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Don't hold your breath. I found the most irritating thing about this book is the kind of pseudo-buddhism that he tries to push at the end. Also, if I am not mistaken, he claims that reincarnation has scientific backing (it is just one quick sentance with no sources cited).
I read this book hoping for a good soild atheist rant. Instead he shows a hearty dislike of western religion and an open embrace of eastern religion.

Dave, I'm on board with The End of Faith reading group and am currently about half way through the book.

It is certainly a stretch to equate all organized religion with evil government ideology and call it even; or to suggest that such evil government ideology sprung from religion, but is Harris's underlying argument so obtuse? The argument that states: that the blind, unquestioning allegiance of followers to an (often charismatic) political leader… that the use of fear and secrecy by leaders to manipulate and control followers… that the intolerance of the group for the “other”… that the belief that the members of the group are somehow elite, or that the ideology of the group is superior to the ideologies of all other groups… is essentially the same toxic worship of the institution/ideology whether it is religion or government?

Harris seems to be particularly critical of religion, because, of the portfolio of “cards” organizations can play to manipulate its followers and/or abuse others, by invoking God, religion has a powerful trump card up its sleeve that government does not. And because God (and all he/she/it entails) is an ultimately unknowable and un-testable phenomenon or idea, a phenomenon that relies more heavily on feelings than logic, it is particularly vulnerable to misuse.

Harris wants to throw the baby (religion) out with the considerably dirty bathwater. This provocative point of view is certainly ripe for criticism, but along the way Harris makes many salient arguments. I hope your pre-read “sizing up” of The End of Faith allows for a balanced reading, and hopefully a balanced review in the future.

Christophe,

I haven't reached the so-called appeal-to-pseudo-buddhism part of the book you dislike, but from what I have read, I think it is a stretch to say The End of Faith is "a hearty dislike of western religion and an open embrace of eastern religion."

For example:

The two countries [refering to India and Pakistan] have since fought three official wars, suffered a continuous bloodletting at their shared border, and are now poised to exterminate one another with nuclear weapons simply because they disagree about ”facts” that are every bit as fanciful as the names of Santa’s reindeer.

Doesn't sound like an open embrace of Eastern religion to me.

By the way, what is wrong with Buddhism or pseudo-Buddhism? Why can't Harris applaud what he considers "good religion"? Also, I give Harris credit for recognizing that a spritiual side to life does exist. Many secularists, athiests, and/or rational moderns do not.

Sorry to bombard with posts, but a somewhat topical story is developing surrounding a new documentary called "Jesus Camp" ("topical," in the sense that Harris would have a field day with this).

The L.A. Times (today 9/25/06) had a very interesting article called "God's Boot Camp?" you might find intesting. See: http://www.calendarlive.com/printedition/calendar/cl-et-jesus25sep25,0,7572577.story

The article references a trailer for the movie available at youtube.com that's got Secular Liberals (and, it turns out, many Evangelicals) freaked out. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_EKHK1C2IE

The other clip to watch is the ABC News clip about the doc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UWIb4FwHPg

There are also interesting clips from the doc. Check out the 2 minute clip of Tory (a girl) who is a fan of Christian Heavy Metal who is concerned about "dancing for God" instead of "dancing for the flesh."

If his definition of "religion" is broad enough to include Stalin and Mao, he has water the term down enough to render it essentially meaningless.

One might as well say that violence is caused by "funny thinking" and have done.

Matt, I'll defer responding until I get a chance to read half the book. I'll try hard to find something nice to say about it.

Everyone: FYI, author Sam Harris is the same fellow who wrote the recent LA Times opinion piece entitled "Head-in-the-Sand Liberals," which I complimented in my "I Was Wrong" post last week.

I'm not sure I would've worded it like Harris (that the Nazis were the "agents" of religion), but it's not a far stretch to say that the Nazis were only continuing the tradition of centuries of religiously influenced anti-Semitism (the primary difference was one of scale and efficiency).

My impression (just completed first two chapters) is that Harris has some excellent points that are worth discussing (e.g. should we be more critical of core religious beliefs in the public sphere), but they sometimes suffer because of how he chooses to present/argue them.

FYI, here's a link to an LA Times story profiling the elusive and mysterious Sam Harris. He thinks he's Salman Rushdie. Well, Mr. Harris, I've read his books and you're no Salman Rushdie. [Okay, I've read one of his books. I decided I like him. Glad he's still around.]

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