From 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 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.
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"A genuinely frightening book... Read Sam Harris and wake up." -- Richard Dawkins "Sam Harris launches a sustained nuclear assault... A brave, pugilistic attempt to demolish the walls that currently insulate religious people from criticism... Badly needed." -- Johann Hari "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." "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." -- Stephanie Merritt "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." -- Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard University and author of America on Trial "[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." -- John Derbyshire