On page 46, Harris makes an interesting remark:
"the fact that we are no longer killing people for heresy in the West suggests that bad ideas, however sacred, cannot survive the company of good ones forever."Normally I would let Biblically ignorant remarks like this slide... but let's look deeper, just to see the thought process:
- Is killing people for heresy good or bad?
But what is the Biblical position?
Assuming that heresy is rightly defined (and this will be the key point), the threat of death for heresy may bring about repentance. Also, should the heretic not repent, it will put an end to his malicious teachings (and teaching heresy is malicious). It may also give people pause before following a heretic.
As individuals, this is outside our authority. But, it is not outside government authority (Romans 13:4).
And this brings us to the reason we do not practice this today. The (proper) separation of Church and State.
As human (and thus fallible) Christians, we will disagree on some points of doctrine. Some of these disagreements are strenuous enough that we should not be under the same teaching (although we should be welcome for communion as guests). Some will call these points heresy, although we should restrict that for teachings contrary to salvation.
Also, the majority of people are not (true) Christians ("wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat").
It is not the place for the State to decide these issues (not to mention that a state run by fallen humans will be bent towards manipulation for personal gain).