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The End of Faith by Sam Harris


Author: Sam Harris
Title: The End of Faith
Paperback ISBN: 0393327655
Published: 2005 by W.W. Norton
Rating: 2.00 / 5.00

Sam Harris presents a deeply flawed argument based on a shaky premise in The End of Faith. The book starts off with a bang but quickly degrades into bad logic before finally going from suck to blow near the end. Before beginning this reading, I already foresaw my disagreement with Harris that an end to all faith is important for the future of the human race. The ironic aspect of my disagreement? I am an Atheist. Despite not believing in a deity or other religious dogma, I believe we have the right to satisfy our desire to understand the world in which ever means we deem most interesting. I choose science; other people choose faith. Live and let live so long as you don't get violent based on your faith. Which is Harris' argument as to why Faith is such a problem: in the age of global terrorism, religious extremists such as Islamic Fundamentalists desire to harm other people based on their faith. Harris comes back to this opinion to the exclusion of all other factors including socio-economic status, satisfaction with life (assuming suicide bombing), political and economic instability, and fanatical leaders. While certain religious dogma may be at issue (such as religious clerics determining that suicide to kill an enemy is considered "Martyrdom," a word normally reserved for dieing at the hands of an enemy unjustly), it is the leaders manipulating the dogma and interpreting ancient sacred texts that are more at issue. Harris fails to make his case in a logical manner that Faith, in exclusion to all other variables, is the most important aspect in pointing potential suicide bombers towards terrorism.

Harris goes on to dis Noam Chomsky and attempt to defend torture and "collateral damage" before ending the book with a chapter concerning mysticism of all things. His diversions in support of his central thesis only further detract from the argument and continue a long string of logical errors. I am no fan of organized religion. Organized religion has done many evil things in this world and continues to advocate policies that limit freedom, detract from legitimate science, and cause other wise normal people to deal with many psychological issues and hurdles in regards to their self concept and definition. Harris does a great job of exposing religiously influenced crimes against humanity in the past. Harris also does an admirable job sticking it to various sacred texts and asking how religious doctrine can be based on books with conflicting and often inaccurate stories told by fallible men. Also the issue of changing doctrine because of inaccuracies and scientific achievement is addressed as well. The great documentation and research on these issues saves the book from being a total waste of time, but Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" would be sufficient reading if you wish to consider the ridiculous aspects of the bible as anything other than fable or parable. In the end, Harris grasps too far without support and utilizing poor logic. A much simpler text could have laid out issues regarding organized religion and its attacks on science and reason and how unquestioned dogma can produce very bad things in this world. But Harris goes to far in suggesting there is no place in this world for Faith (which Harris seems to use interchangeable with religion despite their being a BIG difference between the two words). Despite my belief system, Harris has failed to convince me that the modern world's somewhat civil society and faith are incompatible with each other.
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