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The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  22,279 Ratings  ·  1,244 Reviews
In The End of Faith, Sam Harris delivers a startling analysis of the clash between reason and religion in the modern world. He offers a vivid, historical tour of our willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs—even when these beliefs inspire the worst human atrocities. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris ...more
Paperback, 348 pages
Published September 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2004)
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Eric Your confusion comes from not understanding what the "theory" means in a scientific context. Specifically, you are implying that "theory" means…moreYour confusion comes from not understanding what the "theory" means in a scientific context. Specifically, you are implying that "theory" means "hypothesis." From wikipedia:

"In modern science, the term "theory" refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science. Such theories are described in such a way that any scientist in the field is in a position to understand and either provide empirical support ("verify") or empirically contradict ("falsify") it. Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge,[4] in contrast to more common uses of the word "theory" that imply that something is unproven or speculative (which is better characterized by the word 'hypothesis').[5] Scientific theories are distinguished from hypotheses, which are individual empirically testable conjectures, and scientific laws, which are descriptive accounts of how nature will behave under certain conditions."
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rob
Aug 03, 2007 Rob rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: credulous misanthropes
Shelves: atheism
A greater mystery than human nature and its irrepressible theological imagination is how this book managed to impress so many people. After much consideration, I can only conclude its popularity (along with Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell, Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion, and Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great) is because of the mass hysteria among secularists over religion after the 9/11 tragedy combined with increased politicalization of religion in government and education. This is ...more
Pete
Apr 15, 2007 Pete rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: All serious thinkers
Shelves: philosophy
There are several currents running through The End of Faith, many of which I agree with enthusiastically, some of which I regard with caution, and one or two that I find so strange as to wonder whether Harris wrote the last few chapters while in too.. contemplative a state, as he might say.

First, some easy floating down the river. Where does your support for the following graded series fall off? (1) Religious scriptures shouldn't be taken literally. (2) No one knows if there's a god or not. (3)
...more
Folboteur
Jul 28, 2011 Folboteur rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
I rate this a five in spite of some legitimate reservations, too well expressed by too many people to bear repeating here.

The things I liked:
1. Brilliant writing style. Incisive, funny, powerful. (His followup to this book, a 94 page tract called "Letter to a Christian Nation" displays this skill to even better advantage.)

2. Sam's recommended actions for the reader. Religion generally gets a free pass to make unsubstantiated truth claims. Stop allowing that. Start questioning, and pushing back
...more
Paul
Jan 04, 2009 Paul rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Village Atheists
Shelves: the-new-atheism
Another yawner from the "New" atheists. This is another book by a pretentious atheist who just can't believe that there are still theists. "Arrrgh! Don't you know we've beaten you theists fair and square. It is just obvious that theism is false. If you won't give up your theistic beliefs by our obviously superior rational arguments, then I'll shame you in to giving them up."

Ho hum.

Harris trots out the usual dusty canards of the New Atheists: religion is evil, it's the cause of all the wars, it's
...more
Matthew
Jul 01, 2007 Matthew rated it liked it
So near the mark, but just off of center. This book makes many laudable points, not the least of which is the critique that allowing faith/religion into the political sphere on equal footing with science and reason will doom us all. My primary complaint with this work, and the reason I knocked off a couple stars, is due to Mr. Harris's illogical and inconsistent privileging of America and fundamentalist Christianity over the more "violent" Islam.

For example, he argues that we can rest assured th
...more
Nebuchadnezzar
Harris can pen a clever turn of phrase. Unfortunately, that's most of what he has going for him. The old standby "What's good isn't new and what's new isn't good" very much applies here.

It's funny how much Harris and I agree on the fundamental issues -- we are both atheists and we both believe that religion can and has done great harm -- yet I found little of value in this work of atheist apologetics. History, politics, and culture are grossly distorted in service of Harris' arguments. The prime
...more
Greg
Oct 08, 2009 Greg rated it really liked it
What follows is not a review. It's more like some notes and thoughts I had while reading the book... a review will soon be written....


This is from DFW's 2005 Kenyon Commencement Speech:

"Here's another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist s
...more
C.
Aug 01, 2007 C. rated it did not like it
I was excited to read this book after seeing Sam Harris on the Colbert Report. It seemed like the Atheist argument that I had really been waiting for, and that finally I was going to find something that I wholeheartedly could get behind, without reservation.

Well, if I could give this book negative five stars I would. Sure, he cites all of the times that the Koran mentions death and destruction, which takes up 4 pages of the book, and also mentions how the Koran drives people to kill us, oh and y
...more
Jimmy
Aug 27, 2009 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While religious belief is an incredibly complex subject with ages of history behind it, the motivation for such belief can be roughly summarized as a preoccupation with, and fear of, what happens to us when we, as mortal human beings, die. Let's face it, it is a frightening and dreary concept; to think that when our time comes, that that's it, nothing more, our bodies decompose, and our minds no longer function. Of course this is the case for people of the scientific, or materialist persuasion. ...more
Lena
Jul 29, 2007 Lena rated it really liked it
In this book, Harris makes the compelling argument that human beings can no longer afford the luxury of major religious belief systems. In a world in which we now have the capacity to kill millions of humans at one time, belief systems that are intolerant of non-believers and emphasize life in the hereafter over the present are simply too dangerous.

Harris claims that even moderate members of a religion are to blame for extreme acts committed in the name of their faith, because the moderates hel
...more
Donald
Jan 26, 2008 Donald rated it did not like it
I found Sam Harris's book interesting and disturbing, but it should be classified as fiction. Nearly every argument he asserts is specious. Apparently, he reads only those who support his own position (philosophical suicide). He conveniently dismisses atheistic regimes as "religious" by assigning an ambiguous religious or mythological type of totalitarianism to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and the rest of those who tortured and killed religious believers. He cites Northern Ireland and the Israel/Palesti ...more
Trevor
Dec 20, 2007 Trevor rated it really liked it
Harris does much to prove that there is nothing one can say about religion that will not get you into trouble. In Letter to a Christian Nation he is criticised for not dealing with moderates, but that is done here. I find the religious tend to want it all ways. If you criticise those who actually believe the word of god as if it was real and meant, then you are being as dogmatic as they are. Here Harris argues that moderate believers are as dangerous as fundamentalists as by stopping debate on f ...more
Shaun
Aug 30, 2014 Shaun rated it it was amazing
I have been a fan of Harris and his ideas for quite some time. In addition to reading his book Free Will and subscribing to his blog, I have watched numerous interviews/talks/debates, and I am very familiar with his ideas/works.

That said, I still found this to be a worthwhile investment of my time. I particularly enjoyed the section in the back of my edition, where Harris addresses some of the major criticisms he's received since the book was first published.

Though on the surface, one might inte
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Jul 26, 2008 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People with a serious interest in the topic
The original purpose of the book,(as nearly as I can tell), was to show how all religions require belief in things that are basically insane, without providing one shred of evidence for these beliefs. He discusses various faiths: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and shows how all of their scriptures encourage violence and hatred/destruction of those who don't share their faith. Belief in an afterlife (NEVER provable) full of rewards leads people to irrational and dangerous behavior in THIS life---the ...more
Mike Puma
Oct 15, 2010 Mike Puma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
While covering much the same ground as Christopher Hitchens in God Is Not Great, Harris does so with a voice less harsh, one sounding less like a diatribe. He scope is wider than Hitchens allowing him to make points that Hitchens doesn’t as well, e.g. that the tolerant religious are so at the expense of their belief in the dogma of their own faith(s). The 2005 paperback edition includes an Afterword in which the author speaks to some of the earlier criticism of this title, whether the criticism ...more
Steve
Mar 08, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it
I wouldn't start here if I were beginning to explore atheism. The book is rather ponderous, but it's worth reading as you make your way through the literature of the field. In places, I found it a little hard to follow, in terms of the progression and linkage of his ideas.

Many individual sentences are quotable gems of pithy insight, and often humor. Take, for example, the following: "The doors leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside. The moderation we see among non-fund
...more
John
Nov 02, 2007 John rated it it was amazing
At its heart, the book is arguing against Faith. His starting point is Islamic terrorism, which he argues can only be understood in the context of faith--without the religious beliefs underpinning these people's lives, without the certainty they have in both the righteousness of their cause and the eternal reward they will earn, recruiting for suicide bombing missions would be awfully hard.

Part of his argument, though, is that contrary to what we typically say, the problem isn't just a few extre
...more
Eric_W
Mar 29, 2016 Eric_W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, philosophy
updated 4/12. It has always been clear to me that faith-based belief systems eliminate the possibility of conversation and the alternative to conversation is violence. For example, if you want to discuss a policy issue that relates to a faith-based belief, the dialogue ceases when one says "I don't believe that." There can be no response.

Sam Harris discusses the issue also, but much more articulately. He argues that current world conflicts relate to incompatible religious doctrines; that even th
...more
Eric_W
Feb 08, 2009 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Finally, the a-theist (hyphen deliberate) crowd is responding to all the religious claptrap with a vengeance. I've read Dawkins, Dennett and now Harris (I think this book should also be read with Letter to a Christian Nation which was his response to all the hate mail he received.) Harris makes a very good case, perhaps less shrilly than Dawkins, for why religious belief perpetuates evil and hatred. I've seen him interviewed in debates on several occasions and find his responses to be quite well ...more
Eric
Jan 03, 2008 Eric rated it it was ok
Shelves:
I've been reading this book forever now. I imagine I'll finish sometime.

I'm sympathetic to Harris' arguments: I've been an atheist since I was a teenager. But Harris' book is hypocritical, shallow, and unpleasant. Religion is bad--unless it's his own brand of Buddhism, apparently. And his defense of torture could not have been easy to write with his head shoved so far up his own asshole. And the sad truth is that however much his general case might apply to almost all religion (potentially even
...more
Rick
Nov 18, 2012 Rick rated it did not like it
I started reading this book with high hopes for a scholarly, considered and balanced critique of organised religion. Unfortunately, as I read, I became more and more disappointed and irritated with the book and its author.

There are several major failings: firstly there is little to no mention of Hinduism and Buddhism, two of the major religions of the world, primarily because they don't lend themselves easily to Harris's "analysis". He implies that Buddhism has a lot to teach us about the human
...more
Noah Stacy
May 16, 2007 Noah Stacy rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I am sympathetic, though perhaps not entirely convinced, of Harris's argument that faith--moderate or extreme--is always dangerous. However, religious beliefs should certainly be opened to criticism. As Harris suggests, religious beliefs should be made as open to criticism as any others, and people must become aware that the argument that "the Bible says so" is a non-argument. Would we accept someone's argument against, say, gay marriage, if they claimed that Zeus had told them so?

Harris goes a
...more
mike
Feb 08, 2009 mike rated it did not like it
Wow, what an attack. When I picked up this book I knew I was going to be dealing with someone who blamed religion for pretty much everything from world war to salmonella in peanut butter, but what I didn't expect was how much of the blame he put on not the zealots, but the religious moderates as well. The title says "The End of Faith" and he means it -- the slightest bit of faith in anything is subject to withering attack.

In his writing, the author resorts to the kind of zealotry that he blames
...more
Alex Ristea
Jan 13, 2014 Alex Ristea rated it liked it
I'll take a quote from the afterword to sum up the book:

"It remains taboo to criticize religious faith in our society, or even observe that some religions are less compassionate and less tolerant than others. What is worst in us (outright delusion) has been elevated beyond the reach of criticism, while what is best (reason and intellectual honesty) must remain hidden, for fear of giving offence."

People deserve dignity, but ideas do not.

You should be free to mock, criticize, praise, and openly di
...more
David
Sep 16, 2014 David rated it liked it
In The End of Faith, Harris does what any number of enlightenment rationalists before him have done: attempt to undermine the authority of religion by showing how scientific rationality discredits the notion of a supernatural being. Harris seizes on the inherent contradictions that arise when a document composed of ancient texts and shaped by historical, political and institutional forces is said to be the inerrant word of a transcendent being. A number of lines of attack open up as a result:
-Go
...more
The Crimson Fucker
Nov 10, 2007 The Crimson Fucker rated it really liked it
We are at war with Islam. Sam Harris.
There are no atheists in foxholes. William J. Clear.
Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum. Vegetius.
Screw you guys I'm going home. Eric Cartman.
Books Ring Mah Bell
Sep 29, 2010 Books Ring Mah Bell rated it it was amazing
BRILLIANT.

Simply Brilliant!!!!

If you have a choice to read this or God is Not Great by Hitchens, do yourself a favor and read this.
Charlie George
Aug 13, 2009 Charlie George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
This was every bit as strong, strident and fun as I expected it to be, given the quality of Harris' contributions to Free Inquiry magazine. He disclaims that he doesn't mean "to single out Islam for special abuse", but he does, and witheringly. I thought he treated Christianity quite gently--nowhere in the book did he mention the modern Christian terrorists that bomb abortion clinics and shoot doctors, which would seem directly relevant to his central thesis of the immediate and profound threat ...more
Tory
Dec 29, 2011 Tory rated it it was ok
After reading the first chapter of this book, my initial reaction was, "Who peed in this guy's cornflakes?" because the author introduced his subject matter with such intensity and anger.Then I read that Harris began writing this book on September 12, 2001. Ah, got it now. I liked the book for its plain language and directness regarding religion and its impact on our world. It was a very refreshing read in light of today's political correctness, which often leaves us all saying nothing about imp ...more
Laurel
First, let me say I'm not feeling well enough to write any kind of remotely articulate review, so this will likely be a somewhat disjointed commentary.

Anyway, while I appreciated Harris' arguments and found this book well-written and intelligent, I have to say I also found it really, really depressing. Not because he put my beliefs into question (he didn't; I was raised Catholic but am currently agnostic at best), but because he seems to think that, as long as religious faiths exist in their cur
...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #44 The End of Faith by Sam Harris 1 3 Apr 15, 2014 07:18AM  
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Sam Harris (born 1967) is an American non-fiction writer, philosopher and neuroscientist. He is the author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (2004), which won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), a rejoinder to the criticism his first book attracted. His new book, The Moral Landscape, explores how science might determine human val ...more
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“Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?” 296 likes
“Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence what so ever.” 196 likes
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