"Sam Harris launches a sustained nuclear assault.... A brave, pugilistic attempt to demolish the walls that currently insulate religious people from criticism.... Badly needed."
"A genuinely frightening book.... Read Sam Harris and wake up."
The Guardian - Richard Dawkins
"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."
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
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.
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.
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.
The premise of THE END OF FAITH — that religious faith is not only illogical and irrational, but ultimately dangerous —is challenging. Fortunately, Brian Emerson's clear and evenly paced narration allows listeners to concentrate on the ideas being presented. This is not to say that Emerson's delivery is dry and didactic. His tonal range accurately conveys the author’s quiet horror at the atrocities committed over the ages in the name of religion. Emerson also captures Harris’s wry humor when examining the ironies to be found in the clash of reason and faith. The book lends itself well to audio. Listeners will undoubtedly make good use of "rewind" to re-hear and re-think the arguments presented. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine