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The End of Faith: Religion, Terror & the Future of Reasonby Sam Harris
Synopses & Reviews
This important and timely book delivers a startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in today's world. Harris offers a vivid historical tour of mankind's willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when those beliefs are used to justify harmful behavior and sometimes heinous crimes. He asserts that in the shadow of weapons of mass destruction, we can no longer tolerate views that pit one true god against another. Most controversially, he argues that we cannot afford moderate lip service to religion — an accommodation that only blinds us to the real perils of fundamentalism.
While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris also draws on new evidence from neuroscience and insights from philosophy to explore spirituality as a biological, brain-based need. He calls on us to invoke that need in taking a secular humanistic approach to solving the problems of this world.
"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. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[I]t is rare in this postmodern age to read a book by someone so vigorously defending rational thought, especially from a unique neuroscientific perspective. Recommended." Library Journal
"[A] courageous analysis whose theses will deeply trouble readers who choose to think about them rather than summarily reject them....Provocative is too pale a word." Kirkus Reviews
"Harris is obviously tickled by his own intelligence — and he writes with such verve and frequent insight that even skeptical readers will find it hard to put down. Besides, we might all check our belief systems for deadwood. Because it touches a nerve, The End of Faith is a good place to begin." San Francisco Chronicle
"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....This is an important book, on a topic that, for all its inherent difficulty and divisiveness, should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason." Natalie Angier, New York Times Book Review
"Read Sam Harris and wake up." Richard Dawkins, The Guardian
"This book will strike a chord with anyone who has ever pondered the irrationality of religious faith..." The Economist
"Do we need another book on the conflict between reason and faith? Yes, if it is as well-written as Sam Harris's The End of Faith." New Scientist
Natalie Angier wrote in The New York Times: "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."
Harris offers a vivid historical tour of mankind's willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when those beliefs are used to justify harmful behavior and sometimes heinous crimes.
About the Author
Sam Harris received his degree in philosophy from Stanford University. He is now completing his doctorate in neuroscience. Visit his Web site at www.samharris.org.
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