Harris offers a vivid historical tour of mankind's willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when those beliefs are used to justify harmful behavior and sometimes heinous crimes. He asserts that in the shadow of weapons of mass destruction, the world can no longer tolerate views that pit one true god against another. Most controversially, he argues that the we cannot afford moderate lip service to religion - an accommodation that only blinds us to the real perils of fundamentalism.
While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris also draws on new evidence from neuroscience and insights from philosophy to explore spirituality as a biological, brain-based need. He calls on us to invoke that need in taking a secular humanistic approach to solving the problems of this world.
©2007 Sam Harris; (P)2004 W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Great book but I am a fan of Sam Harris so I am bias. I don't think this is a book for everyone and would probably discourage the far right Christians from reading or listening to it.
As an agnostic, I was intrigued by this book and the hype around it. Harris makes many interesting points about the contradictions between faith and reason and it is apparent that this is a treatise against the hyper-religious rhetoric that was apparent post 9/11. At the same time I can't say that it is entirely persuasive because it fails to address the issue that believers are unlikely to en Masse abandon their beliefs by subjecting them to logical reasoning in the same way non-believers are going to accept a deity by giving into faith.
I love the content in this book: most of what's in here is very thought provoking, so it matters not whether you agree or disagree with the Author's position, you will no doubt walk away feeling wiser than before having read this book.
I've found myself struggling to continue, though, because the narrator's voice is terribly uncomfortable to listen to for long periods. He has a very "whiney" tone, which can be tolerated with enough desire to listen to the Author's words, but the over-exaggerated expressions used to place emphasis on some parts of the writing often bring me to skip sections or switch to another book entirely.
I wish there were an alternate narrator available: I wonder if Sam Harris himself would do it. I rather enjoyed his narration of his other work: The Moral Landscape.
If you've already read Dawkins' The God Delusion and/or Hitchens' God is Not Great, you'll learn nothing new from this book, but it's a good read nonetheless. I am a fan of Sam Harris' style, but the narrator ruins it with long and painful pauses, during which I often found my attention drifting. I recommend listening to it at 1.25x (thank you for that feature, Audible!).
A bit dense, a bit heavy on the philosophy of thought and being, and a bit dry, but the arguments are heavy and thought provoking. If you're looking for an unvarnished argument against religion, an argument made with relish and gusto, then this is the book for you. Be warned, however, it's a bit difficult to keep track of when driving or doing anything else, as the arguments can be a bit high-concept.
Letting the rest of the world go by
The narrative suffers from bias. There are much stronger compelling ways of showing the follies of faith instead of reason based on science then was presented in this book. Robert Wright's book, "The Evolution of God" covers the same kind of material that's in the first half of Harris' book, but he puts the topics in their proper context and makes a much more compelling argument (and doesn't weirdly fixate on Islam as this author does).
The book's first half seemed to be pre-occupied with Islam and their inconsistencies. The author would have made a better narrative if he didn't focus as strongly on just one religion. The book came out in 2007 (it's now 2013) and suffers from its being a victim of its time period.
It's low hanging fruit to invoke Noam Chomsky moral equivalence arguments on the Iraqi war and pick them apart and then think you've made valid points about the nature of war against Iraqis.
A reasonable person can be against torture. The author doesn't seem to to think that can be a reasonable viewpoint. I'm not sure how that fits into his overall theme of the book of the unreasonableness of people with faith in scriptures as opposed to reason based on reality.
The second half of the book focused on moral relativism and why it's wrong. Once again, I would recommend another Robert Wright book, "The Moral Animal". The same topic is much better covered by Wright than here.
The narrator does a fantastic job. The writer is actually a good writer. He's weirdly fixated on Islam.
Overall, I was very disappointed in this book. He has so much to work with and could have told a much more compelling story. He let too many of his own prejudices sneak through and mars the overall narrative. I did read to the end. I skipped one chapter, a bunch of Koranic quotations. I don't listen to religious people when they start quoting their scripture to me in person and I'm not going to waste my time listening to a whole chapter of religious quotes unnecessarily.
The only problem is that much of this would have sounded much better in the voice of the author, as he does have a very distinct speaking style; which he translates to text very faithfully (its a pun, get it?)
I'm very greatful to have these amazing writers, storytellers, and critical thinkers sharing their thoughts on such a fundamental and important aspect of humanity. We need more people to speak up and break the taboos stifling the quailty of our lives and threatening our very existence.
Probably not. Sam Harris' writing style is a bit too overloaded with hyperbole for my tastes. I've been an atheist a long time, and I agree with many of his premises in this book, but I think he makes a few logical leaps that are too far, and then brags about having proved his point. Then the whole final chapter with the rationalization for mysticism just kinda put this on my no thanks list.
Dumb. The last chapter is dumb, it is self contradictory, and is insulting to rational free thinking people who do not have a desire for any form of religion or mysticism.
Yes, at some point Sam Harris needs to apologize for going off the deep end in this one.
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