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The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason [Kindle Edition]

Sam Harris
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,069 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"The End of Faith articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated....Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say."—Natalie Angier, ?New York Times


In ?The End of Faith?, Sam Harris delivers a startling analysis of the clash between reason and religion in the modern world. He offers a vivid, historical tour of our willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs—even when these beliefs inspire the worst human atrocities. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism to deliver a call for a truly modern foundation for ethics and spirituality that is both secular and humanistic. Winner of the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

In this sometimes simplistic and misguided book, Harris calls for the end of religious faith in the modern world. Not only does such faith lack a rational base, he argues, but even the urge for religious toleration allows a too-easy acceptance of the motives of religious fundamentalists. Religious faith, according to Harris, requires its adherents to cling irrationally to mythic stories of ideal paradisiacal worlds (heaven and hell) that provide alternatives to their own everyday worlds. Moreover, innumerable acts of violence, he argues, can be attributed to a religious faith that clings uncritically to one set of dogmas or another. Very simply, religion is a form of terrorism for Harris. Predictably, he argues that a rational and scientific view—one that relies on the power of empirical evidence to support knowledge and understanding—should replace religious faith. We no longer need gods to make laws for us when we can sensibly make them for ourselves. But Harris overstates his case by misunderstanding religious faith, as when he makes the audaciously naïve statement that "mysticism is a rational enterprise; religion is not." As William James ably demonstrated, mysticism is far from a rational enterprise, while religion might often require rationality in order to function properly. On balance, Harris's book generalizes so much about both religion and reason that it is ineffectual.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
424 of 470 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo!-- Donald R. Burleson, Ph.D. January 21, 2006
Format:Paperback
Author Sam Harris has a problem with the world's major organized religions. His thesis, in particular, is that while the foibles of religious fundamentalism (of various brands, though always essentially bespeaking the same mentality) may appear to be more or less harmless, they are in fact a gravely dangerous phenomenon that threatens humankind itself with extinction.

The problem is that with the more rabid varieties of religious fundamentalism we are no longer looking just at the ravings of those halfwit television evangelists who run the credit card icons across the bottom of the screen for the ensnaring of the gullible. Now, on the contrary, we have entered an age- nothing similar to which has been seen since the Spanish Inquisition- in which whole hordes of religious zealots view themselves as being commanded by the "will of God" (whatever in the world that means) to torture, multilate, and brutally kill the rest of us. It is this unreasoning willingness to commit acts of atrocity for "God" (under whatever name), based upon belief systems that are not only of undemonstrated validity but of absolutely undemonstrable validity, that bothers Sam Harris, and he does a truly eloquent job of explaining why, in terms of radical Islam, Christianity, and other belief systems.

While Mr. Harris takes on Islam with considerable fervor, he certainly does not neglect the sordid side of religion in the West. He argues, with regard to both the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, that it is only by selectively ignoring parts of the so-called sacred texts that many people, eschewing the more radical views of these belief systems, can function even as religious "moderates.
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1,631 of 1,851 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time to start questioning people's religious beliefs September 27, 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an important book. It delves into the rightness of religious belief, supernaturalism in particular. It shows an ugly scene - religious extremism is widespread and much of our world's hurt can be traced directly to it. The author shows that religion is not a benign force - so often it is detrimental to world peace and happiness. The author's observations do not just apply to Osama Bin Laden and his ilk, but also to President Bush and like-minded evangelical Christians.

What took me aback is the position that Harris is advocating - that it is okay to subject religion to careful scrutiny, in fact, it is desirable as religion is having such a negative impact on us all. He's talking about a change in social norms, attitudes, what is considered mannerly... he's saying that we can no longer afford to be respectful and tolerant of others' religious beliefs when those beliefs could do us all in. He suggests that we ask: What is the evidence for your God?

I learnt that a person's religious beliefs are his own private business - every person has to work out his own salvation - and it was not for me to question these beliefs. I learned that it is behavior that counts - how we treat others and the world we live in. But in America this has flipped. Now many people talk about their beliefs, the one-on-one they have with Christ, while they indulge in the most hateful and unchristian behavior. Worse, they think their beliefs call for such behavior. Harris suggests that it is time for us to grab this nettle and challenge religion's hold on so many people.

I have been researching a book on Middle East peace. I was startled to learn the role that Bible prophecy is playing in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
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1,514 of 1,739 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DESPITE WISHING AND WANTING August 26, 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is both odd and a mistake to refer to this book as "ineffectual". Mr. Harris points out something which, one hopes, we all already know. And that is, despite its ability to blind us emotionally, despite the fact that in most cases people come to embrace religion through some form of indoctrination, or in the case of President Bush, come to it as a substitute for other forms of intoxication, religion as an artifact of human thought has long outlived its usefulness. We are no longer tribes squatting in huts teaching our children that the world is flat and if the weather turns it's because some god is angry about the clothes we wear. Problem being that today, in place of sticks and rocks we have big, powerful and easily portable weapons.

What is effective about this book is that it finally opens the door to this virtually taboo observation: Middle east or West, by being treated as infallible and unquestionable, religion quantifiably does more harm than good. Mr. Harris points out just how utterly antiquated and basically wrong so many religious tracts are by using the tracts themselves. Proof enough that religions no longer hold the key to human happiness is demonstrated by the convenient "editing" of some tenets of faith by none other than the faithful who, in our culture, get closer to god by picking and choosing those aspects of the word of god which best suits the starkly more secular and practical aspects of their lives. Is everybody comfy? Good.

It is even more important and highly effective to point out how faith continues to divert our society from coming to terms with the objective facts which define the issues facing us today in favor of consistently relying on belief.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars I cannot believe this got published!
What a hack. I have been studying religions for quite some time now, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Aboriginal Dreamtime, you name it, but had to buy this book... Read more
Published 5 hours ago by S. Carson
5.0 out of 5 stars Hands down...the best book I have read in over a decade.
The End of Faith left me deeply concerned but also inspired about the future of all those I love and those that they will. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Jerrold
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the best books I have ever read.
Published 4 days ago by This Person
5.0 out of 5 stars Even if you don't agree with him, he makes his point well.
I know I'm not that kind of a girl, but I want to have Sam Harris's baby. His very blunt, interesting, specific, and in-depth discussions of the dangers of religious faith are... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Swankivy
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting book considering recent events
Considering recent events in Iraq and Syria, this is a good book to read right now. Harris's critical review of Islam is spot on even though it was written years ago. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Leigh
2.0 out of 5 stars I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone
Not very interesting for anyone who is trying to study religion from a scientific aspect. It doesn't make a claim to do so but it mainly filled with unconfirmed bias and... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Alex R.
2.0 out of 5 stars I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone
Not very interesting for anyone who is trying to study religion from a scientific aspect. It doesn't make a claim to do so but it mainly filled with unconfirmed bias and... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Alex R.
5.0 out of 5 stars non-fiction religion
Religion from a logical and reality-based perspective.
Published 7 days ago by Eldog
5.0 out of 5 stars A sobering critique
insightful, and lucid. It does take an open mind to digest the last chapter. atheists, after all, often commit the sin of dogmatism as well.
Published 13 days ago by Justin
3.0 out of 5 stars Not All Religions are so Intolerant
This book is certainly provocative and quite quotable, yet it goes overboard by casting all “faith” into the mold of the most dogmatic and fundamentalist versions of Christianity... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Richard H. Burkhart
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More About the Author

Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling books, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, and Lying. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His latest book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, will be published 9/9/14.

Mr. Harris's writing has been published in more than 15 languages. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, Newsweek, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.

Mr. Harris is a cofounder and the CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.

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Religion doesn't have a corner on terrorism.
Why not point to another wrong? Further examples, properly understood, can only be illuminating. Have you ever read the Communist Manifesto? Have you read any Soviet political propaganda? It is virtually indistinguishable from theological propaganda, simply replacing "God" with... Read More
Sep 30, 2006 by Brandy Gunderson |  See all 10 posts
Jesus Never Even Existed !
The more interesting question is "what version of Jesus existed".

If we're talking about Jesus, the son of God, then the whole issue is more properly discussed by exmining the God Hypothesis. Since God probably doesn't exist, neither did a son of his called Jesus.

If we're talking... Read More
Aug 9, 2007 by J. Kristensen |  See all 42 posts
Sam Harris's Atheistic Jihad
Jihad means struggle, so yes I would agree that Harris is engaged in a jihad. But quitting smoking would be considered a jihad because it involves a struggle, so you could have a peaceful, rational stuggle against religion.

I'm a nonbeliever but I don't like Harris' views. I don't like it when... Read More
Jan 4, 2009 by SB |  See all 34 posts
Not a new idea
I don't understand the perimeter or parameters of this discussion. I was attracted by the discussion title. See my Dec 9 review of this book, which ends:

In closing, let me quote a passage from Al-Rhazes (Al-Razi), a Persian physician who lived 1100 years ago and was the first person to record a... Read More
Dec 23, 2005 by Martin A. Schell |  See all 13 posts
Harris's Biggest Mistake
Well, many of the most confrontational statements toward islam in America is from right-wing christians. (But I don't give them credit for this because it's borne from their own dogmatism.) I just wish they would use such confrontation on their own ideology as well.
Jan 19, 2007 by B. Fuller |  See all 8 posts
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