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Customer Review

1,668 of 1,892 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time to start questioning people's religious beliefs, September 27, 2004
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This review is from: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (Hardcover)
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. The US's policy, under President Bush, has more to do with laying the groundwork for Christ's Second Coming than a careful search for justice and peace.

It is amazing to me that in this day and age that Biblical writings are playing such a role in our lives. One of the factors that brought on the Dark Ages was the rise of the Christian church, the aggressive way it persecuted those who disagreed with even its most ridiculous notions. I ask if we are on the verge of a new Dark Age? Prophecy, creationism, the Bible taken literally, fear of hell fire, 2,000 year old notions on how we should live... This book helps us address this urgent question.

This is also a courageous book. It is courageous as an important component of the identity, sense of self, of so many millions of people is tied to such religion. The author will no doubt endure a lot of anger from many of these people. I am thankful that he is taking this stand.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 110 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 21, 2006 12:17:08 PM PDT
J.M. Luther says:
I am not going to completely argue you. That would be stupid. I admit that there are fanatics who do terrible things in the name of religion. Terrible things are not limited to those people though. There are bad in any group of people. For example, what I'm seeing happening with many responses to this book is an increased intolerance (which could lead to hatred and vilolence) toward the religious. I can assure you that it is impossible to force people to give up their religion by any means less then violence. The assurance that the after-life is better then the current aid many in refusing to give up their believes even in the face of death. Both fanatics and otherwise can not be forced out of their beliefs. The only thing that can be done on this path of intolerance that is being followed is to kill them all. Wouldn't that make the people complaining of the damage religion causes just as guilty? Rather, I think acceptance may offer the only way out of the situation. The fanatics are killing and acting as they are frequently because they are being convinced that they are not accepted and people are trying to take their beliefs from them. Convince them the otherway and all you have left are a few ring-leaders who probably don't even believe what they are useing as a tool to recruit others. While freedom of speech allows Harris to print whatever he wants, I find him following the same path that he seems to hate so much.
In addition, everyone seems so into making a group bad because of bad members. Why not make it good because of good members. Mother Theresa was a Christian. I was under the impression that she was widely considered good. I simply ask for fairness. Prejudice against religion will not make the religious either agree with or react possitively toward the others. Whether right or wrong, forcing religion away will end in even more violence.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2006 7:39:30 PM PDT
No. You miss the point of Harris' book. The argument is against dogma. The problem with religion is the concept that certain words/ideas are sacred and therefore can not be questioned. This concept which does not allow for rational discussion and investigation is what leads to extremism. Harris does not avocate violence nor does (or should) the suggestion of rational discourse on any topic invoke it.
As for fanatics, it is somewhat difficult to generalize on their motivations. But it is less that they feel "unaccepted" and far more that they feel absolutely and unequivocally right--so any act, no matter how heinous is justified. This is the type of error that religion with absolute doctrines, "god inspired" and unquestioned aged tomes permits.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2006 10:15:50 PM PDT
J.M. Luther,

I suspect you have not yet read the book. For Harris addresses this head-on, and in fact makes an extremely persuasive case that "moderate" and even "liberal" religious belief is dangerous, because this unquestioned respect for faith without evidence is what allows fundamentalism to flourish. And that "tolerance" of INTOLERANCE is not only absurd and self-contradictory, but vicious.

The principal failing of Harris's analysis, in my view, is the suggestion that "there really is just no talking to some people." Especially when discussing Islam, he seems to think that there is simply no possible way to have a dialogue and rational discussion with those who hold strong irrational beliefs. At times he borders on racism. Maybe I'm naive, but I think the very fact that Harris's books are so persuasive is proof that, if educated and exposed to more facts and ideas, human beings can and will change their ways of thinking.

Posted on Nov 24, 2006 11:42:49 AM PST
Kristoffer says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Dec 9, 2006 2:34:56 PM PST
Harry Haller says:
I just wanted to thank you for your review. It was the deciding factor to buy this book.

I do have a question: Why is it that humans accept dogma so easily? It doesn't even have to be religion.

At work, I frequently tell the mangers who report to me: "`God' help you if you don't understand the reason for my instructions, or if you think I am wrong & say nothing, but just follow my orders."

I actually have to threaten these educated people to challenge me. Interestingly, all of them are rather religious ... and pro Bush. With this thinking mechanism, had they been born in Iran instead of US, they would have been pro Ahmadinejad.

Fascinating! Thank you again for your review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2007 3:14:11 PM PST
B Heyden says:
Very well phrased response!

Posted on Jan 12, 2007 7:47:44 AM PST
Skeeve says:
No one is advocating a war on religion, the war should be waged against ignorance and dogma . Any time someone says "Its a mystery" or " you can't question that" you should!
Check out the film Jesus Camp for an example of how bad it can get.

Posted on Mar 26, 2007 6:46:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 22, 2009 4:53:14 AM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 26, 2007 6:49:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 22, 2009 5:02:42 AM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2007 7:28:34 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 21, 2007 7:30:31 PM PDT
Annie Feng says:
"forcing religion away will end in even more violence"

this really sounds like "forcing intolerance away will end in even more violence"

which you are probably right, sadly.

"Mother Teresa was a Christian"

She is "widely" accepted as "good", but that's probably because widely speaking most people are Christians; I don't really consider her as a true humanitarian, she focuses primarily on converting people first rather than truly helping the poor with their needs, search the web and you'll find many articles that are written about the disturbance of her work.
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