- 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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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.
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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.
Mr. Harris' logical arguments cut deep and are sound. He bravely tackles not only Christianity and Judaism, but also the destructive nature of the Muslim faith. The reading isn't as playful as Dawkins' or Hitchens' polemics and more worrisome in delivery. This is a thinking person's book. Well worth reading if you wonder why warfare is so persistently prevalent in the world. Sadly, Mr. Harris' dissertation will not alter this ageless paradigm.