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Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  41,630 ratings  ·  2,652 reviews
For the millions of Americans who want spirituality without religion, Sam Harris’s new book is a guide to meditation as a rational spiritual practice informed by neuroscience and psychology.

From multiple New York Times bestselling author, neuroscientist, and “new atheist” Sam Harris, Waking Up is for the 30 percent of Americans who follow no religion, but who suspect that
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Simon Schuster (first published January 1st 2014)
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Jan 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
After enthusiastically starting this book, I gradually became annoyed, and eventually angry, as it slid on a downward slope to the end. This embarrassing work is far beneath what I would have expected from a scholar such as Harris. What a surprise it was to find details on the sexual malpractices of spiritual gurus and how to find one that matches your "tastes," among other awkward and simplistic information.

I had been eagerly looking forward to reading Waking Up after its publication was announ
Dan Harris
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is not out yet, but Sam was nice enough to let me read the galley. It's fascinating. It will surprise a lot of people to learn that this often acerbic atheist in fact has a deep history of meditation practice. In this book - which is part polemic, part memoir, part pop-science - he makes the case for a "spirituality" (he doesn't like the word, per se, but points out that there are sadly no other options) divorced from religion. Whether or not, you agree with his views on faith, Sam mak ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is bound to ignite another firestorm in the skeptic community around the word "spirituality," but it really shouldn't. As Harris makes clear from the outset, his interests still lie squarely within the bounds of rational inquiry. One need not entertain any spooky metaphysics in order to honestly interrogate the mind and its limits. What he does argue, however, is that consciousness is an object of study unlike any other in science - because it is both the subject of investigation and t ...more
Kaj Sotala
A little disappointed with this one. Harris basically defines spirituality as the quest to see the ego and the self as illusions, and while that's certainly a worthy goal, it strikes me as a somewhat narrow definition for spirituality, as I personally find spirituality to also include things such as developing a sense of love and compassion towards other people.

The book is subtitled "A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion". In practice, the guide parts consist of a few meditation instructions,
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ditched
Much of this was about becoming consciousness and not being distracted by thought, but most of the time I was thinking of other things.
B Schrodinger
Jan 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, atheism
"A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion" - sounds great. I feel spiritually stunted yet dread the involvement of religion.

The book started out great, thoughts on the use of spirituality with some academic references.

Sam then says that to be spiritual without religion you need to lose your sense of self.
He then explores the psychology and brain physiology of self and thinks he shows that the self doesn't exist. I followed most of the science, but when the philosophy came into it I was lost.

Thomas Stroemquist
My first acquaintance with Sam Harris was through one of the many YouTube snippets in which logically reasoning and science advocating people debates different religious people about the existence of god (along with about a million sidetracks). Being Swedish, I found this fascinating for a while (very few Swedes would ever define themselves as 'atheists' - for quite similar reasons why most people do not define themselves as "non-elf-believers"). I watched a bunch of these, until my fascination ...more
Elyse  Walters
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I did not sleep much last night ---but I read this book during the dark hours --and finished it this morning!

I'm inspired!!!!!

On the bottom of page 43, Sam says, "I make no claims in support of magic or miracles in this book".[HE SHOULD!!!!]. 'Miracles' would manifest in the world if enough people read this book.

On the same page (bottom of page 43) , Sam goes on to say, "However, I can say that the true goal of meditation is more profound than most people realize -- and it does, in fact, encomp
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received this book through a goodreads sweepstakes. It came in the mail a few days ago. I couldn't put it down after I opened it. All finished reading it within three days. I was baptized Catholic and attended a Catholic school through 8th grade. I was later confirmed Catholic in high school because that was my grandmother's wish for me. The woman is my life, so I do as I'm told, but I never really felt like Catholicism was for me. Way too strict and judgmental. I went to a few other churches ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
TL;DR the only benefit of meditation is investment justification.

This book made me so very sad, because I like the idea of spirituality without religion. Really, this book is about Vipassana meditation and Buddhism. It's just awful, which I never would have expected from Sam Harris.

Harris starts off with an accusation that "few scientists have developed strong skills of introspection". I've found the opposite to be true, both anecdotally in my personal life and in the biographical literature.

Sara Alaee
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
It’s not long since I’ve first come across the word “spirituality”. I’ve mostly heard it from people who practice meditation. As a beginner I didn’t quite understand it. This book gave me some good ideas.

Consciousness is at the core of the book. The hard question is this: What’s consciousness? And where does it come from? I really enjoyed Sam Harris’s reasons and responses to this fundamental question and the wisdom with which he promoted his ideas. His philosophical and scientific arguments re
Morgan Blackledge
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If we colonized the moon, people who lived there could ostensibly have a perfectly decent life. But based on our evolutionary inheritance as earthlings, we would, in all likelihood, crave gravity and greenery.

This is an interesting analogy to living life as an atheist. We can live quite well without religion. But because so much of our history as humans has revolved around spiritual pursuits, there may be something akin to gravity and greenery that we atheists lack and long for and even need.

Terence M
1.0 star of 5.0 - "I did not like it"
Waking Up - A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris
Audiobook - 05:41 Hours - Narrator: Sam Harris

Quite some time ago in the early 2000's, Sam Harris hit the headlines for being one of the famous The Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse, as they were known, which included Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. I was devouring books about "New Atheism" at the time and I read "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror,
Mike Dobbins
Jun 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
This review concerns the MARKETING of the book, not the book. Serious ethical lapses are occurring in the marketing of this book. This is NOT a traditional spiritual book for "the millions of Americans who want spirituality without religion" as the description states for Sam Harris has stated on numerous occasions that he DOESN'T BELIEVE in that type of spirituality. Still, this book is being marketed to spiritual people. VERY Disappointed in Sam Harris for putting profit over people and his eth ...more
Matt Manry
I really wanted to like this book, but Sam Harris just can't resist taking so many cheap shots. At points, Waking Up was very interesting and engaging. However, other parts of the book were so bland, boring, and completely anti-religious that I could barely take it. ...more
Apr 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Sam could have made his argument in just a few pages. I do really like his writing style, so I still enjoyed reading this. I just kept waiting for him to really apply what he was writing about. He went on and on about how beneficial mediation is, especially dzogchen, and how important it is to be taught exactly how to do it, instead of being taught in metaphor. But then he never talked about how to actually do it. Maybe that was outside the scope of his book. I was also looking forward to the ch ...more
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Sam's ego gets in the way sometimes from meaningful discussion on these topics. He calls world religions intellectual ruins, yet practices a secularized form of Buddhism which has brought profound insight and mental composure to his life. He’s basically taken what’s useful and discarded what isn’t and is under the delusion that he’s separated himself from religion hence the title of the book. He’s a contemplative and a mystic—he’s a kindred spirit to all of those religious people that he thinks ...more
Try devouring this Buddhist Parable:

"A man is struck in the chest with a poison arrow. A surgeon rushes to his side to begin the work of saving his life, but the man resists these ministrations. He first wants to know the name of the fletcher who fashioned the arrow’s shaft, the genus of the wood from which it was cut, the disposition of the man who shot it, the name of the horse upon which he rode, and a thousand other things that have no bearing upon his present suffering or his ultimate survi
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
The hard question is "what is consciousness". In the past we had Leibniz's monads and Descarte's homunculus unsatisfactorily explaining consciousness. 'Cogito ergo sum' gave western thought the mistaken impression that there is a single self inside the brain. The author suggests another path for understanding the hard question namely gaining self awareness (of our non-existence) through meditation from which one can discover the illusion of the self which leads the individual to 'enlightenment' ...more
Vince Darcangelo

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion

Sam Harris

My anticipation for the new Sam Harris book turned to anxiety when I learned it would be about spirituality. Was the firebrandtype philosopher and scientist—co-founder of Project Reason and author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation—changing teams?


Perhaps a better title for this book, though, would be The Atheist’s Guide to Meditation.

At its core, Waking Up is about mindfulne
Apr 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
So. Sam Harris felt the need to publish a book that states, without novel argument, what everyone already knew. One that doubles as a guide to being a dipshit dogmatist on the irreligious side of the binary. He also deems it necessary to inform us right off the bat of his mind-expansion under the influence of MDMA. Which, man, at least begin the book by talking about a non-stupid psychedelic if you're going to rant about this transformative event in your life that pretty much exactly parallels e ...more
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ever since the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, Sam Harris has been making the argument that we can no longer afford the luxury of religious belief. In his writings, he has explained his theories about not only why the unproven beliefs of dogma are so dangerous, but also how many of the benefits that religion provides can be found in secular places.

In Waking Up, Harris addresses the issue of what he terms "spiritual" states - altered states of consciousness that can be spontaneous or induce
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is my second book by the author and again offered a number of thought-provoking arguments. Even if Harris didn't exactly convince me of all his points, he has a way of explaining them that makes me think. This book will stay on my mind a while longer, I predict.

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Aug 02, 2022 rated it liked it
"Spirituality must be distinguished from religion—because people of every faith, and of none, have had the same sorts of spiritual experiences. While these states of mind are usually interpreted through the lens of one or another religious doctrine, we know that this is a mistake. Nothing that a Christian, a Muslim, and a Hindu can experience—self-transcending love, ecstasy, bliss, inner light—constitutes evidence in support of their traditional beliefs, because their beliefs are logically incom ...more
Mar 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is not a very long book—only 206 pages in hardback, or 5 hours on audiobook—but it took me a while to finish it. For every minute I spent reading, I spent another 2 minutes thinking about what I'd just read. And some of it just sailed past me, no matter how hard I tried to understand it. Harris is a clear writer, one of the clearest, so I have to assume my own cognitive limitations are at fault and not his power of explanation. Still, I can't quite grant a full 5 stars to a book that I didn ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Wow! Where to begin? This book is extremely cerebral. Sam is a clearly a skeptic towards many things related to spirituality, which is fine, but his extreme judgment toward various religions comes seeping through his text. That is, except for Buddhism, which he often seems to put on a pedestal.

I felt disillusioned by the book, based on the cover. It should have said this was a philosopher's guide to spirituality. And how true that is! Make sure you're awake and a pot of coffee before reading! H
Mohit Parikh
Apr 25, 2015 rated it liked it
A book written for atheists in a christian nation. Sam wants to assure his readership that he still belongs with them - and with Dawkins and Hitchens and Sagan - even as he takes a step further and talks about Spiritual Awakening. He wants to suggest that there is nothing irrational about spirituality the way he defines it.

Problem is: He isn't the greatest explorer of spirituality.

The question for me was: why should I trust you to tell me that astrology is bullshit and ghosts do not exist but
Sep 25, 2022 rated it really liked it
“What does your conscience say? – ‘You shall become the person you are’.”
_ Nietzsche (The Gay Science)_

Spirituality remains the great hole in secularism, humanism, rationalism, atheism, and all the other defensive postures that reasonable men and women strike in the presence of unreasonable faith
People on both sides of this divide imagine that visionary experience has no place within the context of science— apart from the corridors of a mental hospital. Until we can talk about spirituality in ra
Hoz Kamaran
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for the meaning of spirituality beyond religion, this is the right book to read. If you find religious spirituality illusional, that doesnt mean spirituality doesnt exist.

Alot of people think that with the progress of science religion dies, thus spirituality must also die. But once you realize what is spirituality and its independence of a religion or personal god, you will realize that its necessary for a better understaing of existence and science.

We often think we are a o
Apr 12, 2022 rated it it was amazing
The here and now…

A prestigious art gallery happens to be on fire and the ravenous flames lick whatever comes in their path, and luckily you have been presented with an opportunity to rescue one important artwork from that torched building, instead, you chose to haul a chair out of that conflagrating art gallery.

Unfortunately, most of us live our lives thinking—seemingly interminable rumination of the past that is an echo, an image basically, or planning for the future which hasn’t even arrived y
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Librarian Note:
There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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 attrac

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41 likes · 4 comments
“Our minds are all we have. They are all we have ever had. And they are all we can offer others. This might not be obvious, especially when there are aspects of your life that seem in need of improvement—when your goals are unrealized, or you are struggling to find a career, or you have relationships that need repairing. But it’s the truth. Every experience you have ever had has been shaped by your mind. Every relationship is as good or as bad as it is because of the minds involved. If you are perpetually angry, depressed, confused, and unloving, or your attention is elsewhere, it won’t matter how successful you become or who is in your life—you won’t enjoy any of it.” 96 likes
“My mind begins to seem like a video game: I can either play it intelligently, learning more in each round, or I can be killed in the same spot by the same monster, again and again.” 67 likes
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