The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
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Sam Harris cranks out blunt, hard-hitting chapters to make his case for why faith itself is the most dangerous element of modern life. And if the devil's in the details, then you'll find Satan waiting at the back of the book in the very substantial notes section where Harris saves his more esoteric discussions to avoid sidetracking the urgency of his message.
Interestingly, Harris is not just focused on debunking religious faith, though he makes his compelling arguments with verve and intellectual clarity. The End of Faith is also a bit of a philosophical Swiss Army knife. Once he has presented his arguments on why, in an age of Weapons of Mass Destruction, belief is now a hazard of great proportions, he focuses on proposing alternate approaches to the mysteries of life. Harris recognizes the truth of the human condition, that we fear death, and we often crave "something more" we cannot easily define, and which is not met by accumulating more material possessions. But by attempting to provide the cure for the ills it defines, the book bites off a bit more than it can comfortably chew in its modest page count (however the rich Bibliography provides more than enough background for an intrigued reader to follow up for months on any particular strand of the author' musings.)
Harris' heart is not as much in the latter chapters, though, but in presenting his main premise. Simply stated, any belief system that speaks with assurance about the hereafter has the potential to place far less value on the here and now. And thus the corollary -- when death is simply a door translating us from one existence to another, it loses its sting and finality. Harris pointedly asks us to consider that those who do not fear death for themselves, and who also revere ancient scriptures instructing them to mete it out generously to others, may soon have these weapons in their own hands. If thoughts along the same line haunt you, this is your book.--Ed Dobeas
A startling analysis of the clash between reason and religion in the modern world. A vivid, historical tour of our willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs -- even when these beliefs inspire the worst of human atrocities.
Winner of the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction
Intelligent, and very brave There is much reason in Harris' book and I agree with many of his points. Do I pray when my loved ones are sick or dying, you bet I do?! But you have to read the book to understand the fears Harris discusses about religious zealotry, especially religions that use condemnation, damnation or hellfire to isolate and humiliate their congregations. A very intelligent book. I admire the author for his bravery in putting it forth and discussing it on talk-shows.
TEACH TOLERANCE....more info
A Sobering Message Sam Harris' book is a sobering and well-written discussion which basically outlines the evils that have been committed historically by religious people, and sets forth the threat that religion poses to our modern world. My copy of the book is heavily underlined and highlighted, and contains my hand-written comments, both in the text and in the extensive footnotes. I found myself saying "Yes!" frequently while reading it. The text is amazingly literate (although occasionally obtuse), but horrifying at the same time. I agree with Mr. Harris on almost every point he makes with regard to the ignorance, intolerance and even pure hatred that is fostered within the religions of this world. Harris makes the point that we should love one another, not because we fear the wrath of some god, but because we simply should get along, for the sake of our own survival. His arguments can sometimes be lost in philosophical discussions regarding perception, mysticism and the like, but the bottom line is clear. Although he is sharp in his criticism of both the extremists and the moderates alike, he calls for us all to work together to save ourselves. He does not think this is possible as long as we hold onto our religious beliefs, which by their nature make us enemies of one another. He effectively makes the point that, no matter what faith you adhere to, if you are true to the tenets of that faith, you MUST believe that all non-believers are doomed, and that no religion accepts acceptance, even moderate, of any other tenets. He firmly believes that, unless we make an end to faith, we are doomed to destroy ourselves. This, more than anything else, makes this book a sobering and frightening piece of work. I did get a little bogged down at the end, when he goes off into a discussion of meditation and mysticism apart from religion, but I believe that what he wanted to say was thatwe can find ways to achieve inner peace that don't require a belief in a supreme being that has control over us. I think that Mr. Harris wants us to assume responsibility for our own peace, both within and without. A fine piece of work, even with its weaknesses. A brave and thought-provoking effort on behalf of reason in a world gone mad....more info
Ultimately falls a little short. I agree with most of Harris' thesis and was sympathetic to those views of which I am not in agreement up until Harris' argument regarding moral equivalency. Of course a moral equivalency between the bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan during the Clinton administration and the events of 9/11 is an atrocious argument to make, but I think Harris betrays the intellectual justification for his entire thesis by glossing over and discounting the discussion here.
As enlightened as contemporary Christian nations may be when compared to their predecessors in centuries past, it is impossible to ignore, as it appears Harris does, the clout the idea of heaven has for American Christians. Harris implores his critics to simply take Muslims at their word and look at the motivations they espouse as justification for their actions, but then when it comes to Christianity and the West he ignores those same motivations. The implicit understanding in Christian cultures is not far off from that of the Muslims.
With the same degree of certainty as the Muslims, American Christians feel that they are justified in their transgressions against humanity so long as they can hide behind a thin veil of rationalization regarding their intentions. "We weren't trying to kill thousands of people, so killing thousands of people is ok." You see this argument repeatedly advocated by our President, the one who thinks he talks to god, and other Christian politicians and pundits. They tend to think that since our crimes are crimes of the heart rather than crimes of the mind, that we had good intentions but the result turned out bad, we should be absolved of moral responsibility. Harris makes the same argument in this book.
This arrogance and ethnocentrism leads us to pursue policies that we know will result in innocent death while providing our minds with a supposed moral disconnect from reality that allows us to believe that our crimes are not really crimes at all since we were well intentioned. All of your objections to the contrary notwithstanding, it makes no difference to the mother of a child who was killed in an air raid whether or not you intended to drop the guided bomb unit on her child's school. And then when, rather than accepting responsibility for it, you as a nation attempt to rationalize and justify this reprehensible act, you breed the hatred and contempt that is felt for the West, the United States in particular, in the Muslim world.
Although a moral equivalency does not exist, we must realize that we cannot simultaneously preach the tenants of modern liberalism/libertarianism while arrogantly spreading that ideology through force and ignoring the negative consequences of that policy simply because we are not as morally reprehensible as the other guy.
As much as I agree with most of Harris' arguments so far, his errors with respect to this topic have biased me against his subsequent contentions.
Having read Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Russell, Harris' conclusion regarding mysticism and spirituality devoid of dogmatic religious faith is what makes him stand out among the crowd. What I find most frustrating about End of Faith, even more so than the problems I mention above, is that Harris concludes with that remarkable argument, but does not do it justice. Having established that dogmatic religious faith is a detriment to human happiness, his proposal of an understanding of our existence based on empirical evidence, rather than ignorant superstition, is the most valuable contribution of this book. Compared to the extended lengths to which he goes to establish his argument against Islam, he merely glosses over the concept of Eastern mysticism and a legitimate connection to our existence that transcends petty terrestrial bickering. He sells himself short on this front. Hopefully once Mr. Harris completes his doctoral work on neuroscience he will release a follow-on title elaborating on this topic....more info
Bigotted beyond belief What is it about atheist 'intellectuals' that causes them to peddle the most crass illogical arguments and develop the debating skills of the average 12 year old when tackling religion?
They're obviously preaching to the converted when embarking on writing something like this but surely deep down their audience expects something a bit more worthwhile than this kind of smug shallowness... ...more info
Ruthless on religion - open on the reality This book is an excellent take on the absurdity of religion and its power to render a dull, mind-numbing, irrational, and uninspiring view of the universe. Even for an atheist and an aspiring physicist as me, the last chapter was truly interesting on the mystery of consciousness. The man is clear-thinking and smart as can be....more info
Stick with Daniel Dennet or Richard Dawkins This is probably one of the worst books ever written on the subject of atheisim and the end of religious faith. Harris should be taken to task on a number of issues, one, which cannot be overlooked, is his simplistic view on torture as necessary to secure vital information...Has Harris not been paying attention to the Iraq War in particular Abu Ghirab? Has he not read anything by Chalmers Johnson-someone who is more experinced than he is-on the subject of torture and information.
The other area of diagreement should be evident from Harris suggesting that people are becoming more rational and are leaving churches and religious beliefs behind them-Harris believes this is true in any religion but his own spirituality. He has consistently praised Buddhism and Hinduism while at the same time he has critised Christian teachings..I mean, I am an atheist, but this is just beyond the pale of rationality. So readers, stay with Daniel Dennett or Richard Dawkins....more info
Major religions are as recent as xiv cy? the history of religions History: Fiction or Science? (Chronology, No. 1)may look as follows: the pre-Christian period (before the XI century and JC), Bacchic Christianity (XI-XII century, before and after JC), JC Christianity (XII-XVI century) and its subsequent mutations into Orthodox Christianity, the Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, and so on.
Good start but needs more passion Sam is kind of losing his touch here. He previous books have been much more succinct than this one. The topic, lets start questioning the beliefs of religious people, is very good but Sam took too much of an academic approach and thus will not reach the general masses needed to make any real change in the world.
I really wish he could have shown a real justification for an emotional argument; for instance why blind faith is unhealthy for us all.
Sam could have taken on the "liberal establishment" more for their cowardly and uncaring assent to people's religiosity. That religion can be abusive to the person who subscribes to it is undeniable but `liberals' seem to not care about religious people for fear that those same people will confront them and their unhealthy beliefs and ways. A truly liberal person is liberal with their love and thus would care about all people enough to confront their unhealthy practices and would appreciate that same kind of caring back.
God is Dead (Again) Often bracketed with "The God Delusion", this is a better book, though fuzzy, loosely argued and (I'm guessing) hastily written. At least Harris is intelligent and open-minded enough to see the rationale of Buddhist spiritual practice: one more intuitive leap and he might understand what religion, the Sacred, has meant to the majority of the human race.
Shame he wastes so much space on fashionable but silly anti-Muslim tirades. The reader should try going through and replacing the word "Muslim" with "Jew", and "Islam" with "Judaism", and see if it still looks acceptable, or even printable. Yet the Hebrew Bible contains at least as many exhortations to violence as the Qur`an; and Jews were "terrorists" too until they achieved their political objectives (anyone remember?) Harris never stops to wonder Why people adopt extreme beliefs: dismissing your opponents as stupid or brainwashed is a game anyone can play, and too easy to be much fun.
Muslim compose one quarter of the world's population. It is well-known that in North America and Europe there are hateful, violent White Supremacist, racist, Fascist and neo-Nazi groups. No-one ever thinks to judge all Westerners on this basis. Why then are we so strongly encouraged to vilify all Muslims because of similar minorities?
Harris should devote a couple of months to reading the Muslim saints and sages: R?m?, `Attar, Sana'?, Sa`d?, Jam?, Suhraward?, Shabistar?, `Iraq?, Ibn `Arab?, Ibn al-Farid, al-Hallaj, al-Makk?, Ibn `Ata'illah, etc, etc, etc. The Islamic tradition is second to none, its spiritual writings astonishing in quantity and quality, uniquely poetic and life-affirming. But Buddhism should already have taught him that beliefs based on fear and hatred are always wrong....more info
Good but Flawed My sister (an atheist) gave me (a practicing Catholic) this book and asked me to read it. She said someone at a bookstore thrust it upon her, practically begging her to read it and write a review of it. "No one reads this book," he said, "but everyone should!" My sister doesn't have time to write reviews so she gave it to me. (That's her story and she's sticking to it.)
I have to admit, it's a lot better read than "The God Delusion," which I just finished struggling through. Harris is not as angry as Dawkins, and he has a solid background in philosophy, which is conspicuously absent in Dawkins' works. (In their own ways, they're both very good writers, actually, but Dawkins' anger really turned me off.) Harris is erudite, often open-minded, humorous and has a gift for language. He also addresses many of the counterarguments to atheism.
That said, this book has glaring lapses in rationality. Harris is a good thinker on relatively small-scale matters but comes to bizarre conclusions on the big stuff. He's very good transmitting what he's learned about philosophy and neurobiology, but in regards to human history, either his knowledge is spotty, or he wears blinders when he reads. He asserts religion is an almost-altogether evil influence and must be abolished if the human race is to survive. He provides lots of evidence of the evils of religion: the Spanish Inquisition, of course, and the Holocaust (which, though Hitler called Christianity a religion of weaklings was, according to Harris, Christianity's fault because it encouraged Antisemitism). He spends a lot of time on Islamic terrorism. But for every example he raises, another one clearly could be found of religion's good effects: the brokering of peace (the Pope, Jimmy Carter, etc.); the protection of the defenseless (the Jesuits in the New World, etc.); the grass-roots works done by religion in inner-city schools, soup kitchens, hospitals, clinics, leper colonies....
Harris argues that the few good things religious people do is not due to religion's effect on them: that they would still do good if religion didn't exist. So religion gets full credit for its failures and no credit for its successes? Not exactly rational or fair.
The religionist's reply to the Spanish Inquisition example has always been that, in the 20th century, far more innocent people were murdered by atheists (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Mussolini) than by religionists. I give credit to Harris for naming this objection, but his reply is inadequate, to my mind. He says that Stalin and Mao created movements that were religion-like. In other words, these atheist movements were capable of evil because they were really religious movements. But isn't that argument fallacious? Couldn't he, using this method, label anything that weakened his argument "religion"?
And what about other examples of atheist violence? Marat, who perpetrated the September Massacre during the French Revolution? the Hebertists during the same? These men clearly had little creed other than, perhaps, anarchy. And what about the Bolshevik terrorists? Wasn't the word "terrorism" first used during the French Revolution and then coined during the Russian?
Do we now have to relabel the international worker's movement a "religion"? Maybe we should just condemn all gatherings of people (other than at universities, of course).
I remain entirely unconvinced that the world would be a better place without religion. Being religious is an aspect of being human. It's a tool for good or evil, depending on how we exercise our (God-given) free will. You could just as easily argue that art should be abolished because of what the Manson family got out of the song "Helter Skelter"; or the human family because of child and spousal abuse; or even science, because of global warming, Bhopal and Chernobyl, the ozone layer, antibiotic-resistent germs, the dangers of cloning,...
Harris also seems to have some quite odd ideas on other matters. On page 52 - 53, he seems to say that it is okay to kill someone for having dangerous ideas. Could it be that I misread that? But what about pages 192 - 199, where he argues for the morality of torture? or pages 199 - 203, where he writes that pacifism, on the other hand, is immoral? and the long section (pp. 158 - 164) in which he shows complete disdain for opponents to the legalization of drugs - surely a debatable issue? - and blames drugs'illegality on, irrationally but not surprisingly, religion's influence on our society.
At the end of the book, Harris offers his substitution for religion and his cure for the evils of the world: mindfulness meditation. He praises Eastern religions for having invented it and suggests that, if we adopt it, we'll find happiness and become more empathetic and, therefore, more moral. (He seems to see no problem, by the way, in reaching these states by using hallucnogens. Ever study the Mayan and Aztecan civilizations, Harris? They took a lot of hallucinogens, too, and were really into human sacrifice. A connection there? Possibly?)
I myself meditate in the yogic sense as well as pray in the old-fashioned, Christian sense. But if meditation works so well, and the East has had access to it for thousands of years, why isn't the East a happier place? How did Mao, Pol Pot, the Japanese Empire, etc., rise to power? And there are many reports that life in some monasteries and ashrams is often no more admirable than in some of their western counterparts.
I have a lot more to say but, alas, no room. I would recommend this book to others, as long as they're capable of questioning what they read.
Okay, Sis, I've written my review. And I've got a few books to send your friend in reply: William James' "The Will to Believe" and "The Varieties of Religious Experience": Stephen Jay Gould's "Rock of Ages"; Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamasov"; and a historical movie: Anchor Bay's "Amazing Grace." I wonder if your friend will read (and watch) them?
No Matter What Your Position On Faith, This Is A Very Important Book. The issues and questions raised by Harris in this excellent book are significant and need to be studied with an open mind and in a spirit of dialogue. Defensiveness and outrage has too frequently been the response from religious readers who find his book disturbing because his arguments are so cogent, urgent and deeply challenging.
Disturbing as many religious readers may find Harris's book, it is a book that they need to read over and over again for the following reasons: Believers accept religious beliefs with little question or thought, many religious beliefs are abusive, and God is more often than not depicted in sacred texts as a temperamental, genocidal tyrant. Harris does a first class job of documenting his points from Jewish and Christian scriptures, the Qur'an and Hindu scriptures. Religious beliefs are not beyond the scope of rational discourse, in spite of the fact that many liberals and conservatives seem to believe that they are. Whenever religious leaders make statements like "if God does not exist, there is no basis for moral or ethical standards," a claim that is easily refuted, they only prove the point.
Harris has other points to make about religion in general and monotheism in particular that religious people need to pay very close attention to. Monotheism, by definition, sets up angry disagreements between people that often end in violence that is sanctioned by sacred texts and promoted by religious and political leaders. To prove his point, Harris makes reference to over one thousand references in Jewish and Christian scriptures that promote religiously sanctioned violence. People who are not associated with our God are called infidels, unbelievers who can be and are frequently killed. Blaise Pascal said way back in the Seventeenth Century that "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." Sadly this is still all too true, and is all too often promoted by religious and political leaders who appear happy to lead their followers and citizens into the violence of war. And with the weapons available today, this is more dangerous than it has been for a very, very long time.
Religious beliefs must be subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny as any other beliefs, and if they make no sense or are abusive, they need to be changed or eliminated. If they make sense, then believers need to show how they make sense, how they are helpful and useful, and how are they practiced.
On the subject of deity, Harris sees the concept as unnecessary, and I agree with him, at least insofar as that concept has been defined and described in much of scripture. As he so aptly puts it on page 226 in the paperback edition of his book, "we know enough at this moment to say that the God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man." As blasphemous as this may sound to most religious believers, the statement is true. Think about it, a person described in the terms used to describe God in Jewish scripture, and in the Book of Revelation in Christian scripture would likely be adjudicated as a violent psychopath and jailed or committed to a hospital for the criminally insane.
Sam Harris is a very lucid and compassionate man. I think we need to listen carefully to what he has to say.
Good, interesting, but untidy. I've read, if you wish the Big Four authors, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. They have recently been called the New Atheists, I've read them because I also want to have a widest and most informed possible view, and it is really interesting to see the twist that each of these authors bring to the table.
I have found the three first authors to be exceptional, and I would highly recommend their books.
But the review is on this book, "The End of Faith". Whereas general view of the book is rather good, most of the arguments are quite sound, but to be honest after reading other books related to this subject I have found this the most untidy. It is untidy in that I did not really appreciate or see a straight forward thought structure in the book.
I might not be very bright, although there might be others that differ, but I could not find any apparent single thread to be followed simply through the book. One might say that the subject is not simple.
Before reading the book I had listened to Mr. Harris for many hours in his speeches, it is amazing how his written narrative reflects his style of speech. You are often kept aloof waiting for natural flow of speech which suddenly interrupts itself while he gathers his thoughts or drinks some water.
The book is however apparently very well researched, the amount of notes and references is impressive, and he must be commended on that topic, contrasting to Mr. Hitchens, who in his book "God is no Great", does not include references apart from a general, albeit seemingly thorough, bibliography.
Mr. Harris brings to the table interesting insights from his studies in neuroscience, which I believe are invaluable, they will no doubt be even more valid once he obtains his Doctor's degree in the subject, for which I humbly encourage him do to do so.
I feel though however that his written style could be more interesting if it were more self-sustaining. The amount of notes is so extensive as to account for almost a quarter if not a third of the book.
The other interesting themes that are also boarded, which are not dealt with in depth by the other mentioned authors, are the subjects of illegal drugs and narcotics as well as spiritual experience as in the situations he describes in oriental meditation. Things which I believe, especially concerning drugs are higher on his personal agenda, that what I think has to do with faith.
The book is good, but I would read the books of other authors first.
Anti-theism without explicit atheism plus 9/11 causation revealed Although he doesn't say so, Harris appears to be an atheist, most certainly in the sense that he does not believe in any traditional gods although towards the end of this book he seems to ascribe to the mysticism of consciousness in a manner consistent with eastern Buddhism. However Harris seems to assert a physical understanding of that phenomenon but maybe open to a naturalistic possibility of something more than just this life. What he is vehemently opposed to is the idea that ancient religions of the monotheistic persuasion have any clue about... well anything. Moreover he thinks them extremely dangerous to the point that they could well be the downfall of Homo sapiens.
This book is a response from secularism to the events of 9/11 and then some more. Harris identifies that the war is not a war on terror but a war of belief. Lots of people still don't realize that the reasons why the terrorists did what they did, is because of their belief of going to heaven while everyone else they kill goes to hell. He shows why some Muslims think this is a blessed thing (suicide bombings are called sacred bombings by the news media of some Muslims nations) and how the extremism coupled with nuclear weapons is our worst nightmare and their dream.
Harris looks at religions in terms of people acting on what they believe. He shows why religions are logically incoherent and the detrimental effects this has on otherwise rational people. He goes out of his way to show that education (lots of terrorists have attended university) does not solve this problem. He sees the trouble of extremism as religion manipulating sanity to produce insane people. Harris thinks that even moderates need to abandon religion because they just fuel fundamentalism by even being there.
He goes through the history of the inquisition, witch hunts and anti-Semiticism. He then turns to Islam and offers a very brave critique of it. People should support Sam Harris for that chapter alone. Not since Rushdie has there been anything even remotely like it. He surprisingly does a criticism of Chomsky that will have many people thinking if the great Chomsky has his causations in order.
After this Harris begins to deal with the problem of ethics and morality without traditional religion, what it means and fairly outlines the problems secularism is faced with on this issue. He uncovers that victimless crimes have a religious bases, not a logical one. Some American members of the government and judiciary are revealed as very irrational fundamentalists.
Harris presents us with dilemmas that face us today such as pacifism in the face of terrorist threats, torture and collateral damage. This again deals with ethics but from a political moral perspective absent of religion. He ends the book with an outlook to the explanation of consciousness for a better world.
With The End of Faith Harris takes the idea that anti-theism is always liberal and shoves it out the airlock. You could mistake him for George Bush if it wasn't for his passages on victimless crimes like homosexuality, recreational drug use and stem-cell research. He reveals the causation of 9/11 without the political correctness. Islam is clearly defined as a dangerous enemy to humanity. There is no cooperative deal in the offering between religion and secularism. Religion must go at all costs. He makes lots of suggestions from philosophy and couples them with political energy.
The End of Faith packs a whopping punch and maybe the hardest anti-theist book around. It is one of the most controversial books I have ever read and renders many contemporary books on atheism harmless in comparison. How it does this is by using the KISS principle. Bible like objects can cause people to murder others. There is no way around this for Harris, just turn the pages of any scripture, really believe it and you are a potential catalyst for an apocalypse walking on two legs. Do we disbelieve Harris at our peril? I think Harris has made an outstanding case for anti-theism and even a post 9/11 wakeup call for those who didn't get the message the first time around. Islam is at war with you.
Not since Rushdie...
Well edited, kept short and on topic
Demonstrates the problem of religion
Limited freedom of speech and thought as a solution to the problem of religious extremists
Really advocates circumstances for the use of torture (2005 Abu Ghraib shows the problem with this view and is the reason why this book gets docked a star)
The possibility of benign Monotheists are rejected...more info
hard hitting advocacy I knew what to expect but was taken aback by what seems
a rather vitriolic way of making the author's point.
The examples of the horrors of what faith can do are extreme and they leave no space for the reader to recall that faith has also done a lot of good things over the centuries.
Still, it is a good review of what tends to be forgotten,namely how much religion has held back progress, and how difficult it is for a religious person to reconcile dogma with objective reality.
This book fills a crying need, but it takes a strong stomach to read it. Without the authors intention it could come across as another way of being dogmatic....more info
Zealotry is absurd, particularly from an atheist. As a non-believer, I share most of the arguments made by Harris in this book. But having been brought up a catholic, the first thing that strikes me in this book is Harris' lack of knowledge about the subject he's attacking. If you wish to attack the catholic faith, you can ask a catholic about what is it they believe. For this reason, I can't take his assertions about Islam seriously either. His direct attacks on particular faiths seem more a matter of zealotry, and an indication that Mr. Harris seems to take atheism as a faith in itself. Will we be seeing a Church of Universal Atheism or the like sometime soon?
The book also shows a very ugly side of Atheism in Mr. Harris' justification of the Bush Doctrine, especially the "War on Terror". He seems to have drunk the Kool-aid: War on a tactic?. How can a rational thinker as Mr. Harris likes to present himself buy this propaganda, not much different from the religious irrationality he so fervently attacks in the book? Are we supposed to replace one faith with another one?
He twists a naturalist argument to oppose pacifism and to justify and at some moments, even applaud the use of torture. Certainly, Harris is preaching a new faith, just as intolerant as the other ones.
If you are a non-believer looking for great thinkers on the subject, you'll do better avoiding the likes of Harris and of Christopher Hitchens. Atheism does not ned to be a faith, and much less, a unified one.
Must Read I recommend reading "Letter to a Christian Nation" as well. It is a quick one day read and really highlights the inconsistencies and hatred brought about as part of organized religions....more info
Grappling with the Extremes of Faith This is a deeply engaging book; one that I wasn't able to quit reading until the last page. Harris argues coherently, logically and -- unlike many recent books that are critical of western religion --'compassionately.' The author takes on conservative, fundamentalist forms of religion, and argues that we are at a cross-roads; that we have allowed so many malignant forms of religion to flourish in our midst -- under the guise of protecting religion from criticism -- that we are now in danger of losing our freedom.
While many writers critical of religion argue from a solely intellectual and logical standpoint, often seeming detached from religion and cerebral, Harris engages the reader ethically, emotionally and -- dare I say it -- 'spiritually' -- without muddying his train of thought or the stringency of his arguments. Harris' line of thought takes him into some hard places -- some of which will be easily misconstrued by some readers -- and while being thoroughly reasonable and logical, shows a degree of compassionate consideration of the issues that other writers simply don't evince.
The implied critique of the three monotheistic western religions in this book is devastating; in human terms. Complementing his razor-sharp negative assessment of religion, however, is a positive rhetoric about "spirituality." Unlike many of his fellow atheists, Harris seems to understand that there is something to the experiences human beings have had while practicing certain spiritual disciplines such as meditation. He allows for what I have long called a "naturalistic" mysticism; an experience of the mystery of the universe, within us and beyond us. He makes a plea for love and the whole of ethics being grounded in our biological nature, as an outgrowth of our evolutionary development, and seems to urge that while we need to outgrow religion, our sense of meaning, our ethical nature and our sense of wonder must be attended to and given a ground in science and human experience, without all of the supernatural and metaphysical rigmarole.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to come to terms with the dangers of religion (the kind that has been for too long left to its own devices in this country and has thus been allowed to mutate into forms that endanger the rest of us and that diminish the value of religion overall). Such a person might also need to be open to spirituality and mysticism without the need for a veil of superstition, in order not to be irked by certain passages. The author poses some hard questions, strikes out toward some equally hard answers; his positions are not always easily swallowed, and some of his opinions may need critiqued -- from one vantage or another -- yet this book is not one that you will walk away from without deep reflection and some hard thinking; i.e., it will be a spiritually as well as an ethically and intellectually rewarding read....more info
Fun but not profound While I truly enjoyed The End of Faith, it pales in intellectual clarity compared to David Eller's Natural Atheism. While Mr. Eller's book isn't as easy to read, it is infinitely more relevant for our time. Read Natural Atheism and you won't need to spend (waste) any more time discussing childish religions such as Christianity and Islam. ...more info
Brilliantly written, but sophomoric If you knew nothing about either Christianity or modern Judaism you might be susceptible to the glib argument in this book. It is only because most Jews and Christians have not read the Old Testament that is the foundation of their faith, says Harris, that they are able to continue to believe in sanitized versions of God and the law that they learned as children, which are the only versions of the book that could continue to appeal to 21st century moderns. If we would just read the book, its true awfulness and ridiculousness would become apparent to us. Harris quotes lengthy sections of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to make us aware of just how horrible the book is. As to Judaism, Harris seems unaware of the fact that the tiny, fringe strand of Judaism that believed in the literal word of the Old Testament unmitigated by any rabbinic interpretation - Karaism - has almost entirely died out. Mainstream Judaism is rabbinic Judaism, dependent much more heavily on the rabbis' evolving oral interpretation of the law than on the literal word of the Bible. No one practices the religion of Leviticus. As to Christians, the Old Testament law is essentially irrelevant, having been superseded by the new covenant. The fact that Harris is way out of his depth not only theologically but morally and historically is made clear in his discussion of anti-Semitism, where he states that it is the "truth" that Jews "have brought their troubles upon themselves" because of their "unreasonable beliefs," including their "refusal to assimilate," their "insularity" and the "professed superiority of their religious culture." Judaism, he says, is "intrinsically divisive," as well as "ridiculous in its literalism," and "at odds with the civilizing insights of modernity." (pp. 93-94). These are strange assertions in a book that strongly urges us not to bow the "demon of relativism" (p. 178) and to impose an objective ethical standard on the beliefs of others. The true depth of Harris' banality becomes apparent in his breathless description of Eastern religion as the source of all wisdom. He presents as a "rigorously empirical document" that "cannot" be matched by "even the contemporary literature on consciousness" (p. 217) this 7th century Eastern tome: "when your mind remains in its own condition without constructing anything... only a naked manifest awareness is present... without any duality of clarity and emptiness. It is not permanent and yet it is not created by anything. However, it is not a mere nothingness... because it is lucid and present." Etc., etc. "Rigorously empirical"? Harris' judgment is off on so much in this book that I am not allowing myself to accept his other arguments, no matter how lucidly presented....more info
The best discussion of fundamental problems with faith If you want to read only one book related to faith and atheism, read this one. There is no other book that I have read which so clearly and eloquently illustrates the fundamental nature and problems with faith as an instrument for enforcing ignorance, bigotry and clan mentality. Religious faith is the most pernicious kind, but Harris nails the bizarre nature of all kinds of dogmatic faith that makes especially religious people believe in things they otherwise would never believe without evidence. Religious faith causes a strange and instant mental severing from reality that has been approved in society. Harris also talks about why "religious tolerance" is a utopian myth and how religion by its very nature cannot really be "tolerant" in the true sense of the word; on the other hand, Harris also makes it clear that some religions are more rigid than others and needless to say he focuses on Islam as one of the most rigid ones. In future chapters, Harris also distinguishes between religion and spirituality, the latter being open-minded while the former is essentially close-minded faith without evidence and further questioning. Harris is trained in neuroscience and explores psychological aspects of faith not found in other volumes. This is a fantastic book, one which is astonishingly insightful and revealing about the basic nature of faith. It should be required reading for anyone who is concerned about the future of reason, tolerance and free inquiry....more info
A good quick read on the issues surrounding the dangers of faith. This book read more as a primer for the subject of faith as a weapon. It covered the dangers related to faith directed education and revolved primarily around the extremist muslim faith and the impact that sectarian dogmatism plays when allowed to expand unchecked. There was great emphasis to keep the focus not far from the risks inherent in government regulated faith as well as the issues surrounding the schism in the US with regards to the political and theistic "wedge" being driven into the US society by potentially dangerous extremist dogmatic fanatics....more info
Great read, scary world. This book is very well written and critically analyzed, containing mountains of information and direct quotes from the bible and koran. For all that have written negative reviews to this book, and those were the only reviews I read after finishing this book, you are the people of the belief systems this book warns against. This is a great book for those that aspire to be free thinking people.
A review of a different sort... After nearly 800 reviews, there's just not much more that can be said about the content of this book. I personally found it thought-provoking and refreshing. I'd like to review it from another point of view, that of readability.
Of course, the book is readable in the vocabulary and sentence structure sense. It is an academically rigorous book, so the demands on the reader are quite high. However, any moderately educated person should be able to get through it and understand the argument it presents.
Unfortunately, the book is a perfect example of a trend I've noticed recently. Part of its academic seriousness derives from its structure. The 237 pages of text are followed by 62 pages of notes and 28 pages of bibliography. The bibliography is very welcome, because it allows any interested reader not only to check the author's facts, but to trace his argument back through the sources. The bibliography suggests many months of reading on this subject.
It's the notes that bother me. They total more than 25% of the length of the text, and they are not really "notes" in the sense that most of us were taught research-based writing. That is, they don't specify the page numbers of quotations and the like. Rather, they are mostly just added text. The question is, why didn't Harris simply add the paragraph or two in each note into the body of the text? As it is, reading the book is a process of reading a paragraph, flipping back to the notes to read the extra text that belongs with the paragraph, returning to the text, and so on. I found it increasingly annoying as I read on. Harris is certainly not alone in structuring his book this way, and it's a trend that I wish no one were following.
In summary, I thought the book was very valuable and well worth reading. Agree or disagree with Harris, the reader will have much to consider after reading his argument. However, I found reading the book to be an annoying chore due to its structure....more info
A Bit Soft This was one of the first books I read on religious fundamentalism and I enjoyed it. A lot. This is a good starting point before tackling some of the harder stuff like Breaking the Spell or God is Not Great. Those books are aimed at an already secular audience, while End of Faith is a little bit friendlier. Still I don't like all the crazy meditation stuff at the end. Otherwise it is great....more info
Sam Harris presages Sarah Palin. Sam Harris writes: "In our next presidential election, an actor who reads his Bible would almost certainly defeat a rocket scientist who does not." If Stephen Prothero is correct in his book "Religious Literacy", which concludes that Americans are illiterate about their own religion, then any "implicit" presidential requirement of reading the Bible would seem superfluous. Prothero, a professor of Religion, writes that Americans are undeniably religious but also profoundly illiterate about their own religion.
The only thing alarming about Mr. Harris's book is that he actually had to write it. Take a gander at this little pearl (for example): http://infonomics.infonomx5.com/evolution/evolution.asp (scroll down for source). Embarrassing. Now consider Sherri Shepherd of "The View". Explain to me how a person can reach middle-age and be uncertain about the curvature of the earth (she does not know if its flat or not) yet resolute about the inadequacy of Darwin's theory of evolution. Explain to me how you can connect with a populace when the preponderance of Christians not only do not read about their own God but they also seem to be unabashedly untroubled by it. Explain to me how to promote reason to an electorate that supports a creationist with silly syllogisms such as: Sarah Palin is the governor of Alaska. Alaska is close to Russia. Therefore, Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience. Lest you dismiss this neo-logic as mere political rhetoric, note the increase in the Republican campaign crowds since Sarah Palin's arrival. Forgive my cynical mood, but I used to be alarmed that Americans did not think; now, I am fearful that they do.
Sam Harris presaged Sarah Palin. If she insist on invoking God's name to support military action, then she must bear the burden of proving God's existence. Buy the book and support reason before Sarah Palin nukes it.
He goes a little twinkle ding dong at the end I bought this at the airport on a whim and read it before I returned home. Most of the book is an intelligent argument about the dangers of faith, how it can lead people to do unspeakable things. For example, if you have total faith that if you blow yourself up killing infidels you and your entire family will go to heaven, then to do so would be completely rational. Obviously, Islam isn't the only religion subject to this critique. The end of the book gets a little mystical for me though. While the author is still grounded (sort of) in science, he just goes on and on about a few twinkle ding dong ideas that end up as a boring digression....more info
So should we bomb Iran? "Harris pointedly asks us to consider that those who do not fear death for themselves, and who also revere ancient scriptures instructing them to mete it out generously to others, may soon have these weapons in their own hands."
So I wonder if Harris is in favor of a pre-emptive military strike on Iran? If so, then he's just like the fanatical Christian George W. Bush. I hope his faith in reason offers some realistic ideas on how to deal with people whose faith is in God....more info
Thoughtful and timely This book is about the dangers of religion and "faith" in the modern world. It does a bangup job of pointing out glaring problems not just with religious fundamentalism, but with religious beliefs of all persuasions and degrees. It might be difficult to get a religious person to read this all the way through, but they should. It raises questions that every religious person should be forced to reckon with. And if their "faith" can't survive close examination, well then it seems to me that it ain't really all they make it out to be, eh?
If I were to start up another book group, this would be the first one to read.
Some gems from the book thusfar:
"To be ruled by ideas for which you have no evidence (and which therefore cannot be justified in conversation with other human beings) is generally a sign that something is seriously wrong with your mind. Clearly, there is sanity in numbers."
"Should Muslims really be free to believe that the Creator of the universe is concerned about hemlines?"
"Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world, because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed."
"There is, of course, much that is wise and consoling and beautiful in our religious books. But words of wisdom and consolation and beauty abound in the pages of Shakespeare, Virgil, and Homer as well, and no one ever murdered strangers by the thousands because of the inspiration he found there. The belief that certain books were written by God (who, for reasons difficult to fathom, made Shakespeare a far better writer than himself) leaves us powerless to address the most potent source of human conflict, past and present."
Be wary of some of those who are on your side. As others have said, this book suffers from the "destroy the village in order to save it" mentality that mirrors the attitudes of Harris' religious adversaries. He can rationalize his reverse intolerance any way he likes, but that's what it is.
Like it or not, we secular humanists gain nothing by adopting the narrow tactics of religious extremists in responding to them. One makes common cause with one's ideological opponents as best one can---and sometimes that can't be done when the gulf is too wide. And sometimes it can. And that's how the world works.
Diatribes like Harris' are, at best, distractions from trying to find those places of common accord, and a humanist jihad is NOT what secular humanists should be aspiring to....more info
There are better works by nonbelievers out there Harris claims that religious faith is the cause of most violence, therefore faith needs to be undermined and eliminated. He claims that communism and Nazism were a lot like religion, so religion, not secularism was the real cause of these 20th century atrocities. There may be something to that but I don't see a lot of religious people being convinced.
First off, Harris is so angry and extreme he really will turn off most believers. Harris and people like him have created the unfortunate image of the angry atheist. As an agnostic myself, I think people like this are doing more harm to their cause than good. They preach to the choir and create a backlash against all nonbelievers (1 in 6 Americans). Guy Harrison, author of 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in God is both respectful of believers but also gives them food for thought. You can convince people of faith without looking down on and attacking them.
For all his attacks on faith, Harris has a soft spot for Buddhism. In his view, Islam is a bad religion, Buddhism a good one. Julia Sweeney, in Letting Go of God, concluded that the Buddhism we have in the US (she says California) has been "cleaned up." She talked about a visit to Bhutan. Seven year old second born sons are sent to live in monasteries. They have no choice in this. She praised a woman in Thailand who cared for a deformed boy. Sweeney referred to the "poor boy." The woman told her not to call him a poor boy because he must have done something terrible in a past life to have been born like this. There is no good religion; only good interpretations.
In his coverage of Islam, I felt that Harris was either completely dishonest or completely ignorant. Or perhaps a bit of both. For example, he says that Muslims blindly follow the Koran and aren't capable of selectively following their faith the way members of other religions do. This is completely untrue. Out of dozens of Muslim countries, only a few follow strict Sharia Law (stonings, cutting off hands, etc.) I know a lot of Muslims and they all selectively follow their faith. I talked to a few Muslims who told me that they only learned the good parts of the Koran at school. They said it was only when they came to America that they learned about its controversial verses. I have talked to a lot of Muslims who explain away, not embrace, the controversial aspects of their faith.
Harris also claims that if given the chance to elect their own leaders, Muslims will always choose Islamic extremists. But Muslim nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia have never elected Islamic radicals to national office. All have elected women as prime ministers. Radicals may win some seats in Parliament or a regional election but never national office. When Islamic radicals have been elected it has often been because secular governments were considered to be failures or oppressive. This would be the case in Gaza or Algeria in the 90s. The Islamic Revolution in Iran came about because of the brutality of the secular Shah. Many objective observers of the Islamic world blame the failure of secular government for the explosion of radical Islam. Mosques became the centers of opposition to these governments.
Harris believes that almost all Muslims are a crazy bunch of lunatics out to destroy the west. So, Harris actually supports the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear strike. He has so convinced himself that religious radicals will bring about the end of the world that he proposes the mass murder of Muslims, Christians, Jews, unbelievers, men, women, children, babies and fetuses in the Muslim world as a real possibility. By holding views very similar to Bin Laden's he actually undermines his own thesis. Even a secular atheist can hold extreme, violent views and would be willing to carry out the mass killing of innocents because of what he deems to be a threat to his way of life.
It is unfortunate that someone like Harris has become a "spokesperson" for nonbelievers. I recommend Guy Harrison's 50 Reasons and Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God instead. They are intelligent, non-offensive and most importantly nonviolent arguments for nonbelief. Taner Edis and Tawfik Hamid have interesting books about issues in Islam.
Muddled and Befuddled Despite the appalling wrongness of this book, there is something rather appealing about Sam Harris. He is so sincere and full of good - well, good faith. It is surely a bizarre irony that his most attractive quality is the one thing he is trying to attack. But that is, apparently, the kind of guy Harris is: blisteringly sincere, surprisingly honest, and totally confused. Despite disagreeing totally with most of what he says, I feel that I would like him if I met him.
The problem he has set himself is to try to make sense of current events, particularly 9/11 and the terrorist problem generally. Unfortunately, his solution is no solution at all. And I'm sure that he has inklings of how wrongheaded it all is, despite his determination to see it through to the end.
He is clear in his own mind about what he believes: he thinks the greatest problem in the world is "unjustified belief", which leads people to do terrible things. But this only leads to the problem of defining what is unjustified, and ultimately all he can do is fall back on the usual non-explanation: that anyone who believes anything different from what he believes is unjustified. What he believes, of course, is what he has grown up with: the typical grab bag of "liberal" attitudes and misunderstandings we have all seen a thousand times before. It is the same belief system that has been kicking around for the last 40 years, except that the liberals of that age would never have condemned Communism the way he does. At least he is honest enough to see that the problem with the Communists (and the Nazis) was that they passionately believed that what everyone else believed was wrong. His one blind spot is that he can't see how passionately he himself believes the same thing.
Of course he has no solution, other than the "end of faith" that he announces in his title. The way out of our current mess is for us all to stop believing, or at least to stop believing strongly; but since he can't even practice that himself, how can he expect everyone else to do it?
It is simply in the nature of us humans to believe, and to act on our beliefs. The challenge for all of us is to make sure that our beliefs are true. Sam Harris obviously realizes this, but having made his stand on the "end of faith", he can only get himself into a mess.
Most of the details of this book are pretty forgettable. It is the same litany of accusation, without bothering to analyze the issues seriously, that characterizes the current wave of atheist literature. Except that Harris does not appear to suffer from the arrogance that characterizes the rest of the movement.
And that honesty of his keeps getting him into trouble. While the rest of the unbelievers are content to hold contradictory attitudes, he has a disturbing habit of looking a little more deeply into things and seeing at least some of the contradictions. His criticisms of relativism, pragmatism and pacifism are in fact excellent - well thought-out and completely logical. And I could scarcely believe it when I found him justifying George Bush! If he only keeps on with this habit of logical examination, he will probably work himself out of his confusion. He may even find himself becoming a Christian....more info
It actually worked! I had been a Christian for 20 years - the evangelical sort. When I ceased to believe that the bible was the word of God, I did not give up on the existence of God altogether. I checked out liberal Christianity, and still hoped to be some sort of theist. I read an awful lot, and most books do not change my mind on a subject single handedly. But Sam's book did, because it is thorough, and excellently argued. I admit that when I was an evangelical I probably would've been too close minded to consider what he had to say. I think you have to know that your fundamentist beliefs aren't as "clear and established" as you think before you can give Sam a fair hearing. But I could be wrong even about that. He is persuasive, compelling, and overall, I'd say, correct. So I would recommend this book to anyone, fundamentalist, theist, or atheist.
Michael Tenenbaum, Author - Blessed Assurance? A Demonstration that Christian Fundamentalism is Simply False. Expanded - Limited Edition....more info
the end of faith a must read for all who care about our and the planets future. hopefully reason will prevail....more info
A Must Read Book For Those Who Stand-Up For Religion (Islam in particular) This book is a must read. I encourage everybody who apologizes for every religion (especially Islam) to read Sam Harris. I found Chapter 3 to be most entertaining; it's called, "The problem with Islam." Harris provides a long list of quotes from the "religion of peace."
I encourage everybody to buy this book, read it, and then pass it to a friend or family member. If you've got any questions, please email me at the below email address. Thanks!
From a former christian What I liked most about this book was the discuss on religious moderates. I once was a devout believer who took serious everything in the bible , it was quite an experience. The deeper my devolution grew the more difficult it became to live in the real world. I began to see satan in everything; education was evil because they taught evolution which contracted the bible; pop culture values demeaned the traditionalist lifestyle and even my parents rejected strict conformity to christianity. I struggled mightily between rational understanding and religious practice, and I was going insane. I began judging others and myself in accordance to strict fundamentalist religiosity which caused difficulties in all my relationships and took me out of mainstream society. This lifestyle had an enormous emotional and mental cost however I eventually came to the understanding the any belief in the supernatural is ill-rational. The End of Faith makes the point that religious moderates ignores these realities of dogma and in doing so support fundamentalism. We now live in a time where radicals such as I was can access dangerous technologies to destroy cities for their apostasy, as a former militant evangelical I say this is something we all should be concern about. It is my hope that this book furthers that consideration....more info
Best Book Ever my title says it all. this is the best book ever written; I absolutely love it. It questions such important ideas, and I agree with every sentence of the book. ...more info
Everyone should read this book!! I don't normally write book reviews, even for books I enjoy. However, after having read "The End of Faith", as well as many of the reviews of it, I just HAD to recommend it. Apart from being an excellent writer, Mr. Harris' logic is so sharp and compelling, so utterly brilliant that I read most of it in absolute awe.
None of the more negative reviews that have questioned his arguments have been in the least bit convincing, in fact, most seem to miss the point entirely. One reviewer mentioned all the good that is done by religious organizations and all the evil committed by atheists as though Mr. Harris doesn't even address these issues (which he does).
The End of Faith is not just an argument against religion. It is an argument against FAITH. Blind, unverifiable, faith, in anything. This is why he mentions The Holocaust and other atrocities committed by "atheists". These people may not have believed in religion, but they're evil acts were committed as a result of unverifiable, illogical beliefs, that have a firm background in religious premises none-the-less. Furthermore, while many religious organizations do help others, public service and helping others would still occur even without faith, and for better reasons.
In the end, this book makes so much sense that it's scary. This is probably why so many people of faith have found it so threatening. If you have even the slightest interest in the future of our species, please do yourself of a favor and read this book. ...more info
Disappointing work I like to consider myself an athiest/agnostic. I bought this book thinking that it would be an interesting read. I did not like it- though he is correct that conflicts in the name of religion has caused many of the great wars in Western civilization and prior civilizations. I did not like his analysis of Islam- it used the typical fearmongering techniques that you see in the mainstream press. Most Muslims are normal people with ordinary lives and although he mentions this, he creates the idea that it is up to Western Civilization to rid of Islam due to association with terrorism. Does this author even understand why there is terrorism in the first place? It has little to do with the Islamic faith but everything to do with lack of opportunity, resources, and exploitation by western powers. Yet, Mr. Harris fails to take this into consideration. He considers Islam a very dangerous faith and that this world needs to fear Muslims. Moreover, he shows little compassion and sympathy for others who have been innocently victimized or killed by the War on Terror and attempts to reason his way through it- arguing that innocent people die everyday and if someone gets killed by a bombing from US forces then it is only an accident. B.S.! Thumbs down in my opinion. This book just feeds into the fear created by the mainstream media complex and the administration's justification for war. Do yourself a favor- read the 'God Delusion'. You are much better off for it. Not recommended at all.
A Thought Provoking Outlook on World Events and Religious Attitudes Sam Harris presents his rationale that the world faces an equally dangerous yet wholly unexpected vulnerability from religious moderates as it does from extremists. Harris asserts that moderate beliefs cause the masses to refrain from attacking fundamentally flawed religious beliefs based on the notion that certain values are perceived as too sacred to question. If you are an atheist looking to bolster your views, an agnostic wishing to amplify your curiosity, or a member of any religion looking to strengthen your convictions, Sam Harris will deliver as his book is filled with provocative questions and thoughts worthy of our times.
Harris has a resounding ideal that becomes apparent very quickly in his book. "There is no reason that our ability to sustain ourselves emotionally and spiritually cannot evolve with technology, politics, and the rest of culture. Indeed, it must evolve if we are to have any future." It is evident that Harris' mission is not to disrupt the beliefs of the religious sector, but to instill in the public an inquisitive nature about events that at the very least opens the issue of religion up for discussion among all other topics.
The foundation of Harris' view stems from his belief that people generally assess situations in all realms of life based on logic and rationality, excluding religion. "Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him...and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever." The result of this stance ends up producing a defense and justification for an avoidance of a meticulous examination essential for truly understanding fundamental motivations. If we are unwilling to even ponder such a line of reasoning, how can we expect to successfully find fault among common terrorists actively hiding behind the same line of logical reasoning? Assertions like these will resonate with some, and will strengthen the religious views of others; but all intelligent people will agree that there is merit in considering such thoughts because if our beliefs cannot withstand simple logical questioning, than what does this reveal of our beliefs?
Where Harris might emit some weakness is in his view that the entire impetus behind Islamic terrorism is the loose quality of Koran. This clearly overlooks the far greater population of Muslims that do not share terrorist ambitions despite devoutly following the same text. Thus Harris may have been better served looking at all influencing factors (such as poverty, social influence, group identity, etc) instead of assuming religion must represent the only incentive.
The End of Faith is not to be taken lightly, as even detractors of Harris' work will require significant time to sincerely analyze the vast scope of reasoning offered. If you are seeking a thought provoking outlook on world events and religious attitudes and have the strength of conviction to handle an undeviating line of reasoning, you will find this book invigorating.
Wake-Up Call for People tired of Religious Oppression I've now read this book by Sam Harris and also The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins -- both excellent pieces of work. Both very eye-opening and enlightening. For those of us who are tired of living under the oppression of the evangelicals of every religion; both Muslim and Christian specifically, this is a a wake-up call about how society itself needs to change before essentially opposing forces draw us all into a war that will ensure mutual destruction. Please recommend this book to anyone who needs to wake up from their religious delusions....more info
Five Star Thinking, Brilliantly Worded If you lean agnostic, atheistic, or non-religious - read this book; it'll make you say "Oh, yes!"
If you're religious - read this book; it'll make you say "Oh, no!"
If you're a parent and intent on indoctrinating your child in the faith of your birth - read this book; hopefully it will make you think twice....more info
An modernized argument for the establishment of a Utopian society. Although eloquent, this argument for a Utopian society is not new, and is at odds with the same faith and irrationality that the author claims to be against.
Well worth it - even after reading Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens I wasn't sure that it would be worth my time to read the fourth recent book on atheism. I'm glad I did.
The End of Faith adds many ideas and nuances to the conversation. This is especially true in the last two chapters, which other reviewers have found controversial, rambling, or babble, but I found thought-provoking. Harris acknowledges that there are not many answers. However, just as the last 2000 years have seen astronomy develop from positing the earth being the center of the universe, rational experimentation and knowledge development can develop ethics and spiritualism into sound sciences.
Chapter 6 - A Science of Good and Evil - explores ethics from a starting point of zero faith. After making a case against relativism and pragmatism, Harris explores several interesting ethical questions. Like on abortion - Just because we can't determine exactly when humanity starts doesn't mean that you cannot make a moral judgement about a stem cell or a weeks-old fetus. Or a thought-provoking question on tortue that challenges moral intuition - is it really worse to tortue a known criminal for information that would save lives than it is to drop bombs from the air on potentially innocent civilians?
Chapter 7 - Experiments in Consciousness - acknowledges the human desire for spiritualism/mysticism and starts to explore how to grow in those directions in a mindset that does not include faith.
The End of Faith is Nothing But a Mirage To no one's surprise, Mr. Harris trashes religion and faith as effortlessly as a tornado renders a cow weightless. "The End of Faith", however, comes across more as a divisive and apocalyptic rhetoric than anything else.
Mr. Harris implicates religious dogma for most of the death and destruction that has gripped this world in the past and the present, when in fact, 500 ng/dl of the hormone testosterone in the male anatomy is probably responsible for most of the ill effects in almost all societies, past and present. As long as there is a propensity to compare penis size, and there are excesses to be had, there will be blood. Granted, religion probably provides an extra kick to compel a nutjob to walk into a crowd and blow himself up. But even if all religions of the world were to be eradicated, there are a plethora of other excuses to wreak havoc, e.g. tribalism, nationalism.
For there to be world peace, Islam must undergo a radical transformation, asserts Mr. Harris. Yet, he almost completely ignores the West's meddling in the internal affairs of many Middle Eastern countries to suit their selfish needs. If oil were a religion, then Mr. Harris' points would be valid. Good old fashioned greed, the almighty dollar, jealousy and humiliation are the true culprits of ill in that volatile region.
We've come a long way since the barbaric eras in our collective histories, and we still have a ways to go before civility is pervasive. Islam and WMD will not spell the end of the world. The end of faith is as illusive an idea as the paperless office. Faith will persevere, life will go on, and Mr. Harris will greatly benefit from a chill pill.
End of Faith-Yes The End of Faith is a good primer or basic introduction on the subject of atheism. With that in mind I recommend the book to any Christian or theist that might come to this review. Unfortunately the atheist viewpoint is seldom read or heard in America though nonbelievers make up about 10% of the population. Now, Mr. Harris can get a bit mystical so I can't give him 5 stars on this review, only four. The simple truth is that faith in America is dimenshing in America as relative to what it once was in America or so, "the end of faith." Obviously faith will exist for decades more but America will become closer to nations such as Canada where the population becomes even more secular. I look forward to it.
I feel the need to respond to the loooooooong comment that follows on my review. Ok, technically this book is more centered on criticism of faith/religion then a primer on atheism but since 90% of Americans are completely ignorant on what atheism is in America and why atheists are atheists then any knowledge of atheism in a book is a primer. Indeed, most Christians dont' even know that atheism simply means non-belief in a deity not necessary a belief that a God is impossible. Now, while Harris's writings have a mystical/spiritual component that the average book written by an atheist might not have. Now I am not defending (and I had subtracted from Mr. Harris book because of this) Harris's mystical side. I find it not rational (though maybe not as irrationl as Christian beliefs.) Most atheists don't have a mystical or spiritual side because most atheists are more rationale/logical then a belief in such things. Mr. Harris has been influenced by Eastern religions to a degree that no other renown atheist that I am aware. Now, is secularism increasing in America? Yes, Surveys on American religious belief have shown an almost doubling of the number of Americans reporting nonbelief. The fact is that since the Middle Ages there has been a steady increase in secularism in the West. Those who fought in the Civil War were a much more religious lot then even the average Christian conservative today. So, Mr. Harris and I are quite correct to state there is an end of faith, at least as we know it. Presidents for 30-40 years will continue to have to profess a belief in God but within 40 years or so it is possible that an atheist could seriously contend for public office. Now, will a Christian likely engage in a terrorist attack? No, but that has more to do with the Enlightnment Period that Christianity went then necessary something in Christianity itself. Islam, with an Enlightment of their own (with men like Paine and Madison and Jefferson) could be just as peaceful as Christianity. But the fact is not all members of the Christian religion are peaceful. There are people who have shot abortion doctors (while believing they were doing God's work). So, what Mr. Harris states might be unlikely but not impossible. ...more info
Towards the end of intolerance Sam Harris has the enormous talent and knowledge to clearly write what atheists and agnostics think and feel. He makes a strong case as to the strong link among intolerance and religion, perhaps even pointing at a new way to understand history, and particularly war and murder. Another venue of his clear presentation is the lack of evidence of the existence of god, any god. Our societies have built enormours superstructures of thought based on no evidence whatsoever. The consecuences are dire, limiting our abilities to create better more equal societies, and certainly less intolerant to others beliefs. I think this book is a breakthough....more info
Great on religion, a bit off on politics This is great for expelling religion, but where I agree with Sam on these issues, his hard nosed line on politics based on religion is another issue.
As some reviewers have pointed out, Sam has somehow done what he criticizes the religious of doing: being contradictory (and that is the nice way of saying it). To end religion because of its killing by potentially torturing and killing the religious is practically what is laid out on the table.
Someone who writes so eloquently on faith based religion has been blinded by the very thing he argues. That is, Sam finds a way to justify hate (i.e. torture) to repress religious hate (in this case it really is ok to torture to get the location of the nuclear bomb because morally it is ok to torture one rather than sacrifice potential thousands). It sounds like Sam got together with John Yoo and Alberto Gonzalez as consultants on this one.
In short, I agree 100% with Sam on religion and dogmatism. In fact, he has inspired me to keep up the "good fight" against the devout as of recent. Where I have to "agree to disagree" with him is on the issues of politics based on religious views.
p.s. If you want a searing expose on religion, check out his second work "Letter to a christian nation." Its extremely easy reading and leaves out all of the political dialogue....more info
The Dangers of Extremism No, not that of the Jihadis or the Christian fundamentalists. I mean Sam Harris' extremism.
I do not mean anybody who doesn't believe in God is ipso facto an "radical atheist". I am speaking specifically of Harris. Take, for example, quotes like this from the book:
"We must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it. Given the present state of the world, there appears to be no other future worth wanting."
So, not only is the religious-despising future preferred, it is the *only* future worth wanting. This is Stalin's "secular utopia", where "the masses" (i.e., everybody who disagrees with Sam Harris' insights) are shamed and disgraced into believing as he does.
How different from Christopher Hitchens, for example, who repeatedly says that--as much as he hates religion--he wouldn't want to ban it if he could, for such an attempt goes against human nature and is bound to end in genocidal prosecution, as did all other attempts to "elevate" man from his "fallen" state into some utopia on earth.
So, our only worthwhile goal is the creation of a religion-disgracing utopia. And what if some annoying people disagree? Well, says Harris:
"The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live."
Yes, yes, yes--Harris is only talking about killing people for thought crimes if they Jihadis or the like. But anybody who can support genociding those who merely *think* differently as "ethical" will soon enough support genociding those who think in only a *little bit* differently that his preferred orthodoxy, and then anybody who thinks of opposing him at any way. One can't reach the utopia of disgraced religion without some sacrifices (of other people's lives), after all.
Harris is no different in his views (though, of course, he is very different in his *actions*) than Hitler, Stalin, or the Iranian Mullahs. The difference is merely in the details of the promised utopia--which is impossible to reach in any case, going against human nature. That it is OK to genocide people to reach their perspective utopias is something they all agree on....more info
Great read! I am a huge Sam Harris fan and I really hope everyone will give this book a chance, despite any personal thoughts you have on whether or not God is real. This book is a fascinating examination of why religion is so prevalent in our world and why it seems to be a growing force in modern day politics. Also, I found the most interesting aspect of the book is not it's concern with religious fundamentalists but rather, the high number or religious moderates that essentially allow fundamentalists to say and do whatever they want under the protection of their "faith". Sam Harris is a great writer and keeps the book moving and definitely will make you question what you think about religion and your own beliefs!...more info
Interesting Ideas...a Worthwhile Read I wanted to like this book, and while I did agree with some of what Harris has to day, it seems superficial in many ways, particularly where he says:
"It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books; it is what we do with words like 'God' and 'paradise' and 'sin' in the present that will determine our future"
In the not too distant past, I can cite the Vietnam War as one that had nothing to do with religion or god...and there are other examples to be had...perhaps if he had phrased this to mean it this has been the case in the past (but not exclusively) and will likely be the case in the future, especially given they myriad of conflict we are now enmeshed in. I think Harris book would have been much more effective had he stuck to the negative effect that religion can have/is having on our government (or any democratic government for that matter), which was, I feel founded on reason and logic. I also can't get 100% behind the idea that if we just got rid of those particular books and God that there would be no more terrorism or war in the world, I think it's in human nature (religion aside) to be warlike, selfish and cruel at times. I agree with him that it seems unbelievably foolish to think that any book contains the literal word of God, but that has been written by men. The idea that after 2000+ years they are in no way in need of updating and revising to take into account advances in knowledge and human understanding, is simply ridiculous. Overall it was an interesting read, but I don't think I'd recommend this or want it for my permanent library. I give it 3 stars.