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America’s Profiling Problem

Sam Harris recently wrote a blog post defending profiling. I, like most other people in the greater community of reason disagree with Harris on this point. There are two main issues that I have with profiling. First is the moral issue. People are more than their profile and it isn’t fair to single people out because of physical traits they had no control over. Second, is the obvious point that profiling just plain doesn’t work. PZ Myers made that case pretty well on his blog.

So if profiling doesn’t work, what would work? Well, I’m not a security expert, but I think aside from watching out for suspicious behavior we also should be doing more in addressing religious fundamentalism. We seem to be fighting the so called, “war on terror” with our hands tied behind out backs. Our government should be actively speaking out against religious fundamentalism. We should be making the case that religion is bunk.

Sure there will probably be political reasons to hijack a plane, but I think it takes religion to get a hijacker to crash a plane into a building ending his or her own life in the process. We live in the information age and yet we are fighting terrorists in the same manner we fought the Nazis. Armies, tanks, and fighter jets aren’t going to cut it. We have to use the power of the internet and social media to show that religion is ridiculous.

But we can’t do that, because we live in a country that is religious. We can’t set out to prove that Allah is imaginary without also proving that Yahweh is imaginary. But if we could show just how ridiculous Islam is, then we wouldn’t have to worry about profiling possible Muslim terrorists… or Christian terrorists. If we could convince the religious that religion is ridiculous and false, then our terrorism problem would all but go away.

Before I end today’s blog, I want to make a point in defense of Sam Harris. While I disagree with him on this issue of profiling, I take issue with people within the greater community of reason who are quick to label him a racist because he supports profiling. I think people throw these kinds of labels around too liberally and in doing so they are watering down the term.

When we look at actual racists, we look for a pattern of behavior. Harris doesn’t want to profile because Muslims are black, he wants to profile because Muslim fundamentalists flew planes into our buildings. While I disagree with Harris on profiling, labeling him a racist is absurd. Any generally reasonable person who does this should really be ashamed of themselves. See my blog post: The Benefit of the Doubt.

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