Monday, May 28, 2007

The End of Faith by Sam Harris

In his response to criticisms of the hard-cover version of this book, Harris says, "I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable".

This line says it all if suffering of humankind matters. Unfortunately, because of bizarre beliefs, many people believe suffering does not matter, or that it is a price to be paid for an eternity in some kind of afterlife. In this book, Harris sets out the case for concern for others, for the guiding hand of ethics.

I find this book remarkable for its thoroughness and care. I occasionally have a difference with Mr. Harris but overall I find it a good conversation and the book well worth reading. In fact, it is a book that could change the world - if enough people read it and understand it.

Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford, has studied Eastern and Western religions, and has also pursued study of spiritual disciplines, like meditation. His comfort with philosophy and with his knowledge of many religions gives his argument against religions great force, especially as his words are passionate and imbued with empathy.

Harris indicts "moderates" along with extremists. He argues that the moderation comes from outside the various holy books, not from within, from a congregation that takes the good and tosses the bad. Further, he challenges the moderates on their tendency to tolerate the more extreme religious practices. Just as we would not tolerate a society of flat-earth people, so we should not tolerate a group that believes in suicide bombing as a way to personal redemption.

He suggests - his hope knows no bounds - that our civilization could turn around in one generation. We could sweep the power of religion away and pursue our lives more thoughtfully and rationally. I suspect it will take many generations, if it happens at all.

4.5 out of 5 stars


kookiejar said...

He's right about moderates. I've long felt that they are much worse than the religious zealots because they are able to ignore large chunks of their own 'sacred text'. Seems to me that if you are going to devote your life to a religion, you should jump in with both feet. That's why I stay out of that pool.

Judith said...

That's certainly one reason I'm out of it too.