There are basically two ways in which one can argue against god and religion: either they are false or harmful. This book concerns itself with the for...moreThere are basically two ways in which one can argue against god and religion: either they are false or harmful. This book concerns itself with the former and in that capacity it is probably the best book ever written. It is unquestionably the best book I have ever read which takes the god-is-false approach to argue against god. Smith shows in simple, lucid reasoning how the notion of a god is an ill conceived and incoherent mish mash of purely irrational nonsense. It is difficult to conceive how anybody could be a theist after reading this book.
The book's one drawback is a chapter at the end of the book which argues for an Objectivist ethics (yuck!). I was pondering whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars and I decided that an obviously flawed short chapter concerning ethics isn't enough to seriously mar the magnificent focus of this book (which in not concerned with ethics). (less)
There are two approaches one can take with respect to religious criticism. You can either argue that religion is false or that it is dangerous. George...moreThere are two approaches one can take with respect to religious criticism. You can either argue that religion is false or that it is dangerous. George H. Smith's magnificent "Atheism: the Case Against God" is the pinnacle of the former approach, and this fine book by Sam Harris is the benchmark for the latter.
Harris writes with eloquent and clearly reasoned agrument why religion (and especially Islam) poses a threat to humans (and other animals, for that matter) far and wide. He shows how religous moderation serves as a tacit cover for religious extremism, that religion is responsible for much unnecessary suffering, and the needless violent tribalism that religion brings about, where real and lasting peace would otherwise be plausible. Mostly, this book is a call to end the irrational taboo in society against criticising religion. Harris advocates a kind of "conversational intolerance" of religious claims, whereby dogmatic claims of all kinds are questioned colloquially instead of accepted at face value.
One thing that makes Harris unique is his advocacy of Eastern philosophy as a means of having profound "spiritual" experiences. There is a chapter in the End of Faith devoted to how attention directing practices - without making any metaphysical assumptions thereabout - can substantially enrich ones experience of life. Overall an excellent and important work that everybody should read. (less)
This superbly written and incredibly eloquent work is a celebration of Promethean individualism, and replete with wit and irony. Written in the episto...moreThis superbly written and incredibly eloquent work is a celebration of Promethean individualism, and replete with wit and irony. Written in the epistolary form suggested by Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet," each chapter is a missive in response to a letter written by an imaginary student.
The familiar objects of Hitchens' excoriation are here - Henry Kissenger, Mother Teresa, Bill Clinton, and religion, but by the large, Letters to a Young Contrarian cellebrates the moral courage occasioned by the struggle of copious dissidents and radicals for justice and the greater good. Chapters lauding wit and irony, and detailing Hitchens' involvement with the war in Kosovo round out this great book. (less)
This book is the incredible autobiographical account of a remarkable and beautiful Somali rationalist. Born to humble origins in Somalia, she eventual...moreThis book is the incredible autobiographical account of a remarkable and beautiful Somali rationalist. Born to humble origins in Somalia, she eventually rises to become a member of Dutch Parliament. It was interesting learning about the cultural differences between the various places Ayaan lived during her childhood, of the clan based Islam in Somalia, the more layed back system in Kenya, and the Sharia in Saudi Arabia. She experiences culture shock when she moves to Europe, and eventually abandons her religious views. This is a story of what its like for an immigrant from the 3rd world to move to a wealthy country, a rags to riches story, a story of abandoning the darnkess of religious faith for the light of reason, and a struggle for free expression and women's rights. The problems of multiculturalism and crass relativism are brought to bear.
Given that her genitals were mutilated as a child and that she lives constantly under the threat of assassination, I was expecting such bitter rancor and condemnation of Islam that Christopher Hitchens would seem like a pusilanimous wimp by comparison. What I found was a remarkably restrained and mild-tempered treatment of the subject matter. While Ayaan describes how she was feeling during the time of the events described, she never deviates from a style of cool tempered equanimity in her writing. Remarkable when you consider the heavy shit that this poor woman had to go through, and not just regular heavy shit, AFRICAN heavy shit, which is way worse than regular old heavy shit. (less)
Hellbound evil sinning atheist Christopher Hitchens takes a giant shit on god's perfect cupcakes in this blasphemous and wicked screed, arguing agains...moreHellbound evil sinning atheist Christopher Hitchens takes a giant shit on god's perfect cupcakes in this blasphemous and wicked screed, arguing against the obvious truth that god sent himself on a suicide mission to create a loophole for rules he himself created. Hitchens' rejection of inconsistent double standard fideist epistemology and gratuitous knee jerk respect for religiosity is a strong handed slap in the face to decency and morality. Where does this joker think he gets his morals from if not from the arbitrary command of an omnipotent celestial sky fascist? We ought to take a bunch of those really big heavy hardback bibles to Hitchens' next speaking engagement and chuck them at his ugly british mug.(less)
Well written, competent, and at times, hilarious, the God Delusion is a worthy addition to anti-religious writing. The best selling of all of the book...moreWell written, competent, and at times, hilarious, the God Delusion is a worthy addition to anti-religious writing. The best selling of all of the books from the New Atheists, long-time atheist religion basher Richard Dawkins takes us through familiar objections to arguments in favor of God and religion. Dawkins focuses the whole of his attack on the "Big 3" Abrahamic monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Other religions and non-personal conceptions of God are not addressed.
Those already acquainted with anti-religious arguments will find nothing new or novel here. The popularity of this book has the advantage of exposing more people to this way of thinking. This book is a good read, and is therefore worthwhile despite is lack of originality. (less)
I read this book around 9 years ago, so I'm pretty fuzzy on the details, but this book was perhaps the most important, life-changing read of my life....moreI read this book around 9 years ago, so I'm pretty fuzzy on the details, but this book was perhaps the most important, life-changing read of my life. My interest in science and rationality is owed more to this book than any other. In short, this book is a classic in the promotion of science and rational scepticism. As I recall, Sagan takes a more diplomatic approach towards religion than the New Atheists, arguing that religion is fine insofar that it is amenable to scientific discovery. I'm going to have to reread this in the near future to see how well my fond rememberances stack up to a contemporized analysis. (less)