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

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

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by Sam Harris

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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

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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.

Editorial Reviews

Natalie Angier
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. A doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America.
— The New York Times
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 na ve 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) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Harris, who is currently completing a doctorate in neuroscience, pulls no punches in this forcefully presented call to reject all forms of religious faith. Viewing religious irrationality and fundamentalism as both the immediate source of terrorism and also the source of much of the evil that has taken place throughout history, Harris proposes turning away from religion entirely and living on the basis of reason. Drawing on insights from Eastern philosophy and neuroscience, he suggests using meditation to achieve a state of consciousness that is nondualistic. While Harris's arguments are attention-grabbing and carefully presented, readers might get the sense that much of this has been stated before —his plea for rejecting religion in light of the violence it inspires is reminiscent of the Enlightenment's call for religious tolerance and the primacy of reason. Still, it is rare in this postmodern age to read a book by someone so vigorously defending rational thought, especially from a unique neuroscientific perspective. Recommended for academic libraries.-John Jaeger, Dallas Baptist Univ. Lib. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a debut certain to anger anyone who is not an atheist, the author argues that religious faith is the root of all evil. Sacred books, Harris declares, are either sacred or not; religious adherents must therefore either believe everything in them or question everything. People cannot, he continues, assert that the virgin birth is true because it is in the Bible and simultaneously decline to murder their children for apostasy, as Deuteronomy prescribes. Harris believes the most dangerous religion today is Islam and quotes several pages of passages from the Koran to illustrate his contention that it is manifestly not a religion of peace and tolerance. But he is an equal-opportunity opponent, so he also assails, in phrases that coruscate with sarcasm, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and by extension all the world's religions. They are medieval at best, he declares. And anti-intellectual, requiring believers to accept without question notions that they would summarily reject in all other arenas of life. How would we react, he wonders, if President Bush replaced the word "God" with "Apollo" in his public comments? There really is no difference, states Harris. He begins his treatise by showing how religious faith trumps rationality, proceeds to a disquisition on belief itself, glances at the Inquisition and the Holocaust (to show religion run amok), gnaws on the problems in the Middle East, attacks religious objections to stem-cell research, drug use, and sexual privacy, considers how ethics may thrive in a nonreligious world, and ends with a dense discussion of consciousness, much of which he ought to have consigned to the lengthy and often discursive endnotes. In many ways this is acourageous analysis whose theses will deeply trouble readers who choose to think about them rather than summarily reject them. But Harris's discussion of ethics sometimes reads like an undergraduate essay-the probable parent of his arguments. Provocative is too pale a word.
Richard Dawkins - The Guardian
“A genuinely frightening book.... Read Sam Harris and wake up.”
Johann Hari - The Independent
“Sam Harris launches a sustained nuclear assault.... A brave, pugilistic attempt to demolish the walls that currently insulate religious people from criticism.... Badly needed.”
The Economist
“This book will strike a chord with anyone who has ever 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.”
Natalie Angier - New York Times Book Review

This is an important book.... Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say.

Stephanie Merritt - The Observer
“A radical attack on the most sacred of liberal precepts—the notion of tolerance.... An eminently sensible rallying cry for a more ruthless secularisation of society.”
Alan Dershowitz
“Shows how the perfect tyranny of religious and secular totalitarianism demonizes imperfect democracies such as the United States and Israel. A must read for all rational people.”
John Derbyshire - New York Sun
“[Harris's] brief accounts of intuition, and of the notion of a 'moral community,' are as good as anything I have read on these topics.”

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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What People are saying about this

"While one might dispute some of the claims and arguments presented by Harris, the need for a wakeup call to religious liberals is right on the mark."
---Joseph C. Hough Jr., president of Union Theological Seminary, New York

"A must read for all rational people."
---Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard University

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End of Faith 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 160 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In short, 'The End of Faith' is a manuscript aimed at religion and its obovious flaws that humanity tends to overlook and/or disregard. Whether its the threat of religious tensions leading to nuclear holocaust or religion itself witholding us from getting closer to a more universal answer to life, humanity has constantly allowed religion to reign its 'necessary' wrongdoings in our world beacuse of its prejudice ways of life and greedy claims of 'the 'ONLY' answer to life.' Sam Harris has created something amazing, something epic and triumphant in the world of free-thinkers alike. I feel that this is one colossal, successful step towards TRUE freedom of religion. No longer will prejudice Christians or Cahtolics or Muslims and so forth restrain us from believing in what children are taught as blind, foolish beings who accept anything and grow under those influences. As Sam Harris says, 'Religions we consider sacred today are only sacred beacuse they were sacred yesterday.' What he means by this is that the only reason why religion is actually believeable in this modern world of ours is because day after day, generation after generation, one person's beliefs were passed down since the roots of humanity and religion. If any religion never existed in our lives or the lives of our forefathers then it can be guaranteed that if a religious belief were to suddenly be proposed in our age of society, it would quickly be dismissed as folly and ignorant. Only because we are taught such things as children or live around them throughout our lives explains why we even consider them real: because we are exposed to this fantastical, irrational state of mind when we're foolish enough to believe in such mindlessness. I am no atheist, or a Christian, or apart of any other religious cult. I believe in everything that makes sense in my mind. I DO NOT close my eyes to some beliefs and open them to others (as religion does repeatedly, only accepting scientific facts that support their beliefs while disregarding any that contradict them). I keep all senses keen to reality. I'm on a journey, like so many others, to find a peace of mind in which I can think of the day that I die and not be afraid of an eternity in hell simply for not believing in something that literally has not made one appearance on this planet, except in non-proven stories. I truly believe that humanity is simply learning another global lesson. As with racism and World Wars, among other mistakes humanity has commited, breaking from the shackles of religion and accepting all rational and fair( fair as in beliefs that don't hurt others) beliefs is another lesson we'll hopefully learn as soon as possible. Sadly, it seems that humans only learn their lesson when something horrible or significant happends. With racism it took the ignorance and prejudice beliefs of slave owners to finally, after hundreds of years, give african-americans the FAITH and strength needed to overcome the IGNORANT BELIEFS of racists. Same thing with the belief that women were lesser than men and deserved less rights. In World War II it took a nuclear explosion to Hiroshima to finally shock the faces of this world into regret and sudden realization of its errors. And now, as it seems so inevitable, the ignorant and closeminded beliefs of religious people who claim their beliefs as 'the one and only' are suffering the same mistakes that racists, those who oppose female equality, and the icons that shaped the major wars of our time endured. The only problem with this new lesson that humans are learning is that we may not survive the outcomes of such ignorant and rash ways of life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When someone claims something preposterous, unsupported by fact, out of wishful thinking and/or ignorance, we don't have to respect those claims. There is no reason religious faith should be an exception, argues the author. Faith is not worthy of respect in a conversation. More importantly, Sam Harris makes the point that if we bend over backwards not to offend religious moderates, and the latter do the same not to offend religious fundamentalists (as you've noticed they inevitably do!), we're just freeing the way for the cancerous growth of fundamentalism, with the associated suicide-bombings and other fun stuff. This is an excellent book making the point that faith is positively harmful and could well spell the end of our world (think a bit about nuclear weapons in the hands of religious fanatics). The only part that left me quizzed is the chapter about mysticism and meditation: Sam Harris may be onto something, but I really am at a loss figuring out what he's talking about. Apart from that, the style of the author is crystal clear, brief, concise, admirably articulate. Make sure you check out Sam Harris's web site: it has very interesting print, audio, and video material. And buy the book and promote the cause!
Michael Westwood More than 1 year ago
i used to not advertise my atheism, because I figured other's beliefs did not matter to me. after reading this book, I realized it is my duty to the human race to help expose the harm of organized religion in the modern world. This book should be required reading for all people, especially teens before their brainwashing is complete.
ASTJ More than 1 year ago
This may offend those that choose to belive in tribal myths. The majority of the human race require the comfort provided by religious leaders that promise wonderful things at the end of life. This book shows that our civilization is still relatively primitive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sam Harris's book definitely shows that he has well thought out what to say on the topic of religion. He explains, in very descriptive terms, how religious fundamentalism, whether it's Chrisianity, Judaism or Islam, has everything to do with controlling people, as opposed to loving them. While I do disaree with him saying that all religious moderates are a threat (even though I think they're wrong as well) he provides a decent argument on why he thinks that way. I would absolutely recommend this book to anybody who is disheartened by religion's need to control people's everyday lives, including their own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Harris seems as if he is only concerned with reason, whereas I feel Richard Dawkins has a bias he hides behind. I reccomend this book to everyone because we all need to hear this in the world we live in today. The Christians and Hindus are just as mentally dead as the Muslims are and they all need to wake up and stop hating eachother with their "truth". Dont listen to any reader who gave this book a one star. If a person doesnt like the material they at least need to give it a 2 or 3 for how smart and well written it is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It might make you mad, it might make you scared, it might make you frustrated. But it will definitely make you think. This book should be required reading for every American. The author has included a huge section of notes, so if you question any of his facts or sources, you can easily dig deeper and do your own research.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The End of Faith pried me out of a bad habit, which, in turn, will threaten the bad habit in others: that of accepting toxic social conditions. Really, the situation of atheists is rather like a non-smoker in the 50¿s. When asked, ¿Do you mind if I smoke,¿ we knee-jerked, ¿O no, of course not,¿ even though it always presented discomfort. In present social situations atheists are often confronted with the toxic statement ¿I have faith in¿¿ to which the speaker expects the usual genuflection of respect, even though we don¿t feel respect. This destroys the fabric of genuine social exchange. Tradition has demanded that we should acknowledge the speaker¿s fantasy, delusion, rigidity, and refusals to examine evidence as marvelous and desirable attributes. By refusing to challenge such a person, we become complicit. No longer! Thanks, Sam! A great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found in this book a well thought out and clearly presented argument. And although the author would hold all religious faith to be irrational and obsolete, the book demonstrates that the real danger is not so much that people have faith in a particular God or religion, but that many people view their faith as the only true path, and believe they have the right to attack and kill people who do not share that faith.
Benjamin220 More than 1 year ago
Sam delivers a precise and articulate blow to the foundations of religion. He touches not only on the erroneous nature of religious claims, but more importantly, he warns us of the dangers posed by religious obedience and of the ominous actuations on the horizon given the menacing amalgam of religious zeal and modern destructive technology. Sam Harris is the tip of the spear in the fight for reason. Read this book!
Jesse Godby More than 1 year ago
Sam Harris brilliantly and accessibly expresses a powerful and thoughtful argument against dogmatic faith and religion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Open-minded for an atheiet.
psikes More than 1 year ago
A great book by one of my favorite authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is nothing like ending faith. It's as natural as the air we breathe. That said. What the book is trying to say or do is expose the harmful effects of religion due mainly to the resurgence of the Islamic fights in the west. This is good but the writer didn't go far enough to explain the origins of these religions. Rumors also abound that he favors buddhist philosophy which was a breakaway from hindu religion. But it's the letter to a christian nation that hit the nail on the head, without bias.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was particularly impressed with the 'problem of evil'. I did not understand the part about meditation because I dislike meditating. I would have liked to have him address the benefits of religion because religion has many powerful benefits. When people pray with faith, they thank God for their blessings, they ask God to look after others, and they seek guidance. After prayer believers feel blessed, benevolent toward others, clear-headed, and free of worldy cares. Indescribable job flows from prayer, but I no longer believe that it is the work of God. Understanding what happens to believers is important, however, if we hope to persuade believers to think more rationally.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because I, too, believe that, by and large, organized religion is a scourge that has been more divisive than beneficial in the history of humankind, and I wanted to know what someone else had to say on the subject. Unfortunately, Sam Harris is as dogmatic and bombastic -- and often simplistic -- as many of the people he criticizes. His arguments, finally, are generally not persuasive because they are expressed in such concrete, absolute terms -- he is terribly convinced of his own 'rightness,' and he puts many questions to the reader that he then answers for him/her, without giving the reader a chance to come to his/her own conclusion. In short, he shoves his opinions -- often thinly disguised as facts -- down the reader's throat instead of taking the time and thought to present a full argument 'despite the many citations and the voluminous -- and often fascinating -- notes, which in the end are more about quantity than quality'. The prose is also laced through with a sarcasm that is funny but does not serve his argument well and that seems a substitute for greater intellectual rigor and objectivity. I wanted to admire this book, but it was impossible given his all-or- nothing stance. He also seems to use the words 'God' and 'religion' interchangeably. Whether one believes in God or not, the two terms represent very different things -- and the book's focus should have been the 'religion' of the title. Questions of 'God' are something different, as many who have spurned organized religion 'and violence' have maintained a belief in God -- the venerable and highly ethical George Eliot 'nee Maryann Evans' among them. Sam Harris is a good writer who knows how to keep his reader's attention. But this book, whose subject held so much promise, seems little more than a grad student's diatribe in the end -- prettily written, to be sure, but nowhere near as sophisticated as its author appears to believe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
How many of you really know about the faithful reason necessary to survive?? Many individuals depend on religion for the absolute reason to continue to exist 'a sort of reverse existentialism'. Therefore, it is necessary to see both points of view on the situation. At the moment, I only see hypocrites stating, reciting, and acknowledging the views of the faithful. The spectrum needs to show the other side.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Actually Islam doesn't glorify war. They do CAUSE wars but they don' t glorify it. Every religion could be accused of glorifying war if causing war is the same thing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perfect book.  I love it.  I will read it again.  Sam Harris is so, "to the point."  He puts my feelings into words.  
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone should (have the courage to) read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was extremely influential during the rethinking of my world view.  I was an ordained minister and after many years of intensely studying the Bible and Judeo-Christian faith, I found I simply did not believe their "story."  This is much like how a Christian feels about the Koran and Allah or a Muslim feels about the Bhagavad Gita and Brahman.  “End of Faith” addresses many of these questionable and irreconcilable topics that many ministers are aware of but refuse to address or even admit to doubting.  Sam Harris has an amazing ability to state complex ideas in a simple, easy to understand way.  I recommend this book to people who are seeking truth and not just looking for a book to reinforce their current beliefs.  To people who “know” the truth already, I encourage you to buy a different book.
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