A great read. Still relevant 10 years later. A fair, measured approach to a sensitive topic. Sam Harris is quickly becoming one if my favorite authors.
Books on tape are awesome! Audible sometimes sucks because it won't let you purchase Audiobooks after you already ordered them!
This is a must read for anyone looking to get to the bottom of spiritual dogma. The examples sited in this book in conjunction with the confidence in which it is presented makes this an instant classic and a great guide to non faith based life. Thank you again Sam.
Could not make it through a few minutes of this book. Sounded like captain kirk (star trek) was the inspiration for the narrator. Maybe will try reading instead of listening to this book.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This is not really about the end of faith, but the author’s post 9-11 justification for the preemptive destruction of those he fears.
I agree with much, if not most, (actually almost everything) of what is presented in The End of Faith, nevertheless I was uncomfortable with a few of the author’s blind spots, allowing him to seriously justify preemptive violence against his “enemies”.
This is not rationalism, not an author searching for truth, but instead a long rationalization for violence born of fear. The author’s fear is palpable on nearly every page. This may not be noticeable to many just now, as fear saturates much of west post 9-11. This book seems to be a visceral (and understandably human) reaction to 9-11. While it does address the obvious historical atrocities perpetrated by western religions, much of the book explains why we should fear Islam and might need to kill them for their dangerous beliefs.
The author seems to show no interest in understanding the nature of his enemy, merely repeatedly justifying his fear of them. Harris indicates he does not know how we might win the war on terrorism. The answer is simple to anyone who has studied military history, you win when your advisory loses the will to fight. Loses the will to fight. This seems to be the bases of his fear. That his enemy will never lose the will to fight.
The author fails address some key questions:
If religion is such a hindrance to human happiness, why is it ubiquitous in successful societies? I am not at all religious, but, without fully understanding the purpose of religion I hesitate to declare the end of faith.
The author spends much of the book pointing out the violence intrinsic to Islam, yet he clearly knows western religious underpinnings are every bit as violent. This raises another question; why have western religions recently become less overtly violent? The author seems to claim western societies are “ahead of” (more civilized than, more advanced than, better than) Islamic societies. But the author does not seem to seriously consider why this is the case.
This is not a bad book, but the best parts have been done better elsewhere, and the fear based parts are sad.
The narration is not at all bad, but the emphasis seemed a bit exaggerated for the material.
I enjoyed this book very much but I have to say I liked The god Delusion and God is not great much more...I guess it really depends on what style you like more...Over all I think it makes a good addition to any library and I would highly recommend it.
Billy Dennis Jr
But when he got into a comparison of Western versus Eastern religions, I lost a lot of respect for the author. For instance, when he stated that Christianity is better than Islam because former President Bush would not indiscriminately kill 3000 Muslims as they did to us, it shows his bias. But until then, I was right with him!!!
I bought a hard copy of this book a fee years back and really enjoyed it's content. I decided to buy the audio version of it. The narrator did a really unsatisfactory job he seemed to even disagree with what he was reading at certain points.
I listened to Richard Dawkin's the god delusion and found it a good book, which, though self admittedly biased and partial took a pretty fair, even handed and careful approach.
Since I am overall a fan of Sam Harris, I expected something similar, a take on religion that is critical but well reasoned.
I was rather disappointed, and for the hasty reader:
If you consider this book, do look at the God Delusion first, you will find better arguments there.
The core problem, I think is this: Harris will flip-flop on several of his approaches.
What he says will be inconsistent with each other and I shall try to explain how:
1. He first looks at religion in a scriptural literalist approach, he gives the thought experiment of a person from a past century, placed in the modern age, highlighting that such a person would know pretty much everything there is to know about his, in this case, christian religion, but be terribly out of date and seemingly moronic on pretty much everything else.
He will argue, that modern moderate religious position owe their existence to outside developments: not to christian values, so to say, but to modern sensibilities.
And those arguments can be made. One can see a religion as primarily defined by its foundational documents, especially since officially, all of those still stand as canonical in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam, etc.
They have not been overruled in the same way that constitutions have been changed, even though it seems rather oversimplified to not give more space to how theologians have dealt with them.
However, if this is one's reasoning, if one sees theologians' modern interpretations as in the end, relatively inconsequential, then one will not be able to argue the way the authors does.
You cannot blame Christianity for antisemitism, as all such ideology is not in any way less contemporary theology (the texts still talk of the old covenant, the prophets, the entire Jewish foundation of Christianity) than moderate modern outlooks.
Similarly, other atrocities can not be blamed on Christianity, whenever they go beyond the texts and the theological foundation.
You have to decide whether religion is eternally defined by its foundation, or whether it is a changing phenomenon developing over time.
So either you will have to accept both the good and the bad changes, or discard them both.
You cannot have your derision of modern moderate religious groups and your condemnations of every evil ever carried out in the name of a religion.
Arguing that way seems awfully convenient.
2.The same problem I see in his views of atrocities and deeds of compassion.
Same Harris will argue, that you need no irrational believes to do good (when talking about Christians for example protecting Jews under the Third Reich motivated by their Christian faith), but then claim that for genocides and similar atrocities, one will find irrational believes behind them.
I find this a very bold assertion.
First, mass killings of "out-group" individuals, paired with acquiring their resources (including land) can hardly be argued to lack any "rational" reasoning - as immoral as that rationality is for us.
Third Reich Germany acquired massive short term profits from confiscating Jewish fortunes. Their ideas of war and conquest similarly were founded on ideas of massive land acquisitions.
And they are not in any case the first. History is teeming with atrocities which were highly profitable for those carrying them out. Irrational believes make a good tool, for sure, to direct and organize such activities (ideologies give swift access to an in-group and an out-group to attack), but denying the fact, that such atrocities tend to have very materialistic motives seems questionable.
On the contrary though, looking at primarily cost-benefit aspects, actions such as risking your own life and that of your family to oppose a regime like the Nazis and thus possibly facing the same fate as the people you help, this indeed seems hard to justify.
You need at least some sort of irrational believe to place the necessity of such an altruistic act (which will not even benefit your gene's survival) over the costs it imposes on you.
Now, do not get me wrong, this does not mean that any religious sentiment is necessary to do those altruistic acts, clearly it is not. A completely secular belief in the value of altruism perfectly suffices.
But Sam Harris will be quick to label secular ideologies as quasi-religious. And if we will liken an atrocity comparable to ones we see in some religious contexts to a religion, but not also liken a selfless act which we see in some religious contexts, then we are engaging in quite a bit of inconsistency.
So in the end, I am left with a book that seems to attempt some not even very subtle rhetorical tricks to argue against religion.
Could we not instead look at what actually causes atrocities?
How about we look at the phenomenon of group formation and violence between groups - and within against those who are seen to deviate from the group identity?
How about we stop obsessing about the relatively inconsequential part of whether or not superstition is involved (believing in unproven things of a supernatural nature) and focus on the very real problem of justifying violence and atrocities against others?
You can both be a perfectly peaceful superstitious person as well as a violent non superstitious ideologue.
Sam Harris does address the "superstitious" part, I think those are the actually good passages of the book.
He will argue quite well, if not in a very original way, that any benefits of religion are completely unrelated to their veracity - which is completely true for plainly obvious logical reasons.
But as it stands, the End of Faith offers little that has not been said better elsewhere and a lot of unsound reasoning.
The book however is also over ten years old.
I personally think judging more recent talks and podcasts, that Sam Harris has become better at this.
Thus, I would advise any potential buyer to look at other, especially more recent books. The end of Faith feels very sadly lacking and does compare poorly to books like "The God Delusion".
As a small aside, I do find it a shame that Sam Harris does not narrate this book himself, I do overall prefer him to Brian Emerson as a narrator.
This is a great book, but it is so difficult to listen to Brian Emerson's voice reading this subject matter. His voice is more suited for children's fantasy or something else. But it's too animated and high pitched for The End of Faith. This is especially irksome knowing what Sam Harris actually sounds like. This book needs a deeper more sultry voice like Seth Andrews or David Smalley