The end of faith

by poppers 8 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • poppers

    Has anyone heard of Sam Harris and read his book, "The End of Faith"?


    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

  • AlmostAtheist

    Ironically, I got that book for Christmas. It's a great read, well written. He's pretty extreme, I'm uncomfortable with how far he pushes. And I know his Bible research wasn't that extensive (I caught some errors) so I have to question his Koran research, which I know nothing about.

    He's got great footnotes, but unfortunately they are glommed into their own section at the end of the book, so it's nearly impossible to jump back and forth reading them. It's a shame, since the footnotes are execellent. I read them all at once, and even then they were pretty useful.

    I think it's worth reading, but keep your grains of salt handy.


  • slimboyfat

    Sounds like Richard Dawkins, only more so.

    I prefer to read books like Steve Bruce's "God is Dead: Secularization in the West" or Callum Brown's "Death of Christian Britian". Instead of promoting the end of religion such books merely document from a sociological perspective the extent and the path of decline of religion in the modern world.

  • poppers

    Hey, thank guys for your input. It sounds interesting.

  • NYCkid

    Yeah, I'm a big fan of Sam Harris. The latest controversy regarding the Dutch cartoonist proves his argument more succinctly. Where are the moderate Muslims? Haven't heard much from them if there is such a thing as moderate Islam.

    Islam = Jehovah's Witnesses? I see many similarities.



  • daniel-p

    I've been reading little bits and pieces whenever I see it and it sounds pretty good. I'll have to check it out at the library.

  • SixofNine

    Coincidentally, I just came across the following rather interesting "manifesto" by Sam Harris:

    Editor’s Note: At a time when fundamentalist religion has an unparalleled influence in the highest government levels in the United States, and religion-based terror dominates the world stage, Sam Harris argues that progressive tolerance of faith-based unreason is as great a menace as religion itself. Harris, a philosophy graduate of Stanford who has studied eastern and western religions, won the 2004 PEN Award for nonfiction for The End of Faith, which powerfully examines and explodes the absurdities of organized religion. Truthdig asked Harris to write a charter document for his thesis that belief in God, and appeasement of religious extremists of all faiths by moderates, has been and continues to be the greatest threat to world peace and a sustained assault on reason.An Atheist ManifestoSomewhere in the world a man has abducted a little girl. Soon he will rape, torture and kill her. If an atrocity of this kind is not occurring at precisely this moment, it will happen in a few hours, or days at most. Such is the confidence we can draw from the statistical laws that govern the lives of 6 billion human beings. The same statistics also suggest that this girl s parents believe at this very moment that an all-powerful and all-loving God is watching over them and their family. Are they right to believe this? Is it good that they believe this?


    The entirety of atheism is contained in this response. Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which the obvious is overlooked as a matter of principle. The obvious must be observed and re-observed and argued for. This is a thankless job. It carries with it an aura of petulance and insensitivity. It is, moreover, a job that the atheist does not want.

    It is worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist. Consequently, we do not have words for people who deny the validity of these pseudo-disciplines. Likewise, atheism is a term that should not even exist. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma. The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87% of the population) who claim to never doubt the existence of God should be obliged to present evidence for his existence and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day. Only the atheist appreciates just how uncanny our situation is: Most of us believe in a God that is every bit as specious as the gods of Mount Olympus; no person, whatever his or her qualifications, can seek public office in the United States without pretending to be certain that such a God exists; and much of what passes for public policy in our country conforms to religious taboos and superstitions appropriate to a medieval theocracy. Our circumstance is abject, indefensible and terrifying. It would be hilarious if the stakes were not so high.

  • mjarka911

    Thanks poppers - this sounds like a decent read. I'll try it. Along this line, I enjoyed this web site written by a previous christian fundamentalist. I saw so many parallels in myself and it is part of what started me on the road to "making sounds" about the obvious.

    Live well and let live!


  • robhic

    I read the book a couple of months ago. I had started a thread regarding the book:

    I like the book but like AlmostAtheist said, some of the parts / comments got a little tedious and uncomfortable mainly towards the end. I especially like this quote that I excerpted in the above thread. It is so true!

    "Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever." The End of Faith, pg. 19


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