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The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the…

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

by Sam Harris

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How necessary is religious faith in our world? Are there questions only faith can answer? Can someone live happily without the need to believe supernatural claims? How are religions affecting our world today? If you've ever asked any of these questions you should read this book. ( )
  JorgeCarvajal | Feb 13, 2015 |
Wow. This book does not hold back on making its stance blindingly obvious. Its whole premise is that religious faith, even of a moderate nature, is an antiquated and baseless notion that must be challenged to see reason. Until this happens, the author says, the world is headed for not only increased political and social instability, but death by our own making through religious-based war.

Islam is presently seen to be the biggest threat to world peace. This, he says, is because it's book advocates for either contempt towards or conversion of non-Muslims. That it promises a place in heaven for those who die in the act of either is the deal-breaker. Many are willing to die a 'martyr' for their belief that they are enacting the literal word of god. The author stresses that Muslim extremists are extreme in their religious faith in these situations. He refutes the oft-quoted 'Islam is a religion of peace' statement by arguing that there is just too much in the holy books that proves otherwise. Judaism and Christianity are also critiqued for relying heavily on a book of fiction that has no bearing on or relevance to modern life. Each faith's superiority in its claim to know the truth, he says, is as meaningless as a school yard squabble. He states unequivocally that people of faith are delusional and that it is a travesty that so much weight is given to religion in political decision-making that affects all our lives.

What I liked about this book is that the author is unafraid to make bold statements about what is essentially a taboo subject. He challenges the notion that religion or faith is not to be questioned. He looks past religion to ethics, morals and the larger philosophy of human interaction which gives a broader framework within which to assess how we all might just get along. Although I agree wholeheartedly with the Hitchens quote he endorses: "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence" (p176), this author took me to a place that was too far from my comfort zone in terms of respect for other people and their way of living. And this, I think, was his intention. ( )
2 vote Ireadthereforeiam | Feb 3, 2015 |
Really excellent. I could have used 80% of this book as quotable material. It's just incredible how precisely and thoughtfully he puts things. ( )
  aketzle | Dec 28, 2014 |
Harris's cogent attack on religious belief would be more effective if his anger, especially his extreme post-9/11 Islamophobia, were not so constantly evident. For a book on this subject, he relies surprisingly little on theological or philosophical arguments and depends on informal logic and emotional response. The final chapters take a decidedly odd turn with their discussion of a kind of non-theistic metaphysics , which oddly includes a rather weird defense of the use of torture. If you are a non-believer you will find much to enjoy here. If you are a believer you will not be dissuaded from your belief. ( )
  sjnorquist | May 31, 2014 |
Sam Harris formulates brilliant arguments and completely encourages the reader to reconsider all that he or she had previously thought to be true. He makes readers really think about what they believe and why they believe. ( )
  AmyKite | Apr 2, 2014 |
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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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For my mother
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The young man boards the bus as it leaves the terminal.
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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393327655, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:45 -0400)

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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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W.W. Norton

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

Editions: 0393327655, 0393035158

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