Whether or not Buddhism should be called Buddhism and whether it is a religion is something to doubt, however, that aside, I think it was never intended "to inform the development of civilization in the twenty-first century." The world is chaotic and it always will be. Despite of what Harris seems to want to convince us of, religion is not the cause of this. But anger and ill will is. And people in general will always have some anger, nobody is going to stop that. It would be wonderful, of course, but I personally think the Buddha didn't start to teach with the idea of a peaceful world in mind. Instead, he had a peaceful mind in the world...
This quote below also made me a bit sad to be honest. I consider Sam Harris to be a smart guy, but this is just non-sense:
Given the degree to which religion still inspires human conflict, and impedes genuine inquiry, I believe that merely being a self-described “Buddhist” is to be complicit in the world’s violence and ignorance to an unacceptable degree.
Atheïsts have also done many bad things in the past and still do. (I don't think I need to give examples) There will always be angry people fighting over something. But from all religious people I know and religious gatherings I've been through, all I know is all religions teach peace and compassion. Of course there are the exceptions, but they are called extremists for a reason. Also, when I say I'm Buddhist, people don't respond like I'm part of the world's violence and ignorance. Most -if not all- people know Buddhism is about peace & compassion. They can also think it is a religion, but luckily most people don't immediately make a link between religion and violence.
So I don't know where Harris got this idea from, other than a general fear of religion that more skeptics seem to have.. And than to reflect this general idea of religion being evil onto individual people who call themselves Buddhist.. I think I don't need to go into that to show how strange an idea that is.
To me the essay seems like an effort to strip Buddhism of it's religious aspects, which may not be bad per se, but could -on a sidenote- just as well turn into a simple everyday stress relief psychology instead of the teachings to end suffering. But mainly, the arguments used don't fit with the goal. If you want to change Buddhism, it should first of all be for Buddhism itself, not for how the outside world percieves it. Because I don't think there are a lot of problems with the latter.
Anyway, I sort of got dragged along here.