The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists Hardcover – May 11 2008
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From the Back Cover
When you pray, are you talking to a God who exists? Or is God nothing more than your 'imaginary friend, ' like a playmate contrived by a lonely and imaginative child? When author Sam Harris attacked Christianity in Letter to a Christian Nation, reviewers called the book 'marvelous' and a generation of readers---hundreds of thousands of them---were drawn to his message. Deeply troubled, Dr. Ravi Zacharias knew that he had to respond. In The End of Reason, Zacharias underscores the dependability of the Bible along with his belief in the power and goodness of God. He confidently refutes Harris's claims that God is nothing more than a figment of one's imagination and that Christians regularly practice intolerance and hatred around the globe. If you found Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation compelling, the book you are holding is exactly what you need. Dr. Zacharias exposes 'the utter bankruptcy of this worldview.' And if you haven't read Harris' book, Ravi's response remains a powerful, passionate, irrefutably sound set of arguments for Christian thought. The clarity and hope in these pages reach out to readers who know and follow God as well as to those who reject God.
About the Author
Ravi Zacharias is President and Founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). Their global outreach grew from humble roots in 1984 and includes fielding a team of itinerant speakers who operate from offices located around the world including the U.S., the UK, Romania, the Middle East, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Canada. The Hallmark of Ravi’s heart is his strong evangelistic and apologetic that manifests itself from a position of compassion.
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When Ravi systematically unravels Harris's arguments (often merely unfounded assertions), one is left wondering how Harris's book could ever have been taken seriously by a half way intelligent person much less become a best seller. I find it amusing to watch how the "new atheists" argue for a world of pure secular humanism with all the passion of a pack of religious zealots.Read more ›
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The End of Reason is primarily a response to Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. Zacharias uses Harris as a starting point, skilfully countering not only Harris's arguments, but also those of other well-known atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
The book is divided into several distinct sections. To begin, Zacharias notes the particular kind of atheist to which he is responding--those that make others "embarassed to be an atheist." He also describes his own past as an atheist and the suicidal hopelessness to which such thought brought him. The second and longest section describes this atheism in philosophical terms. Zacharias outlines this worldview's stance on life's origins, the meaning of life, morality, and hope in a painful world. In the third section, Zacharias sets out to confront and debunk a number of Harris's specific claims, whether of Christianity's inferiority to religions like Buddhism or Jainism or that the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth is erroneously founded on a mistranslation and the root of Christian "anxiety about sex." Zacharias also discusses Pascal's Wager--that the fulfilment brought by Christianity is worthwhile even if the universe turns out to be meaningless--and a number of other major issues.
The final section is perhaps the best, and the lynchpin of Zacharias's book. In the closing pages, Zacharias puts forward a simple, understandable argument for the existence of God and discusses the true meaning of the Eucharist, at once the most important rite of the Christian church and the symbol of the unity brought through Christ to believers around the world. And, in closing, Zacharias suggests that in the end the final decision will not be between atheism and religion, but between Christianity and Islam.
I found this book encouraging and refreshing--encouraging, because it fed my desire to not only believe but to believe for good reason, and refreshing because of its brevity and coolheadedness. What perhaps encouraged me most about the book is the overwhelming tone of reasonableness that Zacharias maintains throughout. Never once does he stoop to the level of crassness and vitriol demonstrated by polemicists like Harris. Instead, Zacharias proves by his own example the kind of peace and fulfillment of which atheism is devoid and only faith can bring. This book is a beautifully clear-headed respite from the current trend of "flame-war" argumentation.
The End of Reason is a good, quick read--like I said, I read it in perhaps an hour and a half. But packed into a very little space is the kind of brain-fodder on which meaningful reflection thrives. Christians will value this book as a defense of the faith; atheists will value this book as a civil counterargument in an ongoing debate.
The book is nothing more than a response to Sam Harris and his anti-religion publications. With a broad brush, Harris outlines what he believes to be the irrationality of religion and calls on people to leave faith behind. Ravi Zacharias penned this book as a response to those assertions. His stated purpose is quite clear. Christianity is not an untenable position for a reasoned person to hold. He works through many of Harris' charges to expose the flawed logic which appear sound on the surface but fail to hold up under scrutiny. Did Zacharias accomplish his goal?
The book succeeds in large part by providing Christians with confidence that the Biblical worldview is not without support. Drawing on the fields of philosphy, science, logic, and history Zacharias shows that there is another side to the argument. While not delving into great depth on any issue, the author does raise important points which are handled in more depth by other authors. This is a general overview rather than a specific point by point dismanteling of Harris. It serves as a good introduction to the subject - not too technical in its language but weighty in its ideas. A good read.
When Ravi systematically unravels Harris's arguments (often merely unfounded assertions), one is left wondering how Harris's book could ever have been taken seriously by a half way intelligent person much less become a best seller. I find it amusing to watch how the "new atheists" argue for a world of pure secular humanism with all the passion of a pack of religious zealots. As the likes of Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens flog their rabid atheism they sound more like wild-eyed desert prophets than anything. It is clear, perhaps to everyone but them, that they are every bit as religious as the most extremist religious practitioner they rail against, and just as dangerous should their views ever receive wide subscription. The only difference is that their god is themselves but labeled and masquerading in their writings as "science". All this Zacharias does a masterful job of exposing. Although Ravi admits to this being his most edgy book, one cannot read it without detecting the genuine love and desire on his part to see the new atheists wake up to the bankruptcy of their worldview.
For those interested in another excellent rebuttal of Harris's rant, here is a much punchier contribution that focuses more on exposing the internal inconsistencies of atheism than on positively proving Christianity Letter from a Christian Citizen: A Response to Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.
This is a small book and one of the best and most beautifully written books I have ever read. The language is excellent, and the arguments are ruthlessly accurate in exposing the meaningless of an atheistic worldview. Common objections that are often used to slay Christians and that have a lot of rhetorical power are clinically dealt with by Ravi as he again and again exposes Harris' confident assertions for what they are. Over and over again Ravi turns Harris' own arguments back on to themselves with devastating consequences.
I am a little surprised at how aggressively Ravi takes on Harris. He is not mean spirited and does not attack the man, but he is ruthless with Harris' shallow and foolish wisdom and its consequences. The reason for the 'tone" of the book is that Ravi sees this as such an important issue with deep consequences, and one that we cannot afford to ignore.
Personally I regard Harris as a clever guy who is completely out of his depth when it comes to philosophy and religion. His shallow thinking resonates well with my own shallow secular atheistic childhood upbringing and teenage years. The problem is, as JP Moreland has said, that "the make-up man is more important than the speech writer", meaning that Harris' weak arguments are more than made up for by his confidence and clever rhetoric.
Dr. Zacharias writes from his own experience as a former atheist. While many in the US may not have similar experiences (increased suicide in light of rise in popularity of atheism or moral relativity), statistics show that suicides in ages 14-24 have more than doubled since the influx of moral relativity to the US in the mid-20th century (suicide.org). Since Dr. Zacharias dealt with this issue in the most intimate way (he attempted suicide as an atheistic teen), his book deals with this topic up front and throughout. In fact, he has a section titles "Atheism Led to My Suicide Attempt."
Dr. Zacharias, like William Lane Craig, writes on multiple levels of complexity. This text is his "easiest read." One can sit down and run through this text in a few hours without having to stop to ponder the depth of what Dr. Zacharias is saying. (Some of his other writings are rather deep.)
After his introductory remarks, Dr. Zacharias responds to Harris through four generic topics: Origin, Meaning, Morality and Hope. In each of these, he jumps around to different references in Harris' writings and counters Harris' postulations on these topics.
Next, Dr. Zacharias deals with Harris' ideas on Christian topics such as The Christ of Scripture, evidence for God, morality of the Ten Commandments, controversial aspects of science (abortion, genetic engineering, cloning and design behind the universe.) Each of these is treated very briefly and in response to Harris' ideas. Discussing each of these in detail would take hundreds of pages and Dr. Zacharias uses less than 130 pages of large font text. So, his treatment is brief.
Is he convincing? That depends on the objections one has to Christianity, and the fervency with which one holds to these objections. His closing salutation to his letter is "With my prayers for a world of reasonable faith." With this, he points to the desire that people will understand through his writing in response to Harris that Harris' loud voice pointing to what he sees as the unreasonable nature of faith that faith truly does have reasonable foundations. One must simply investigate the evidence and decide rather than relying on a one-sided and heavily slanted point of view of Harris.
The audience for this book are seekers who want to read a reasonable response to the loud voice of Harris. Also, Christians who have read Harris can benefit from the basic arguments postulated by Zacharias and build better responses to help those in their community that may have been exposed to Harris' writings.
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