The End Of Faith
There are many arguments of interest in "End Of Faith", for the atheist, agnostic, or religious fundamentalist. The last will undoubtedly have a coronary reading much of it but it provides a good analysis of the violent nature of religion and a basis for debate.
The books strength is also one of its failings. Harris tries too hard to steamroll religious faith with sharp quips that really have no place in a reasoned debate. Outright insults are not clever and witty, they are a distraction from the essential and inescapable facts Harris seeks to point out. The main focus is on the three major religions of the Middle East that have become the major religions of the world.
Christianity and Judaism are taken to task for their intolerant and at times genocidal natures. The books of Deutoronomy and the rantings' of Paul both receive a general spanking. The Crusades, stoning, Augustine, and several Popes names Urban, Paul, and Pius all are addressed and properly demonized.
Harris' criticism of Islam is also sharp and unforgiving. Like its cousin religions Islam is a swamp of paradoxes, intolerance, and fallacies. Harris contends that of the three, Islam, is currently the most doctrinaire and the least given to accept democratic principles.
He may be right, that we are currently at war with a faith and not an ideology, but with the forces of Christian Fundamentalism and Neo-Conservative Judaism ascendant aren't they just as dangerous as radical Islam?
They all purport to know "The Truth". They have no use for democracy, the civil rights of the individual, and a system of pro-genocidal viewpoints. Harris goes off on a complete tangent, bringing in Friedman and Dershowitz into a liberal versus neo-con missive that has no place in this book. This chapter could have easily been the thesis for a completely different book, one that would fit well in the right wing publishing houses of Regenry. The politics expressed in the chapter are revealing of Harris' beliefs but serve no useful purpose.
It would be easy to write Harris off at this point. That would be selling the author short. In the chapter "West of Eden" he sets his sites on modern Christian Evangelicalism and delivers a sharp killing blow to the movements pretenses at righteousness.
Harris has set the chess board for the reader. Both sides are equally inhospitable, blood thirsty and trapped in the ghosts and goblins of their faiths. It presents the world not in a simplistic good versus evil battle but two unresponsive and obsolete monoliths attempting to destroy each other and take all rational thought with it.
If this was the end Harris would have been better off. His discussion of torture, pushes ones ethical and moral gauge to the limit. What Harris is assuming is that those that have been captured are all suspects. They have not been charged, at least to our knowledge, and can not be heard in a court. So any accusations against the detainees cannot be covered by a paint brush of accusation.
The best analysis Harris saves for last. Using Eastern philosophy/religion as a counterpoint to the "Big Three" the author argues that the search for "self", so common to East is more the tact that we need now. This does not constitute an endorsement of any Eastern philosophy by the author outside of believing they are more evolved in their humanism. The Abrahamic faiths lead down one road, unless they are radically altered, bloodshed and Apocalypse..
The "End Of Faith" starts off promising, veers off track a bit, but in the end Harris comes on strong and grabs the checkered flag. This book puts plainly why religion/faith is the single most dangerous human construct. It devoid us of our reason, provides a superficial excuse for out worst tendencies, and is completely worthless in out pursuit of who we are.
Worth Reading Score (0-100): 88%
Rating Scale Explanation:
0%-25%= Nothing to see here , move along.
26%-49%= Better time than sitting on a tack, but not by much
50%-65%= The Rutherford B. Hayes of books, very average
66%-79%= A decent read, but serious problems.
80%-85%= Well worth your money and time
86%-95%= Worth shushing your kid to finish a chapter
96%-100%= Author write, You read.