- Sam Harris discusses his controversial book in depth in our exclusive interview.
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The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason Paperback – September 17, 2005
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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 --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
Top customer reviews
Harris shows us that there is little hope of finding an Islamic moderate.
Chapter Six is particularly interesting and informative, especially if you take the time to Wiki many of the Muslim names for parts of books and kinds of belief systems and the many sects which cannot agree any more than the J. Witnesses can agree with the Mormons or the evangelical Christians can agree with anybody.
A very well written, extremely carefully researched work of non-fiction which kicked of the Letter to a Christian Nation buzz. Sam's good!
There is even a lengthy segment about the political dogma of Communism, although secular in form, instilled as much genocidal unreason in it's people as religion has. "Nazism... was held together by a belief in the racial purity and superiority of the German people. The obverse of this fascination with race was the certainty that all impure elements - homosexuals, invalids, Gypsies, and, above all, Jews - posed a threat to the fatherland." (Page 101)
Page 66 - "...faith is nothing more than a willingness to await the evidence... believe now, live an untestable hypothesis until your dying day and you will discover that you were right."
Page 106 - "Whenever you hear that people have begun killing noncombatants intentionally and indiscriminately, ask yourself what dogma stands at their backs. What do these freshly minted killers *believe*? You will find that it is always - always - preposterous."
This book is undoubtedly academic in letter, but very engaging in form. There are no shortages of numbered footnotes in the text (the last 100 pages are all notes) that reference to the back of the book for citation and further discussion. This book is highly reccomended.
(EDIT: There is a poster going through LITERALLY every single positive review on any book criticizing religion and offering a wall of computer-generated text. Actually, I doubt any living person could waste so much of their life commenting on reviews trying to shield their religion from criticism so I'm going to say the posts ARE computer-generated, besides the fact that they don't make any sense.)
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