The End of Faith | Sam Harris

Summary of: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
By: Sam Harris

Introduction

In ‘The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason’, Sam Harris dives deep into the roots of religious faith and unveils the dangers it poses in today’s world. Harris discusses the distinction between spirituality and religion and argues that it is possible to maintain a sense of the sacred without embracing irrational beliefs. The book demonstrates how religious extremism – from Palestinian suicide bombers to September 11th – has brought tremendous suffering and violence to the world. Harris also challenges the notion that religious moderates are more rational, and reveals the contradictions between intolerance and tolerance ingrained in major religions.

The Dangerous Power of Religious Faith

The power of religious faith is undeniable, but is it always a force for good? Author Sam Harris argues that faith can be dangerous and that society should move away from relying on it. He notes that people hold their religious beliefs so deeply that these ideas shape how they live, even when their beliefs lead them to commit murder. While modern culture regards it as impolite to judge someone else’s religious practices, Harris argues that this is an overly tolerant attitude that amounts to blindness. Ultimately, he believes that the world would be better and more peaceful without religious faith, which he claims has given rise to some of the most horrific acts of violence in recent history. Harris contends that it is possible and desirable to touch the sacred through human reason alone, and that society must move away from faith-based systems if it hopes to achieve true peace and harmony.

The Fallacy of Religious Moderation

The idea of moderation in religion is a deception that leads to intellectual dishonesty. Fundamentalism is the purest form of religion and moderates lack faith. Society sees religion as a positive source of spirituality, but religion-inspired tragedies are caused by human nature, not faith. True faith is the solution to violence and hate. But how can believers tolerate other religions if only their own grant eternal salvation? From a fundamentalist perspective, a moderate is a failed extremist.

Spirituality vs. Religion

The Irrationality of Faith

In “Spirituality and religion are very different,” the author argues that spirituality should be rational and shouldn’t require faith in unprovable concepts. In their view, society is too tolerant of irrational beliefs and should not demand that people speak tactfully about them. The author questions the logic behind religious beliefs and asks how anyone can believe in transubstantiation or divine voices coming from toasters. The article concludes with a discussion of the link between faith and extremism, with the author stating that those who commit atrocities in the name of faith are not cowards but rather have a “perfect faith,” which is a terrible thing to be. Though some theologians have attempted to rationalize faith, the author contends that the essence of faith is inherently irrational, anti-rational, and gullible. Religions even praise ignorance, which is problematic for society.

The Dangers of Faith-Based Beliefs

In this book excerpt, the author draws attention to the dangers of faith-based beliefs. The author argues that while religious leaders cannot defend their claims, they remain deeply convinced of the truth. Religion has been used to justify torture and killing for centuries and has been a force for regression in the world. Examples include Christian opposition to condoms and stem cell research, which could help prevent the spread of AIDS and cure diseases. Finally, the author notes that Muslim extremists take every word of the Koran literally and declare that religion of peace is not accurately informed.

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