Thursday, November 09, 2006

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

by Sam Harris

This is the most important book I have ever read. This is a book I am actually going to buy. (I've bought only two or three books since I started working at the library six years ago.) I cannot say enough good things about this book — although reading it was a bit unsettling, and despite the fact that some people will be upset or offended by the book and what I have to say about it.

In a nutshell: religious faith, in addition to being entirely irrational and obviously unjustified, has been and is the source of many bad and scary things in the world (the Inquisition, suicide bombing, &c.); given the technology available today and the current strife among the world's major faiths, religious belief has the potential to destroy the world as we know it and perhaps put an end to mankind altogether. We need to stop constructing our lives around 2,000-year-old fairy tales and stop teaching our children to mimic the same absurdity. We need to agree on a reasoned basis for ethical and harmonious living with one another that does not resort to a fictitious supreme being.

And on and on — much more eloquently, of course. This is all mostly stuff I know already, but it can be an eye-opener when it's laid out in front of you all at once. The biggest lesson I took from The End of Faith is that I am not obliged to "respect" or "tolerate" anyone's ridiculous religious beliefs. (We don't "accept" alternative beliefs about algebra or traffic laws, do we?) In fact, if I have any obligation it is that of a rational person to point out the error of religious belief. (No can do at work, of course, though I wonder if I could get away with saying, "Sure, I can show you where the mythology books are.")

On a completely different topic, the author, Sam Harris, is hot. (And, no, I'm not mixing him up with the eponymous Broadway actor. Check out this photo of the author.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds intriguing. I will put a hold on it. I am often torn between seeing the damage caused in the name of religion and my impulse to respect the 'spirituality' (isn't that a nebulous term!) of others. It seems like this might be a more fully thought-out argument than Letter to a Christian Nation. Thanks Chris. I enjoy reading your posts.