Response to EvanFirst of all, thanks for the comments, Evan. I've been meaning to respond because I both agree and disagree with you. I do not believe Harris conflates fundamentalism with a mere belief in God. In this particular quote (which I think is from another essay or article, not his first book, The End of Faith), I believe he is simply pointing out the disconnect between faith and reason. This is just as much a criticism of secular folk who refuse to question religion as it of religious folk who refuse to question anything. The disconnect is the arbitrariness with which we blindy accept religious faith in the midst of so much rationality.
If the President, or anybody for that matter, were to claim that they spoke to their hairdryer on a daily basis and that it guided them in the decisions they make, we would almost uniaminously declare this person mentally unstable. We all know our hairdryers don't communicate with usthat's absurd.
But why is it any less absurd if we take the hairdryer out of the picture? If I say I talk to God every morning and that God guides me in the decisions I make, I get special treatment (insomuch as I'm not deemed mentally ill like the man with the hairdryer). And yet, the Church of the Hairdryer rests of just a sure a footing as any other religious belief. There's no more evidence that I can speak to God than there is that you can speak to your hairdryer. (As an aside, I'm not questioning the historical fact of Jesus' existencejust the existence of God.)
In his book, Harris elaborates on the dangers of this sort of thinking (or should I say, non-thinking). When you can pull beliefs out of mid-air, you can pretty much justify anythingthings like jihad, or torture. We will never escape the stranglehold religion has on the world until we stop giving religion a free pass. What's crazy is crazy, regardless of whether is comes from a minister on Sunday morning or a drunk on Friday night.