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The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (2004)

by Sam Harris

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4,504871,742 (3.82)82
A startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in today's world, this historical tour of mankind's willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when those beliefs are used to justify atrocities, asserts that in the shadow of weapons of mass destruction, we can not expect to survive our religious differences indefinitely. Most controversially, argues that moderate lip service to religion only blinds us to the real perils of fundamentalism. Harris also draws on new evidence from neuroscience and insights from philosophy to explore spirituality as a biological, brain-based need, and invokes that need in taking a secular humanistic approach to solving the problems of this world.… (more)
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"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.
Source: Publisher

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason is a 2004 book by Sam Harris, concerning organized religion, the clash between religious faith and rational thought, and the problem of intolerance that correlates with religious fundamentalism.
Wikipedia
  Shiseida.Aponte | May 26, 2020 |
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.
  PSZC | Apr 17, 2019 |
"Sam Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University. He has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of spiritual disciplines, for twenty years. He is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience, studying the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty." Source : The book's back cover.
The reviewer for the "The Economist," said of this work, "This book will strike a chord with anyone who has pondered the irrationality of religious faith. . .Even Mr. Harris's critics will have to concede the force of an analysis which roams so far and wide, from the persecution of the Cathars to the composition of George Bush's cabinet."
  uufnn | Aug 25, 2018 |
Not as forceful or comprehensive as Richard Dawkins' later The God Delusion, nor as readable as Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great, Sam Harris' The End of Faith was nevertheless one of the most important (and one of the first) books championing the resurgence of a more assertive and more indignant 'New Atheism' in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Conditioned in my prior reading by the intelligent polemicism of Dawkins and Hitchens, I was consequently dismayed when Harris' book turned out to be more drily academic. In a couple of chapters ('In the Shadow of God' and 'The Problem with Islam' – and, to a lesser extent, 'West of Eden'), he is quite readable and engrossing, but for the most part it is rather overwrought. Particularly earlier on, it reads like a doctoral thesis rather than a best-seller, and the reader may become fatigued by all the academic jargon. Yes, Harris is dealing with rather complex notions of philosophy and science, but so would Dawkins just a couple of years later, and Dawkins would present such concepts far more accessibly. Harris' writing, in contrast, never has this approachability.

Nevertheless, Harris' ideas are usually sound (Dawkins mined his book extensively for The God Delusion). He says some non-politically-correct stuff, and occasionally indulges in some of the blood-and-thunder, zero-sum 'clash of civilisations' stuff that betrays the book's age (Harris acknowledges, on page 323, that he started writing it the day after 9/11). But, for the most part, it is stuff that needs to be said, even if he is often overwrought in how he goes about it. Alongside the usual atheist targets – fundamentalist violence, the illogical and inconsistent nature of the holy books, etc. – he also notes other areas of concern, from the behaviour of politically-correct and hand-wringing multiculturalists (It is time for us to admit that not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development… it seems as objectively true as saying that not all societies have equal material resources." (pg. 143)), the similar behaviour from religious moderates ("… the greatest problem confronting civilization is not merely religious extremism: rather, it is the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself. 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." (pg. 45)), to the privileged position we accord to religion, placing it above scrutiny ("When was the last time that someone was criticized for not 'respecting' another person's unfounded beliefs about physics or history?" (pg. 176)). Above all, Harris is critical of the fact that such cowardly behaviours and ignorant mindsets encourage tolerance of intolerance.

Elsewhere, he seems determined to break a number of other taboos, stating that 'we' (as in the Western democracies) are indeed at war with Islam as a creed (violence being "precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran" (pg. 109)), disposes of the myth that it is a religion of peace (at one point, ending on page 123, he quotes five straight pages of excerpts from the Koran explicitly inciting violence), and claims that, due to the contrasting levels of respect shown to their womenfolk, American and European men love their women more than men from Arabic cultures. After giving examples of a number of depraved atrocities committed against Islamic women by their male relatives, Harris says:

"What can we say about this behaviour? Can we say that Middle Eastern men who are murderously obsessed with female sexual purity actually love their wives, daughters and sisters less than American or European men do? Of course, we can. And what is truly incredible about the state of our discourse is that such a claim is not only controversial but actually unutterable in most contexts. Where's the proof that these men are less capable of love than the rest of us? Well, where would the proof be if a person behaved this way in our own society? Where's the proof that the person who shot JFK didn't really love him? All the proof we need came from the book depository… We know what these honour killers are up to – and it is not a matter of expressing their love for the women in their lives… There is no doubt that certain beliefs are incompatible with love, and this notion of 'honour' is among them." (pg. 189)

I was a bit suspicious of Harris' advocacy of Buddhism towards the end of the book, but his argument in this regard is reasonable (though I am not entirely convinced – the Buddhist framework is just as corruptible as other religious beliefs and can be easily twisted into violence – witness the Japanese atrocities of bushido during the Second World War – or diluted by ignorant people into bland, New Age-y crap that convinces people they're helping when they're actually just satisfying their own ego and piety). I should also point out that, despite the passages I have quoted, Harris does not target Islam unfairly; he only notes that it finds itself expressing "the evil of religious faith at the moment of its political ascendancy". It is not "uniquely susceptible" to this amongst religions, but it is, "at this moment in history, uniquely ascendant" (pp130-1), much as Christianity was at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Overall, The End of Faith is a compelling, considered and constructive account, even if at times it can become convoluted.

What I found most impressive about The End of Faith is that Harris is not just railing against religion, but trying to articulate a rational response and remedy to it. He goes beyond an advocacy of reason and science and free-thinking to actually propose ways of bringing about such shifts in mindset. Whilst he occasionally threatens to bite off more than he can chew, for all his lofty concepts his conclusion is an exceedingly simple one: "… an utter revolution in our thinking could be accomplished in a single generation: if parents and teachers would merely give honest answers to the questions of every child." (pg. 224). Children are born without any notion of the fiction of a Christian or Islamic God, or the arbitrary and unjust rules their advocates impose, and perversely this gives them a greater claim to intellectual maturity than many of the adults who birth them." ( )
1 vote Mike_F | Jun 3, 2016 |
The End of Faith is the book that put Sam Harris on the map as one of the premiere critics of religion and its bulwark of fallacious thinking. It also earned him an infamous reputation as he is often cited with his equally-contentious contemporaries: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens—along with Harris they're collectively known as the "Four Horsemen of New Atheism."

I highly recommend this book. It's important to understand the points Sam Harris is trying to get across even if you disagree with him, as many vehemently do. As the world becomes more interconnected through technology, the religions and tribal mentalities of old are being tested. Hiding behind a delusory doctrine is becoming less and less of an option. ( )
1 vote Daniel.Estes | Feb 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Sam Harris könyve egészen kis alakú, és mindössze 134 oldal, e szempontból tehát találó az alcíme: levél egy keresztény nemzethez. Más tekintetben az alcím kevésbé találó, hiszen ahogy a szerző maga is bevallja, a könyv valójában nem a keresztényeket, sokkal inkább a szekuláris társadalom híveit kívánja megcélozni, felvértezve őket keresztény ellenfeleikkel szemben. És valóban ez az, amire alkalmasabbnak mutatkozik.

A könyv sok gondolata ismerős lehet a Richard Dawkins Isteni téveszme c. könyve olvasóinak. Sam Harris is felhozza a "minden hívő ateista a többi vallással szemben" érvet, példákkal mutatja be a Biblia erőszakosságát, amellett érvel, hogy az erkölcs nem a vallásból származik, hosszasan sorolja a kereszténység által okozott károkat, és így tovább. Rövid jellegéből adódóan mindezt azonban Dawkinsnál jóval kevésbé részletesen, olykor már-már kinyilatkoztatásszerűen, és nem ritkán arrogánsan is teszi, ami könnyen elijesztheti a vallásos lelkületű olvasókat.

A hasonló gondolatok ellenére az érdeklődő ateistáknak (vagy kevésbé sértődékeny hívőknek) mégis érdemes lehet kézbe venni a könyvet, a szerző ugyanis több aktuális kérdést is feszeget, hatásos érvekkel vértezve fel olvasóit elsősorban a vallásnak az abortuszhoz, az őssejtkutatáshoz, valamint a tudományhoz fűződő viszonyának kérdéséről. Több helyen kikel például az itthon MTA-s körökben is népszerű érvvel szemben, mely szerint a tudomány és a vallás másról szól, és ezért megférnek egymás mellett. A szerző egyes érvelési módszerei is érdekesek lehetnek az olvasók számára. A kereszténység abszurditásának bemutatásához rendszeresen megjelennek például már kihalt vallásokkal kapcsolatos gondolatkísérletek, illetve más vallások abszurd tanításainak ismertetései.

Összességében véve a könyvre sajnos erőteljesen rányomta a bélyegét a rövidsége. A szerző túl sokat akart mondani túl kicsiny helyen, ezért sokszor csak nagyon érintőlegesen említ dolgokat, illetve olykor csak ismereteket közöl, az érveket elhagyva. Bár nem találtam a könyvben olyan gondolatot, amivel ne tudnék egyetérteni, így a téma iránt érdeklődőknek ajánlani tudom, de ha valaki csak egyetlen könyvet akar elolvasni a témában, annak inkább az Isteni téveszmét nyomnám a kezébe.

Varga Gábor
2009. október 1.
 
It's not often that I see my florid strain of atheism expressed in any document this side of the Seine, but ''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, almost personally understood. Sam Harris presents major religious systems like Judaism, Christianity and Islam as forms of socially sanctioned lunacy, their fundamental tenets and rituals irrational, archaic and, important when it comes to matters of humanity's long-term survival, mutually incompatible.
 
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Epigraph
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For my mother
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The young man boards the bus as it leaves the terminal.
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Our situation is this: most of the people in this world believe that the Creator of the universe has written a book.
The very ideal of religious tolerance, born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about god, is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.
The idea of a victimless crime is nothing more than a judicial reprise of the Christian notion of sin…. Because we are a people of faith, taught to concern ourselves with the sinfulness of our neighbors, we have grown tolerant of irrational uses of state power.
Given the requisite beliefs about ‘honor,’ a man will be desperate to kill his daughter upon learning she was raped.
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This important and timely book delivers a startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in the modern world. The End of Faith provides a harrowing glimpse of mankind’s willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when these beliefs inspire the worst of human atrocities. Harris argues that in the presence of weapons of mass destruction, we can no longer expect to survive our religious differences indefinitely. Most controversially, he maintains that "moderation" in religion poses considerable dangers of its own: as the accommodation we have made to religious faith in our society now blinds us to the role that faith plays in perpetuating human conflict. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism in an attempt to provide a truly modern foundation for our ethics and our search for spiritual experience.
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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393327655, 0393035158

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