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Books by Title/Title=topic name > The End of Faith by Sam Harris

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message 1: by Matt (new)

Matt (asherdeus) | 3 comments The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

I bought this book a good 8 months ago or so, but I decided just recently to give it a read.

The author, Sam Harris, presents the argument that while engineering, mathematics, physics, government, and other subjects, have grown through critique, religion has not. Harris argues that our fear of being "intolerant" towards the religious beliefs of others has stagnated religion and made it impossible for people to question the parts of the various religions that are remarkably disagreeable to an average person's sensibilities. Harris believes that this attitude has become remarkably dangerous given the fact that a single individual in our world with the right weapons can kill millions. That person, armed with a faith that encourages them to kill non-believers (and this is on both sides, Harris points out passages in Jewish, Islamic, and Christian texts that claim that God wants believers to basically convert or kill non-believers), is a threat to all of society. The root cause is the religion itself. While Harris does touch on a number of religions, the main focus is very much on Islamic fundamentalism. However, Harris also has qualms with religious moderates, who claim they practice a religion and simply cherry-pick the ideas they like the best without actually investing the time to really take an in-depth look at what they believe in.

Throughout the book, Harris argues that traditional religion cannot continue to survive. The costs are simply too high. He also adds that going on faith alone is dangerous. His main argument is, while we demand evidence for almost everything else in our lives, then we should start looking at religion with that same lens. We can't prove that God wants women to wear certain clothes, which God is above us, so why should we risk killing ourselves over it?

It's a pretty interesting read. I'm a few chapters into it so far, but it moves quickly and I'm probably be finished by week's end. I have to say, in an effort to nail his points in repeatedly, Harris at times comes off as a one-trick pony. I hope as the book progresses that he expands his argument away from Islam and critiques Christian theology more. I'll update this when I move along a little farther in the book.


message 2: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Thanks for the new topic, Matt. Interesting post. I searched the NY Times online and found their review of this book. It can be found at the following webpage:
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http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/boo...
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Below is a book-cover-link to the book at Goodreads:
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris

I wonder how it compares with Christopher Hitchens' book. See the book-cover-link below:
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens


message 3: by Andy (new)

Andy | 25 comments I would disagree with Harris' assertion that Christian traditions have not grown or evolved through critique. I have been around a couple churches that have progressive, thoughtful, elevated ideals and approaches to spirituality. I don't think they always have. I think they've grown into them along with the changing tides of social thought in this country.


message 4: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Andy - I'm inclined to agree with you. Perhaps Harris is referring to the certain doctrines which haven't changed. There are many examples of that in the Roman Catholic Church such as allowing only men to be priests or the doctrine of original sin. The list goes on.

However, it's my impression, that generally, Christian traditions and practices have changed more than they've stayed the same. Even eating fish on Fridays isn't considered a serious sin anymore in the Catholic church.

Personally, I think people like George Carlin have done a great deal to change thinking in this area. Until people like Carlin had the nerve to say things out loud which people were thinking to themselves, there was probably less change in attitudes.

Whether that change in attitude has been good for us or bad, remains to be seen.


message 5: by Matt (new)

Matt (asherdeus) | 3 comments Harris is referring to certain doctrines and segments of the Bible that haven't changed. There are people out there that truly believe that the Bible is the word of God and that everything in it is to be taken literally and seriously. The individuals who welcome violence in the Middle East because it could lead to the second coming of Christ. Or the parts of the Koran that celebrate martyrdom that many fundamentalist Muslims believe in. Attitudes about religion may have changed, but there are a large number of people out there that truly believe in ancient texts that most would admit are outdated and don't really fit perfectly in our modern world, and that's what Harris takes issue with.

Sorry if I wasn't more explicit, I've been under the weather and I wrote my first post under the influence of NyQuil.


message 6: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Your post was fine, Matt. We can't expect perfect posts. After all, this is a conversational group. We don't want to get too formal. We all just do our best.

Hope you're feeling better. I've got a cold and it's dragging me down.


message 7: by Andy (new)

Andy | 25 comments I agree with Joy, Matt. I think you did a good job of articulating Harris' points in a thoughtful manner.

Religion is always a tricky topic to bring up.

I agree with Harris that extremism can be dangerous. I think, though, that extremism is quite rare in all the world's religions.

Maybe the new administration will be able to create an honest dialog with all the citizens of the world that will ultimately lessen the dangers of all types of extremists?



message 8: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Brings to mind the following quotation:

“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.”
-Marcus Tullius Cicero


message 9: by Andy (new)

Andy | 25 comments Ah, the quote file again, eh, Joy? I think I need to start my own, it's a great idea.


message 10: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Dec 06, 2008 07:22AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Yes, Andy, I've been collecting quotations for a long time. It's been even more of a pleasure since I started storing them on my computer. I simply created a separate folder and called it "Quotations". In that folder I've created text files which are categorized by category. Of course, the computer keeps them in alphabetical order for me. So far, I have 971 categories (text files) in my Quotations folder.

Currently, the files start with the category, "Ability", and they end with the category, "Zen". I can add new categories as I need them by simply creating a new text file.

Quotes about quotations:
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"The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations."
-Benjamin Disraeli

"I quote others only in order the better to express myself."
-Michel de Montaigne.

"An inveterate quote plucker is what I have become."
-Elaine Partnow (1941-), _The Quotable Woman From Eve To 1799_ [1985:], "Preface"
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I've been a poster at the newsgroup, alt.quotations, for many years. I access it via my Outlook Express, but it can be accessed via the Web. Below is a link to the Web version: ====>
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http://groups.google.com/group/alt.qu...
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Choose the view called: "Topic List". It will give you a better overview.

When accessed via Outlook Express, the newsgroup posts can be sorted in many different ways, including "Show replies to my messages." So that's the best way to access them. Accessing the group via the Web isn't as satisfying, but at least you can read and post from there.


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