7 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By means of selection and redefinition,
This review is from: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (Paperback)
Harris quotes selected brief passages from the Quran to claim a picture of a hateful Islam. Many of the passages are similar and are little more than an assertion that a good fate awaits believers and a bad fate non-believers (including those who might attack and not repent). The Quran uses repitition often, not just on this subject. Curiously, to illustrate the difference from Western scripture, Harris quotes from Padmasambhava, noting that "the comparison with Islam is especially invidious, because Padmasambhava was virtually Muhammed's contemporary." But in that very same text from Padmasambhava (Harris cites "Self-Liberation Through Seeing with Naked Awareness" from which I now quote), Padmasambhava is translated as saying "If you do not understand [intrinsic awareness], any virtuous or vicious deeds that you commit will accumulate as karma leading to transmission in heavenly rebirth or to rebirth in the evil destinies respectively". How far is that from a passage from the Quran that Harris quotes "God will humiliate the transgressors and mete out to them a grievous punishment for their scheming"? Are rebirths less an assertion than a God? Aren't these both ways to scare someone into joining. How is this "an invidious comparison"?
From another translation of Padmasambhava, Stephen Hodge's "The Illustrated Tibetan Book of the Dead": "Then the Lord of Death will seize you with a rope around your neck and drag you away. He will chop off your head, rip out your heart, pull out your guts, suck your blood, and chew your flesh and bones. Yet despite the agony you cannot really not die even though you see your body being chopped up over and over again." It makes a difference what passages one presents to bolster one's argument.
Harris redefines Buddhism to his liking, rather than suggest he's attached to a variation of it. He writes: "While Buddhism has also been a source of ignorance and ocassional violence, it is not a religion of faith, or a religion at all, in the Wesern sense. There are millions of Budhhists who do not seem to know this, and they can be found in temples throughout SourhEast Asia, and even the West, praying to Buddha as though he were a numinous incarnation of Santa Claus. This distortion of the tradition notwithstanding..." So Harris offers in return what? A possible future date when neuroscience resolves our ethical "errors" in a manner that suits Harris? And just where and how did Harris establish that he knows what the tradition really is. Or, if it was changed, whether the changes were distortions or improvements intended, perhaps, to reach people the traditional teachings didn't reach? There's almost no discussion in Harris' book of what people get from religion, whether fundamentalists really believe it literally, and what people would adopt if they saw reasons to give up their faith-based religion.
Harris' distinction between faith-based and non-faith-based religions, or even to a non-religion ("in the Western sense") like Buddhism seem to be a way of carving out a privileged area : Harris retains an interest in meditation as presented by Buddhism. A consideration of "control agencies" as presented by B.F. Skinner in 1953 in "Science and Human Behavior" seemed due. Even traditional Buddhism (if anyone can presume just what Harris defines that as), with its promise of "enligthenment", with its prominant role given to the Buddha and early scriptures seems a control agency in Skinner's sense. The presence of "gurus", especially in Tibetan Buddhism and Dzogchen, that Harris seems associated with, adds to the element of control.