35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2006
This little book is a gem of its kind. It is an argument with a literal minded Christian (fundamentalist, evangelical, etc) in the form of a letter. Harris's arguments are mostly not original - some previous versions of them date back more than a century in the skeptical literature - but his concise and hard-hitting presentation of them is. He is almost unique for his honest and, one must say, sometimes blunt treatment of religion. Some readers will find this offensive and won't pay his arguments the attention they deserve. I can only ask them to persevere and see if they can find a problem with Harris's reasons. The challenge for the committed Christian is to meet him on the plane of reason; and if you think that you don't have to, because faith prevails even where reason fails, I must ask, why your faith rather than any other? As Harris points out, many Muslims have exactly as much devout belief as you do and yet you are not troubled by this; can't you see that to an outsider, this is a reason to doubt all faiths? But I am paraphrasing Harris here, and poorly. I refer you to his forceful eloquence instead.
One more thought. Where does this book leave the moderate or liberal Christian? What does it say to them? While ostensibly not aimed at them, some challenges are obvious. If you are not a literal-minded Christian, then what exactly do you believe? Why are the literal-minded Christians not just simply more consistent (less politely: less hypocritical) than you are? Are there resources within Christianity that can justify your liberal stance, or are you really compromising with outside standards and motivated by outside factors? And the final question is last, and this is treated more fully in Harris' other book, The End of Faith: to what extent are moderate religious people responsible for enabling religious extremists to thrive and thereby threaten civil society? Harris is saying that religion is false and dangerous, even in its moderate forms, and he is saying that the polite silence rational people maintain about it is morally and intellectually unconscionable. Even if you are sure that he is wrong - especially so - you owe it to yourself to read this book.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Sam Harris says what a lot of us have been thinking, but have been afraid to say in public. In this concise book, Harris directly attacks the very foundation of religious faith.
One might expect such a book to be either mean-spirited or intentionally provacative. Christian Nation is neither, although some will experience it that way. Harris sticks to the facts. He does not believe that religious faith, including but certainly not limited to Christianity, is good for people.
Harris is concerned with reducing human suffering and increasing human happiness. He agrees that many of the things that Jesus about love and kindness are indeed valuable and wise. He points out, however, that the bible contains much, much more than love and kindness. It contains cruelty, such as slavery, and pointless rules, such as the ban on graven images.
In the end, Harris argues, religious faith, or any belief that is not based on evidence and reason, does not make sense and will ultimately lead to unnecessary suffering.
No doubt, many good and loving people would be offended or hurt if they read this book. But that simply proves Harris' point. These people have been so blinded by faith that they cannot even consider the possibility they have been led astray. Hopefully, a good number of religious people will muster the courage to read the book anyway.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2006
Sam Harris is best know for his book entitled "The End of Faith" and although this small follow-up book is a welcome addition to the discussion of the role of religion in the modern world it seems unlikely to have a similar impact – although it is quite a pithy synopsis of the earlier book. I remember – over half a century ago – reading Bertrand Russel's book entitled "Why I am not a Christian". And there is clearly an overlap between the two books with Bertrand Russell probably being a little more ruthless in his criticism of Christianity. Russell says that “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in Hell.” And I wrote in the margin of my copy of the book: “Interestingly many practising Christians do not”.
Although Harris did not use the exact same words I am sure he agrees that there are indeed some of Jesus' views (as recorded in the New Testament) which do not seem to be morally defensible. Unfortunately, Harris does not distinguish very well between fundamentalist Christians who reject the occurrence of evolution and believe all sorts of unscientific mumbo jumbo about the age of the earth and more enlightened Christians who are comfortable with scientific discoveries about the nature of the physical and biological world.
Bertrand Russell wrote an earlier essay entitled “Mysticism and Logic” and in this essay he says “I believe that . . there is an element of wisdom to be learnt from the mystical way of feeling which does not seem to be attainable in any other manner. If this is the truth, mysticism is to be commended as an attitude towards life and not as a creed about the world.” There are many of us who agree with Russell when he says “I do not believe that the decay of dogmatic belief can do anything but good” but also many of us who are agnostic rather than atheistic and feel that although the dogmatic views of many Christians are indefensible there are nevertheless “more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. The world is a mysterious place and the sense of the numinous ought not to be decried.
It may seem paradoxical but the history of the interaction between the Christian religion and science is not one of unrelenting animosity and hopeless incompatibility – despite what Harris writes. There is a sense in which Christianity and Western civilization have grown up together. There are many leading scientists including Newton himself who were also religious and the renowned astrophysicist Arthur Stanley Eddington was a life long Quaker.
There is really nothing badly wrong with Sam Harris' latest book and it is entirely fair of him to poke fun at the Roman Catholic church's baseless discussion of limbo. Christianity is clearly a type of crutch which is no longer needed but, in growing beyond it, it is almost certainly unwise to lose our sense of awe and wonder. Who knows what really makes the universe tick.
The mutual incompatibility between the world's major religions is strong evidence that none of them has an inside track on understanding the ultimate nature of reality and both fundamentalist Christianity and relentlessly dogmatic Islam are huge threats to our future. And, in shining a searchlight on the reasons why they are a menace, we are all in Sam Harris' debt.
There is a recent poll in America which asked the right question for a change and uncovered the fact that some 45% of Americans are not absolutely sure that God (as traditionally conceived) actually exists. And if many of these individuals read Sam Harris' book it may well help to clarify their thinking.
Sam Harris is one of the most approachable of the 'new atheists' and delivers a hard hitting, no frills, rational refutation of ancient beliefs. In this small book, he gives ammunition to atheists to help clarify and defend their own views, and perhaps a boost to the fence sitters that are having trouble giving themselves a final push. His reductionist arguments, his insistence that you make a stand, and his barrage against the airy-fairy, are refreshing and freeing. He exposes all myth based dogma as inherently false and ultimately dangerous. A great push for humanism with its ultimate concern for societal well-being and progress...Full of absolute gems..."Our country now appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant." and "The process of scientific conquest and religious forfeiture has been relentless, one directional, and utterly predictable." Sam Harris is never, as some accuse atheists of being, strident. He lets the facts speak for themselves. And at the end you feel his deep concern for a world who puts ancient, divisive, cruel nonsense above rational enquiry on how best to live moral, healthy, happy lives...
on March 25, 2013
un très bon livre pour qui veut comprendre la situation actuelle de ce qui mène le monde. attire notre attention sur la bêtise humaine, sur l'aspect déraisonnable de la foi, sur le refus de certaines gens de se servir de leur intelligence quand les grandes questions existentielles sont en jeu......aide à réaliser que l'athéisme est la seule position qui peut intellectuellement se défendre et aboutir à un véritable humanisme, à donner enfin l'importance qu'elle mérite à la position qui prône que le seul bonheur possible pour l'Homme doit être cherché sur terre, et que, en conséquence on n'a pas besoin d'un dieu pour être convaincu qu' une morale strictement naturelle est la seule nécessaire pour nous guider et faire de nous des Humains travaillant à effacer les inégalités tant biologiques, innées , que sociales pour arriver à créer un monde terrestre où le bonheur peut être l'apanage de tous
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2006
The basic premise of the book is that there are many contradictions with Christianity especially with how it is practiced in the United States. The assertion is that nothing has to be "believed" on insufficient evidence. This book is a great source for a logical retort to many religious claims. Read this book and pass it along to your friends. It is worth it.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2006
While the price of this little gem was steep, and it contained much material already printed in some Mr. Harris' essays (hence the four stars), it packs a lot in. The author is concise and his erudite sense of humour shows through the serious nature of the book.
The book was a response to the innumerable letters he received after writing The End of Faith, primarily from the Christian population. If you've read the epilogue to the latest version of that work, you'll see he addresses some of these issues there. In this book he expands upon such, systematically rebutting the arguments theologians throw at him.
For instance the author covers a counterpoint to the proclamation: atheist countries are worse to live in. Treading through standard of living issues like infant mortality, income, education, crime and the like, he show that this is not the case, based on whatever empirical measure you define. For instance, the Bible belt is worse off under all said criteria than the more secular states.
That's just a brief tidbit of info from the book. While he isn't naive enough to think he'll change the minds of dogmatists, he hopes to catch some of those in the middle ground and awaken them to threats now being posed. While The End of Faith may have alienated some religious moderates through its sheer audacity, this book should be more welcoming. Thank you once again Mr. Harris.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2011
I love the reading of the book, I also ordered the CD-audio of it.
Great many points and powerful reasoning that demands thinking.
Requires a serious listener, open to rational reasoning.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2006
A voice of reason!
If everyone could read this short, concise and brilliant work, and everyone would understand it and be inspired by it, we would be so much further along the road toward a truly peaceful world than the Christian or Muslim religions have shown they have ever been capable of... and without any imaginary friends telling anyone how to or not to do it. The ideas in this book are not necessarily new; in fact countless millions have probably had many of them floating around in their heads for years now. However, Mr. Harris has said it all so succinctly, logically and with such perfect poignancy, you feel like jumping to a standing ovation and cheering with each succeeding point that is made. He puts it altogether with such common sense, you are left somewhat exasperated in realizing that so many do not get it. Or even want to get it.
John Lennon said in his infamous interview that Christianity would shrink and die out. With the likes of Sam Harris, among others, we are making a few more strides towards this possible reality. Quick! Before it is too late! I wish the price of this little gem was about one dollar so I could buy up a few hundred and pass them out. I can only hope it does not end up only being read by the converted. At the end of the book, Mr. Harris lists a number of books he feels are of importance, dealing with this train of thought, and as it turns out, I already had about half of them, and I cannot agree more with his choices and the fact that it is urgent that as many people as possible speak up against the blind faiths that have offered no evidence or solutions, and only irrational apologetics and divisive dogma in two thousand years. Hurrah to Sam Harris and these others who are concerned, courageous and honest enough to speak up!
Why only 4 stars? Price vs. size, but certainly not price vs. content!
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2006
Sam Harris has written a shorter version of his thought provoking book "End of Faith". The premise is similar, that all religions are based on outdated irrational ideas which are all too often used to justify incredible acts of inhumanity. Harris' writing continues to be witty and hard hitting. The points he makes are so compelling that I suspect any religious person would drop the book after the first few pages and collapse from embarrassment. In fact most of the readers of this book will already be converts to Harris' point of view. Unfortunately the people who really need to read this book (as well as the End of Faith and the God Delusion) have already buried their heads too deeply in the sand to be "saved".