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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 13 December 2013
As with many atheistic text, this work does an excellent job of demolishing religious dogma, but when it comes to describing a moral landscape of its own it falls into the same pitfalls as others - its weak and lacking in proper explanation. If you want to think about the false hopes of religious dogma this book will help you gain clarity, but it won't help you figure out a scientific alternative, though it purports to suggest one
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on 20 August 2012
The first few chapters of this book are rather interesting and serve as an introduction to the main theme of "faith" and its influence on the lives of humans. Also the history of the Church as an instrument of oppression was worth reading, though this today is common knowledge. My interest started to wane once Harris got on to politics and started to defend US foreign policy and the actions of GW Bush and Tony Blair, and then I started to smell a rat. The overall feeling that I was left with: here is another neo-con writer that only has partial vision of his subject matter, and is partially as blind as the rest.
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The End of Faith: Religion, terror, and the future of reason, by Sam Harris, W.W. Norton, U.S.; The Free Press (Simon and Schuster), London, 2006; 336 ff.

The terror of religion
By Howard Jones

Religion is all about fear! For the meek, it's about the dreadful fate in eternal hellfire that awaits the non-believer. For the psychopathic fundamentalist, it's the perfect justification to slaughter those who are rational enough not to succumb to the terrible fantasies. This is what Sam Harris' book is all about - replacing rationalism with fear-based myth. Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and has a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA. This book gives a graphic account of the evils wrought in the name of religion.

Like other recent, prominent and forcefully atheist authors, Harris fiercely and fearlessly, as the N.Y. Times reviewer said, attacks the rational absurdities of religion and their awful consequences to us all. Every religion claims that it alone represents truth, so all other faiths are `repositories of error . . . Intolerance is thus intrinsic to every creed.' The point he makes strongly in this book is that we must not abandon rationalism in favour of `faith' when we think of religion, for `this is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.'

The title `The End of Faith' is a little ambiguous, for we all have beliefs and faith - even belief in atheism! However it is religious faith that Harris is attacking and in his opening chapter he is criticizing our lack of rationalism when it comes to religion. His second chapter is about the nature of belief in the general sense. His focus is on faith-based religion - religions that are based on man-made scriptures. The number of fundamentalist believers in America leads Harris to conclude that we `have grown almost perfectly intoxicated by our myths.' The idea of toleration and moderation in religion is itself a myth, for one person's road to salvation is another's road to hell. No other sphere of life - medicine, engineering, politics - `suffers the anachronism that still dominates our thinking about ethical values and spiritual experience.'

Harris also has a whole chapter providing a critique of Islam. He singles out this faith because, as he says, most of the religious terrorists of the past few decades have not been Christians, or Jews, or Buddhists. They have been Muslims choosing to interpret their Koran as inciting them to exterminate the infidels; though, as Harris says, there are also passages in the Koran they choose to ignore that forbid suicide and sanctify life. Other factors provoking Islamic terrorism are not considered.

So far, this tirade against dogmatic western religion echoes those of Dawkins, Dennett or Hitchens. However, unlike these other atheists, Harris accepts `that a certain range of human experience can be appropriately described as `spiritual' or `mystical' and that there also seems to be a body of data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena'. However, for Harris, spirituality should be `deeply rational'. I'm not sure what that means.

Although its theme is similar, I found this to be a much more troubling and less well balanced book than those of Dawkins, Dennett or Hitchens because of the unrelenting story of evil that Harris presents as the handiwork of religion and the excruciating detail he provides on its atrocities. Whatever the shortcomings of Dawkins' God Delusion, Harris' cannot be called a balanced presentation either.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.

The God Delusion
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
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on 13 August 2015
I've just finished reading 'The End of Faith' and I would recommend it to anyone whois interested in religion and its impact on the world, especially in the light, or should I say gloom, of the State of the Middle East. In the past I have thought that Sam Harris often took too hard a line and I've not always agreed, but this book has explained to me how he feels about religion and why. Now I couldn't agree with him more. I was especially interested in the sections discussing pacifism, war and torture, which are topics often questioned but rarely finding answers. At least I feel I have clear and comfortable views on these now, in so far as anyone can.
I've seen reviews that criticise Mr Harris's hostility to people who hold religious views. My impression has always been that his hostility is to those views and the holding of them, not to the persons. But such people would do well to read this book and then reflect on their beliefs.
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on 24 April 2006
To call this book provocative is something of an understatement - it's an attack on ideals held very dear by many, from the sanctity of religious faith through to the desirability of religious tolerance. It's also highly persuasive, and a timely wake-up call to anyone who dislikes religion but believes that private beliefs should go unchallenged.

Harris's key concern is pragmatic: there are religious fundamentalists happy to kill both themselves and others on the basis of their faith in particular holy books, and we must find the best way of stopping them. Harris's view is that the way to do so is to undermine all religion, not just that of the fundamentalists.

He notes that "religious tolerance", the liberal consensus which minimises conflict between believers and non-believers, and between moderates and radicals, allows fundamentalism to flourish because it creates a climate where only actions can be challenged, not the beliefs that cause them. Harris (with some tendency to exaggeration) downplays the political causes of terrorism which other writers focus on, and concentrates on the central absurdity that makes acts like suicide bombing possible - belief in reward in the afterlife.

Harris rarely minces words. The book is filled with quotable invective, which depending on your perspective you'll either find inspiring or apalling. As a rant, it's highly articulate and very well-argued.

Harris pours scorn particularly on Islam and Christianity, enumerating the false beliefs to be found in their holy books and devoting a chapter each to their flaws. Judaism gets off more lightly, and he clearly has more sympathy for Israel than its neighbours. Eastern mysticism such as Buddhism gets off most lightly of all, on the grounds that it is to some extent a tradition of empirical investigation, not just a compendium of antiquated superstitions.

There are very interesting chapters that discuss the philosophical arguments against faith - one on the nature of belief and another on ethics. Many of his arguments (e.g. in favour of torture under certain circumstances) are initially repellent, and some of his ideas are unfairly contradictory (particularly a support for Western bombing of civilians while criticising Islamic support for the same - although his grounds are reasonable, if you accept his argument that the West would avoid "collateral damage" if it could, while Islamic terrorists actively seek it out, he remains far from even-handed).

The flaws are hardly relevant, as there's no need to agree with everything here to get the main point - that only by challenging all irrational religious views can we hope to create a future free from murderous extremists.
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on 26 March 2017
Being a long time Atheist (since being 15/16 and I'm now 75+)- very, very clearly Mankind created god and NOT the other way around.
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on 16 March 2017
Very well written... compelling logic. This book is not pablum. This book is mental exercise. To get all one can out of Harris requires that the reader pay attention as he reads. But he who does so will be rewarded with a very satisfying examination of the question of "faith". I found myself having to read over many sentences two or three times before I was able to extract the full nutrition from them. But I was glad I did. This book has strengthened my understanding of how faith works, why it is so successful, and the impact it continues to have in the world.
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on 4 February 2013
Review: The End of Faith by Sam Harris

Sam Harris book illustrates the irrationality of "religious faith" based on "beliefs" of unsubstantiated facts and yet such myths have been sheltered from criticism from every corner. I have rated it with 5 stars because the book is contemporary, very readable, credible and timely and most of all fearless of "political correctness."

The book illustrates that anti-Semitism is integral to both Christianity and Islam and shows the barbarity of Christian who, butchered thousands in the name of God in the Inquisition and the Holocaust. That tribalism, exclusion, racism and savagery is laced throughout the scriptures of all the Abrahamic faiths.

Fundamentalist Christian scriptures were protected from inquiry with harsh and uncompromising diktats like that from Pope Pius X in 1907 who declared modernism a heresy. In Islam, it is also heretic to question the Quran or the hadiths. Thus intelligent inquiry into both the Bible and the Quran were stifled for many centuries in Christianity and still does in Islam. Hence the rejection of the modern scientific theories and hypothesis of the 20th and 21st centuries into Abrahamic faith considerations. Such stifling of intellectual exegesis from the highest authorities of the Abrahamic religions has prevented the evolution of modern religious doctrines.

Harris' intimate knowledge of Islam also allows him to express his views on the rigidity of the Islamic faith and to express his views on Islam's conflicts with that of Christianity without being hog-bound with `political correctness,' is a bold step in modern 21st century literature.

Harris also openly discusses the political correctness in the assessment of our conflicts with Islam. Let me quote his words,

"We are war with Islam. It may not serve our immediate foreign policy objectives for our political leaders to openly acknowledge this fact, but it is unambiguously so. It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been "hijacked" by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of the hadith, which recounts the sayings and actions of the Prophet. A future in which Islam and the West do not stand on the brink of mutual annihilation is a future in which most Muslims have learned to ignore most of their canon, just as most Christians have learned to do. Such a transformation is by no means guaranteed to occur, however, given the tenets of Islam."

Written with such frankness, it is a stimulating book, and well worth reading
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on 12 January 2010
Like many reviewers who gave 3 stars or less, I was disappointed by this book half-way into it. Why does Harris go batting, albeit indirectly, for George Bush in a book purported to be hostile to religion? Saddam Hussein was as secular an Arab despot as you could think of, and his removal was a blow to secularism in the Middle East. Whatever the case for torturing terrorists in order to foil acts of terror, why belabour the point at such length? Whose back is getting scratched here (the CIA's?). The author condemns the war-on-drugs Gulag, much to his credit, but he then goes on to lay it at the door of religion. Why then is it in secular Singapore that drug users get hanged for possession of token quantities of recreational drugs? A cursory look at drug law enforcement in secular countries around the World should've convinced the author that human societies do not need religion to be irrationally repressive about pleasure-seeking behaviour. The cause of atheism is not helped by this kind of generalisation. As to the philosophical digressions, they were beyond me most of the time and it was often not clear what they set out to prove or disprove.
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on 4 August 2007
So many of the reviews here focus on specific aspects of Harris' work that present a particular religion, or sect, in a negative light. Certainly, the book does contain a large number of specific criticisms, but these are used to illustrate the central point of the book - that FAITH itself is the problem; FAITH in all its forms. Of course, for a great many of the global population this means the particular religion that they choose to subscribe to... but it is much more than this - it is the willingness to accept any doctrine at face value, without requiring evidence or accepting critical analysis.

The book makes an eloquant case for individuals challenging the beliefs which they carry, and those that they are asked to accept by any other individual or organisation - including those imposed by the state.

Too many Amazon reviewers seem to have been offended by statements that criticise part of their belief system. This is the point of the book!! Uncritical faith leads to blind acceptance of myths, press releases and all other forms of story. The resultant differences in opinion escalate into "denial of 'facts'" and lead eventually to the murderous and genocidal incidents described in the book.

Incidentally, those reading with an open mind will see a critique of unthinking in every form - including unthinking atheists who accept the word of any other atheist (e.g. Dawkins, who is repeatedly blamed for 'fundamental' atheism, despite his continued insistence on evidence and critical analysis!). Unthinking atheism is just another form of FAITH!

Read with an open mind, bearing in mind the core message that "uncritical faith is irrational, unthinking and unsound", and you will enjoy and benefit from this book.
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