The End of Faith, by Sam Harris

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I got this book from a friend of mine who I’ve talked with religion about on and off for the past 15 years or so — while not super religious himself, he’s the son of a Baptist minister, and a very thoughtful guy (and one of my best friends), so I’ve been looking forward to reading this. This book is not for the faint of heart — it’s a scathing critique of religion’s basis in faith, and in particular of tenets of Islam that Harris believes make it unethical for Muslims not to wage war on non-Muslims.

He also argues that we’re in a period of extreme relativism, where moderate, tolerant positions are as effectively damaging as extreme positions. I don’t believe all the arguments here, and he clearly takes much out of context from the Koran and the Bible both. But I think it’s worth reading at least so that we can all talk about these ideas more in the open, with better critical thought than we have to date.

Anyway, I had some strong emotional reactions to this book; not sure I think it’s a great book, but interesting, anyway, and useful for tidbits of controversy to throw out at the dinner table. 🙂

8 Replies to “The End of Faith, by Sam Harris”

  1. I don’t believe all the arguments here, and he clearly takes much out of context from the Koran and the Bible both.What makes you say he “clearly” does this? Do you make this assertion after detailed study of either or both of the Bible and the Koran (or the context surrounding the parts of them he quotes), or because of a initial presupposition about what the true message of either book is?Gerv

  2. I don’t believe all the arguments here, and he clearly takes much out of context from the Koran and the Bible both.

    What makes you say he “clearly” does this? Do you make this assertion after detailed study of either or both of the Bible and the Koran (or the context surrounding the parts of them he quotes), or because of a initial presupposition about what the true message of either book is?

    Gerv

  3. hey gerv — what i mean is that he takes phrases and fragments from both works, and uses the set of words that are most useful to him, without looking at the larger context that those words are in, or the meaning. it’s a cheap parlor trick to take parts of sentences and paragraphs from any book to support any argument you want to make — he does that a lot in this book.i actually don’t presuppose there’s a “true message” of either book (which gives some insight into my point of view, i suppose), and i do have some background in reading both works, although not as current as i’d like. the point i’m making here is that i dislike the construction of his argument, and the way that he puts fragments in as supporting evidence. i think it’s a relatively juvenile way to argue the point, whether ultimately supported or not.

  4. hey gerv — what i mean is that he takes phrases and fragments from both works, and uses the set of words that are most useful to him, without looking at the larger context that those words are in, or the meaning. it’s a cheap parlor trick to take parts of sentences and paragraphs from any book to support any argument you want to make — he does that a lot in this book.

    i actually don’t presuppose there’s a “true message” of either book (which gives some insight into my point of view, i suppose), and i do have some background in reading both works, although not as current as i’d like.

    the point i’m making here is that i dislike the construction of his argument, and the way that he puts fragments in as supporting evidence. i think it’s a relatively juvenile way to argue the point, whether ultimately supported or not.

  5. I will have to take a look at this book. I think there is much to learn when people of varying beliefs can put aside some of their defensiveness and preconceptions and openly discuss a subject; regardless of how valid the book’s points turn out to be, this sort of thing sounds like it will open more people up to the discussion.. Which is always a good thing.

  6. I will have to take a look at this book. I think there is much to learn when people of varying beliefs can put aside some of their defensiveness and preconceptions and openly discuss a subject; regardless of how valid the book’s points turn out to be, this sort of thing sounds like it will open more people up to the discussion.. Which is always a good thing.

  7. This is a little outdated, but I was wondering if you were still willing to discuss. For the past couple of months I’ve been thinking a lot about his arguments. I even wrote “A Letter to Sam Harris” as a blog post mocking the title of “Letter to a Christian Nation,” trying to talk about some of his inconsistencies.Can you be very specific about what you think is taken out of context? I think you either believe the Bible is the word of God and thus even extracting a sentence to illustrate absurdity is not taking something out of context, or you don’t believe it. There is no middle ground, because then you are just arbitrarily picking and choosing and interpreting to suit your needs.Also, I’m looking at titles of more recent posts and I swear this is my own blog with things from Tokyo, Murakami, Vonnegut, On the Road (which may or may not be referring to the book), Cormac McCarthy, Liberty and Security (which may or may not be referring to the Franklin quote that I use as a signature on some forums), and probably more. Are we the same person?

  8. This is a little outdated, but I was wondering if you were still willing to discuss. For the past couple of months I’ve been thinking a lot about his arguments. I even wrote “A Letter to Sam Harris” as a blog post mocking the title of “Letter to a Christian Nation,” trying to talk about some of his inconsistencies.

    Can you be very specific about what you think is taken out of context? I think you either believe the Bible is the word of God and thus even extracting a sentence to illustrate absurdity is not taking something out of context, or you don’t believe it. There is no middle ground, because then you are just arbitrarily picking and choosing and interpreting to suit your needs.

    Also, I’m looking at titles of more recent posts and I swear this is my own blog with things from Tokyo, Murakami, Vonnegut, On the Road (which may or may not be referring to the book), Cormac McCarthy, Liberty and Security (which may or may not be referring to the Franklin quote that I use as a signature on some forums), and probably more. Are we the same person?

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