convenience to support US national interests and US policy objectives. As many of you undoubtedly experienced in our lifetime, we in the US went from arguing over the brutal conditions of women in Afghanistan to forgetting about it and talking about the importance of Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and the human rights of Ukrainian children in international courts. We have constant discussions about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Syria, and briefly, about Libya when Qaddafi was deposed. Why not Sudan? Why not Tibet? And, why not the horrific conditions happening to Indigenous people in our own backyards throughout the United States? It is because the conflicts taking focus on the US national news by US corporations serve the US’s national interests and those human rights issues that do not serve the national interests of the US are ignored. The US has a national interest in conflicts like Ukraine because it puts NATO and US hegemony at risk. The US has interests in Iraq, Syria, and Libya because of the petrodollar system in which the US promised to defend specific dictatorships throughout the Arab Spring so long as they sold oil on the US dollar; thereby making the US the world reserve currency, allowing the US Federal Reserve and Banking CEOs to have significant influence over international markets to further US financial power, and making the US into the most dominant superpower in world history in terms of global military expansion. The US has a national interest in Israel predominately because of the religious majority of Americans being of an Abrahamic religious denomination who view it as their holy land, Israel helps keep a balance of power to threats like Iran, the combat experience with US-made weapons probably helps the US arms industry with working out improvements when IDF soldiers war with Palestinians and Hamas, and the cultural strife between Israel and its neighbors allow for the US to give it free billions in weapons while the US makes approximately $90 billion in sales to countries like Saudi Arabia who then sell those US-made weapons to terrorists like Hamas. The US stopped concerning itself with Afghanistan and Afghan women’s rights after the US government could get the Taliban to agree not to support any international terrorism that would negatively impact US national interests. Likewise, the attempts to downplay or re-contextualize the evidence by the US mainstream news media when they falsely proclaim sexual violence among Indigenous populations to be “intimate partner violence” as the main issue or the false claims that the Indigenous reservations are sovereign territories despite the actual legal definition; these are falsehoods to comfort people into supporting US national interests. Please think about this and I swear I do not say this lightly: I’ve come to understand that terms like “complex jurisdictional maze”, “legal loopholes”, “US trust responsibility” are merely euphemisms for the deliberate, state-sponsored genocide of the Indigenous people of the US by the US government. That is what all of what I previously mentioned about the jurisdictional issues amounts to. The Wisconsin Law Review argued the Supreme Court decision of Oliphant v. Suquamish (1978) to be legal auto-genocide. That is genuinely what the US legal policies towards Native Americans still are to this day and they’ve only been updated in response to outcries of repeated ongoing human rights catastrophes of rape crimes and murder sprees. The US government has only acted after worst-case scenarios happened, only reluctantly upon widespread condemnation from some subsets of the US public, and the US still refuses to simply allow Indigenous reservation police and court systems to prosecute non-Native registered sex offenders. Why? Because US politicians want to preserve US hegemony, US legal scholars and US prosecutors want to maintain that the institutions are perfect as defined by a “God-given” right of the US being exceptional, and the majority of us in the US public believe in this delusion of Western values being superior to all others. Sam Harris follows this deluded script about the superiority of Western values without being cognizant of how equally harmful it is to neologisms like Islamophobia.
Finally, one of the focal reasons that I have reinterpreted concepts of the superiority of Western values and Western universalism as Western triumphalism is because it is based upon a falsehood that ignores the cultural genocide of the Native Americans. Many within modern US liberal and conservative circles may recognize the physical genocide and sexual exploitation, but they still have trouble recognizing the impact of cultural genocide that persists to this day. The belief in the superiority of Western values thoroughly erases Indigenous cultural contributions to the modern United States. Many of you may recognize how terms such as Western values and Western universalism are falsely viewed as Judeo-Christian values by many Christian groups and some Jewish groups and how they attempt to co-opt the idea that two of the three Abrahamic faiths are somehow the origins for human rights. Unfortunately, US and European atheists have largely done exactly the same by conflating enlightenment values with women’s rights. Due to ignorance and whitewashing of Indigenous history in US history classes for decades, very few seem to know that while 1920 was the year in which US women finally gained national suffrage from the ratification of the 19th amendment; Indigenous women had been voting for approximately over a millennium or more prior to the arrival of white settlers within clan-based confederacies in the north-east of the Americas. Two of the three original women’s rights activists had become adopted members of the Haudenosaunee confederacy (the people of the long-house which is now more popularly called by its French name, the Iroquois Confederacy); women’s property rights, legal punishment for marital rape, women having the voluntary right to form legal and business contracts without anyone else’s approval or influence, women having sole ownership of their own land and property, child custody of children given to the woman in a divorce, women having the right to divorce, women holding legal office in official capacity, women participating in binding international treaties, women’s suffrage, and denunciations against rape within a wider society allowing women to live freely without fear of men attacking and raping them at night were all cultural contributions of the Haudenosaunee confederacy. That was how the North-Eastern Indigenous societies functioned; women held the sole authority to vote in what referred to as a Fire Council, each head of a Clan was referred to as a Clan-Mother, and women could vote the elected male chief out of power. The elected chief was more a Commander-in-Chief and not the one making domestic or national policy decisions which were reserved for the Fire Council of Clan-Mothers. Interestingly, in similar fashion to the stereotypes of patriarchal European Noble Houses, Clan-Mothers were selected based on the eldest daughter or the eldest woman that was most closely related to the previous Clan-Mother. These were a few aspects of what their societies were like, and I am not denying there were problematic aspects, but just think about how Hollywood throughout the early 1900s and US societal ignorance has stereotyped Indigenous cultures as primitive, patriarchal, and filled with rape until the white settlers came with Euro-centric values. It’s deliberate cultural genocide and a falsehood to perpetuate the idea that Indigenous cultures somehow caused the current problems of rape and murder that keep occurring. I personally do not believe that I will ever forgive myself for not recognizing these problems sooner. I don’t believe that I’ll ever forgive the national news media for continuing to falsely claim that it is due to sovereignty and not the deliberate policies that have given carte blanche access to rapists and murderers throughout the US. The US writ large imposed euro-centric, Western policies diminished Indigenous women’s rights, livelihoods, and capacity to sue for rape and murder and then blamed Indigenous communities for it. The majority of the US public likely still believe that these changes are somehow correcting some weird or quirky “tribal” problem among Indigenous communities, when the truth is that the US has committed and is still committing state-sponsored rape campaigns upon Indigenous women even now. The two earliest women’s rights advocates would later argue for a revised Christianity in which they wrongly believed that there was a universal womanhood among more “tribal” religions all across the world; modern anthropology and archaeology has debunked much of those claims, but not those of Indigenous people’s ancient history. For example, in Missouri, the ancient site of the city of Cahokia, it was found that most of the dynastic human sacrifices were due to women competing for power and fame against each other and presumably sending the men to fight over their dynastic feuds. Brutal? Yes. Showing women held dominance in society? Also, yes. Moreover, the ignorant attempt by the two originators of feminism to reinterpret Indigenous women’s cultural contributions to US society as something that all ancient societies around the world presumably had; was a form of whitewashing the unique contributions of Indigenous societies and more specifically, the Haudenosaunee confederacy. It was the chain reaction of the Haudenosaunee having dialogue, explaining their culture, sharing their culture amicably, and allowing the white women who would become the earliest feminists and feminist theorists to participate in their culture that eventually pushed for women’s advocacy reforms and changes in US law centuries later for accomplishments like women’s suffrage in the 1920s; the push for changes in US law would later influence women’s rights globally over the centuries after World War 2. The centuries of feminist theory and influence is the result of the amicable sharing of Indigenous cultural belief structures, legal systems, and social views and the only thing the US has ever given in return is dispossession, dehumanization, cultural genocide, sterilization campaigns, dumping toxic waste into the reservations forced upon them by the US government, state-sponsored campaigns of rape and murder, and legal auto-genocide. All of these reasons are why I find Sam Harris’s political views to be incredibly shallow and ill-informed; Sam Harris’s views on the superiority of Western Values is Western Triumphalism and it is a harmful belief system that still promotes genocide to this day. I say this with all sincerity, it is historically as damaging as puritanical Islamism and both are equally false and dangerous ideas that spread genocidal levels of violence, bigotry, and hate.
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