Title: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
Author: Sam Harris
Narrated by: Brian Emerson
Publisher: WW Norton
Publication Date: 2004
Length: 348 pages/9 hours, 5 minutes
Genre: Adult non-fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher
The End of Faith is a nonfiction book arguing for…well…the end of faith. Sam Harris articulates that organized religion is dangerous and explains how Christianity and Islam, in particular, are violent. He calls for an end to faith and the return to reason in order to craft a more just society. The idea that all religions, each with their own “true god” have proven time and time again that they cannot exist in peace on earth. Governments need to stop catering to religion and start a secular humanist approach to world leadership. In general, Harris wants religion to stop being treated a special aspect of live that gains specific privileges and immunity under the law.
I’ll start this review by noting that Sam Harris does not advocate for the elimination of religion and faith by force. And I don’t think that he believes this will be a transformation he will see in his own lifetime. But he does believe that governments should stand up to religious organizations and stop practices that privilege religion over reason in society (tax exemptions for churches, etc). As much as I understand his points and his logic, I also have a difficult time supporting his position completely. Even though I partition my faith from the rest of my life, my faith is still there. Truly believing that people will abandon that for reason is hard to imagine as a reality in modern times.
That being said, he does have a point that we have lost a lot of our ability to reason when we are so caught up in religion, and religion sometimes seems to do more harm than good. Faith should not be a get out of jail free card on some issues, and it definitely should not be the trump card in an argument over real issues (eg, using the Bible to argue against homosexuality). I don’t know that there is a solution to the issues Harris brings up or that he does offer any memorable solution in the text. It appears the take-away is, “everyone, become an atheist!” Alright. And how exactly do you go about proposing that change? You’ve just spent hours explaining how everyone is blinded by faith and that they are unable to use reason…so you’re using reason to tell us that? He’s preachin’ to the choir with that one (or, rather, orating to the like-minded secular chorus, since I just used a religious idiom).
The audio was fine by technical standards, but the narrator was…off. He just didn’t sound likable. Like a used car salesman merged with a politician. Kind of cocky and jerk-ish. He had a weird cadence that was just off-putting and hard to listen to. However, I still preferred the audio because I probably would not have finished the book otherwise.
I’m not giving this a C because I agree with it, but because I do think Harris crafts a good argument. I do believe it is necessary to read things with which I don’t agree or that make me think about the world in new ways. I don’t consider myself an atheist, but I can learn from those who are. I hope that everyone takes the time to read outside of your comfort zones and think about new ideas. This could go in a high school library, but its real home is in the public library (right next to Dawkins’ The God Delusion).
What is a book you’ve read recently that represents a different view of the world from your own?