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on November 17, 2015
One of my favourite quotes is Eleanor Roosevelt’s observation that;

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

In this book, the Sam Harris discusses ideas. He does not launch any ad hominem attacks on anyone, and only rarely attempts to voice hindsight opinions of past events. It is certainly true that some of his ideas are very controversial in today’s society. Harris has carefully thought out these ideas, and has not been afraid to challenge popular societal explanations and clichés in his presentation of his arguments. I disagree with just a very few of his points, but even on these issues, I do understand his reason for developing position he takes. The ideas in this book certainly need to be discussed, and Harris has eloquently presented them – perhaps trailing slightly in coherency in the last couple of chapters as compared to the rest of the book, but en masse, in a well written and very readable manner.

When taking stock of the somewhat controversial nature of many of Harris’ ideas, we might consider that less than five-hundred years ago, the only openly atheist people in Europe were a small few locked in Christian dungeons, or writhing in the flames as they were burned to death. Any dissension from the opinions held by the church was grossly unacceptable, and indeed unimaginable. Galileo was being threatened with torture for suggesting that Earth was not at the centre of the universe, and witches were being burned at the stake for flying on broomsticks or causing thunderstorms. These practices were the societal norm, and were considered good ideas at the time. The idea that God might not have done precisely what the church said he did was viewed as an entirely unspeakable suggestion. Any writer of that time courageous enough to challenge the church would be lampooned, excommunicated, shunned, tortured and quite likely executed. Moreover, their writings would be censured.

In the west at least, we have come a long way since those days, although other parts of our world still lag woefully behind. When we read a centuries-old document that carefully suggests that witches, just possibly, don't actually cause disease through spells or curses, our reaction is, "Um, duh! Well obviously!" I tend to think that it is probable, provided that we do not annihilate ourselves over religion first, that Harris’ ideas will cause readers five centuries from now to slap their foreheads as they read them and say the same thing. It will be boring and banal to them; a truism that is news to no one. So read it today, while it’s still controversial!
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on March 30, 2017
Very much room here for Muslim faith which Mr Harris links to terrorism. I was expecting a book more evenly distributed among the 3 religions (Muslim, Hebrew and Christian) which holy books (Coran, Torah and Old Testament) take root in the same scriptures. An overview of faith in two other major religions (Induism, Buddism, 1.5 billion believers) would have been very appropriate too.
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on December 31, 2016
This book is more important than it is to be polite toward other's religious beliefs. When the religion stops, so will the great majority of suffering in our world.
Read this book and think about it for yourself.
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on March 9, 2017
This book should seriously be mandatory reading in every school. The end of faith is a real eye opener for moderate believers.
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on May 19, 2017
Great!
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on April 18, 2017
Great book
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on October 2, 2005
The End of Faith is an important, challenging and courageous book which is well worth reading. Harris says many things which need saying about religion but which seldom receive adequate coverage.
The notion of restricting our spirituality to activities/beliefs for which there is actual evidence is highly attractive. But what seems to be missing in the book is adequate emphasis on the current existence of overwhelming evidence that runs counter to numerous existing religious beliefs. The unfounded rejection of evolution by many religious groups is a striking example.
Harris quite rightly says that "Nothing is more sacred than the facts." And the factual evidence, from the fossil record and DNA studies, for the occurrence of evolution is absolutely overwhelming. Those who recognize this have unfortunately allowed the disbelievers to muddy the waters by unfailingly speaking of "the theory of evolution" -- as if there is a single comprehensive and fully detailed explanation of how evolution actually took place.
It was known by Copernicus and Galileo - long before Newton's theory of gravity - that the earth was not the centre of the universe. And, Newton's theory of gravity was subsequently superseded by Einstein's theory of gravity which is itself incomplete if not actually defective. It is exactly the same with respect to evolution. Darwin's attempts to understand and explain evolution should not be regarded as the last word on the subject. But, what is incontrovertible is the occurrence of evolution. We know from DNA evidence that that all of us human beings are descended, on the paternal line, from a common male ancestor (dubbed the Y-chromosome Adam) who lived some 60,000 years ago. And, likewise, on the maternal line, we are all descended from a common female ancestor (mitochondrial Eve) who lived some 100,000 years ago. And, from this Adam and Eve, our shared ancestry goes much further back to the murky beginnings of evolution. These are the facts and we should all speak explicitly about the occurrence of evolution and not allow evasive and misleading talk of the theory of evolution.
The point is that if we removed from extant religions those beliefs that are contrary to existing evidence it would go a long way towards the goal of an evidence based spirituality.
Sam Harris makes the point that ". . . every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable. This puts the 'leap' in Kierkegaards leap of faith". Nevertheless , Harris admits that not all religions are equally bad in this regard. The Bible has been dissected and analyzed far more ruthlessly than any other book in the history of mankind and this commendable state of affairs is singularly lacking in the case of the Koran. It is little wonder that the current instantiation of Islam is highly dangerous in a world with weapons of mass destruction. And it is little wonder that most Christians do not believe that all Muslims need to be be converted or eliminated. Most Muslims - even moderate ones - believe that the Koran is the literal word of God. A much larger percentage of Christians believe no such thing with respect to the Bible.
Nevertheless Harris is correct in contending that moderate Christians and moderate Muslims are in many ways just as dangerous as the more fundamentalist ones. The bare essentials of most religions are simply mutually contradictory. Practising Christians believe (or are supposed to believe) that Jesus and Jesus alone was a human instantiation of God and that salvation is through Jesus or not at all. The Muslims believe that Mohammad superseded Jesus in being a channel for a more complete and accurate perception of Allah. The Bahais believe that Baha-ullah superseded both Jesus and Mohammad in bringing a more complete and accurate revelation of God. Those of the Jewish faith believe that neither Jesus nor Mohammad nor Baha-ullah were really needed since they were on the right track anyway in their worship of Jehovah. And many Buddhists can be found in temples all around the world praying before a statue of Buddha as if he was/is some kind of demi-god.
All in all religious toleration is inclined to be phoney since such a collection of disparate and incompatible beliefs cannot all be true and every one of them must - with almost total certainty - be false.
In highlighting the flaws in Christianity, Islam and Judaism Harris seems to give insufficient emphasis on the flaws in communism (Marx, Lenin, Stalin), National socialism (Hitler) and Pol Pot's horrible reign of terror. It would seem that the absence of belief in the existence of God is, in and of itself, utterly useless when it comes to having faith in non-evidentiary distortions of reality. Harris does speak of "political religion" when referring to Stalin and Mao but somewhat greater even handedness, in this regard, would not have come amiss.
Some comments on Harris' treatment of mysticism/spirituality would seem to be in order. Harris points out that a mystical form of religion is more prevalent in Eastern rather than Western religions. But he does not seem to recognize that different instantiations of mysticism vary significantly in their quality just as different religions and different subgroups in these religions vary enormously in the extent to which they are already focused on actual evidence for their religious beliefs and practises rather than blind faith.
Mahavira (one of the leading Eastern Mystics who was a key figure in the history of Jainism) spent twelve and half years meditating in a state of deprivation until he achieved "enlightenment". His teaching was thereafter directed towards helping others to achieve freedom from "the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery and death, and achieve a permanently blissful state" (I quote from Wikipedia). In the end - at the age of 72 -- he literally starved himself to death.
In contrast to this Meister Eckhart, who was a Catholic mystic (posthumously excommunicated for his beliefs), and was certainly well aware of the possibility of blissful ecstasy writes as follows:
"what a man takes in contemplation he must pour out in love. If a man was in rapture such as Paul experienced and he knew a person who needed something of him, I think it would be far better out of love to leave the rapture and help the needy man. It is better to feed the hungry than to see even such visions as Paul saw".
The purpose of life cannot be simply to achieve happiness and/or enlightenment but rather to do something with our lives that makes the world a better place and brings happiness and fulfilment to others and not just to ourselves.
One final comment is probably worth making. The percentage of Americans who reject the occurrence of evolution is far higher than it is in Europe, Australia, New Zealand or Canada. This is almost certainly due to the appalling quality of the teaching of mathematics and science in American schools. In a recent study by the Organization of for Economic Co-operation and Development America ranked 24th out of 29 countries examined. I children received a better grounding in science they would undoubtedly be far less likely to end up in believing ideas which have no basis in reality.
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on April 24, 2017
Perhaps when the author gets over ranting about 'evidence based' material and the lack of any for spiritual claims he will realize that there is a lot in this world that is that doesn't provide the evidence he wants. Perhaps he can explain why light is both a wave and particle theory when both are mutually exclusive of the other. What evidence is there that both can be right.
Also I would ask him to give evidence of beauty and prove that 99% report evidence that confirms this assignment. If you can't does that mean beauty doesn't exist?
I am sorry for what ever upset or hurt this author that makes him so contrary and I would say lack in the rationality he so wants to embody.
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"Religious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of the power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity, a vanishing point beyond which RATIONAL discourse proves impossible.

When foisted upon each generation anew, it renders us incapable of realizing just how much of our world has been unnecessarily ceded to a dark and barbarous past."

The above comes from this eye-opening book by Sam Harris. He is a neuroscientist, philosopher, author, and C.E.O. of 'Project Reason,' a non-profit organization that promotes science and secularism. This is Harris' first book.

This is a fascinating book!! It is seriously concerned with organized religion, the clash between religious faith & RATIONAL THOUGHT, and the problems of tolerance towards religious fundamentalism. This book comprises a wide-ranging criticism of all styles of religious belief. ('Belief' is mental acceptance of something as true without absolute certainty. 'Faith' means complete, unquestioning acceptance of something without proof and especially of something not supported by reason.)

Harris tells us he began writing this book on Sept. 12, 2001.

Here are some of the things I liked about this book:

(1) It opens with an account of the last day of a suicide bomber
(2) There are two interesting sections on the Holocaust and 'honor' killings
(3) It has a frightening assessment of Islam
(4) A good discussion of religion's negative influence on societal issues like drug policy and stem cell therapy
(5) There is a look into the failure to separate church and state
(6) It offers a RATIONAL approach to ethics

This is the best book I''ve read with respect to RATIONAL thinking versus irrational thinking.

Warning!! Harris is direct and even blunt. Some readers may not like this writing style.

Lest you think that Harris made everything up in his book, you'd be wrong. There are over sixty pages of notes! These alone make for very interesting reading. As well, there are almost thirty pages of references!

In response to the feedback and criticisms toward his book, Harris wrote another book entitled "'Letter to a Christian Nation."'

"The End of Faith" was on 'The New York Times Bestseller List' for 33 weeks.

Finally, do I agree with everything that Harris wrote? Of course not. But this book is an effective wake-up call to religion's dangerous influence on society and humankind.

In conclusion, Sam Harris' tour de force demonstrates how faith--blind, deaf, dumb, and unreasoned--threatens our very existence!!

(first published 2004; 7 chapters; epilogue; main narrative 225 pages; notes; bibliography; acknowledgements; index)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>

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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 22, 2006
At its heart, this book is about the difference between faith and reason. Faith is blind. It is not based on evidence or reason, and therefore offering evidence or reasons will not shake the faithful from their beliefs. Harris thinks that is very, very dangerous. It will come as no surprise to anyone that he began writing this book on September 12, 2001.

Harris argues that relying on faith instead of reason is a bad way to lead your life. It leads to all sorts of weird and dangerous beliefs, prevents important scientific discoveries, and stirs hatred between people who hold mutually inconsistent faith-based beliefs. Of course, people make mistakes when they rely on evidence and reason, but at least if we rely on reason and evidence, we are moving in the right direction and we are open to changing our minds when we are wrong. If our beliefs are based on faith, we are stuck forever.

This book will make religious people uncomfortable. Harris says exactly what he thinks, without making an attempt to spare the feelings of the religious. He does not, however, call anyone names or say anything in order to be mean or offensive. He simply states that facts as he sees them.

Some reviewers claim that Harris is "intolerant" or a "fundamentalist." They are wrong. Harris, unlike many religious leaders, fully supports the right to think, say and believe as you wish. He opposes any form of oppression. On other hand, Harris also reserves the right to think some beliefs are foolish. You probably do not respect the belief that Elvis is alive. Harris feels the same way about religious beliefs. He certainly would not want to see Elvis believers put in jail or denied rights, but he feels free to say that belief in Elvis is just plain wrong.
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